exmormon, LDS

Life is What You Make It…

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This is the first time I have ever used one of my original poems in my blog.  But I really felt it was fitting.  Life is all about choices.  The world will tell you, you aren’t beautiful enough, rich enough, smart enough, talented enough, good enough, for anything.  And all too often we believe that lie.  Every time we make a mistake or do something wrong we add it to our list of inadequacies.  When we are put in a difficult situation where we make a mistake or we feel incompetent, we pull out that list so at least we have a reason for our failures.

Instead of owning our mistakes or our failures, instead of asking for forgiveness and learning from the struggles we face, we pull out our list and say, “Ha, ha, ha, yep that’s me.  I’m driving the bus straight to Hell.  Who wants to join me.”  We believe it is easier to live with the burdens of our mistakes and failures than to face them, own our stories, and really learn to live.

I talk with people all the time who think there is no way that God will forgive them for the things they’ve done or the paths they have chosen in life.  They believe they have been away from God too long and they can’t go back.  I love the saying by Lisa Bevere that says, “If you think you have blown God’s plans for the rest of your life, rest in this, you my friend are not that powerful.”  To believe that because you have made some bad choices, made some wrong turns in life, been angry with God, or turned your back on God, or it’s too late to turn around, is one of the biggest lies in history.  God the creator of the universe loves YOU!  He has a plan for YOU! He will never give up on YOU!

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Living in my Mormon belief system I struggled with this often.  I have said many times, I wasn’t a good person. I really wasn’t.  I always wanted to be more.  I wanted to be beautiful I wanted to be thin, more athletic, but most of all I wanted to people to like me.  I always felt like I didn’t have any friends and I wanted to be accepted by others. When I was in jr. high, I would steal money from my parents dresser drawer and basically buy friends, I had people who would want to be around me because I would give them money and I would buy them candy and soda.  When the money in the drawer got low, I had to find other sources of money.  I would find money anywhere I could, because I was afraid I wouldn’t have any friends if I didn’t.  I would go through my siblings drawers, I would go through coat pockets, and I would even go through piggy banks.  I would lie about all of it, every penny I took, what I was doing with it, and I would lie to my “friends” about where I got the money. Every bit of my life was a lie.  As I got older I lied about more and more things.  It came to the point that most of the time I didn’t even know if I was lying or telling the truth. I began to believe I was a mistake.  I believed that I was born into the wrong family, maybe I was really adopted at birth.  I believed I didn’t deserve to live.  I was such a horrible person and I didn’t believe I deserved to ever be forgiven. In my mind I was not much better than a murderer.  I made a deliberate choice to take money from my family and I made the deliberate choice to lie.  I knew what I was doing was wrong. I would lie awake at night and think about every drop of blood I caused Jesus to shed just for me. It was a lot.  I could have caused his death just by my sin alone.  Yes, this added a lot to my depression and feelings of worthlessness. But I think the biggest struggle was living in a belief system where there was no redemption.  Believing I had gone so far, there was no way I could ever do enough to earn the forgiveness I needed. There was no way I could be forgiven, and I didn’t feel that I deserved the forgiveness anyway.

Brian coming into my life helped cure me from my lying.  Even before we became a couple we were good friends, he held my feet to the fire and wouldn’t let me get away with even the smallest white lie.  I used to cheat on games all of the time.  I would manipulate and find any way I could to win.  I love games and am very competitive.  He wouldn’t play games with me.  He would walk away from the game and not play with me any more.  But he never walked away from me and never gave up on me. As our relationship grew, I didn’t want to lie to him, I didn’t want him to be mad at me.  I always wanted to be truthful with him.  And I realized winning fairly is a lot more fun than winning by cheating.

After we got married, and our life was in complete chaos, I became involved in an online relationship.  I’m very blessed that there weren’t online dating sites like there are today, otherwise I would have been in a lot of trouble.  In Mormonism, to be forgiven for adultery, you have to confess to your bishop, be excommunicated, go through a confession process, and then get re-baptized.  I’m not sure that I committed adultery according to Mormon standards.  But in God’s eyes and mine it was an affair, I became emotionally connected to a man I didn’t even know and had never even met.  The man I was having an emotional affair with lived in Canada.  If that man had lived closer, who knows how things would have turned out for Brian and I. This part of our lives was a very difficult chapter.  I struggled a lot with believing I deserved forgiveness for this from Brian and God. But God did forgive me, and so did Brian, not only was there forgiveness but through turning our lives to Christ, He made our marriage better than we could ever have imagined.  I still get giddy to see him after a long day of work, I love to hear him say my name, sometimes, his smile melts my heart, I feel like we’re still 2 teenagers madly in love (just a lot wiser).

