Beyond The Checklist

044: Why a Messy Journey Does Not Prevent You From Boldly Coming to Jesus || Teniesha Williams


Welcome to the Spiritually Minded Women podcast. If you’re a woman who is ready and willing to be a follower of Jesus, you’re in the right place. Join me as we dive in deep to learn how to embrace your journey on the covenant path with checkpoints instead of checklists, I’m your host Darla Trendler, and I’m cheering you on.

Welcome to your journey.

[00:00:30] Darla: Welcome to the Spiritually Minded Women podcast. This is Darla and I am so grateful to be here with you today to share another interview. And this interview today is with Teniesha Williams and I’m going to have her introduce herself here. And so Teniesha, I’m so happy that you’re here. Thank you so much for coming.

Can you just give us a little introduction about you?

[00:00:50] Teniesha: Yes. Oh sister. I’m so excited to be here today. It’s a blessing to have the opportunity to discuss a little bit about my journey with you and to share it with others who are searching to find some hope. My name is Teniesha Williams. I grew up here in Santa Clara, Utah down here in St. George by the red rocks. 

And it runs through my veins. I tell you what. I have tried to leave several times and it just keeps pulling me back. So I am a red desert rat and I love it. I am a single mom of a beautiful seven year old daughter. And I am a widow and I am actually grateful for being able to say that. I know it’s not something that we usually want and it’s not that I wanted it, but I’m grateful for what it has taught me and what I’m doing with that.

I work as an exercise therapy specialist and a movement healing coach at a couple of different places dealing with people with chronic pain and anxiety and depression. One of my greatest teachings tools and learning tools is being able to connect with people from all over the world that have struggled with things that have been my greatest teachers in my journey.

So I’m blessed. I love my life and I’m grateful for everything I got. 

[00:02:09] Darla: Oh Teniesha I’m so excited to talk to you and to learn more about your story and how you’re able to say that. We’re going to talk today about your journey on the covenant path and your journey has involved being married to someone who was a recovering addict, and then soon relapsed after that.

And what that experience was like for you. So let’s just start there. Tell me about that time in your life, getting married and finding out that your husband was still having struggles with addiction. 

[00:02:35] Teniesha: Yes. So I got married when I was 35 years old and for our Mormon, LDS, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints culture, that is old. So that in and of itself was quite a journey for me. And I had a lot of questions of why, of how, of what am I doing wrong? And the funny part is that I ended up falling in love with a childhood friend. My husband, Brett Williams. And he was actually one of my brother’s best friends.

The funny part about that is that I used to tease him, that I had a crush on all of my brother’s friends, except for him. He was the one who got me. He was the winner. He always radiated light. He was always charming and just golden hearted. You couldn’t help but to love to be around this person.

And yet he struggled. He had his demons and his beasts. And he struggled with addiction from an early age, like 17, 18. And it took him on a lot of ups and downs. He got married really young and had two beautiful children that are now my gorgeous stepchildren. And I’m very grateful for them and the amazing human beings they’ve now become. But it’s funny because we fell in love my husband and I, he’d been sober for four years and I knew his struggles.

I knew the darkness he’d faced and yet. this is something I still struggle with at times to be completely raw and open is I still have those questions at times. Oh my gosh, did I make a mistake? What did I do? 

And other times where it was like, Teniesha remember part of how the spirit moves through you, is that determination you get when something’s right. Whether, even if I have moments of the adversary poking at me, there’s still that determination. And I find that in a lot of different parts of my life when I make those decisions because I did not have a lot of people really excited at the fact that I was going to marry this person whom they all loved, but they knew that he had this struggle.

[00:04:39] Darla: You were feeling this conviction from the spirit that this was right, that this is what you were supposed to do. 

