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.

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

Uncomfortable…

I read a quote today that said, “When God wants you to grow, He makes you uncomfortable.”  Well, let’s just say, I’ve been really uncomfortable lately.  I have been very busy.  I have been challenged in just about every aspect of my life.  I have had to stop and reflect on my values and core beliefs, and at times I have stopped and questioned “Do I really believe in God?”  Thankfully, that question doesn’t linger long in my mind.  God is real, and He makes Himself known to me often.

helplessness

I have had many times when I have thought I was going to write a blog, and for what ever reason, it just wasn’t what God wanted for me.  I’ve been growing.  The nice thing is that even when you’re growing nothing blooms forever, so I know there will be a time when I get to reflect on my growth.  I don’t know if I am there yet, but I know it’s coming.

The last several months, I have been through many hills and valleys.  I have prayed for things and God has come through in ways that I never could have imagined.  He has answered those prayers with more than I could have imagined.   I have also prayed for things and God has said no, or not now, wait.  These prayers have been for things that have been for somethings that are easy to accept but others have been heart wrenching.   In the moments when I have felt broken, I have also been able to feel God’s strength carrying me.  Through it all the message has been “Trust me.”  And with every step even in my brokenness, I can feel myself becoming stronger in my faith and I know God only wants the best for me.

Through all of the struggle, it has been made clear over and over to me that God is real.  I encounter people on a regular basis who don’t believe in God.  They are atheist or agnostic, I had a conversation recently where someone told me, there is no proof that God exists and until there is I have no reason to believe.  A statement like that baffles me because I see God every day.  I see God in the sunsets, the stars, flowers, I see God when I look in the mirror.  And I know without a doubt, even though I go through storms in life, I would rather go through them with God by my side, than with out Him.

science

Over the past few months of not writing, God has confirmed to me that I am His daughter! The daughter of the King of the Universe.  And the day I called His name and accepted Him as my Lord and Savior I became flawless in His eyes.  Even in the darkest, most difficult days, when I am having the hardest time, when I feel the most inadequate, and worthless, God reminds me, I am His, He is in control of my life and I have no reason to fear. God knows my struggle and He will take care of me.

limitations

I know that every hill and valley I am going through, every experience, every person He brings into my life, is preparation for the amazing future he has for me.  Change is hard, being uncomfortable is hard. But God knows what I need, and He has amazing plans for my life. He is continually saying “Trust me.”  And through every hill and valley, that is what I’m trying to do. God is putting the pieces of my life together and even though I am uncomfortable, that means I’m growing, and the most beautiful things take a lot of time and care to reach their fullest potential.

I’m just a Small-Town Girl… Uncomfortable growing in God’s world.

Christian

Heart Problems…

I’ve struggled with writing my blog lately.  Recently, I even thought maybe, I would just stop writing.  I feel God has made it very clear to me that isn’t an option.  So, as I was pondering the last few weeks, I thought about the world and all the turmoil going on right now.  I thought about a friend who is going through a really rough time, I thought about the church shooting that just happened and that mass shootings seem to be an almost regular event anymore.  I thought about my job and the hurt and pain that people struggle with on a daily basis to the point they want to take their own lives.  I remembered, my purpose in writing this blog is because people need Jesus!!

life hurts

There is so much hurt and heartache in the world today.  I sit and think about all of the yuck in this world and I remember when I was there.  Hurt, broken, feeling worthless and hopeless.  When I opened myself up to the love of Christ, when I heard that it didn’t matter to Him all of the horrible things I felt I had done, He still loved me, it changed my entire world.   In the past I would have told you I knew who Jesus was, and I believed in Him, and I tried to live a good life.  But having a relationship and opening yourself up to God’s love is different, it changes you, it changes your world.