Giving my life to Christ was one of the hardest and easiest things I ever did.  It is hard to let God have control.  When I do, the weight of the world is off my shoulders.  Accepting that Christ died for my sins for the most part, is easy.  Knowing  He loves me and has a plan for me, is easy some days and hard some days.  But it is the most healing thing I’ve done.  In her book The Gifts of Imperfection Brene Brown writes, “Owning our story and loving ourselves through the process is the bravest thing we will ever do”.  I’m learning to own my story and, most days, I love myself.  It took time for me to accept and understand that God truly loves me and He really did forgive me of all  the things I have done.  I think the hardest thing was to forgive myself and move on.

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As I’ve grown in my Christian walk I have learned that there is nothing that you can do that will make it so God doesn’t love you anymore.  There is nothing you can do that God won’t forgive you for.  The only thing you can’t be forgiven of is, if you turn from God and then die before coming back to God.

The awesome thing about God is that he can take the most shocking, shameful, appalling circumstances and work them together for His good. He can take the darkest of situations and make them into something great.

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I am still amazed everyday at what God has done with my life.  He took a broken, lying, adulterer, with a broken marriage, ready to end my life and the lives of my husband and kids, and gave us a life I could only dream of.  I’m not the most rich, powerful, thin beautiful, overly talented, or extremely smart but, through His grace and mercy, there is healing, redemption, reconciliation, and  restoration.  If God can do that to my life, what can he do with yours?

Are you tired of living a life of heartache, pain, despair, and misery?  God is waiting for you, He wants to help you.  All you have to do is ask.  You don’t need to wait for the right time, place, or situation.  The time is now.  God loves you, He created you, and  He has a plan for you.  There is no sin too big, no situation too great, nothing is bigger than the Creator of the universe. You can be anything you want to be.  Life is what you make it!

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I’m just a forgiven, small town girl… living in a healed, redeemed, restored, world.psalm 139 14 stg.jpg

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exmormon, mormonism

Believing Isn’t Enough…

After Brian and I went through the temple, we began to pull away from the Mormon church.  There were so many things that just didn’t seem right to us.  We were so tired of the hypocrisy and double standard that existed.  I am grateful for the fact that I never doubted that God was real or that I believed in Him.  So many people, when they walk away from Mormonism, are angry and hurt and they become atheist or agnostic. They don’t just walk away from Mormonism, they walk away from God altogether. My heart hurts most for the people who walk away from God completely.

Brian and I didn’t immediately start attending a Christian church.  In fact, we didn’t even really know why we were walking away.  There were just some things we didn’t like and didn’t agree with; and honestly, we just didn’t want to spend our Sunday filled with church.  I had a desire to teach our kids about God and I had a plan to teach them what I wanted them to know, someday.

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At the point we were done with the Mormon belief system, God put us back in the thick of my Mormon world. I had just given birth to my 2nd child and Brian was in the hiring process for his dream job that would eventually become his career. We moved back home to our small town and lived with my parents for a month until the house we were going to rent was ready for us to move into.  This was a difficult transition.  Brain had stopped wearing his garment top the previous summer, it was hot wearing 2 shirts and he just didn’t want to do it any more. When his bottoms wore out we just bought him regular underwear.  My decision to stop wearing them came while I was pregnant, they were uncomfortable and expensive.  I couldn’t afford to buy extra maternity sets.  When my pregnancy was over, it was a lot cheaper to just buy a pack of underwear at Wal-mart than to buy even 1 set of garments.   I don’t remember the exact cost but it was just over $3.00 for 1 top and $3.00 for one pair of bottoms. We were young and still trying to figure out life and we didn’t really believe it anyway, so we just stopped wearing them.  I must not have realized the impact this would have when my mom found out. I remember my mom offering to do our laundry, being grateful for the offer because I had a 19 month old, rambunctious boy, and a newborn baby. She came to me extremely upset that she wasn’t washing any garments.  I think that was the first time I said anything to anyone in my family that we didn’t really believe Mormonism anymore. Needless to say, my mom was extremely concerned about us. She lectured me, with a hushed voice, about the repercussions of taking off our garments.  I’m not sure why she was whispering, it’s not like the neighbors would hear.  Maybe she was worried about my little brother or sister hearing.  We had been going to the Mormon church while we lived there because we felt it was easier than having the fight or discussion, I think this gave my mom some hope that we weren’t completely lost.  We moved out a few weeks later and never attended church, a Mormon church or any other church, other than for special occasions again.

