Christian, exmormon, mormonism

Scars…

“So I’m thankful for the scars

‘Cause without them I wouldn’t know Your heart

And I know they’ll always tell of who You are

So forever I am thankful for the scars”

~Scars~ I AM THEY

This has recently become one of my favorite songs.  The words “I am thankful for the scars ‘cause without them I wouldn’t know your heart” go through my mind several times throughout the day. In my line of work, I am often reminded of my past and there are so many times I want to tell people, “You need Jesus!” But I don’t…

Over the past several months, I have had some family ruckus, and it has brought up a lot of past emotions and memories.  I have had days where I am tearful, frustrated, and angry. But then I remind myself of where I am at.

Merriam-Webster defines a scar as “a mark remaining (as on the skin) after injured tissue has healed”.  The best part of that statement is after injured tissue has healed.

never be ashamed

The difficult things with scars, is that even though they have healed on the outside, doesn’t mean they are healed on the inside.  And even when they have healed, they can be tender to touch or bump. There can be a buildup of scare tissue and if you bump that scar just right, the pain can be excruciating.

Our brain is much the same as those physical scars we see.  When the scars on our brain are “bumped”, it can activate painful memories and emotions that put you right back into the moment you were hurt.

I already had many scars from the bumps and bruises of childhood.  And many others from my adolescence where I struggled with low self-worth, depression, and anxiety.  If you look closely, I have a few scars on my wrist from cutting or passive suicide attempts.  I have one big scar on my shoulder from cutting where I had to get stitches.

When I am in certain situations or around certain people, those scars the physical and emotional can make me feel like I stick out like a sore thumb. This most often happens when I am around my family and especially my extended Mormon family.

The most recent episode, was recently at my uncle’s funeral.  I was speaking with an uncle and a cousin came up and interrupted our conversation.  She didn’t even acknowledge that I was having a conversation, she didn’t say excuse me or apologize for interrupting, she didn’t say anything to me. She just butted into our conversation, didn’t even look my way, and spoke with my uncle as if I didn’t even exist.   She finished her conversation and walked away without even conceding that I was there, that I am human, and I have feelings. At the same funeral, another cousin who I grew up spending a lot of time with and I was close to, didn’t come up and talk to me.  I attempted to talk to her but she was busy and didn’t even look my way.  I walked out with my head held high, but inside I felt like that teenage girl who would never be enough.

amazing grace

There was another situation a few months ago were I had another cousin post something about immigration he quoted Matthew 25:40 “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”  This cousin has been highly judgmental of me since I left the faith of my childhood and have walked away from many of the toxic relationships that fed into my feelings of not being enough.

These situations come up more often than I like to admit. I think it is easy to feel ashamed by my scars, especially when I am in a place of struggle.  My scars can weigh me down and make feel embarrassed and worthless. It is in these times I am so grateful for my God and the knowledge I have that He loves me and created me to be who I am.

One thing I have realized recently is that Jesus had scars.  He was God in human form.  When He was resurrected and showed himself to the apostles, he had scars.  Thomas didn’t believe it was Jesus until He showed him His scars.  John 20:27 “Then He said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here see my hands. Reach out you hand and put it to my side.  Stop doubting and believe’”.

his scars

Jesus had the ability to heal himself of the scars.  To make it so the physical marks of his torture and anguish for our sins were gone, and He kept them.  Christ’s scars are a reminder to me of His humanness.  A reminder that he knows my pain.  He struggled and suffered as a human.  He was tempted but resisted sin in a way I can’t so He would be a Holy sacrifice for me.

As I have grown in my life and healed, from the traumas of my past, I have realized, it is my own negative self-talk that brings me down and holds me hostage the most.  I am grateful for the scars, and the experiences from each one.  I know it sounds sort of cliché. But I know I wouldn’t be the person I am today without those experiences and with those comes the scars.  It is part of what makes me human and makes me, me.

If I didn’t have the experiences, I wouldn’t know Christ, I wouldn’t be where I am today and I wouldn’t have met all the people along the way who have helped me become me. So, I am thankful for the scars.

I’m Just a Small-Town Girl…Living in a world where I am thankful for the scars.

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exmormon, LDS, mormonism

Good enough for Heaven…

Well, here we are again, it is the weekend of LDS 189th bi-annual General Conference.  May the odds be ever in your favor…

devils net

The current Mormon prophet Russell M. Nelson has made a lot of changes already during his time as the Mormon leader. One of those changes is instead of having a priesthood meeting only for the young men in the church, on the Saturday evening before conference, they now switch off between having a meeting for the young men and young women.  This conference, was the young women’s turn.  They announced new curriculum for the young women to follow.

