exmormon, LDS, mormonism

Good enough for Heaven…

Well, here we are again, it is the weekend of LDS 189th bi-annual General Conference.  May the odds be ever in your favor…

devils net

The current Mormon prophet Russell M. Nelson has made a lot of changes already during his time as the Mormon leader. One of those changes is instead of having a priesthood meeting only for the young men in the church, on the Saturday evening before conference, they now switch off between having a meeting for the young men and young women.  This conference, was the young women’s turn.  They announced new curriculum for the young women to follow.

When I was growing up, the LDS young women followed the personal progress program. There was a theme and motto we would memorize and repeat every Sunday at the beginning of our young women’s meeting.

We are daughters of our Heavenly Father who loves us, and we love Him. We will stand as witness of God at all times and in all things and in all places as we strive to live the young women values, which are faith, divine, nature, individual worth, knowledge choice and accountability, good works and integrity *(virtue).

We believed as we come to accept and act upon these values we will be prepared to *(strengthen home and family) make and keep sacred covenants, receive the ordinances of the temple, and enjoy the blessings of exaltation.

*added in 2009

 

With the changes of the curriculum, they changed the motto, it now reads:

I am a beloved daughter of heavenly parents with a divine nature and eternal destiny.  As a disciple of Jesus Christ, I strive to become more like Him. I seek and act upon personal revelation and minister to others in His holy name.

I will stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places.  As I strive to qualify for exaltation, I cherish the gift of repentance and seek to improve each day. With faith, I will strengthen my home and family, make and keep sacred covenants, and receive the ordinances and blessings of the holy temple.

The thing that stood out to me most was the change in strive to live by the young women values and strive to qualify for exaltation.   One thing I have always struggled with in regards to the Mormon belief system is having to be “good enough”.  I have had many people tell me that Mormonism isn’t a works-based faith.  When I have to “qualify” for something that means I really have to work to try to achieve it and I have to be good enough to make it.

No

Dictionary.com defines qualify as:

verb (used with object), qual·i·fied, qual·i·fy·ing.

to provide with proper or necessary skills, knowledge, credentials, etc.; make competent: to qualify oneself for a job.

verb (used without object), qual·i·fied, qual·i·fy·ing.

to be fitted or competent for something.

to get authority, license, power, etc., as by fulfilling required conditions, taking an oath, etc.

Dictionary.com defines live as:

to practice, represent, or exhibit in one’s life: to live one’s philosophy.

Dictionary.com defines strive as:

verb (used without object), strove or strived, striv·en [striv-uh n] or strived, striv·ing.

to exert oneself vigorously; try hard: He strove to make himself understood.

to make strenuous efforts toward any goal: to strive for success.

to contend in opposition, battle, or any conflict; compete.

In my mind there is a big difference between “to practice, represent or exhibit in one’s life” and “to provide with proper or necessary skills, knowledge, credentials, or be competent for”.

Ephesians

For me this post brings up so many reminders of my past. Thoughts and feelings of not being enough. Shame. Guilt. Self-hate, and doubt.  I can’t imagine how I would have felt as an adolescent hearing those words- “Strive to Qualify for Exaltation”.  Wow, the weight of the world on your shoulders at 12!  And today’s world is so much more difficult for adolescents then I could have ever imagined.

If you know my story, you know I struggled my whole life with depression and feelings of worthlessness.  I knew I would never be good enough. I knew I could never be perfect.  I knew I could never do enough to make it to Heaven. When I was in 5th grade I had a “personal revelation”.  That was the first time it really hit me what Christ had done on the cross for me.  I knew my sins.  I knew the things I had done wrong. My “personal revelation” told me that I could never do enough to make up for the things I had already done wrong in my life.  But in my Mormon belief system, I knew even that thought was a sin.

People begin healing the moment they feel heard.  I cried out to God and a faithful Christian, with a personal connection to God reached out to me in faith.  It was the first time I felt heard, and the first time I heard that God loved me regardless of anything I had done.

My heart goes out to the youth in the LDS church today.  Especially the young women who are struggling to fit into a cookie cutter mold when that isn’t who God created them to be.  I know no matter how much I “strive to qualify for exaltation” or try and be good enough for Heaven, I am only setting myself up for failure.  I decided to rewrite the motto of what I try to live by.

shine

I am a beloved child of a Heavenly Father who created me just as I am and has a purpose for my life.  As a disciple of Jesus Christ, I strive to follow His example. I attempt to pursue a personal relationship with God and will express my love for Him by showing His love to others. I will aim to place my faith in God at all times and in all things, and in all places, as I strive to live a life as a disciple of Christ, knowing I am a sinner and I will fail. I am saved only by grace through His sacrifice and death on the cross for my sins. I cherish the gift of the Cross and seek to improve each day. By faith, I will grow in my trust and relationship with God, following Christ and living by His word.

