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, LDS, mormonism

Perfectly Imperfect…

I have been dreading writing this weeks blog.  Last week was a rough week and I wasn’t a very good Christian, and in all reality, part of me didn’t care. I was rude to people, said and did things I shouldn’t have, and wasn’t the follower of Christ I usually strive to be on a daily basis.  THANK GOD FOR GRACE!grace-blue

I was reminded this week that I am a sinner.  No matter how good of a person I am, I still sin. I know very well I am far from perfect, but most of the time I like to think I’m a pretty good person and am picking up my cross and following Christ.  I make mistakes here and there, but overall I’m a good person. And yet I still have that sin nature inside of me.  I’ve come a long way in my Christian walk and I know I still have a long way to go.  But I am so grateful for God’s grace and that I don’t have to earn it, because I would fail miserably!!  Without the knowledge and gift of grace I would still be living in a depressed, lonely, miserable world.

I’m also very grateful that I have a direct line to God and I don’t have to ask anyone but Him to forgive my sin.  Growing up in Mormonism, when you sin, you are supposed to confess to your bishop.  Most things don’t really matter it’s just the “big sins”.  When you turn 12 and enter into the young men and women groups you have an interview with the bishop every year around your birthday.  I remember this was always nerve racking.  I’ve discussed many times how I struggled with not feeling good enough.  I think this added to it a lot!  Imagine, sitting in an office as a 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 year old girl, knowing that you had your own inner secrets such as cutting, swearing, and depression, that you are expected to confess to some man.  In the office it was just the bishop and I.   I would sit in front of this man whom my parents knew well, and he would ask me all sorts of questions. The questions were centered around if I was keeping my baptismal covenants (that,at 8 years old, I don’t really remember making).  I would be asked about friends, drugs, alcohol, sex, basically if I was keeping my self worthy of a temple marriage.  The LDS.org website has an article that listed the following in regards to baptismal covenants: “Strive always to remember and keep the Lord’s commandments. Keep your thoughts, language, and actions pure. When you seek entertainment such as movies, television, the Internet, music, books, magazines, and newspapers, be careful to watch, listen to, and read only those things that are uplifting. Dress modestly. Choose friends who encourage you to reach your eternal goals. Stay away from immorality, pornography, gambling, tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs. Keep yourself worthy to enter the temple.”  I was a teenage girl!! I didn’t strive to always keep the Lord’s commandments.  I just stated at the beginning of this blog, I don’t always do this as an adult!  Imagine the guilt, shame, and frustration, that consumed me as a teenage girl already feeling inadequate, already feeling like I wasn’t enough, I could never measure up, and the only way to receive forgiveness was to confess to this man I was sitting in front of, the things I had done wrong, and hope that he would grant that forgiveness to me.

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When Brian and I were dating we became very “passionate” several times. We both knew we were doing things we shouldn’t and I believed I wanted to “be worthy” to go to the temple some day. The summer before my senior year of high school Brian moved to another state to live with family and go to college.  I was, of course, heartbroken he was so far away.  He came home to visit in September and signed up to take the missionary discussions from the LDS missionaries.  He took the missionary discussions while he was away at college and I mustered up the courage to go to my bishop and confess about our “passionate” rendezvous.  The bishop told me I need to break up with Brian and not see him any more.  I didn’t tell the bishop at the time that Brian was away at college.  I just told him OK.  I tried to be honest, tried to confess, and again I lied.  Brian was the love of my life, the bishop didn’t even take any of that into consideration.  Again shame, guilt, depression.  Hopelessness.

You all know that so far, Brian and I are living happily ever after  (I don’t listen to authority figures very well).

As a Christian, I am no longer bound by the chains of a religion that forces me to seek forgiveness for my sin from man.  My sin is forgiven.  Debt 100% paid. I take my transgressions and wrong doings directly to Christ.  The Message Bible 1 John 8-10 says “If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves.  A claim like that is errant nonsense.  On the other hand, if we admit our sins- make a clean breast of them- He won’t let us down, He’ll be true to Himself.  He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing.”  If we claim that we never sinned, we out and out contradict God- make a liar out of Him.  A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God. Verse 9 is the key, “On the other hand, if we admit our sins- make a clean breast of them- He won’t let us down, He’ll be true to Himself.  He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing”.   We need to confess our sins to God, not man, not a bishop.