When I was growing up, the LDS young women followed the personal progress program. There was a theme and motto we would memorize and repeat every Sunday at the beginning of our young women’s meeting.

We are daughters of our Heavenly Father who loves us, and we love Him. We will stand as witness of God at all times and in all things and in all places as we strive to live the young women values, which are faith, divine, nature, individual worth, knowledge choice and accountability, good works and integrity *(virtue).

We believed as we come to accept and act upon these values we will be prepared to *(strengthen home and family) make and keep sacred covenants, receive the ordinances of the temple, and enjoy the blessings of exaltation.

*added in 2009

 

With the changes of the curriculum, they changed the motto, it now reads:

I am a beloved daughter of heavenly parents with a divine nature and eternal destiny.  As a disciple of Jesus Christ, I strive to become more like Him. I seek and act upon personal revelation and minister to others in His holy name.

I will stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places.  As I strive to qualify for exaltation, I cherish the gift of repentance and seek to improve each day. With faith, I will strengthen my home and family, make and keep sacred covenants, and receive the ordinances and blessings of the holy temple.

The thing that stood out to me most was the change in strive to live by the young women values and strive to qualify for exaltation.   One thing I have always struggled with in regards to the Mormon belief system is having to be “good enough”.  I have had many people tell me that Mormonism isn’t a works-based faith.  When I have to “qualify” for something that means I really have to work to try to achieve it and I have to be good enough to make it.

No

Dictionary.com defines qualify as:

verb (used with object), qual·i·fied, qual·i·fy·ing.

to provide with proper or necessary skills, knowledge, credentials, etc.; make competent: to qualify oneself for a job.

verb (used without object), qual·i·fied, qual·i·fy·ing.

to be fitted or competent for something.

to get authority, license, power, etc., as by fulfilling required conditions, taking an oath, etc.

Dictionary.com defines live as:

to practice, represent, or exhibit in one’s life: to live one’s philosophy.

Dictionary.com defines strive as:

verb (used without object), strove or strived, striv·en [striv-uh n] or strived, striv·ing.

to exert oneself vigorously; try hard: He strove to make himself understood.

to make strenuous efforts toward any goal: to strive for success.

to contend in opposition, battle, or any conflict; compete.

In my mind there is a big difference between “to practice, represent or exhibit in one’s life” and “to provide with proper or necessary skills, knowledge, credentials, or be competent for”.

Ephesians

For me this post brings up so many reminders of my past. Thoughts and feelings of not being enough. Shame. Guilt. Self-hate, and doubt.  I can’t imagine how I would have felt as an adolescent hearing those words- “Strive to Qualify for Exaltation”.  Wow, the weight of the world on your shoulders at 12!  And today’s world is so much more difficult for adolescents then I could have ever imagined.

If you know my story, you know I struggled my whole life with depression and feelings of worthlessness.  I knew I would never be good enough. I knew I could never be perfect.  I knew I could never do enough to make it to Heaven. When I was in 5th grade I had a “personal revelation”.  That was the first time it really hit me what Christ had done on the cross for me.  I knew my sins.  I knew the things I had done wrong. My “personal revelation” told me that I could never do enough to make up for the things I had already done wrong in my life.  But in my Mormon belief system, I knew even that thought was a sin.

People begin healing the moment they feel heard.  I cried out to God and a faithful Christian, with a personal connection to God reached out to me in faith.  It was the first time I felt heard, and the first time I heard that God loved me regardless of anything I had done.

My heart goes out to the youth in the LDS church today.  Especially the young women who are struggling to fit into a cookie cutter mold when that isn’t who God created them to be.  I know no matter how much I “strive to qualify for exaltation” or try and be good enough for Heaven, I am only setting myself up for failure.  I decided to rewrite the motto of what I try to live by.

shine

I am a beloved child of a Heavenly Father who created me just as I am and has a purpose for my life.  As a disciple of Jesus Christ, I strive to follow His example. I attempt to pursue a personal relationship with God and will express my love for Him by showing His love to others. I will aim to place my faith in God at all times and in all things, and in all places, as I strive to live a life as a disciple of Christ, knowing I am a sinner and I will fail. I am saved only by grace through His sacrifice and death on the cross for my sins. I cherish the gift of the Cross and seek to improve each day. By faith, I will grow in my trust and relationship with God, following Christ and living by His word.

I’m just a Small-Town-Girl…saved by grace in a works-based world.