I’m just a Small-Town-Girl…saved by grace in a works-based world.

Christian, exmormon, LDS

Death…

This has been an emotional week for me and another week of learning just how far I have grown as a Christian and in my faith and trust in God.  The beginning of the week my mom called and told me my almost 90-year-old grandma, who is a strong Christian woman was in the ICU with the flu and pneumonia. I was so saddened by this news.

traveling

My grandma lived less than a mile from me growing up, but I didn’t get much of an opportunity to spend time with her or my grandpa because of religious differences between my family and my grandparents. It wasn’t until a couple years after Brain and I walked away from Mormonism that I really began to realize the role my grandparents had in me coming to Christ and that they were Christians.  My grandparents found out about us leaving the LDS church by running into us at the grocery store on a Sunday afternoon.  The church we attended at the time was 30 minutes from home and was in a bigger town with more options for grocery stores and other shopping.  I remember when we saw my grandma at the store, she was so surprised to see us!  Brian was working that day, but she was so surprised when I told her we had been attending a Christian Church in town and we had realized the problems with Mormonism.  She told me her and my grandpa had been praying for all of us kids our whole lives.  She told me they always attended our baptisms and church things they were invited to, to be supportive, but they always prayed that God would open our eyes to the truth.  It was awesome to know I was an answered prayer for my grandparents.

Just a few years after seeing my grandma at the grocery store, my grandparents decided to sell their home in our small town and travel around the United States, taking time to visit their kids that lived all over.  It was sad to see them go just when I started to have a close relationship with them.  I felt so blessed that my kids were able to know my grandparents. After Brian and I became Christian, we had some of the most amazing and in-depth conversations with my grandparents, and especially my grandpa.  I learned a lot about my grandparents in a short time and they gained an extra special place in my heart.

breath

Growing up, all I knew about them is they weren’t Mormon, and they drank coffee.  As a child in my head that made them not very good people.  As an adult, and a Christian, I was humbled by the love they had for God and for their family.  I remember a conversation I had with my grandpa on one of their visits home, he said he had my back, even with my family and if I was having a hard time because they didn’t support my choice to be a Christian he would stick up for me and even talk to my dad for me.  It felt good to know I had an ally.

My grandpa passed away almost 6 years ago, and I miss him so much. I haven’t had to face death very much in my life.  I remember feeling so sad and bitter when my grandpa passed away. When I heard about my grandma, I was sad, but I had a conversation with my husband, and then the next morning on my way to work, I had a conversation with God, I knew that she was in pain and suffering.  My grandma was able to come and visit us this past summer and it was so nice to see her.  I didn’t spend the time with her I wish I would have.  But I know she said it has been hard without grandpa around.  She has lived a great life.  My prayer to God was, “Your will be done.”

psalms 62 1

When grandma passed away, I was sad that I didn’t get to know her more, sad I didn’t send the pictures, I always meant to send, sad I didn’t call or write more.  I was sad for me, but the first thought that came to my head was the song “I Can Only Imagine” by Mercy Me.  I knew that Grandma was in Heaven with Jesus and grandpa.  The Bible says to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.  The next song I thought of was “Home” by Chris Tomlin.  Grandma was Home and happy.  And although, I was sad for me.  I couldn’t help but be excited and happy for her.

It made me think, I am so grateful to be a Christian and to know I am saved. I have a lot of atheist and agnostic friends, and I can’t imagine living life without a belief in an afterlife or feeling uncertain of what that is.  I am also so grateful I don’t have to worry or hope that I have done enough to make it to Heaven.  All that needed to be done was done on the Cross.  I just have to accept Christ as my Savior.  I know my grandma is home and I will see her again.

I’m just a Small Town Girl… Living in a world where Heaven is certain.

Christian, exmormon, mormonism

Rock or Sand?

I hate religion!  I absolutely hate it!  Religion is judgmental and hurtful.  Religion creates a set of rules you are required to follow to measure your righteousness in life and so you can measure your salvation.  Religion is about Christianese and culture, legalism and following the rules.  And I hate it.

 

Every day, I work with people from many different backgrounds and experiences.  A few weeks ago I had a very rough week, and one thing every difficult situation I experienced had in common was religion.  Religion is a place of rules, requirements, and unrealistic expectations.

