Sometimes love and belonging take time. One example is found here in the desert. Anyone who’e been here a while knows I spill out a lot of love here on the blog about “my” desert.

But truth be told, it hasn’t always been “mine.”

At first it was foreign to me. I didn’t feel like I belonged. We moved here from the never-ending greens and trees that filled up the spot we called home for six years on the East coast.

In contrast, this new desert life was dry and brown. Where was my green? Where were the wild flowers and the rustling giant trees, and the grass that didn’t even need sprinklers?

But as time went on and we immersed ourselves in the desert, I noticed things. The way the cacti shone in the slanted sun. The swishing noise the dry grasses made as they swayed in the breeze. Hills filled with saguaros called to me. The brilliant blue sky in contrast to the craggy rocks. The blooms that emerge from dry, prickly cacti in the spring. The sunsets! Oh those sunsets!

Gradually, I fell in love with each drop of beauty. It became breathtaking to me as it wove it’s way into my heart. I cannot even seem to get enough of all the desert beauty cradling us here.

my desert that took time to learn to love

A new ward and an early hike

So fast-forward to a couple weeks ago when a few of us from our new ward (church congregation) gathered early one morning to head out on a hike.

This new ward, like the new desert landscape all those years ago, has seemed foreign to me. Sure, there are so many familiar faces I know and love since our wards have changed quite a bit over the years. But as we made the transition from our old ward to the new one, I’ve had some of my own adjustments to make.

Just like I did moving to the desert.

Where were all those people I had dug roots with? Where was that sense of belonging I felt enveloped in so fully after so many years worshipping with the same people? There are strong bonds that can be made when you attend church together.

It has been tricky to have a ward change right before the summer. Because summer in the desert is like a ghost town around here. Either people have hopped out of town to escape the heat, or they are hunkered down in air conditioned homes.

Take time to notice the good

But, just like in my new desert surroundings all those years ago, I’ve been noticing things. The kindness as people have reached out. The wisdom I have felt seep out of those more seasoned members of our ward. The big ideas. The faith.

And as I have noticed the good, I have gradually grown so much love for these new people. I’ve been reminded that yes, sometimes love and belonging takes time.

I’m here for it!

As I work to reach out more to those around me, it’s like that sun coming up behind the mountains on the morning of our hike.

sunrise over the desert reminding me to notice the good in new situations

It is not a cakewalk to learn to love something new. Learning to belong and love takes time and attention.

It takes noticing the beauty.

It takes reaching out, sometimes, (most of the time), beyond your comfort zone.

But oh how beautiful the vistas become!

I loved being cradled in that desert that has become my love, surrounded by those new ward women.

Shawni and a group of friends on a hike

I have so much to learn from all these new (and old) friends.

Remember, sometimes love and belonging takes time

I know so many readers are deep in the throes of their own “new deserts” out there. It could be a new job, a new home, a new parenting challenge, failing health.

There are “deserts” of every shape and form out there.

But my wish for you is to slow down and take note. Notice the good in that new “desert” you find yourself in.

And be patient with yourself, and with others. Remember that truly learning to appreciate “new” good can take a long, long time.

But I truly believe it will come.

Because we “find what we’re looking for.”

a vista of the desert beauty that sometimes takes time to appreciate

Sending out so much love in whichever desert you find yourself in today.


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  1. Why don’t they build more buildings in new communities that spring up? Why can’t you pick your own time to attend and your own building to attend?

    1. Short answer is that it is a church rule that everyone is assigned to a geographical ward and that you are expected to attend your assigned ward. If you want to attend a different ward and stay in good standing with the Church you can apply to transfer, but it can be a hassle to do so and your transfer is not guaranteed to be approved. Most LDS members want to follow the rules and attend their assigned ward, even if they are upset about it in the short term.

      Long answer: Our church has a lay leadership, and each congregation needs a minimum number of active, faithful adults to be able to function. This link says that the minimum number to create a ward is 20 men willing and able to serve in leadership positions:

      Ward boundaries are thoughtfully and prayerfully created to help assure that each ward will have the people it needs to function well. When the demographics of an area change (new construction, aging population without new families moving in, lots of people joining or leaving the church in that area, etc), wards may get lopsided. Maybe Ward 1 has 200 active adults and Ward 2 only has 50. Or maybe both wards are much smaller than they were 20 years ago and everyone is getting burned out holding 2+ callings. Or maybe both are now way bigger and the building is bursting at the seams every Sunday. 