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Although my behavior this week most likely wouldn’t have called for me to meet with my bishop and confess anything, I wouldn’t have passed the interview that I would have  been required to have with my bishop as a teenager.  My language and how I treated others wasn’t very Christlike, but I confessed my sins to God.  I am forgiven in Christ Jesus. I am always grateful for the gift of grace and today and am also grateful for mercy.

So often I fall short.  I am a perfect sinner.  I fall short every day and yet my loving God is quick to forgive me.  I am a perfectly imperfect human, made perfect by a loving and faithful God.  perfectly-imperfect-2-stg

I am glad last week is over and I get to start over this week.  But the thing that has been on my mind most this week is how grateful I am that I don’t have to sit in front of someone who I go to church with every week and confess my shortcomings to them and ask them to give me the forgiveness that God already promised me in His Word.  I’m so glad I don’t have to worry about the shame and fear that would rise up in me when I would walk into the bishops office.

I see my pastor several times a week.  There is never fear of judgement, shame, or worry.  I know he is a human, just as I am.  I know he makes mistakes at times.  I know he is also covered by grace.

The biggest struggle this week is that I was focused more on myself and was trying to take control of situations that I have no control over.  When I take my eyes off of God I very quickly fall back my sinful self and do things that I later regret.

I’m just small town girl… living in a sinful world.  Praying for a better week.

 

exmormon, LDS, mormonism

Laughing Out Loud

So today we went on an adventure to find a Christmas tree.  We piled my 2 daughters, who are still at home, and the dog in our trusty old suburban and traveled about an hour into the mountains.  We got to the point where the roads were no longer maintained and almost got stuck.  At one point, the girls, a kind stranger, and I were pushing the suburban to keep it from sliding into the gutter and getting stuck in the snow.  It was fun and although it was stressful for my loving, amazing, husband, who entertains my crazy ideas, the girls and I laughed and had a fun time.  I’m still smiling from the experience.

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In the past, an experience like this would have sent me into a  complete melt down.  I would have been in tears blaming myself and feeling like a failure for having such a stupid idea to go into the mountains to get a Christmas tree. Or, I would have blamed Brian and been frustrated and angry with him and the rest of our day would have been ruined.  We ended up buying a Christmas tree at a local store and won’t put it up until tomorrow or Tuesday but that’s ok. It was still a fun adventure!

I love to laugh!  I spent so much of my life not even knowing how to smile, let alone laugh.  E.E. Cummings once said, “The most wasted of days is one without laughter”.  I completely agree with him.  I’m not sure why I struggled so hard to be happy.  There were times that I experienced happiness, moments that I can look back on, and I was happy in that moment.

I remember spending time with my cousins and the fun games we played.  I have 2 girl cousins that are close to my age and we spent a lot of time together.  In the summer when we were together we lived in my grandparents camp trailer.  It was our house, we liked to pretend we were in college. Those are some of my most cherished memories.  I remember birthdays and holidays, family get-togethers and celebrations, and yet, no matter the memory, the happiness was only for the moment.

As I got into jr. high and high school, the happy times faded even more.  I struggled to even feel happiness.  My smiles were fake, and laughter was rare if it ever happened.  I felt like I was living in a fog.  There were so many things that happened that I didn’t understand.  I felt confused about my world.  I felt like I was just floating along.

It’s easy to look back now and understand that I was struggling from depression.  I had a deep emptiness that I didn’t know how to fill.  I felt nothing.  I can’t even find words to describe it.  I just felt like a black hole, void, empty, nothingness.

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I tried many things to fill that void over the years. I tried beer for the first time when I was in jr. high.  It was nasty.  I had no desire to try it again. Not long after that, I tried my first wine cooler, and that I loved!  I liked it a lot.  The fortunate thing about living in a Mormon community and having a dad who knew the kids in the community, they didn’t let me go too many places that might get me in trouble.  If they had been more lenient with me I may have ended up in a lot more trouble than I did.  When I was in jr. high, my group of friends got in trouble for drinking on the bus.  I wasn’t on the bus because I had older siblings who could drive.  I think in a lot of ways, God was looking out for me.