I try not to be political in my blog.  I try to just focus on my religious experiences.  But as I think about the state of the world today, I can’t help but take more of a political stance.  I’ve seen a quote many times that says you don’t need religion to have morals, and while I don’t disagree with that, I feel as a society as we work to remove God from our culture, our morals are going by the way side.  I have worked in a school and worked in a prison and it blows my mind that we discourage kids from freely pursuing and practicing their faith in school.  We put many barriers in their way and yet if you are in prison, religion is encouraged.  I remember sitting in parole hearings and listening to inmates talk about going to church and Bible studies and how God was changing their lives.  One of my many hats at the prison was the religious coordinator, I oversaw all religious activities and made sure all religious volunteers were in compliance with facility policies.  Just imagine if we put that much energy into assisting the development of spirituality and religion for our children.  Maybe we wouldn’t have the struggles we have now.

universe

I’ll be honest, there were many different religions in prison, and several weren’t Christian based, and I could tell those who were genuine in their pursuit of a relationship with Christ and those who weren’t.  The difference was, their lives, even in prison, just seemed to go better.  They didn’t get in trouble with the jail staff, they followed the rules, and they didn’t argue.  They were accepting of their situation and if something didn’t go their way or if they felt they had been wronged, they had a conversation with the staff and tried to work it out.  They were different.  Their hearts were different.

There is truly something amazing that happens when you give your life over to God.  When you are willing to accept that He has a plan and a purpose for you it changes your perspective and changes your heart.  I know when I came to that realization, I wanted to know God more, I wanted to know everything I could, I read devotionals, Bible studies, I listened to sermons on the Radio. I began to develop a relationship with this God, who before seemed so scary and condemning, but as I learned more about Him, was loving and kind.  It blew my mind as I read the Bible and learned about the people he chose to spread his message.  The people he chose to be the ones that would represent Him.  They were not perfect people who always did right.  They were very much sinners.  But…They all had one thing in common.  They all loved God.  They had a relationship with God and they pursued Him.  They wanted to please their God.  And although they made mistakes and struggled with their sin, they still pursued Him. It wasn’t just because they believed in Him, it’s because they had a relationship with Him.

jesus heals broken hearts

In today’s world, God is a foreign concept.  Society teaches trusting in God is a weakness.  In today’s world, we want to be our own gods.  It’s heart breaking to me.  As I watch people struggle, I think, “You need Jesus!!”  And I struggle to say anything for fear that they will condemn me or make fun of me.  I can say, “You need Jesus!!” on my blog because it’s not face to face.  That’s easy.  And yet, I know that’s what I need to do.

The thing that needs to change most in this world is we need to get back to the basics.  The 10 Commandments, the Beatitudes, and having a relationship with the Creator of the Universe.  The problems in this world are not about race, religion, sexual orientation, politics, gun control, or any other social issue the media wants to glorify or criticize at the moment.  It’s about the heart.  It is what is important to us as a society and where our priorities lie.  Matthew 6:21 says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”.  In today’s world our hearts are anywhere but with Jesus.

giraffe

I’m just a Small Town Girl… living in a world in need of Jesus!

 

Christian, exmormon, mormonism

Broken into Freedom…

This weekend is the 187th semiannual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  Growing up, this weekend was always filled with family and great food.  Often, we would spend Saturday playing with cousins while the adults watched the Saturday Conference sessions.  On Sunday, we were able to sleep in a little and were up just before 10 to watch the Sunday morning session instead of going to church.  In the afternoon, we would again spend time playing with cousins while the adults watched the final session of conference.

As a kid, conference Sunday was my favorite; mostly because it was like a typical Sunday.  We didn’t go to church and we spent time playing with cousins.  As I got older, especially as an adult in the Mormon world, I was expected to watch and pay closer attention to all the sessions of conference.

Conference was hours and hours of the LDS Church leaders telling you how you are supposed to act and how you will get through your trials if you pray harder and read the scriptures more.  They pushed the importance of listening to and following the church leaders.  The leaders would talk about the importance of the Book of Mormon and the church.  They would bear their testimonies and vow that they were witnesses of the Book of Mormon and the truth of the Mormon gospel.

