Christian, exmormon, mormonism

A new page…

Well, here we are, the first day of a new year.  Time for resolutions, goals, and hopes and dreams of a better year.  For most people, myself included, any resolution made for the new year will only last a few weeks, maybe a few months.  And then life gets in the way again and we go back doing the thing we are used to doing. The hardest thing about change is doing things different than were used to.

At work, when I talk about change, I challenge people to spend 1 day trying to do things with their non-dominant hand.  It’s hard, we are creatures of habit.  We get so used to doing the same thing that even when we want to do something different, we don’t because we would rather stay in our comfort zone than make our lives better. 

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I don’t like change either.  It is hard and uncomfortable.  I hate the unknown.  I don’t like not knowing where my feet are going to land, and yet, had I not taken that blind leap of faith, I’m not sure I would still be alive.  In that dark moment when an acquaintance reached out to me the easiest thing would have been not to answer the phone; or to pretend I was interested and then not call back.

The easiest part of that whole situation was accepting that God loved me.  I’m not saying that was easy but that was a lot easier than the rest of that journey.  When Brian and I walked away from Mormonism, I walked away from everything I had been taught my entire life.  My family, friends, and neighbors, were all Mormon.  I never knew anything different. Growing up I thought there were 2 religions in the world.  Mormon’s and Catholics.  Everything in my world was Mormon and everyone on TV was Catholic.  The only non-Mormon funeral I ever attended were the funerals for Brian’s grandmothers.  And I had never been to a non-Mormon wedding, well into my adult life.  I had never attended a Sunday church service other than a Mormon service, when I started attending a local Christian church I had a hard time getting used to not wearing a dress.

The church we attended was 30 minutes from our home in the closest city to us, so we would often go grocery shopping while we were in town.  For many years I struggled with feeling guilty about going shopping on Sunday.  On occasion, we also would go out to eat on Sunday adding more guilt to my conscience.  Over time, I realized these were just rules that were put in place by the religion I grew up with and had nothing to do with God or the Bible.  They were just man made rules.

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As I grew in my Christian walk, I started looking more and more into Mormonism and Joseph Smith.  Which again, made me feel guilty in many ways.  The Mormon church teaches you not to look for truth outside of Mormon approved doctrine. As I began to look deeper into things, I found out some things about Joseph Smith I was never taught.  I was always taught that he was a really good little boy, he always made good choices, and was always nice to others.  I had a book when I was little about Joseph Smith that talked about him having an infection in his leg and they had to do surgery.  They didn’t have anesthesia back then so they often used alcohol to help with the pain.  Joseph Smith refused the alcohol even as a very young child.  I don’t know if that story is true.  But that story has always stuck with me.  As I researched Joseph smith outside of Mormon doctrine, I found he was not the man that I had always been taught that he was.

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One of the most surprising things I found out was that Joseph Smith is the one who  introduced polygamy.  I had always been taught that Brigham Young had introduced polygamy because of the pioneers crossing the plains and so many men dying.  I never liked the idea of polygamy, and the thought of even possibly sharing Brian with another woman here on earth or in Heaven is not even an option.  I was grateful to realize that God doesn’t like polygamy either (Deuteronomy 17:17, Titus 1:6, Timothy 3:2 12).  It was also very surprising to learn that Joseph Smith had not just a few wives but many. I think I’ve seen he had at least 40.  I was always taught he had one, his wife Emma whom he adored.  Of the several wives he had some were still married to other men and some were teenagers.  I believe the youngest was 14.  I don’t understand why Joseph Smith would need to marry a 14 year old girl. There is no justification for it.

As I did more and more research, I found out that Joseph Smith wasn’t the upstanding guy that I had always been taught. And that in all reality, he was not a good person at all.  One book I am in the process of reading that has a lot of historical information is No Man Knows My History by Fawn M. Brodie.  The thing I like about this book is that it has historical evidence, proof of the events, that she is writing about.

One of the biggest things I found in my quest to figure out what I believe and why, is that I hate organized religion.  I struggle when it comes to churches that tell me who I should be, what I should wear, and how I should act. In my adventure of finding me, I’ve realized the most important thing about being a Christian is having a relationship with Christ.  In Mormonism, there was always a man standing in the way of that. In every aspect of Mormonism a man has control, not God.  Forgiveness is given by the bishop, a man. Annual worthiness interviews are given by the bishop, a man.  Church callings are given by the bishop, a man. And me getting into Heaven is determined by my husband, a man.  It’s all about the things I do.  As a Christian it’s all about a relationship with Christ and who I am.  I would much rather have a relationship with Christ than a religion that tells me how to worship Christ.

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What is crazy to me, is that I took what the Mormon church said and called it truth without question.  It was complete blind faith.  There were no facts, no evidence, and no questions. Just believing what I was told, doing what I was expected, and feeling inadequate because I felt like I didn’t measure up.