Christian, exmormon, mormonism

Overwhelming, Never-ending…

“While others are congratulating themselves, I have to sit humbly at the foot of the cross and marvel that I’m saved at all.” ~CH Spurgeon

Growing up in my Mormon world I struggled with the idea that I had to be perfect.  I believed that I would never be good enough to go to Heaven.  As a Christian I know I will never be good enough to go to Heaven, I will never do enough to get to Heaven.  I take comfort in knowing that because of Christ I will go to Heaven.

do not fear

Every day I am so amazed by the love God has for me.  It blows my mind to think of His suffering and pain on the cross and although Christ knew of the anguish he would go through when He was put on the cross and yet He willingly went through it all for me.  I am so undeserving of His love and grace, and yet, He is so willing to give it to me.

Living everyday life is hard.  I try to be the person I want to be.  But that is also fueled by the expectations of those around me.  I fail every day.  The most amazing thing is when I fail God’s love and grace are still there for me.  Every day, I try to keep God at the center of my life, and every day I fail.  I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t think back to my life before Christ and I wonder where I would be if I hadn’t answered the phone, or if I hadn’t believed that God loves me. If I still lived in my Mormon world I don’t know how I would survive.

reckless love

There is a song called Reckless Love by Cory Asbury, the chorus states:

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah

Think about that for a minute…God loves you so much, He would leave his flock to find you, to fight for you.  I fail every day.  I fall short every day.  I can’t earn God’s love or grace.  I will never be deserving of Gods love or grace.

I know I am a sinner, a failure, a hypocrite, a disappointment, and yet my God still loves me.  He’d leave the 99 to come find Me! In my hardest darkest days, that is what keeps me going.  Knowing that I can’t do anything to make God not love me. Knowing that no matter what, He has forgiven a horrible, hypocritical, sinner like me.

you are enough

Knowing all my failures and shortcomings, “I have to sit humbly at the foot of the cross and marvel that I’m saved at all.”

It feels amazing to know…

I’m Just a Small Town Girl…Living in the Reckless Love of God.

 

Christian, exmormon, mormonism

Rock or Sand?

I hate religion!  I absolutely hate it!  Religion is judgmental and hurtful.  Religion creates a set of rules you are required to follow to measure your righteousness in life and so you can measure your salvation.  Religion is about Christianese and culture, legalism and following the rules.  And I hate it.

 

Every day, I work with people from many different backgrounds and experiences.  A few weeks ago I had a very rough week, and one thing every difficult situation I experienced had in common was religion.  Religion is a place of rules, requirements, and unrealistic expectations.

I feel like religion is a breeding ground for perfectionism, and perfectionism leads to feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, and shame.  I think religion takes the uncertainty out of our faith.  We no longer have to have a blind faith with religion.  We don’t have to believe in something that isn’t tangible.  Religion makes our faith tangible and measurable so we know what we need to do to win the race, to get the crown.  I think people cling to religion because we don’t like the uncertainty of faith.

perfectionism

I also think religion is a place where personal accountability to our faith is lost.  If I put on the face, go out and serve in my church, do and say the right things, then 2 thumbs up, I’m on the right track.  But where is God in what I’m doing?  Where is my accountability to God and my personal relationship? It’s lost…

It makes me think of the song “The Wise Man Built His House”

 The foolish man built his house upon the sand

The foolish man built his house upon the sand

The foolish man built his house upon the sand

And the rain came tumbling down

Oh, the rain came down

And the floods came up

The rain came down

And the floods came up

The rain came down

And the floods came up

And the foolish man’s house went “splat!”

The wise man built his house upon the rock

The wise man built his house upon the rock

The wise man built his house upon the rock

And the rain came tumbling down

 

Oh, the rain came down

And the floods came up

The rain came down

And the floods came up

The rain came down

And the floods came up

And the wise man’s house stood firm.

I feel like those who blindly trust in religion are the foolish men and people who have a personal relationship with Christ are the wise men.

Growing up in Mormonism the focus was so often on being a Mormon and not on God or Jesus.  It’s funny because when you ask Mormon’s if they believe in Jesus or if they teach about Jesus the typical response is, “Of course we do, it’s in our name”.  The thing is, growing up the focus was rarely on Jesus or God, it was on the religion itself.  The focus was Joseph Smith and Mormonism.  But in all reality, it wasn’t very often there was a lesson about Christ or having a personal relationship with Him.