For someone who always struggled with the person I was “supposed” to be and feeling like I was someone different on the inside, these messages were hard.  I would listen to those in leadership positions and feel shame and guilt for the thoughts and feelings I had that were different from what was being taught to me. I wanted to be a good Mormon and a good person but I felt lost.

cor

I had heard about “Freedom in Christ” but never really understood what that meant until I became a Christian.  Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery”.   In my Mormon life, I was very burdened by the “yoke of slavery”.  I was bound by rules and laws that had nothing to do with God and everything to do with religion.  The yoke of slavery was trying to be the person I was “supposed” to be and fit into a mold that wasn’t made for me.  Trying to follow the LDS leadership and strive to do everything right.  I struggled with depression and low self-esteem.  I hated myself so much because I could be that person I was supposed to be.

Before I gave my life to Christ depression and suicidal thoughts were a constant in my life.  I believed everyone would be better off without me because I struggled so hard to be that person that I was never meant to be.  My life was full of chaos and frustration.  I was never calm and even when I had a good day, I would find things to be discontent about because that was the only way I knew how to function.

When I gave my life to Christ, I immediately felt the bonds that were holding me loosen.  In that moment, I began to realize what it meant to experience Freedom in Christ.  Over time I learned that being Free in Christ was being the person He created me to be and not trying to fit into another person’s perception of who I should be.

beach

As I grew in my Christian walk and grew closer to God, I became more comfortable with myself, my flaws, my scars, and my insecurities began to melt away.  As I began to learn about God and His love, I began to understand that He created me and loves me just as I am.

The song, “Broken Things” by Matthew West has recently become one of my favorites.  The chorus and 2nd verse say:

Now I’m just a beggar in the presence of a King
I wish I could bring so much more
But if it’s true
You use broken things
Then here I am Lord, I am all Yours

The pages of history
They tell me it’s true
That it’s never the perfect
It’s always the ones with the scars that You use
It’s the rebels and the prodigals
It’s the humble and the weak
All the misfit heroes You chose
Tell me there’s hope for sinners like me.

I love this song because it reminds me of although I’m a sinner, broken, a prodigal, and weak, God has a plan and a purpose for me.

This weekend as I watched the quotes of the LDS leadership fill up my FB page, I reveled in the truth.  I am so grateful that I am no longer bound by religion and I am now free.  I have true freedom in Christ.  I am no longer a slave to rules and laws of man.  Many people believe being a Christian is what binds you or holds you back from being free.  But I believe being a Christian is the only thing that truly makes you free.

dance

I’m just a Small Town Girl…living in the freedom of Christ.

 

 

Christian

Storms of Life…

Well, this Small Town Girl is back at it.  Before I get started I want to thank Cheyenne for writing my blog while I was out.  She did a great job.  I am so proud of her. She has such a heart for God and is a great example to me.

The last several months have been a huge struggle for me.  The end of February I fell and injured my hand and shoulder.  In the last 3 months, I have had 2 major surgeries and one minor surgery.  There have been times when I have felt as if I was being tossed around on the waves and whipped around in the wind and yet I felt God’s calming presence in the chaos.  Even though I was in the midst of the storm and most often after a moment (days) of panic and struggle God calmed me and I knew it would be ok.   Then there were times when the chaos died down and things didn’t seem to be so bad.  God would calm the storm and although, I knew the struggle wasn’t over, I knew it was God who was in charge of the storm.

storm

I’m still in the midst of the storm and have a very long road ahead.  Through it all, there were ups and downs and there are many more to come. So many days, I struggled with depression and being overwhelmed by the current life I was living.  “This isn’t how my life was supposed to go!  Life isn’t supposed to be this hard”.  I already overcame that struggle and yet, here I am struggling with many of the same feelings I have fought so hard to move past.  Life is supposed to be easier with God.  Right?

I don’t think God ever promised anything would be easy.  Actually, if you read the Bible, most of the people in the Bible that God used had a very hard and difficult road.  People like Jonah, Gideon, Moses, David, Rahab, Rachel, Paul, they all had very hard situations they had to work through.  Their situations required God’s guidance and direction.

God had great plans for their lives.  Their struggles and hardships are documented in the greatest book of all time.  God had a purpose for their struggle.  I don’t think Jonah ever thought “I bet I’m going down in the history books for being swallowed by a whale”!  He didn’t want to go through the struggle but in the end, he did what God wanted and God used his struggle to help others and we get to read about Jonah in the Bible.  Life isn’t supposed to be easy especially when we do things on our own.