I was never exposed to drugs, although I probably could have gotten them if I had really wanted them.  I was scared of using drugs because I already felt dumb and I didn’t want to be any dumber.  I did take some of my mom’s blood pressure medicine.  It made me really sick.  I’m not sure what my motive was other than I knew it wasn’t something I was supposed to do.

I really think I tried to find ways to rebel or do things that would go against my core values and beliefs.  I did this because I knew I would never be enough.  I remember thinking about every little thing I did wrong and how I could never do enough to make up for the sins I had already committed, so what was the point.

By the time I got into high school I had a new resolve to at least try and do better.  I had better friends but I still struggled with the void in my heart.  I continued to try and fill that void with everything other than the one thing that was meant to fill it.  I believed that if I found a boyfriend I would feel better about myself.  I had a few.  And then I met Brian, and although he brought me more happiness, he didn’t fill the void.  I believed if I focused more on the Mormon teachings and tried harder to be a good person that would help. Again I fell short.  I thought if Brian became Mormon and we got married then I would be happy and the emptiness would be gone.  Brian got baptized and that summer we got married and, although I was happy, it was only a temporary fix.

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Everything I did, it was only temporary, having a baby, moving closer to family, moving into a house.  It didn’t matter. In the moments when things did seem to be going right I would find a way to sabotage the happiness because I didn’t know how to handle happiness. I don’t think I ever did this intentionally, but I would do this because I was afraid of having anything good because I knew it would only be temporary.  I was looking for the missing piece to the puzzle inside my heart in all the wrong places.  It wasn’t until the dark moment in my life when I was tired and ready to give up on life that I finally figured out where to look for the piece I was missing.

Once I gave my life to Christ, things were different.  The void was filled and I no longer struggled to find something to fit into that hole.  It was truly an amazing difference.  As I’ve stated in previous blogs, through all of this struggle I was cutting, binging and purging, and had constant suicidal ideation.  That all stopped when I gave my life to Christ.  I work in mental health and I understand mental illness.  I know there is a time and a purpose for medication and time and a purpose for counseling.  That wasn’t the path God set for me.  When I gave my life to Christ, it’s like I woke up.  The fog I lived in was lifted, I was no longer living in a black hole.  I began to see the world in a different way than I ever had before.  I began to understand things that seemed so confusing before.  And the best thing, I learned to smile, and with smiling came laughter. Not just a giggle or a small ha ha, genuine belly laughter, laugh out loud laughter.  I had not genuinely laughed or smiled in so long the muscles in my neck were sore.

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I don’t remember exactly when it was or what happened, but I remember I laughed out loud at something and Brian just looked at me, almost stunned.  I asked him what was wrong and he said something about me not ever laughing, he was a little unsure.  I think there may have been some uneasiness about me sabotaging the situation.

Even today, we talk about how far I have come.  I know my happiness and laughter is a direct result of accepting Christ as my Lord and Savior.  I am still amazed that I can see humor and laugh at things.  I have not only learned to be happy, but I have found joy.  One of my co-workers told me my laugh is contagious, he loves to hear me laugh.  For a girl who didn’t even to know how to laugh that is one of the greatest compliments.  I laugh on a daily basis and can’t imagine a life where I can’t laugh, at least laugh at myself. I think laughter is contagious, it can be a universal language, it can diffuse tension and bring people together.

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I think one of the hardest things in this world is letting go of control, especially to God, who you can’t see.  But one of the best most amazing things I did was quit trying to fill the hole in my heart by myself and let the God of the Universe who crated everything take control of my life, and it brought me happiness, laughter, and joy.

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

Just for laughs!!

exmormon, LDS, mormonism

Family, Football, & Heaven

The holidays are always a difficult time for me.  I struggle with wanting to spend time with my family and knowing that being around my family only makes me irritable and depressed. Thanksgiving was just that, we time spent with my family and when I left I spent at least an hour after I got home having to de-stress.

