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  We got to the point where the roads were no longer maintained and almost got stuck.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!!

LDS, mormonism

An Empty Frame is Also Worth 1,000 Words…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGYjKR69M6U

I gave my blog a new look this week!  I’m pretty excited about the look because I feel like it’s more me.  You can now find me by googling justasmalltowngirldotdotdot.com.  I also made some changes, you no longer need to login or have an account on WordPress to leave a comment or like my blog.  I also made it so it can also be anonymous. You can leave a comment without leaving a name or email.  I’d love to hear from you.

This week I want to give a shout out to my Journey Family!!  I couldn’t do this without your love and support.  I also want to give a shout out to the friends I have in the community who support me despite our differences.  Your love and support mean more than you’ll ever know!

Since walking away from Mormonism, I have talked to many people, some from childhood and some I’ve met along my journey who have thanked me for speaking out, for having the courage to do what they didn’t.  I have also spoken to many who don’t really believe in Mormonism but it’s easier to stay and live a lie than to walk away and live with the shame and disappointment from family and friends. To most,happiness doesn’t matter.  I’ve had many people tell me, “You must’ve just had some bad experiences”.  And while that may be true, those bad experiences set me on a path to find truth, which lead me to true happiness and contentment I would have never found in the Mormon church.

Living in a small town where 99.8% of the kids in school are LDS, where 95% of the people you work with are LDS, where in every aspect of your world you are surrounded by Mormon people, and in order to feel like you are a part of the community, you conform. And on top of it all your family is Mormon.  You do what everyone else is doing because it is easier, and Mormon’s aren’t bad people, they have good morals, and do a lot of good things. I have heard this many times.  It is a more common theme than you would ever realize. It’s so easy to justify.

To me it is so sad that people who don’t believe in Mormonism choose to stay.  They are willing to sacrifice themselves to fit in, to not be judged.  I completely understand this.  When Brian and I walked away, we weren’t broadcasting our new found beliefs.  I often struggled.  I would look around the church we were attending at the time and see families.  I would see Mom’s with their grown daughters and sisters worshiping God together.  It was so sad to me because I felt this would never happen for me. But I knew that I was happier, life was better, and I was doing what God wanted me to do.  At some point I felt God told me I would have a family that would worship with me.  He has delivered on his promise and I enjoy worshiping with my family and knowing my children walk in truth.

 

When you grow up in a Mormon family and live in a Mormon community, it’s hard to know that there is anything else out there.  Growing up I thought there were basically 2 religions, Mormon because that was the world I lived in, and Catholic because that’s what I saw on TV.  I have a lot of frustration toward my parents at times because I had the amazing blessing of growing up within 1 mile of both sets of my grandparents.  I had one set of grandparents who were LDS and one set who weren’t.  We spent a lot of time at my Mormon grandparents home and with that side of the family.  I remember thinking that my other set of grandparents must not be very good people because, “they drink coffee.”  I struggle with this because it wasn’t until a few years after we left Mormonism that we ran into them at the grocery store one Sunday and we told them we had left the Mormon church.  My grandma told me they had been praying for all of us our whole lives and they were grateful that we had found the truth.  It wasn’t until then that I realized that they were Christian.  I spent all of my childhood not knowing my grandparents who lived less than a mile from my home, mostly because they had a different belief system.   Shortly after we became believers in the true Christ, my grandparents sold their home and began traveling the country.  My grandpa became one of my biggest supporters, biggest prayer warriors and I knew I could count on him to support me when it came to the struggles I had with my family.  My grandpa passed away in 2012, but during the time that he was alive I truly learned what a man of God was by his example.  It’s hard to think that I thought he might be a bad person because he drank coffee (I now love coffee).

But I think the biggest kicker is, Mormon’s believe in family.  It is one of their best promises.  They teach that families can be “together forever”.  This is one of the hardest things I struggled with.  Growing up I was taught that family is important.  I spent a lot of time with cousins, aunts & uncles, and my LDS grandparents.  We celebrated every event and occasion.  I am grateful for those memories and the traditions that came along with those experiences.  I have tried to carry on the importance of family with my own children.  When my kids were little it was important to me that they were able to spend time with their grandparents and family on both sides.  My side of the family continues the tradition of finding a reason to celebrate anything and everything. But the idea of a “forever family” is a facade.  In my parents home hangs a picture of the local temple and surrounding the temple are family pictures of all of my siblings.  There is an empty picture frame on the wall for my family. That is by my choice.  When my sister asked me for a family picture, she didn’t tell me what it was for.  When I saw what she wanted my picture for I told her I wasn’t comfortable with that because it was portraying a picture that wasn’t real.  So, the picture fame still sits on the wall, empty.  I feel like this is very representative of my relationship with my family and the LDS church.