Recently, I had a very important but difficult situation I had to confront.  The outcome of this situation would be life altering. I was so anxious and nervous.  Consumed with my own expectations in life and how limited I was in the situation.  I had no control.  I knew in the situation I was in there was absolutely nothing that I could do to affect the outcome.  And honestly, I was unsure of what I wanted the outcome to be.  As I was waiting for this situation to resolve its self, Danny Gokey’s song “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again” came on the radio and I broke down in tears.  I felt it was God saying to me, “I know things have been hard.  I know you are grieving and hurt, but you are going to be ok.  I have great things for you”.

song

My life has been altered by this whole experience and it will never be the same.  I still have a long road ahead but today is a new beginning for me.  The situation I discussed above is still unresolved.  I still have a long road for recovery.  There is a lot of unknown in my world but the one thing I know for certain is that God is in control of my future and He has bigger and better plans for me than I can ever have for myself.

Every day I still struggle with the overwhelming feelings, I fight the depression and the desire to stay in bed and hide from the world.  But when I take time to talk to God and remember He is the one who is writing the script to my life, it makes it a little easier.  I’m so glad to be back writing my blog and I’m looking forward to where this new path will lead. I hope you all will be patient and willing to continue to ride through this storm with me.

peace

I’m Just a Small Town Girl… Living in a Stormy World.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4rRCjrAyCs&spfreload=10

Christian, mormonism

Just be Held…

I had a whole blog written and almost ready to post but it just didn’t feel right.  I knew in my heart what God wanted me to write but I’ve been fighting it for 2 weeks.

trust in god stg

The past month has been difficult for me.  I fell at work and have some injuries that I am trying to work through and receive treatment for.  The MRI I had a few weeks ago was for my hand.  I found out that I am going to have surgery and will most likely not gain full use back.  I have some other injuries that I am still working with the doctors to treat and I’m unsure of what will happen with those.

Just like when I had my MRI, I was alone with only God by my side holding my hand as the doctor gave me the news about surgery and possible partial disability.  That combined with a few other things I have been working through with all of this, I have been swarmed with emotions.  I have felt fearful, scared, unsure, betrayed, anxious, and depressed.  So much of what I have been feeling is very similar to how I lived my life before accepting Christ as my Savior.

known God stg

I have been struggling with depression and anxiety.  I have never been so anxious in my life and every day I struggle. I am living in a world of uncertainty.  I have no idea where this path leads or what God has planned for me but I know he has a plan for all of this.

Last weekend we went on a very quick and short vacation for spring break.  Just before I left there were some things that came up with this whole situation that were very frustrating and defeating for me.  My hope for our vacation was to be able to put all the struggles on the shelf and not think about them for a few days so I could enjoy time with my family.  On our drive, I started thinking about all that is going on and I said in my head God what am I going to do.  The song Just Be Held immediately started on the radio and I burst into tears.  I think I have blogged about this song before.  But it again just spoke to me.

Hold it all together
Everybody needs you strong
But life hits you out of nowhere
And barely leaves you holding on

And when you’re tired of fighting
Chained by your control
There’s freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go

So, when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held

If your eyes are on the storm
You’ll wonder if I love you still
But if your eyes are on the cross
You’ll know I always have and I always will

And not a tear is wasted
In time, you’ll understand
I’m painting beauty with the ashes
Your life is in My hands

So, when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held

Lift your hands, lift your eyes
In the storm is where you’ll find Me
And where you are, I’ll hold your heart
I’ll hold your heart
Come to Me, find your rest
In the arms of the God who won’t let go

So, when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
(Stop holding on and just be held)
Just be held, just be held
Just be held, just be held

I have felt like life has hit me out of nowhere and I’m barely holding on.  This has become my life song for this season of my life.  Through the weekend, I was able to let go.  I spend very little time thinking about the stressors that waited me when I went back to my job.  I just surrendered it all to God.  And when it would start to creep back into my thoughts, God would whisper in my mind “Just be held”.

psalms 31 24 stg

One of the hardest parts of all of this is the feelings of depression, not being good enough, and hopelessness that are constantly invading my thoughts.  I lived with those emotions most of my life.  I hate feeling like I am not enough.  I hate the constant feelings of depression and not even wanting to get out of bed.  The biggest difference between the depression I have experienced in the past and depression I have now is that my past depression was created by my religion.  My feelings of depression and worthlessness were increased by a belief in a god that I had to work for his affection and love.