Growing up Mormon, I was taught family is everything.  It is the end goal of life.  It is the  reason to live.  It is the point of salvation. Mormons teach, family’s can be together forever.  They believe that if you are good enough and do enough to make it to Heaven, and your family does the same, you can all be in Heaven together.

As a Christian this was one the of the hardest things for me to reconcile.  It was hard for me to let go of.  I love my family and although we don’t get along all of the time, and some of them drive me absolutely crazy, they are my family.  But the reason I have a difficult time is because of the man God put in my life.  How could God put someone like Brian in my life and not let me be with him in the next life.  I want to be married to him forever!  I know for some that may be a crazy thought but Brian and I have been married for over 22 years.  We have been a couple for over 24 and best friends for over 25.  That’s more than half our lives!!  I really don’t know what I would do without him.  He is my rock.  I also want to know I will be able to be with my kids forever.  So this promise the Mormon’s make, of forever families, is hard to let go of.

We spent Thanksgiving day with my family.  One of the first things I did was walk into the living room.  I had to make sure the picture frame was still empty, because like I’ve said before, this is the real picture of my family.  As we spent the day eating and playing games there was, as always, a heaviness in my heart. I want my family to know Christ like I do.  I want them to experience the freedom that comes with the knowledge and understanding of true grace.  As I sat there and watched, I could see the sadness, the depression in my sisters and sister-in-law’s eyes.  It’s exhausting to try and be enough.  It’s hard to try and fit into the cookie cutter mold of what you are supposed to be when you are created for so much more!  I wouldn’t say they aren’t happy, they have moments of happiness, but they are lacking joy and freedom.  They aren’t able to be who God has created them to be. It’s so hard when you know just one small change in their mindset would truly set them free.

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One of the hardest things I struggle with is the fun times we always had as a family growing up and the fun times my kids have when they get together with their cousins.  We have such fun family traditions and fun things we do together. One of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions is our family Turkey Bowl.  The whole family gets together and plays a game of flag football.  We have a family of athletes many of the kids have played sports in high school and all of my siblings played sports in high school.  So it is a fun event.  It’s also common in the summer time for my family to get a game of basketball going on the cement slab in the back yard, or a game of “ennie inne over head”, a game where you have 2 teams, one on each side of the house. One team throws a Nerf football over the house and if the other team catches it they run around to the other side and try to hit as many people on the other team with the football as they can. It’s a fun game we have played ever since I can remember.  We have played tennis together and an endless number of board games and card games. We are a competitive family, but always have a good time.  We know how to celebrate a win but have also learned how to lose.

We also know how to eat, and no one ever goes hungry when we are together.  We come from a family of good cooks, there is always something cooking or something that just came out of the oven.  Never say you are hungry around my family because they will offer to make you something to eat, even when the kitchen counter is full of food. It’s been fun to watch my kids grow up with many of the same traditions.  I love that they get to spend time with their cousins and have good friendships with them.

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This is what makes the family struggle, so hard.  There is a part of me that thinks, at times, it would be easier to just go back to being a Mormon because maybe there wouldn’t be the tension that now exists in my family.  But then I look at my life and I know there is no way I could ever go back to the struggle of having to be, “good enough”.  Wondering and doubting myself.  Trying to fit into a cookie cutter that I was never created to fit into.

The hard part about the forever family in Mormonism, is that there is no way to determine if you’ve done enough.  And even if you manage to do enough, that’s only you.  How do you have a forever family if you all have to do enough?

When I first became a Christian one of the songs I fell in love with was Audio Adrenalin’s Big House.  I love it.  I describes what I think Heaven will be like.  It is what I imagine a forever family to be.  The chorus says:

“It’s a big big house
With lots and lots a room
A big big table
With lots and lots of food
A big big yard
Where we can play football
A big big house
It’s my Father’s house”

How can you not love that!  I think that sounds just like my family.  I love the thought of a good game of football and Jesus is the quarterback.  Or us sitting around a big table full of the most delicious food you can imagine sharing a meal with Jesus.  Being in Heaven and spending time doing the things we enjoy as a family, but all in worship! I don’t know if that’s what Heaven will really be like, but I think it would be amazing.