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Because Brain and I have walked away from the LDS church, and we have raised our children up as Christians, there is a disconnect with my family.  It took many years before I was comfortable to even talk about that I believed something different, and when they would ask me about it, I would get upset and defensive.  I believe that’s because I was still a new Christian and didn’t know how to express or defend my beliefs.  My kids have always enjoyed spending time with their cousins and have never felt “less than” around them and I appreciate that.  But it’s a struggle for me to spend time with my family.  We can’t have a conversation about God.  I see them struggle with things and my heart breaks because I know if they would just accept the gift of grace. as it is with no strings attached, it would be life changing.  And yet, I continue to watch them struggle and hurt.

I have lost a lot over the years because I walked away from the core belief system of my childhood.  But I have gained so much more.  Back when I was a new Christian and I struggled watching families worship together, God told me I would have a family that worships with me. I have seen that.  I have an amazing husband and 4 amazing kids who know and believe in God and know the true message of the Gospel of Christ.  They don’t live a life where they believe they have to do enough or be good enough for me or for God.  They understand they are already there.  The biggest thing I have gained is GRACE,  I have done so many things wrong in my life.  I continue to have days when I struggle, or am not the person God wants me to be.  But at the end of the day, when I talk with my Creator, with God, My Father, I know that I am already forgiven.  I don’t have to do anything, except try again tomorrow.  The gift of grace has lead to so many other things, joy, peace, and contentment.  I have a church family that I wouldn’t be able to survive without.  It is a true blessing to call them family.  I have a marriage that has been healed and restored.  And I have me.  The true, raw, 100% version of me that God created.  I don’t have to pretend.  I don’t have to put on a mask or be fake.  I get to be real.  And I know no matter what God loves me and accepts me just the way He created me.

Why do people stay in Mormonism even when they don’t believe it?  They stay because they want to belong, and they don’t, the Mormon church does a great job at making you feel like you can’t belong with out them.  Recently, one of the leaders of the LDS asked, “If you leave the church where will you go?”  The answer is simple.  Jesus!! Jesus offers everything you need and He is enough. You don’t have to believe the lie that no one will accept you, you won’t be happy, or that there isn’t a God.

I walked away from Mormonism and I did receive backlash from former friends and family at times.  Walking away has created a strain on family relationships, friendships, and at times made things difficult for my kids.  But I wouldn’t trade any of it for my relationship with Jesus.  A picture may be worth 1,000 words but so is an empty picture frame.  I’m just a small town girl…living in a Mormon world.

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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

 

 

 

 

 

LDS, mormonism

Jesus is my lucky penny!

Every week I am amazed about how God makes it clear to me what I need to put in this blog. As all Mormons know, practicing or not, the first weekend in October and first weekend in April is General Conference.  General Conference is where the leaders of the LDS Church speak to the “multitudes” about how they should be living.  The prophet of the LDS church speaks and it is often seen as a very inspiring and uplifting weekend. Being friends with many LDS people my Facebook feed is blown-up with memes and quotes of what has been said over the weekend. 

One meme my daughter showed me stated, “God will always love us; but He cannot save us in our sins.” D. Todd Christofferson 2016 LDS General Conference.  I was truly baffled by this quote. This created a great discussion between my husband, daughters, and I on Sunday and continued into Monday evening with my oldest daughter and I about grace.

We have grow group on Wednesday and we discussed Genesis 3:1-5, talking about Eve being enticed by the serpent to eat from the tree of knowledge.  On Thursday, my husband Brian, meets with our pastor for lunch and they discussed John chapter 3 & 4, which is the story of Nicodemus and the Woman at the Well. On Friday I saw a quote about the thief on the cross that talked about the thief being saved with out any expectation of him doing anything.  God knew the thief would never attend a Bible study, never go to church, never repent for the things he had done wrong (Luke 23:32-43).  The thief simply asked Jesus to remember him when he entered in to Heaven.  Jesus responded to him “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” Luke 23:43 NIV.

By Saturday night it was clear to me that my topic this week was supposed to be GRACE, and oh, how lucky I am to have God’s grace!!  I don’t really believe in luck.  I used to, but as a Christian, I believe more in Jesus and blessings than luck.  I look at my life and look at how far I’ve come and I am truly grateful for grace.  I have 4 of the most amazing kids on the planet.  I know how I was as a kid growing up and I know that it is only by God’s grace that I don’t have a child like me.  I have a husband who is loving, patient, and kind, and I don’t know how I got so blessed, that he would be so patient, and stay with me through all my craziness.  I have  career I love, an amazing church family, and an amazing family.  There are so many  things in my life that people would call me lucky, but I say, I’m blessed!

lucky-penny

Growing up in Mormonism, grace is something they don’t really believe in.  The 3rd article of faith for the LDS church states “All mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.”  2 Nephi 25:23 states “We know that it is by grace we are saved, after all we can do.”  If you read my last blog, you know, I am not good at following the rules, laws, and ordinances.  Especially those set forth by the Mormon church.