Sometimes I still think maybe it would be easier if I went back to Mormonism.  I miss my family a lot and the relationship we used to have.  I know it will never be the same and even if it was,  I can’t walk away from truth.  And when I walked away from Mormonism is when I began to find myself.  I began to be the person God created me to be.  I came alive and I began to thrive!!  People are so afraid of change because they don’t know what is going to happen.  The crazy thing is that when most people resolve to make positive changes in their lives, they don’t usually regret it. What a great time to take the step in a quest to find truth.

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I had a great year in 2016.  I stepped out of my comfort zone and did somethings I never thought I would do.  My hope, goal, and resolution for 2017, is to continue my quest for a healthier me, not just my physical health but my mental and spiritual health, as well. I hope to go on more expeditions, continue my blog, grow closer with my family, and step out in faith more and share Christ with others.  I need to not hold my cards so close to my chest and trust God that he will do his part.  I’m excited about the opportunities 2017 will bring.

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I’m just a small town girl… starting off on a brand new page.

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

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

Thanksgiving Eve

Just a quick post for Thanksgiving Eve.  Tomorrow I will be spending time with my Mormon family.  As for many of the people who have left Mormonism this is a difficult task.  One of the hardest things is being around my family.  My family is full of negativity and I find myself being more negative when I am around them.  I listen to them complain about all of the church obligations they have.  And I have a difficult time sharing my life with them because they don’t share in my joy of being a Christian.  Robin Williams once said “I used to think one of the worst things in life was to end up all alone.  It’s not.  The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone.”

I know that God has a plan.  I trust Him and know that he will work things out.  For everyone who has the same struggle know that you are not alone.

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Just a small town girl…sending out thoughts and prayers to those who struggle in the company of family.

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!

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Why do you check your box?

One of my favorite quotes states “The essences of a lie isn’t the words you choose but the intent behind it.” Unknown.  I feel like this can be applied to many things in life.  What is your intent behind the things you do?

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Growing up in my small town Mormon world, I was always asked, reminded, and told, to “make the right choices” and “what will people think”. Of course there were always different variations of those statements.  But my motivation and intention in life was to live according to LDS standards and because my dad was a prominent member of the community, I had to always be aware that people were watching and judging what I did.

I was very good at playing the role, putting on the mask, and saying the right things.  I would complain and whine about having to go to church on Sunday, for all 3 hours.  I would try to find excuses not to go to mutual or any of the other church activities they would have.  It wasn’t very often that I was able to get out of it.  And so, I would show up, I would put on the face, and go through the motions.  All the while, the intent behind my actions was because, I had to.

I feel like this is a common practice in the Mormon church.  They often talk about service and doing things for others.  They boast about the service they do.  Yet the service that is done, is often out of requirement to earn their position in Heaven, and not out of a desire to worship God.

When Brian and I had our first born and I was in the hospital, the Relief Society President showed up, unexpectedly.  We had lived in the ward for several months but we hadn’t been to church yet.  She decided showing up at the hospital was a good time to stop by and introduce herself to me.  I had no clue who she was. My labor was long and difficult and I wasn’t up for meeting new people.  I don’t believe she was there for me.  She was there to check the box off of her list,  “did her good deed for the day”,  “met her obligation as Relief Society President”.  Needless to say, I don’t remember her name, what she looked like, or even what we talked about.  I’m not sure if I even ever saw her again.  We lived in the same ward for about 2 years.  We were still living there when we had our 2nd child.  Did she come to meet with me out of true care and concern for me as a human being that she wanted to get to know, or out of obligation to her role in her church?  I believe it was completely out of obligation.

Sadly, this was a very common theme in my adult experience as  Mormon.  Wherever Brian and I lived, it was common for us to have a knock on the door and there would be our home or visiting teachers.  They would come in for their brief visit and then they were gone again until next month.  We were always welcoming and friendly.  Sometimes they would bring cookies or little gifts and I was always kind.  We would let them share their messages and never argued or contradicted their teachings.

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When we moved back to our home town, things were a little different.  By this time we had started attending a Christian Church. We weren’t outspoken about our Christian faith but we weren’t open to Mormonism at all, and weren’t willing to have that discussion.  We were what is considered an “inactive” Mormon.  We were still on the list, so the check mark still had to be made.  We still had to have visiting teachers and home teachers, but because we were going to a different church, the rules must have been a little different.  At this point our son was starting be involved in community sports because of this we were more involved in the community than we had been in other places that we lived.Every month at a game or practice the same guy would come up and talk to us.  Ask us about the family how things were going.  We would engage him in conversation for a few minutes and then he would go back to his side of the field and go back to his life.  It didn’t take long to figure out he was our home teacher and this was his way of being able to check the box off the list.  “Did you meet with the Johnson’s this month?”  check-mark

One of our neighbors, was a guy I went to high school with and I soon realized his wife was one of my visiting teachers.  Every month at the beginning of the month she would stop by for some reason or another.   She stopped by with a catalog of something she was selling.  She stopped by with cookies.  She would stop by just to say hi.  But it was never to get to know me.  It was never to see if I needed anything.  What was her intent? check-markTo check that off her to do list.