I always had a plan to sit down and teach my kids about God.  I thought I would teach them the Bible stories I loved so much.  I thought I would teach them about Noah and the flood, David and Goliath, Samson and his hair.  Every week I planned that Sunday mornings we could do this over breakfast.  Sunday morning would come and I would lay in bed or I would get up and spend hours on the internet in chat rooms.  Teaching my kids about God always turned into next week.  I bought them some books that talked about God.  We sang songs.  They knew, and probably still do know, I Am a Child of God.  They knew some Christian songs because I bought them some CD’s that had songs like This Little Light of Mine, Jesus Loves Me, and He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.  But I didn’t even know what it meant to believe in God or what I believed.  I just knew that I didn’t want to be Mormon any more.
This transition was really hard.  Brian and I were growing apart at this time.  Brian had started a new job and I left a full time job and started working part time and being more of a full time mom.  I worked from 7 am until 11 am.  I was able to be home most of the day.  It’s a good thing social media didn’t exist back then.  I would have had a complete melt down.  I already felt so inadequate about myself, still struggled with not feeling good enough, still cutting a few days a week, social media and the “super mom’s” that you see on Facebook and Pintrest would have made me feel even worse about myself.  I realize now  I have other skills and talents, they just aren’t able to be highlighted on social media. 😉
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Part of the reason I decided to start attending a church was because I realized I couldn’t teach my kids how to follow Christ or what I believed because I didn’t know myself.  For the first 2 years of my Christian walk I went to church faithfully.  I listened to Christian radio and I would swear that every Pastor I listened to knew my story and knew exactly what I needed to hear.  I learned a lot about God during that time and I learned, somewhat, about the Christian walk.  But I didn’t learn much about how it applied to me.  I learned that God loved me and accepted me.  I learned that I am a sinner saved by grace and grace only.  I learned that Christians believe that you need to say a prayer to accept Christ and I understood where that belief came from.  I said that prayer every week for a long time because I didn’t understand what it meant to accept the gift of grace.  I had such a hard time believing that I was really “saved” or that I could ever be good enough to make it to Heaven.  One of the hardest things about transitioning from Mormonism to Christianity is learning to let go of all the misconceptions that are ingrained from growing up in a Mormon world.

Brian and I have been out of Mormonism for about 18 1/2 years.  We have been Christians for about 16 years and in so many ways I would still call myself a “baby Christian”.  In 2009 God led us to a church where we actually started, not just hearing His word, but truly growing and learning what we believe and why we believe it.  In the past my family would ask my why I left Mormonism and I would get upset and defensive.  There were many times I got mad a just walked away because I didn’t know how to talk or have a discussion with them.  In the past 7 years I have learned so much. I haven’t learned just why Mormonism is wrong, I have learned what I believe, and why I believe it.  I have learned that the Bible is a historically accurate source. I have learned that there is one God, existent in 3 beings, called the Trinity.  I learned that the old laws of the Old Testament are no longer valid today.  They have been covered by the blood of Christ.  I know why Christ died on the cross for my sins.  I realize that his death on the cross is just as important to my salvation as his resurrection.

I think the biggest thing that I have learned in all of this time is that I can’t do this on my own.  I can’t live my life without God at the center.  When my life isn’t focused on Christ, I struggle.  I drift away and life seems so much more difficult.  When I am rooted in Christ I grow.  I can manage life.  I have also learned that the best way to keep me rooted in Christ is to keep people around me who are rooted in Christ.  I have learned the importance of having a church family, Christian friends, and a Pastor who you can connect with.

Believing in God isn’t enough.  In James 2:19 (NLT) it says, “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God.  Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.”  The church we attend started out as a group of friends who struggled to find a church they wanted to attend locally.  They got together and it has grown into an amazing group of genuine believers who able to connect and grow in God’s word.  One thing I didn’t realize as a Mormon, that I’ve since learned as a Christian is, all Christian denominations are the same.  We are all the same body of Christ.  The difference is, in preferences in worship.

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I think I say this every week but I am amazed that Brian and I were able to make it through all that we went through on our own.  We didn’t have people to surround us and help us through.  We made it because, I believe, it was God’s desire for us to make it.  If you are a believer but don’t have a place you are connected, go find one!  One of my favorite authors is Brene Brown, PhD.  She is a research professor at the University of Huston.  She studies vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame.  She talks a lot about connection and the importance of connection.  We are made for connection, we aren’t made to do life alone, we are made to do life together.  “Connection along with love and belonging, is why we are here, and is what gives meaning and purpose to our lives”- Brene Brown. 

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I don’t know if my walk and journey as a Christian would have been easier if we would have been connected to other believers, but I know it would have been a little lighter.  I wouldn’t have had to walk through all of the confusion and struggles I had by myself.  I would have had a group of people willing to wrap their arms around me and help me where ever I needed.

Just the rants and ravings of a small town girl… living in a connected world.