      The stake leadership will come in and “realign” the boundaries of the wards – sometimes combining small wards, splitting big ones (they may build new meetinghouses if there is a need and available land), or in Shawni’s case, doing a complicated shuffle affecting several wards while creating a new one. Afterwards, each ward should be better balanced and able to run itself well again. All of these boundary alignments rest on the assumption that the members will be attending and serving in their assigned geographical ward. If people could switch wards whenever they felt like it, the organizational structure of the Church would fall apart.

      In addition to the structural organization, wards also provide spiritual organization. Every member of the church has an official “record” of their membership and each record is kept in a ward. This is more meaningful than just a little note about your baptism date – these records represent the idea that every individual is important, counted, and known in the kingdom of God. Even when people stop attending church, their records are kept in a ward until they request they be deleted, and bishops and Relief Society presidents pray for these people and keep them in their hearts. Bishops and other ward leaders have stewardship over and can receive revelation for the people whose records are in their wards (and cannot for people whose records aren’t). Generally, a ward can only extend callings to, collect tithing from, and assign ministering sisters and brothers to the people whose records are in their wards. If you could decide every Sunday to attend a different congregation, the spiritual organization of the church would fall apart as well.

      All that being said, you can definitely apply to have your records moved to a different ward (although it does need to be approved by a church leader). People do this for all sorts of personal and logistical reasons. Also, individual church members can do whatever they like on any given Sunday. You can attend a different ward every week, take the sacrament there, participate in their classes, and you will be welcomed. You can pay tithing directly to Salt Lake City, so you can still be a full tithe payer without ever meeting your own bishop. What matters most is that you are right with God, and you don’t necessarily need to attend your own ward to do this. However, you’ll be missing out on a lot of the benefits of the Church – you won’t have a calling, you won’t know your ministering sisters, the other ward’s bishop doesn’t have stewardship over you and can’t issue you a temple recommend.

      There are other benefits of our geographical organization that I appreciate, although I don’t know that they are part of the “official” reason we are organized like this. I like that I meet, work with, and learn to love people that I might not socialize with if I didn’t attend church with them (different personality types, political beliefs, ages and life stages, etc). I like that there aren’t “cool” wards and “lame” wards. I like that there aren’t Mormon megachurches. I like that my ward is always the right size so that there is a need for each person to contribute and build as they can. I like that I get to worship and serve with my geographical neighbors, building up local as well as spiritual community. As Shawni says here, there is always a period of adjustment and transition when wards change, but after a time, “how beautiful the vistas become!”

      1. Thank you so much for this great explanation, Liz!! I so appreciate your help explaining. Our ward boundaries are pretty awesome. They throw us together with people who may start as strangers, but if we put in the work, we have the power to become best friends..

  2. Loved loved and appreciated this post! As someone who has moved 13 times you were spot
    on. We often find ourselves in different “deserts” but it is up to us to seek out the good stuff….
    And it can take a longer time depending on many different factors. I always come here to be encouraged and today your post was even more encouraging than usual. We are all so fortunate that you share your gift of writing with us. Hugs xoo

    1. Aw thank you so very much for those kind words, Theresa. Sending you love to you in whatever desert you are in now. And also kudos for moving 13 times. It sounds like you’re learning to love and grow in each new spot you’re planted.

  3. “Because we find what we’re looking for.” That last sentence in your post made a light bulb go off for me! I have talked with you several times, (in the comments) about my struggles to find faith and my desperation to get “un-stuck” on my spiritual journey. You have given me some great words to think about and some advice on my journey that I feel so good about.
    Recently I’ve decided to make a kind of notebook/scrapbook of inspiration as I find it along my journey and how it applies to my search for faith. That sentence you wrote that I spoke of is for sure going in my book!! I think it’s definitely telling me that I’m going to find what I’m looking for. If I just keep at it that is! I know you were applying that sentence to your story about the new ward, but I just wanted you to know that it worked in a spiritual way for my journey also!
    Thanks again Shawni!

    1. What a great idea to make a notebook of inspiration. It’s helping you look for that inspiration that sometimes we all miss. I can so relate to the “feeling stuck” thought, and I love that you are working to change that in such a constructive way. I appreciate the example. Sending so much love your way on your journey.

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