In my experience as a Mormon, the focus was all about the current prophet of the church and following the prophet.  And don’t forget “Praise to the Man” referring to Joseph Smith.  When I left Mormonism, there were so many things I found out about God, Christ, Christianity, and religion that I never knew before.  I don’t think I had even heard of grace or salvation before becoming a Christian.  They were definitely not terms we talked about in Mormonism.

personal relationship

As a Christian, I believe the most important thing is to have a personal relationship with Christ.  That means you talk to Him, and spend time reading His word, you spend time with people who are also in a relationship with Him.  I think it means the intention behind what you do is to please God.  When you have a relationship with God and that is the focus of your faith instead of religion being the focus of your faith, the shame, guilt, and self-doubt that comes with religion, don’t have room to grow, it’s easier to embrace the uncertainty.

There are many times I struggle with my relationship with Christ, when He is not first in my life.  I know when I’m struggling in life, I need to stop and refocus.  When I struggle the most it’s because I am focusing too much on what I can do and how I can control things on my own. In these moments I know my relationship with Christ is struggling.

I do think worship is important, and I think having a church and people you can connect and fellowship with is important.  When people ask my religion, I tell them Christian without hesitation.  So, maybe it isn’t really religion that I hate.  Maybe it’s the judgmental, hypocriticalness that comes from religion.  Maybe it’s the focus on rules and works versus faith and grace.

hypocrite

What I do know is, it doesn’t matter where you go to church, what you wear, the color of your hair, if you wear jewelry or not, the size of your house, bank account, or the type of car you drive, God wants you.  He wants your heart.  He wants to interact and have a relationship with you.  Religion doesn’t matter, what matters is do you know God?  Do you have a relationship with Christ?  And are you being accountable in that relationship?

I’m just a Small Town Girl…building my house upon the rock.

LDS, mormonism

Family…

One thing the Mormon church is good at is teaching that family is important.  Since I was a small child one of the most important things in my world was my family.  I would do anything for my parents and my siblings.  It didn’t matter if I had gotten in a fight with them or if my siblings were mean to me, they were my family, my world.  They were who I would be with for eternity.

family

As a Christian, one of the hardest things I have struggled with is not being able to share my faith with my family.  When Brian and I first started pulling away from the Mormon church, I struggled to explain to my family why.  I had no concrete evidence or new belief system that would help me explain to my family why we had taken off our garments, why we weren’t going to church anymore, or why we didn’t believe in the Mormon church.  The only thing I knew was Mormonism is wrong, and I didn’t want to be a part of it.

There were many times my family tried to have a conversation with me and ask me why.  I would get very defensive and walk away.  It wasn’t because they were right, it was because I was uneducated and I didn’t know how to answer their questions.  As I’ve grown in my knowledge of the Bible and in my relationship with God, I have longed for those conversations.  Not for a debate or a fight, but to share with my family the love and joy that I now have in my life from knowing Christ.  I sometimes get really frustrated and think, “Can’t they see, don’t they know how broken I was?” I want them to acknowledge how far I have come and see the change that has taken place in my life.

If I could sit down and have a conversation with my family I would share God’s love and grace with them.  The words that changed my life forever were something like, “God loves you no matter what, and there is nothing you can do to change that.”  I would love to share that message with them.  I know they would say they know that, but it’s such a different message from what the LDS church teaches.

I know I’ve had my struggles in the past.  I know I wasn’t the best daughter or sister that I could have been and I still struggle to be there for my family because of the religious barrier that stands between us.  I still love my family more than anything, and although I don’t spend a lot of time with them, I would do anything for them.  It’s just so hard when I feel like I can’t be myself or share my faith with them.  I can’t talk with them or have conversations with them like I can my Christian family and it’s heartbreaking to me.  I am not a part of their world and they aren’t a part of mine.

nemeiah

 

I miss they days when we could celebrate birthdays and holidays without religion being a hurdle in our communication and connection.  I miss being around my family and just having a good time without having to be careful with my words or watching what I say so I don’t offend them.  And yet, I wouldn’t change it for the world.  I can’t give up the grace and salvation that God has given me.

Someday, I pray that God will open that door.  Maybe someday we will be able to sit down and have that conversation.  Maybe we will be able to talk about God and my family will open their eyes to the true message of grace.  I want to be with my family forever.  My dream is to be in church worshiping God with my family next to me.  I am so grateful that God has given me kids who love God and are willing to worship with me.

Mercy Me sings a song called Even If.  The second verse and chorus state:

They say it only takes a little faith
To move a mountain
Well good thing
A little faith is all I have, right now
But God, when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Oh give me the strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

My hope and prayer is that God will move the unmovable and My family will open their eyes to the saving grace of Christ alone.  But if He doesn’t, I pray that He will give me the strength to trust in Him alone.

I’m Just a Small Town Girl…Living in a world of unmovable mountains.

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