As I’ve grown in my Christian walk, I have realized one of the biggest differences between Mormonism and Christianity is, the focus.  Mormons focus so much on the effort of man and man made things they forget about God. The difference between Heaven in Mormonism verses Christianity is, in Mormonism you continue to learn and work and try to gain your way to the different levels of heaven, even after death.  In Christianity, Heaven is continuous worship of God.  You are in Heaven to worship God, there is no more.

I also know, as I have grown in my Christian walk, the only way to be with my family forever is through grace.  I will never be good enough on my own, neither will Brian, my kids, or my family.  So accepting God’s grace, though the sacrifice of Christ, and teaching my kids and family about grace, that is the only way to be with family forever.

I know I have no control over the future.  I have no control over whether or not my family ever accepts grace and truly comes to Christ.  But I trust my God.  I know he has a plan for my life and he has a plan for my kids and my family.  I know that if I keep my focus on God, he will direct me in everything I do, and that’s all I can do.  I know most days I’m not the greatest example to my family.  I avoid them because I have a hard time with the negativity and the stress when I am around them.  But I hope and pray, that someday they will see the difference Christ has made in my life and they will have a desire to at least explore what made that difference.

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I’m just a small town girl…. living in a world of grace.

exmormon, mormonism

God is My Oxygen…

I work with people who struggle with mental illness and addiction.  In one of my groups this week, one of my clients who has struggled with addiction for most of her life was talking about the difficulty of trying to stay sober everyday.  She has almost 30 days clean and she talked about how sometimes she will go into the place where they hold AA and NA meetings and she won’t leave all day long because if she walks out the door she will use. She has come a long way in the short time she’s been in our program and she said something that really stuck with me this week. She said, “My worst days sober are still so much better than my best days using”.  I think that I could relate to that because, although I have never been addicted to drugs, I have lived in a world where I had an addiction and I was filled with despair and hopelessness. My addiction was cutting, and the despair and hopelessness was fueled by the knowledge that I would never be good enough.

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I cut for the first time when I was in 6th grade.  I remember the day very clearly.  It was a Saturday, I had a friend who had spent the night on Friday night and sometime late Saturday morning she went home.  I had gotten in a fight with my mom, I don’t remember what we fought about but this wasn’t an uncommon thing.  I was stubborn (still am) and liked to do things my own way (still do).  After the fight with my mom, I called and talked on the phone with my friend about wanting to kill myself, she didn’t believe me.  I don’t think I believed me either.  I had to clean the kitchen that day, I was cleaning the kitchen and washing dishes, I took an kitchen knife and slid it across my wrist.  It hurt.  It was just a scratch.  I did it again, another scratch.  The cuts were very superficial, barely breaking the skin, but it was my secret, something I had control over.  When I went to school on Monday I showed my friends.  They were worried and scared. They showed me a lot of attention and told me how important I was to them.  I liked the attention. It fueled my desire to do it more.

It didn’t take long for this to be how I coped with everything.  My mom used a straight razor to cut my dad’s hair.  I conveniently would take 1 or 2 out of the box and keep them with me or hide them in my dresser drawers.  I had one with me at all times.  When something would go wrong in my life, no matter how small, it became an excuse to cut. Bad grade on a test, cut; fight with friends, cut; woke up in a bad mood, cut.  It wasn’t long before it became old with my friends and they weren’t giving me that attention I wanted, so I kept cutting and didn’t say anything.  It still felt like it gave me a sense of power and control in my life I didn’t have anywhere else.

At times when I felt like things were really bad, fights with my mom, fights with my friends, I couldn’t wait to get home and get out my razor blade and cut. I craved putting the razor to my skin.  I craved the sens of release that would come when the blood would start flowing.  I would have times I would black out and not remember cutting. I rarely cut in nice uniform rows, most often they were chaotic.  I would just run the razor blade over my skin over and over every which way, no order, not caring, it was a release of emotion.  And then, I would have an emotional crash, and I would sleep.