As a Christian, God is the only thing that is holding me together.  My BIG God, who can do anything, is who gives me the strength to get out of bed every morning.  He is my motivation.  And the most comforting feeling in the world is hearing God say “Just stop, I’ve got this”.

I don’t know what is going to happen.  I don’t know how my blog will be affected.  But I know God has a plan and a purpose for me and for this blog.  I know that my life isn’t falling apart but God is working things together so they will be better than I can imagine.

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So often I look back at my life and see how far God has brought me. This experience has shown me more than I realized.  I had forgotten how debilitating depression and anxiety can be.  I am so grateful for my God who is bigger than all of it!!

I’m just a small-town girl…just being held by my God who is bigger than the world.

Christian, mormonism

He is my Strength…

Thanks for being patient with me, it’s been a crazy couple of weeks!! I hope you enjoy this weeks blog!

As I was scrolling through Facebook last week I came across a post by one of the Mormon apostles Jeffery R. Holland.  It talked about having difficult times in our lives and referred to something written by John Taylor quoting Joseph Smith.

John Taylor wrote that he once heard Joseph Smith say to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “You will have all kinds of trials to pass through. … God will feel after you, and He will take hold of you and wrench your very heart strings, and if you cannot stand it you will not be fit for an inheritance in the Celestial Kingdom of God.”

Holland went on to say that we have to suffer just as Christ suffered.  He stated that when Christ was in the garden he was in agony and “We must walk where He walked”.  I’m  not exactly sure where Mr. Holland was going with this whole thing but what I got from it is that we are meant to suffer.  God puts difficulties in our lives to see how strong we are and if we can’t handle the pain and trials in life then we aren’t worthy of being in the presence of God.

I know that life is hard.  I have had difficult times in my life and weathered many storms.  However, I don’t think that God ever wants us to suffer or be in agony.  I know that God challenges us or wants us to grow.  But most often when I am in a situation where I am in agony or my heartstrings are being pulled that hard it is because of my choices.

Sometimes there are things that happen in life that are really hard to understand, that happen not because of our choices but maybe because of someone else s, or just because.  This is one thing I struggle with often.  When someone I love is diagnosed with cancer or another chronic illness, it’s hard to understand.  No one chooses cancer, diabetes, depression, anxiety, etc. or when you lose a loved one in a car accident.  It’s difficult and it’s hard to understand.

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The thing that helps me the most to gain some perspective on this is, thinking back to the garden of Eden and Eve eating the apple.  When she did that, sin and death entered the world and the world began to die.

One thing I know for certain is that God is always there.  He will never leave me to go through the storms of life alone.  And as I have said many times in the past I am never going to be worthy of His presence but that’s why I have a Savior!

I was completely baffled by by Mr. Holland’s statement!!  “You will have all kinds of trials to pass through…God will feel after you, and He will take hold of you and wrench your very heart strings”.  It blows me away to think that my loving God would set out to “wrench my very heart strings”  and if I can’t handle it then I am not good enough for Him.

It is heartbreaking to think  that God would put difficult things in your life, just to see if you were strong enough to handle them.  He is going to make things hard and make you struggle and if you give up or you feel like you can’t make it through then you aren’t deserving of being in his presence.  2-sam-22-33-stg

The saddest part of that quote is, so often that is a very common theme in Mormonism.  If you are in a storm or struggle in your life then God is testing you or you aren’t working hard enough.   What it comes down to is that you need to try harder.  One quote that I’ve heard or seen often from my Mormon friends is, “The teacher is always quiet during the test”.  I have always struggled with that quote.  When I see that, I think of the poem Footprints in the Sand.  He is always there.  Always walking along beside us and more often than not, He is carrying me, especially in my most difficult and darkest times. I also think of the quote that says God won’t give us anything we can’t handle.  I think that is the furthest thing from the truth.  If God is putting something in my life that I feel I can’t handle it’s because He wants me to rely on Him.  He wants to be my strength.  It is so I will trust in Him and not in myself.  It’s so I will rely on Him!