When this neighbor moved, every month I started getting a letter in the mail with no return address that had the visiting teaching message for the month in it.  And I guess that counted as the check mark too.  Because at least they were sending me the message.  This was more insulting to me than than anything else.  I would have preferred someone to say, “Hey, I’m your visiting teacher and I know you’re not Mormon anymore but can I stop by once a month and say hi to you so I can do my calling?”

Another great example is when I had my youngest daughter, I was very sick and she was born 2 months early.  I was in the hospital 40 minutes away from home.  At this point, Brian and I had not been attending the Mormon church for 3 years.  Due to the problems I was having, they kept me on the surgical floor for 3 days and I don’t remember much during that time.  They had finally moved me up to the maternity ward and I was starting to feel better and become more stable.  One day, I was sitting in the bed, in my hospital gown, I hadn’t been able to shower for several days, and I was pumping some breast milk. I had a double breast pump and in walk the whole bishopric from our ward.  I of course looked horrified.  We had never been to church.  I only knew them from my childhood.  I’m still not sure why they were there.  I don’t remember much about the conversation.  I was focused on making sure my blankets stayed up so I didn’t reveal myself to these men that I only knew from when I was a kid. It still mortifies me to think about.  Why did they drive 40 minutes without calling to see if it would be OK if they stopped in?  I don’t believe there was any intent to worship or connect with Brian and I out of true care and concern.  I believe it was to,check-markcheck the box.

Since becoming Christian and finding our home church, I have learned a lot about service and the intent behind what you do.  When we started attending Journey Church, I was just finishing my bachelors degree.  I started my Masters program shortly after, which was only a 1 year program.  When I was done I need to come up with $300.00 to take my licensure exam.  My church family organized a fund raiser to help me pay for my exam.  I was blown away.  They raised enough money for my exam and gas to drive to Utah where the testing center was.  I felt so unworthy of such a blessing.  What was their intent? To be of service and worship God by helping others.  There was no box to check off.

The other thing that changed in the aspect of worship as a Christian at our home church is, when people talked to us and interacted with us, it was authentic and genuine.  We have friends who reach out to us during the week and we also reach out to them.  We know their struggles and they know ours. We have people we pray with and read the Bible with and truly share our lives with.  This is the truest form of worship.  Not who we are on Sunday or at a church activity, but who we are in our daily lives and our willingness to accept and connect with people regardless of where they are at.

I have seen my church family come together and build a tree house, paint a house, bring meals to families, and to raise money for medical needs. We have come together for weddings and funerals, for Sunday service, and Bible study.  The intent of coming together at these times isn’t out of obligation to earn our salvation.  It isn’t to make sure we are trying hard enough or doing enough.  It is completely, 100%, because we have a desire to worship our God!

The most telling part, to me, of the intent behind the actions of the Mormon church, at least here in this small town, is… When the ward bishop came to us and told us we needed to remove our records or face disciplinary action. When I was in grad school, the ward bishop approached Brian and I about removing our records, honestly I was a little surprised.  I was unsure why he felt it necessary for that to happen.  I had thought about it, but never felt it was that big of a deal.  I didn’t care what they did with the paperwork they had on me.  Brian and I spoke with our pastor about it, and he advised us that removing our records would be the right thing to do.  Just a way of “playing nice”.  It would create less struggle and problems for us and our kids since we planned to continue living in the community. The bishop came to our house several times to ask us about this.  He had never spoke to us ever.  But for some reason it seemed like it was his personal mission to make sure we had our records removed on his watch as bishop.   The bishop told us, “You’ll still be part of the community, you’ll still be invited to do things with the ward”.

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We of course removed our records, not out of fear of disciplinary action, but because we felt it was the right thing to do.  Just a few weeks before his time as bishop was completed, he stopped by to verify when he would have our letter.  We turned it over just a week before he completed his calling.  When I asked Mormon friends why he would do this, the only answer I have gotten is that for some reason he feels some sort of obligation for our salvation. Since then, many people from the ward who would at least say hi to us won’t even acknowledge us.  And that bishop won’t even make eye contact.  The motivation and intent behind doing any thing in Mormonism is because they have to do it, not because they want to. It’s all about making sure they are trying hard enough and has nothing to do with God.

I’m just a small town girl… living in a checkbox world.check-mark