This was my life day in and day out.  The smallest things would push my buttons and I would have a reason to cut and I would find a reason or make a reason.  I would manipulate situations and people so I would have a reason to cut. I didn’t know any other way to cope and I didn’t understand the emotions I was feeling.  As I got older and into high school I became more and more hopeless.  The secret I was hiding about my cutting, ugly scars that were materializing all over my body, and the shame and guilt that was building within was fueled by daily seminary lessons on living a life of morality.  Weekly Sunday school lessons and young women’s teachings about integrity, faith, accountability, living by church standards, and dying inside because I really didn’t know how to do these things.  I wasn’t made to be this way.  I knew with every fiber of my being I would NEVER measure up to the standards that were set for me.

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I tired and tried every day to be the person I was “supposed” to be.  I tried so hard, I read the Book of Mormon, and tried to understand and feel something.  I didn’t, I thought “There must be something wrong with me.”  Every time I tried harder it would drive me deeper and deeper into depression.

I was so lost and alone.  I was so broken, I had no sense of who I was or where I belonged.  The harder I tried to draw near to this god that my religion taught me about the more broken and hurt I felt.  Who was I? Why would God want me?  I had no desire to be the person that the Mormon church taught me I should be. I remember being in high school and laying in my bed and truly feeling hopeless.  I remember thinking “I will never be enough.  I can never do enough, so why even try?”  I know that it is only by the grace of God that I made it to where I am today.  If God had not put Brian in my life in high school I’m not sure I would have made it.

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Just after Brian and I started attending a Christian church, God began to do a lot of healing in our lives.  We became pregnant with child 3.  This was one of the points that was leading us to divorce.  Brian didn’t want any more kids.  I did.  It was a topic that wasn’t even up for discussion, and although I became pregnant earlier than we had planed, we were excited.  When I was 7 months pregnant I tore my meniscus. In high school I had torn my ACL and never had it repaired.  So at 8 months pregnant, I had knee surgery.  Before Christ this would have caused me to have a mental break down and sent me into a tail spin. I would have felt worthless and hopeless and that I couldn’t do anything right.  Kassidy was 3 1/2 weeks early but completely healthy.  My knee surgery went well. I didn’t cut.  When Kassidy was about a year old we found out we were pregnant again. I did go into a bit of a tail spin with that.  We didn’t plan to have any more children.  Being pregnant with Kassidy was hard on my body and I had toxemia.  But Brian was my rock and reminded me that God was in control and we just needed to trust Him.  I became very sick, my blood pressure was so high they had to deliver Aspen 2 months early.  I didn’t blame myself or have a break down.  I handled this time in my life well.  Especially for being someone who struggled with depression and coped with life by cutting.

Within the next 4 years there were many more struggles and major life changes that in the past would send me into a compete mental break down.  It is only by the true grace of God that I am alive today.  Things sill go wrong.  I still have struggles.  Sometimes it is the smallest things that I struggle with but I always remember that God is in control, I am already forgiven, and I am enough.  If I keep my focus on Christ then no matter what is thrown my way I can manage.  John 10:10 NLT says “The thief’s purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”  It is Satan that fuels my fire when I am having struggles.   When I trust in God and remember He is in control it doesn’t make the hard times go away but it makes them a lot easier to manage.

Every time I think back to where I came from and where I am today, I am truly in awe.  God’s hand print is on my life.  There is no way I would be here if it weren’t for God wanting me here. I still get overwhelmed with life sometimes.  This week the littlest of things have been my struggle.  I dropped my phone in the toilet.  I have lost my wallet. I have some things at work I’m struggling with and some things in my personal life I’m working through.  And this week God took my Love, My rock the thing that is tangible away from me and I had to stop and really pause and rely on God.  Brian had training out of town this week and although I talked to him on the phone, it was hard.  Remember, I threw my phone in the toilet, my communication with Brian was limited because I didn’t have MY phone.  We couldn’t text or talk like we normally do.  What amazes me is the same thing 15 years ago would have caused me to have a complete break down.  I would have cut, binged and purged, and made him feel guilty about being out of town for his job and having a good time. I am so grateful that God has brought me to place where HE is my rock, my sanctuary, my refuge.  God is my safe place.