Last week I saw another post that was talking about Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (ESV).  It was talking about how often people misinterpret the passage.  In this devotion it talks about if you take the whole passage from Philippians in context the passage isn’t about gaining strength or pushing through hard times.  It’s about being content in the moment and relying on God completely in whatever circumstances we face.

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As a Christian the most important thing I do is rely on God and trust that God is going to take care of me.  I don’t have the ability or strength handle or face everything that happens in my life.  In fact, there are so many things that I can’t handle, that I struggle to face even on a daily basis.  If I thought, for even a second, that I had to do them to prove to my God that I was worthy of Him and His love and presence, I would fail every time.  I think I would give up.  What is the point of living if you know you can never do enough or be enough.  Just the thought of trying to prove myself to God is depressing.  I fail Him everyday!

What gives me hope is knowing that His word, the Bible, tells me He is my strength.  The Bible is full of stories of God taking people that weren’t adequate for the task at hand or who didn’t have the strength and ability to do what He wanted them to do or go through and yet they came out on top.  Not because of their strength or ability but because of God’s!  Can you imagine David being told by God he would kill a giant!  Do you think he didn’t question God. Do you think he could have killed Goliath on his own without God.

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I know there are times when heart wrenching things happen but I really don’t think that God seeks to do us harm or has a desire for us to be in pain.  When I have seen people go through difficult times it is the people who rely on God and trust in Him who seem to be the most resilient in the situation.

Overall, God is my strength.  He is the one I rely on especially when storms of life are raging.  The hardest part is relying on him when the waters of life are calm.

I’m just a small town girl…living in a stormy world where Christ is my strength.

 

Don’t forget to check out the music videos for this week!

 

Christian, exmormon, mormonism

My heart is Yours…

When I was a Mormon, life was life. I went through every day with out much of a thought about God or what impact He had on my every day life. When I was in high school, I would get up and go to school, practice for whatever sport I was doing at the time, and then come home.  When I had a bad day or things went wrong any thoughts toward God were never positive.  If I had a really bad day then I felt God was punishing me for not being good enough and I needed to try harder.

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Growing up we would sometimes have family prayer.  When we were all together we would pray for the food. Sunday is the day I would generally spend time really thinking about God.  I did have seminary every day in high school, so I guess for that hour I would think about God.  Generally, it was a passing thought.  God wasn’t the focus in my life. I though people who listened to Christian music and talked about God all the time were weird.  If you had told me even 10 years ago that I have more Christian music downloaded than any other, or that I spend most of my time outside of work focused on what God wants me to do, I would have never believed you.

I used to think that my religious beliefs were a private matter and people didn’t need to know what I believed. Most of what I did to worship God was done behind closed doors.  It wasn’t part of my everyday conversations and God didn’t cross my thoughts throughout the day.  When things went wrong in my life, I thought it was because I wasn’t trying hard enough and I would try harder in those times to read my scriptures and pray more.  But it was all on the surface.  My heart was never in the right place.  The intention behind my actions was all because I was supposed to be doing those things.  I was doing what the church leaders told me to, believing that some how they were more spiritual than me.  They had a greater connection to My Savior than I did.  This was another one of the misconceptions of Mormonism.

As I have grown in my Christian walk, God is ever present in my day. There are many times in my day when I will stop and think “Thanks, God, I know that was you”.  It could be for the smallest thing or the biggest thing.  It doesn’t really matter.  I see God’s hand in every piece of my life.