[00:04:45] Teniesha: Well and what’s funny, Darla is, and because we have a certain amount of time we’re working on to not give too long on this account, but when I fell in love with my husband. He was in jail. He was incarcerated in a little jail up in Panguitch, Utah. And I always wanted to make sure that he let people know that we knew each other since we were like eight or nine years old. It wasn’t like I just walked into a jail and fell in love with him there. But the beautiful part of how I fell in love with him is my parents and I… I have one sibling, the one who was actually really good friends with my husband. He also struggles with the disease of addiction. And he was struggling at this point in time. It was back in 2012. My parents and his mom still live on the same block.

Like we grew up in the same ward. We grew up all kinds of connected. I was best friends with his sister in middle school. We just wanted to help each other out. We knew that he was doing better, that he had really started to pull himself together. And I had actually gone and seen him a couple times before this.

So we’d already had interaction as friends. We all wanted him to know that we loved him and that we were cheering him on. And so we all went up as a family to see him and it’s so funny because we were there for about two hours between the glass and he walked out and he had white scrubs and a white v-neck t-shirt and I still love white v-neck t-shirts to this day, but I didn’t say a word for two hours, which for me is really surprising.

It’s not usually how I work and he called me out on it. He was like Red, what’s wrong with you? You’re like you haven’t said anything. And I’m like, I don’t know. Because I, all of a sudden I was looking at this person I had known for so long. I had known his struggles. I knew the baggage that he came with, but I was just having this illumination of his soul.

And so I went home and I wrote him a letter. He wrote me a letter that same day we find out. For eight months moving forward, we wrote letters every single day to each other. I would go up on Saturdays, 9:00 AM. I’d be there sitting with him until five in the afternoon. And it was scriptures and talks of the future.

It was goal setting. It was conference talks. It was just things that connected us. And I call him my soulmate, not for the reason that I don’t think there’s anyone else for me. I have that hope of another life partner. I want that, but I fell in love with his soul. I’d already known that person. I fell in love with his soul, and that was because of the light of Christ.

He had allowed it to fully illuminate him and the light of Christ that was in me was drawn to that. And he was just the most beautiful person I’ve ever met, and we fell in love and we got married in June of 2013 and he relapsed in July of 2013. I found out I was pregnant in August of 2013, so it was like this boom.

I was so mad. I had dreamt of a love and being cherished by someone for so long and I had found this fairytale. In fact, I remember when we got married civilly first cause he had been ex-communicated and he was in the process of getting rebaptized.

So he got rebaptized in May a month before we got married. And so he needed that year to the temple and that was our goal. So I remember the Bishop saying, this is a fairy tale. This doesn’t happen every day. This how you guys came together, how you fell in love and just how beautiful the light of Christ works in something like this.

So I have this fairytale and it just got crushed within a month. It was just literally crushed. 

[00:08:35] Darla: So how did you work through that? Because I’m thinking that this is a common experience I think a lot of people have gone through. I’ve interviewed people. I’ve seen it in a lot of people I know that you get this strong confirmation that this is what you’re supposed to do, and then your expectations are not met. The thing that you thought why you were getting that prompting doesn’t happen and things are really hard. How did you work through that in the interim and or did it only come as you are able to get through it and look back? How do you deal with that? 

[00:09:02] Teniesha: You know what? I didn’t think I was doing with it, to be honest. Okay. I did something wrong. 

[00:09:08] Darla: So you weren’t thinking, Hey, I got this prompting and why is this hard? You were thinking I made a mistake.

[00:09:13] Teniesha: No, I, and I had moments of thinking that, but it was at a lot of times it was on the defects. It was like, because some of the people that are closest to me were really just even though they had love for my husband and we have a, a huge past there with him, they weren’t excited about this.

They weren’t, they were nervous. And rightly I could understand that. But I always was longing for this. Okay. You are a valued daughter of God. You’ve always tried your best to do what’s right. And I know you’re going to be guided by the spirit, so I trust you. So after this happened, I had a lot of shame.

I was like crap. Like I could hear I told you so’s all over, from all these different voices. When someone struggles with the disease of addiction it’s natural. The symptoms are isolation, depression. They separate themselves from the people that they love the most.