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I’m just a small town girl… Living in the world.  My hardest days with Christ are far better than my best days with out Him!

LDS, mormonism

Leap of faith…

This week I need to give a shout out to my amazing kids.  I’m not sure how they turned out so well.  Thank you Zak, Chey, Kassi, and Aspen for letting me include you in my blogs.  And to my amazing sister in Christ, Lisa, you give me the courage to keep going and sharing my story.  Thank you for always being there for me, for encouraging and giving me feedback, you’ve helped me uncover some of myself.

I really struggled this week with coming up with something to blog about. In grow group this week we talked about grace and knowing where your heart is so you can do what God is asking you to do.  I feel like I have kind of covered those topics in my previous blogs. When I sat down to blog nothing was coming together, the topics that came up this week didn’t flow.

I told my husband maybe I should just skip this week. I had to work on Saturday and also spent some of Saturday creating the power-point for church so I didn’t have time to blog yesterday.  He encouraged me that I am doing what God wants me to do by blogging and I need to write something.

So what is on my heart today is my testimony.  The events that happened that led me to Christ.  This is a story I have shared with some.  The details I have shared with few.  I am open to what God wants me to say and do with my story so I am just going to let the words flow and see where they go.

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Brian and I were “sealed” or went through the LDS Temple wedding ceremony 9 months after we were married civilly.  This was a special circumstance the Mormon church allowed because my oldest sister was getting married and would allow us to attend her wedding.  Shortly after we went through the temple we quit going to church.  The Temple wasn’t quite what we expected.  We still attended church on occasion, holidays and special occasions.  I think we basically still believed it all but, it just wasn’t important.

When I gave my life to Christ Brian and I had been married for 6 years.  We had 2 amazing kids, our son Zakary was 4 and daughter Cheyenne was 2.  We were able to put on a good face.  Many people thought we were doing well.  Brian had been working at his job, that quickly became his career, for 4 years.  I was working part-time as a paraprofessional at a local school.  We had moved 10 minutes from our home town and were just living our lives.  Brian was doing his thing and I was doing mine.

Over the years, my depression had worsened.  I was depressed daily.  It was hard to get out of bed.  It was summer so I wasn’t working at the time. Before I went to bed I would turn the TV to the Disney channel so all Zak had to do was turn it on.  He would get up and turn on the TV, and a lot of the time, he would get himself and Cheyenne cereal for breakfast before I would get out of bed.

I had a lot of guilt and shame in my life.  I wasn’t happy.  I still loved Brian a lot, but felt that our relationship was distant.  He worked shift work and there was a lot of time I didn’t see him and we didn’t spend time together.

The internet was fairly new and I spent a lot of time in a chat room.  I had a man I talked to often.  I was able to pretend I was someone different.  He gave me praise and verbal affection that made me feel better, at times, but also added to my shame and guilt.  My cutting also escalated at this time.  I cut a few times per week.  I also would binge and purge because I thought, if I was thinner, I would feel better about myself.

I hated myself, and hated everything about my life.  I didn’t want to live, but didn’t want to live my kids without a mom.  I struggled daily with suicidal thoughts. I would contemplate a plan and think about how I could make it happen.  As a person who assesses suicide risk I now understand how serious my suicidal thoughts were.  I wanted to die, I just wasn’t to the point that I was willing to go through with it yet.

A few weeks before I was at my rock bottom Brian and I had somewhat of a fight.  I don’t know if I would really call it that.  We were talking, which we didn’t do often at that point.  I so wanted to be special to him, his soulmate, and he said he thought he could’ve been happy with anyone.  At that time he obviously wasn’t happy with life either.  We were at a breaking point and considered divorce.

I was so frustrated and angry.  Everyone told me, Brian and I would get a divorce because we got married so young.  But I knew we were meant to be together.  He was my savior.  He was my knight in shining armor.  He was my everything.  If he didn’t love me, if he didn’t want me, then what did I have.