This week, I went to a training for work on temperament theory.  I learned that I am a catalyst and an improviser.  In this training I learned some things about myself but mostly came to an understanding of why I do some of the things I do.  I talked last week about how God picked every piece of me, which is why my temperament is what it is.  One thing I learned at the training is, if there is a rule or a requirement that I don’t agree with that’s in my way, I will find a way around it.  That is so me, just by my nature. Just by who I am created to be.  I am not one who likes to be confined or held back by rules and limitations. 

When you believe your salvation is tied to doing enough and being enough, it is easy to become hopeless.  When you become hopeless, you often become depressed and it is hard to find a reason to live.  Growing up in Mormonism, I struggled, a lot.  I felt hopeless.  I tried.  I don’t want you to think that I wasn’t a good person and that all I did was bad things. But it didn’t matter what I did, how hard I tried, I always felt it wasn’t enough and somehow everything became my fault.

I remember my sister blew out her knee when she was a Jr. in high school and had to have surgery, and somehow, I thought that had to do with me.  Maybe, if I had prayed harder, maybe, if I had read my scriptures more, been a nicer to her, maybe, bad things wouldn’t happen.  I remember being frustrated and angry because I thought my parents were going to be frustrated and angry, and somehow that was my fault.  I know it may not make sense, but every time things went wrong, I thought it was some sort of punishment because I wasn’t doing enough, because I was a bad person.  I thought it was because I told a lie or because I didn’t appreciate my family enough.  This wasn’t the first time that something went wrong that I blamed myself for but, this is the most concrete example of something that I truly had no control over that I thought was a punishment for my sins. This was a lie I believed through all of my adolescence and into my adulthood until the true message of grace and Christ’s loving sacrifice.  I didn’t get to this crazy conclusion just because of the LDS teachings.  It was a combination of the belief that I had to be enough,  who God created me to be, and the family I was raised in. 

 I need to say I was raised in a good home.  I have a great family and I love them all very much. We have our differences and we don’t always get along but they are my family and they are very important to me.  I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

I have good memories from being LDS as well. I did try to follow the rules. I graduated from seminary. One of my greatest accomplishments was being Laurel Class President.  That was a true honor.  A validation of sorts because that meant that I was doing something right.  For those who don’t know what that means, in the LDS church when you are 12 you enter into the Young Men’s and Young Women’s Program.  They are split up by ages, the young women are Beehives:12-14, when you turn 14 you graduate to the Miamaids: 14-16, when you turn 16 you graduate to the Laurels:16-18.  Each age level, in each ward, has a class president, 1st & 2nd counselor, and a secretary.  I’m not sure what the requirements are but I know the people who held the position before me were people I thought were way above my level in being more righteous.  I also completed my personal progress goals all 4 years of the young women’s program.  This is kind of like the scouting program.  You have goals that you set and work toward and if you complete all of the goals for each set of years Beehive, Miamads, and Laurels, you receive pendants. There are 7 areas you worked on then.  I believe it has changed since, but the 7 areas were faith, divine nature,  individual worth, knowledge, choice & accountability, good works, and integrity.   I still have all my pendants.

I think back to what D. Todd Christofferson said this year at 2016 LDS General Conference; “God will always love us; but He cannot save us in our sins”.  To me this statement is one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve ever read.  This is because, while I was in my sin, Jesus came to me and said, “I love you just as you are, come to me, I am enough.  I am all you need”.  In the moment I was the most broken, God did save me.  I didn’t have to do anything, I didn’t have to show Him, I didn’t have to prove it. I just had to accept the gift of grace He set before me and the chains that held me back were gone. I was truly free. I think Nicodemus, the Woman at the Well, and the Thief on the Cross are all great examples of God’s Grace.  All great examples of being saved in our sins.

The first time I realized that something had gone wrong, and I knew it wasn’t my fault, was when my youngest daughter was born.  I got very sick and she was born 2 months early.  She was doing well and then got a stomach infection.  She spent 35 days in the hospital.  I was so sick they kept me on the surgical floor for 3 days.  I didn’t move to the maternity ward until then and that was the first time I saw my daughter.  I remember a few days after I was moved to the maternity ward I looked at my husband and said, “I know this isn’t my fault”.  That was the first time I recognized grace.  In the past I would have blamed myself.  What did I do wrong?  What could I have done better? I know I’m not doing everything I can do. In that moment I just knew. It wasn’t about anything I could have done.  It just was.  Grace isn’t about doing enough or being enough.It’s not about punishment or earning a place.  It is a free gift.  There is nothing you can do to make yourself worthy enough.  There is nothing you can do to be worthy of grace and you can’t pay it back. The gift has already been given. All you can do is accept it or you not. The choice is completely yours.

I’m just a small town girl… Living in a fallen world.  I don’t believe in luck, but I hold on tight to my lucky penny!