I did the same things and that’s not uncommon for a loved one to do that when you’re so close to, especially when you’re living with that person, whether it be a spouse or a sibling or a son or daughter. Some of those symptoms will come. And I was very depressed. I was very angry. I was angry at my husband, obviously.

I was so disappointed. And I just, I felt deceived, and I even had times where I was like, okay, wait. Did he trick me? Did he trick me into this? Because I felt this and I, I saw this between us and I have, in fact I should have brought them over, but I have two binders, like the big, like two or three inch binders, full of letters, just full.

I put them all in, in plastic sleeves and because it’s just such a special part of my life. Such a unique way of falling in love with someone. And all of his letters are just full of the gospel. My letters are full of the gospel. It just, it was centered on that. So I’m like, how could it have been wrong?

What did I miss? And where was it? And so I really had a lot of messy encounters with my Savior and with God. It didn’t look pretty. It didn’t sound pretty. None of it did. A lot of it was just a clumped mess on the floor. I struggled with depression. I even had moments of struggling with self-harm because I was so angry and I didn’t understand, but I didn’t close the door.

And now that I look back and I critique myself a lot during that time of what I did or didn’t do or what I did or didn’t hear. But now I know what I did do was that I kept that line of communication open, even though it looked messy, even though I had moments of yelling and screaming. And not moments that I’m proud of.

I, and I look back on that a lot, especially while I was pregnant because my daughter to this day and it breaks my heart. But when voices get raised or anything she, it scares her. I can’t help but to feel like some of that anger that I portrayed in my marriage was repercussions of that, but I can find peace and reassurance in knowing that I wouldn’t be where I’m at today or have the knowledge that I have about how merciful and beautiful God’s grace is if I hadn’t have been able to just be who and how I felt in all of those moments. 

[00:12:55] Darla: Yeah. I really love what you said about that it was messy and that, it didn’t look like this picture perfect thing. But you kept the lines of communication open. I think a lot of us feel that. We feel like it’s this messiness and how can this really ever bring us to the Savior, but it did. It did. And your life is such a great example of that.

So could you give any examples of how it was messy? You don’t have to tell like the most personal thing, but I think it would be really helpful to hear, like, how did it look messy, but he, but you still know that Christ was there for you? 

[00:13:28] Teniesha: Absolutely. Okay, so there’s several, it’s so funny cause you just have these flashbacks, and as much as you want to push them away, sometimes they’re there. They’re those things that remind you.

We had this one particular day. We had an amazing ward. We lived in Draper and we had an amazing ward in Draper, and it was such a blessing to have the people that we had in that ward. We had a few of the young women. I was in a second counselor in the young one presidency, and we had a few of the girls that were always the ones we called on to watch our daughter.

And I remember one particular time where we had lined up for the girls to come over. And I had found I, a lot of times it was, I walked in here in my home because I was always scared of what I might find. He hid things all over the place. And I would find powder and pills and needles in different places.

And it just, I was fearful of all those things, or I was fearful of, I, I hid my debit cards and I hid our checkbook. And cause he made good money, but I never saw it. So I was always living in kind of a fear. And I remember, and I don’t remember what I had to go do, but they were coming over to watch her.

And I had found something and I don’t even remember what I’d found, but I remember it was just this not again because it was like on a daily or every other day, something new would pop up that, it wasn’t something I hadn’t seen, but it was like, oh, Yep. Okay. Here’s your discovery for today? And I left, and my daughter was safe.

They had come over there, but I left crying. I literally ran away from my house. And I, there was a house around the corner that had this big yard in the front that was really overgrown and no one was occupied in the house. And I just remember going and sitting in that yard and I was screaming bawling, when you scream bawl where you’re just like, oh, it’s just like ugly cry.

And I just. He kept trying to call me over and over again. And I was ignoring him and I just sat there and I just, I remember pleading with Heavenly Father and I remember it wasn’t pretty in the fact that I was saying, I don’t get it. Why still? And I remember growing up thinking, we can’t ever ask. Why we need to ask, how can I do better?