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This week was a really difficult week for me.  I’m not sure why but I have been overly emotional all week.  Monday was a holiday and Brian and I took the kids out to a movie and dinner.  It was a fun time I love being with my kids, Monday was a good day.  Tuesday was an average day.  I went to work.  I love my job but there are some things there that are a daily struggle and I know that I am supposed to be learning something from the experience, I’m not enjoying the lesson.  Wednesday the weather was awful, I have a 4o minute commute each way to work and I knew about 10 minutes in I should just stay home.  But I didn’t. I was late for work and when I finally got there, got my car stuck in the parking lot.  I was told many ways to get it out, how to drive my car, and that I need to get new tires.  As I have written many times I don’t like to be told what to do. (I felt a little vindicated later when other people who were telling me how to drive and what to do also got stuck in the parking lot).  I arranged things so I could head for home at noon; and hour and 20 minutes later they closed the building I work in for the day.  It was a very stressful and irritating day for me.  When I got home I took a nap.

I pulled myself together enough to go out in the community and work with the clients I was assigned for the day.  I got back to the office and realized I had lost my ID badge.  I did exactly what I was told and went and told the person I was supposed to.  I was told I needed to go back out in the community an find it.  I was told the information on the badge could be used to steal my identity.  I completely broke down.  I lost it. At this time it was 1:00 in the afternoon and I hadn’t had lunch.  I wanted to leave but my daughter had my car.  I went into the bathroom and cried.  I was done with everything.  I was so glad it was Friday and was wishing it was 5:00 so I could go home.

In that moment I finally stopped and said a quick prayer.  I started working on turning everything over to God instead of controlling the situation.  I again pulled myself together, ate lunch, retraced a few of my steps and found my badge.  I was able to get through the rest of the day with out tears, and had a long talk with Brian and then God on the way home.

Thursday was a regular day but bitter cold as it has been the last few weeks. It was so cold here Thursday and Friday most of the schools in the area were closed.  Friday was the climax of my horrible week.  My son left to go back to college 9 hours away, I took my daughter back to her college dorm in the city where I work.  I got to work feeling a bit emotional already saying goodbye to my college kids. There were things that happened at work that day that added to my emotional state and I cried all day. I pulled myself together enough to say a quick prayer.

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My conversation with God was please give me strength, courage, be with me as I go through this.  Not once did I ask God to fix it or take it away.  In my Mormon life, I lived my life to please myself and only involved God when it was convenient.  When things went wrong God became the excuse; I would think I wasn’t doing enough to please Him.  When life was going OK God was generally an after thought.

As a Christian, I can see God in my everyday life.  I am a strong believer in the statement, “Everything happens for a reason”.  I know God has a plan for my life.  I know every struggle, every roadblock, every heartache, God will take and use for my benefit and His.  I’m still struggling with the emotional stress at work . But God knows what I need and He will open doors.  He already brought my sister in Christ to work in the same building.  I am so grateful that I can go talk to her and have her say a quick prayer for me.  Or I can eat my lunch with her and we can talk about God.  I love her and I love that God knew I was going to need her, long before I ever did.

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Romans 8:28 says God works all things together for the good of those who love Him.  Later in the same chapter in Romans 8:37 (NIV) it says we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. I love that because not only will God work all the struggles I had this week out to benefit me but I will do more than conquer.  I will be victorious.  In the NLT version Romans 8:37 says “No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us”.  What a great promise “overwhelming victory, more than conquerors”.  If you commit your life to Christ and are living for Him you are going not only win but you’re going to blow away the competition.

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I think my whole point this week is that I became so caught up in my emotions, my struggles, my problems, that I forgot who is looking out for me.  I forgot to stop and focus on God and what it means to be His child.  I forgot who I gave my heart to and that He wants more than anything to protect me and keep me safe. I fell back in to some of my Pre-Chrisitian beliefs and was focused on me and what I could to do fix things not on God and what his goal and purpose is for all of this.  It makes things a little easier knowing at the end I will be “dancing in the end zone”.

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I’m just a small town girl… living in God’s world.

 

One of my most favorite songs click the link and watch the video.

Where I got the title for this weeks blog

 

 

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

Don’t forget to check out the videos!