A few days later I was taking a bath and hitting my head against the bathtub hoping I would knock myself out and maybe drown.  While I was in the bathtub, I was creating a plan in my mind of how to end my life.  I was considering shooting myself, we had a gun in the home.  I was thinking of shooting Brian and the kids too. Brian didn’t deserve to live if he didn’t want me, and I didn’t want the kids to not have parents. I was trying to figure out the order of events.  When I got out, I knelt in front of the toilet and stuck my finger down my throat. The whole time thinking of how I would end our lives. This is what I did.  This is how I coped with my life that I felt was so out of control. While I was sitting in front of the toilet between purges, tears started streaming down my face, and I cried out to God and said, “I don’t want to do this any more.”

While I was kneeling in front of the toilet, the phone rang. I thought it might be Brian because it was late and he was at work.  It was an acquaintance.  Someone I had only met a few times.  Her husband worked with Brian.  I didn’t really know her but I answered the phone and talked with her.  She said that God had put me on her heart and she felt she should call me.  For the first time ever, I was honest with her about what I was doing. I told her about the struggles I was having.  I don’t open up to people.  Brian was the only one who knew of my struggles and yet I was pouring my heart out to someone I barely knew.

She was the first person who told me God loved me just the way I am.  That there was no such thing as being good enough for God.  All I had to do was ask Him into my heart.  That was such a foreign concept to me.  And yet, in that moment, it felt so right.  It was so clear and I felt comfort, calmness, for the first time in my life since I could remember, I felt thing were going to be OK. I had hope, a reason to live, a reason to survive.

In that moment I said the sinners prayer.  I don’t believe it is the words that save me, but the belief in my heart that changed, and truly accepted that God was in control and Christ died for me so all I had to do was accept that and live for Him. This friend invited me to church and we’ve never looked back.

After I gave me heart to Christ, my depression lifted, not to say I didn’t have struggles.  I only cut 1 time after that.  I didn’t binge and purge any more.  I was healed.  God came into my life in a very powerful way and healed my life and my marriage.

Brian and I agreed to stay together and work on our marriage.  We both agreed that God had to be the center of our marriage in order for it to be successful.  We found our home church, Journey, 7 years ago and are grateful for our church family.  We love them more than words can express and we have grown so much in our time there.

I would love to say since then life has been unicorns and rainbows.  It hasn’t.  In fact, since then, I think we have faced some pretty big storms.  None of them have been as big as facing divorce, depression, and suicide.  We have 2 more amazing daughters Kassidy and Aspen.  We are blessed beyond measure.

The concept of grace was hard for me to grasp.  I said the sinners prayer every Sunday for a year.  I’m still learning that some of the things I thought were truth, didn’t come from the Bible. I had to learn new ways to cope, and I had to find myself.  But I have realized over the years, the closer I grow with my Lord, the better I know myself.

I am truly grateful to my friend who followed a prompting on her heart.  I will forever be indebted to her.  I don’t know where I would be if God hadn’t stepped in in saved me and my kids that night.  It’s scary to think about.

So in Mormon tradition, I want to bear my testimony.  I know the Bible to be the only true word of God.  I know that Christ died on the cross for my sins and it is only by His grace that I am saved.  I don’t believe in religion.  I believe it is important to have a relationship with Christ.  I believe in the Trinity.  That the Father, His son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are One.  I believe that Jesus Christ came to earth, died on the cross, rose from the dead, and ascended to the right hand of the Father.  I believe He will return.  I believe all you have to do for salvation is to accept Christ into your heart.

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I am so grateful for the joy and blessings that come from just having Christ in my heart.  I’m grateful for the chains that were broken, that were keeping me from being able to find happiness and accept myself.  I am grateful that I don’t have to be perfect, and that I am perfect, in my imperfection. I am grateful for, not just overcoming my struggles, but for conquering them.

I share this only to help others.  I know I am not alone.  I know I am not the only person who grew up in Mormonism who struggled with depression or thoughts of suicide.  I write this to reach out, and let you know, there is hope,  hope in Christ, hope for something better.  God loves you just as you are.  He created you and wants you to come just as you are.  There is more to life than struggling with being good enough.  You are enough, right here, right now.   If you are struggling, please contact me.  I am more than willing to talk to you or help you in whatever way I can.

I’m just a small town girl…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KwsvqVmFV6Y