What do you need me to do? What’s your still important parts of how we moved through that system. So we don’t become enveloped in like a victimized situation, but we, I discovered that it’s okay to scream why. Because as I sat there and I pled to him why, and I had makeup running down my face and I had, I was sitting, I didn’t even care where I was sitting.

I was sitting amongst weeds that were coking into my legs and I didn’t care. I was ripping up the grass and I just let out my heart and somewhere through that wave that comes and I always relate to grief in these waves. And I didn’t realize that I was already grieving the loss of my husband before he passed.

And it was that wave that came through the ugly wave that comes through that’s filled with sand from the bottom of the ocean and algae and seaweed that’s just plummeting over your head. But if you allow it to wash over you being open to God in the process, even if there’s like anger and resentment there, it does wash over you. And once it washes over, even if there’s not a solution afterwards, there’s still a strength to stand back up and walk back home, which is exactly what I did. I stood back up. I walked back home and I embraced the girls that were there for my daughter and me and my husband worked through another day.

And And I see that more now, in retrospect than I ever realized in the middle of the mess. I didn’t think I was making it. I didn’t think I was doing very well. And my hope is that I can help others see that okay. It might feel messy now, how can I feel and see God in my mess rather than going through the mess and then looking back.

[00:17:58] Darla: Yeah. And I’m feeling really prompted to share something that your story makes me see. It doesn’t matter if where we’re at right now is because our choice and maybe we didn’t follow the spirit and we made a choice and we’re in a mess or we followed a prompting and we’re still in a mess.

It really doesn’t matter. It does not matter how we got there. Surely there’s experiences and things but the beautiful part of it is that Christ can still take it and he can take that mess and he can make something beautiful. And you know that you can still have that spirit wash over you.

So I want to know Teniesha, what do you say to someone now who is in the mess. Whatever it is, whether their husband has addiction or they’re going through something else. What do you say to them to bring them hope? 

[00:18:46] Teniesha: Allow the wave to go over. You allow yourself to move through the emotion. Allow yourself to experience the pain. We so often we don’t want to feel the pain. And so we find ways to stop it or we fail or we think, oh, if I just think positive thoughts, if I just think, if I just incorporate this positive thing then it’s going to go away. And so much of the time, I feel like it’s actually allowing ourselves to be in the mess, so our Savior actually comes down to meet us where we’re at because, that’s what he does. As he comes down to meet us where we are, where we’re at he doesn’t expect us to come up high in order to feel his grace or his mercy. It’s okay, Lord. I feel confused. I feel deceived. I feel resentful. I’m angry.

I don’t know what to do, but I’m right here. Can you help me? Will you help me? And somewhere in the middle of the mess, it’s the whole metamorphosis of the butterfly. My friend, Tiffany Green, she talks about this a lot where you are when you’re a caterpillar you’re in that muck and that slime and that goo right. And somewhere in the middle of that, we metamorph into the butterfly. If we were always beautiful, to come to the Lord. If we had, we made sure we were coming properly right. Properly on our knees or with our hair done and our makeup on right. Then how are we ever going to feel that contrast or the opposition? We were put here on the earth to fill the opposition of the adversary. So allow yourself to fell the opposition because when you’re in the opposition, the only way through to the other side, isjust, that is through the opposition.

As long as we’re keeping our hands open for the Savior to hold, if we shut him out, then we can probably keep ourselves in the opposition a whole lot longer. But if we allow ourselves to feel the emotions in the opposition, crying to Heavenly Father, crying to Jesus to take it. We’ll make it through and somewhere that, that, they’re just the freshness of the wave after it washes over you and the sun that comes onto your face, you’ll feel it.

I can promise you that with every anchor of my soul. 

[00:21:09] Darla: That’s very helpful and so beautiful. Thank you for sharing that. We’ve talked about your story and your husband relapsed, and he was dealing with addiction and this went on for three years and then he lost his battle with addiction and passed away.

So how did you see the Savior during that time of your journey?

[00:21:24] Teniesha: Like I said, during the marriage, it was just that constant struggle of, okay. I. I may or may not have made the right decision. And I don’t really know. At moments I would have anchors to help me.

I had good bishops that I always connected with and I met with regularly. I went to the family support, the 12 step family support as LDS family support addiction recovery program for family. And I really encourage anyone with similar life experiences to do so. Those things kept me going and when my husband passed away it was such a weird thing because I had him in the emergency room the night before he passed away.

He’d overdosed the night before. And I brought him home earlier that morning and I faced some struggles with this at times because sometimes I think I shouldn’t have let him come home and I should have made him stay. That’s been something that I’ve really had to work through from time to time.

But I had made a decision that next morning that I needed to leave and I needed to let him know that something needed to change. And I came home to St. George. We were living in Draper and I went over to his work that morning. He still got up and this was something. My husband was like just a Stripling Warrior.

He just, he had his demons that he had his battles to fight, but he still got up in the morning and he may have not been always in the right state of mind, but he knew that he needed to do something for his family. And he was at work that next morning after he had overdosed the night before.

And I went to his work and said I’ve just got to take whether it’s a week or a few days, I just need some space. I need to clear my own head. And I want you to find a way to figure out something that we can do. I will do whatever you need to do. I’ll do it with you. I’ll go to rehab with you.

I will participate whatever you need me to do. And I still remember him saying goodbye to his little girl for the last time. She would just barely shy of two years old and that image never leaves me and I got home that day and we had talked on the phone most of the ride down to St. George, him and I make plans, suggesting ideas, brainstorming, and that morning I had tried to get ahold of him a lot that night and I couldn’t reach him. And that morning I connected with one of our old bishops there in the Draper ward who had become good friends with my husband. And I said, I just, I felt like something, he might, you might need to go check on him.

And within 20 minutes I got a call back and I didn’t answer that call. I just, I knew. And when I called the bishop back, he had informed me that he had found him. There was just this, there was that weight of shock that’s there and they have something called widow’s fog and it is real. It is just this fog that you muddle yourself through.

And for the next few months, that’s exactly what it was. It was okay. Survival. What do I need to do for my daughter? What do I need to do to influence and comfort my stepchildren and how can I move forward with my life now that this has happened? And again, it was mostly, and I wasn’t supported in my grief for those first three or four months.

I didn’t have, I had support from some, from a lot of certain family members and friends, but in my immediate circle, it was not there. And I took a lot of walks. I took a lot of yoga classes. It restored me and those are where I shed my tears. Those were where I let out my emotions because I wasn’t able to do where I was living.

For the next three or four months after that I didn’t ever return about to Draper. I had an amazing ward that talked up all of my stuff and my mother-in-law and my dad went up and brought everything home and it would be three years before I had the strength to just drive past my old house up there.

And what has enhanced my life is the discoveries that I have made that brought me closer to my husband now that he has found clarity. And I remember the first, one of the first things that my bishop said to me, when he called to tell me that he had found Brett was he said, you know what, Teniesha, I just want you to know for the first time in years, because my husband had been meeting with the bishop and said for the first time in years, your husband has a clear mind. 

And I knew that, and there was the sense of there’s the heavy grief and the loss, but there’s a sense of relief in knowing the gospel is a part of our life. And that rejuvenated that determination in me to press forward into getting our family sealed in the temple. And we were still a year later.

And again, I faced a lot of opposition and that because people couldn’t understand why I would want to be still to someone who had brought some turmoil and tribulation into my life for the last three years. And and sometimes again, I have that, that ambiguous feeling of, I don’t know, but I do know that the spirit guided me and I, and for some reason I had that grit and that determination of walk through it.

And that’s exactly what continues to keep me through all of this that it moved me through was number one, keeping that communication open with Heavenly Father. And number two knowing that if I allow myself to feel the pain somewhere on the other side, there’s a blessing and an opportunity and there’s been nothing but that.

And, it’s been almost six years and those waves of grief still come. The disappointment is still felt. The mess is still on the floor, at times. But the light gets brither. And the hope gets bigger and the opportunities become more abundant, which to me, those are the fruits, right?

So plant the seed and my seeds were planted in that situation. I questioned my nourishing of those seeds, and I still do at moments that the nourishment that I have given to it, the fruits are there and that’s what keeps me going.

[00:28:07] Darla: I’ve really loved hearing about your journey, Teniesha, and, I read something the other day.

I’m going to have to go look it up because I read so many things. I can’t remember where I found this, but it basically said that the covenant path does not end at death. The covenant path continues. Your husband’s journey. Isn’t over your journey isn’t over and you’re still connected. He’s still there for you. You can still be there for him. 

That was what was coming to my mind when you were saying all that. And I think sometimes we think of that as such a final thing. Like, this life, that’s it. But no, there’s so much more. And our journey on the covenant path, our journey with the Savior does not end when someone passes away. So I really love the hope that you’re bringing. And I just have one final question for you, and that is how have you seen and felt the Savior in your journey. 

[00:28:51] Teniesha: I love this question. Something that I like to talk about is a quote that Elder Renlund gave, Infuriating Unfairness. One of the best talks ever given, but he talks about how you come boldly to the savior. And I’d like to emphasize on this a lot and some people have heard me talk before, have heard me say this, but what has been in that tool for me on the covenant path is coming boldly to the Savior. And again, remembering that coming boldly, it doesn’t necessarily have to be that pretty picture.

In fact, coming boldly looks different in every situation. Coming boldly is the mess on the floor, coming boldly is that the mascara streaked face and the screaming cry to heaven. Coming boldly is the weeping silence that nobody else sees but the Lord and the question towards him. That’s coming boldly.

The three keywords is to the Savior. And I know that in my experience, what has kept me on that covenant path is coming boldly to the Savior in all of my forms and all of my emotions. And it’s through that I’ve been able to be upheld by Him and I will forever be grateful for that. 

[00:30:09] Darla: I absolutely love that word. Boldly that we come, we can do that no matter what that looks like. Thank you so much, Teniesha. I have really enjoyed hearing your story and getting to meet you. 

If people want to find out more about your story, and I know you do some different ways of helping other people taking this grief and the hard things that you have experienced and turning it into a way that you can help other people. How can people find you? 

[00:30:33] Teniesha: Yes. So I have a website Teniesha and spell my name T E N I E S H A. People always get confused. That will take you to my Instagram, my hope in Christ, Instagram that I do, and a bunch of other things that I’ve been involved with. I’d love to hear from anybody, so please connect with me if you can. 

I will 

[00:30:55] Darla: link all that up in the show notes as well, so that people can find you. But thanks again, that I have felt the spirit and you’ve taught me some things today and I really grateful to get the chance to meet you. So thank you. 

[00:31:06] Teniesha: Thank you. Absolutely my pleasure.

 And now here are this week’s journal questions. What does coming boldly to the Savior mean to you? Take a few minutes to pray and ponder and then write the thoughts and impressions you feel. 

How do you keep the lines of communication open with the Divine when things feel so imperfect around you? Take a few minutes to ponder on specific things you have done in the past, and then write down the ways you can stay connected to Them even when it feels everything else is falling apart. 

 Read Elder Renlund’s talk from the April 2021 general conference called Infuriating Unfairness. Highlight the passages that stand out for you. Read scriptures referenced in the footnotes and record what is significant for you in this talk? 

I hope you enjoyed the podcast. And if you did, please share it with a friend. I would love it if you would leave a review and rate it on Apple podcasts, this actually helps more women find the podcast and embrace their own journey on the covenant path. To find more ways to be a part of the Spiritually Minded Women community, head over to spiritually minded for more inspiration follow along on Instagram @spirituallymindedwomen. Have an amazing day.

I’m cheering you on in your journey.