I feel like religion is a breeding ground for perfectionism, and perfectionism leads to feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, and shame.  I think religion takes the uncertainty out of our faith.  We no longer have to have a blind faith with religion.  We don’t have to believe in something that isn’t tangible.  Religion makes our faith tangible and measurable so we know what we need to do to win the race, to get the crown.  I think people cling to religion because we don’t like the uncertainty of faith.

perfectionism

I also think religion is a place where personal accountability to our faith is lost.  If I put on the face, go out and serve in my church, do and say the right things, then 2 thumbs up, I’m on the right track.  But where is God in what I’m doing?  Where is my accountability to God and my personal relationship? It’s lost…

It makes me think of the song “The Wise Man Built His House”

 The foolish man built his house upon the sand

The foolish man built his house upon the sand

The foolish man built his house upon the sand

And the rain came tumbling down

Oh, the rain came down

And the floods came up

The rain came down

And the floods came up

The rain came down

And the floods came up

And the foolish man’s house went “splat!”

The wise man built his house upon the rock

The wise man built his house upon the rock

The wise man built his house upon the rock

And the rain came tumbling down

 

Oh, the rain came down

And the floods came up

The rain came down

And the floods came up

The rain came down

And the floods came up

And the wise man’s house stood firm.

I feel like those who blindly trust in religion are the foolish men and people who have a personal relationship with Christ are the wise men.

Growing up in Mormonism the focus was so often on being a Mormon and not on God or Jesus.  It’s funny because when you ask Mormon’s if they believe in Jesus or if they teach about Jesus the typical response is, “Of course we do, it’s in our name”.  The thing is, growing up the focus was rarely on Jesus or God, it was on the religion itself.  The focus was Joseph Smith and Mormonism.  But in all reality, it wasn’t very often there was a lesson about Christ or having a personal relationship with Him.

In my experience as a Mormon, the focus was all about the current prophet of the church and following the prophet.  And don’t forget “Praise to the Man” referring to Joseph Smith.  When I left Mormonism, there were so many things I found out about God, Christ, Christianity, and religion that I never knew before.  I don’t think I had even heard of grace or salvation before becoming a Christian.  They were definitely not terms we talked about in Mormonism.

personal relationship

As a Christian, I believe the most important thing is to have a personal relationship with Christ.  That means you talk to Him, and spend time reading His word, you spend time with people who are also in a relationship with Him.  I think it means the intention behind what you do is to please God.  When you have a relationship with God and that is the focus of your faith instead of religion being the focus of your faith, the shame, guilt, and self-doubt that comes with religion, don’t have room to grow, it’s easier to embrace the uncertainty.

There are many times I struggle with my relationship with Christ, when He is not first in my life.  I know when I’m struggling in life, I need to stop and refocus.  When I struggle the most it’s because I am focusing too much on what I can do and how I can control things on my own. In these moments I know my relationship with Christ is struggling.

I do think worship is important, and I think having a church and people you can connect and fellowship with is important.  When people ask my religion, I tell them Christian without hesitation.  So, maybe it isn’t really religion that I hate.  Maybe it’s the judgmental, hypocriticalness that comes from religion.  Maybe it’s the focus on rules and works versus faith and grace.

hypocrite

What I do know is, it doesn’t matter where you go to church, what you wear, the color of your hair, if you wear jewelry or not, the size of your house, bank account, or the type of car you drive, God wants you.  He wants your heart.  He wants to interact and have a relationship with you.  Religion doesn’t matter, what matters is do you know God?  Do you have a relationship with Christ?  And are you being accountable in that relationship?

I’m just a Small Town Girl…building my house upon the rock.

Christian, exmormon

Freedom to Sin…

I’ve had people ask me if Christians are allowed to sin and do whatever they want because they believe in salvation by grace alone.  That always makes me laugh.  Grace is not a get out of jail free card.  As a Christian I know that I sin every day.  And even when I sin, I am not free from the consequences of my sin even though I am forgiven.  I also know, I have already been forgiven of my sins.  So, I guess the question is, if I already know I am forgiven, then, why isn’t grace a get out of jail free card?

sin

The real problem is that sin is everywhere.  We as humans like to think that we are “good” people and that just living as a “good” person in the world is enough.  As a Christian, I know I am not really a good person.  I do things wrong every day.  I even have days when I know I am living life not pleasing to God.  But as I grow in my relationship with Christ, I become more accepting of myself and I focus more on Christ and try to be a better person.

beloved

As a Christian, I find the more I grow in my relationship with Christ the more I recognize when I am in sin.  I am often more convicted when I feel my behavior and things I am doing are not pleasing to my God.  The biggest difference from my life before Christ and my Christian life is that I know I am already forgiven.

Growing up I struggled so hard with feeling like I was enough.  I felt the impossibility of living a life free from sin which led me to feeling very hopeless.  I just wanted to be accepted and be enough.  I often felt it was pointless to even try if I was never going to be enough anyway.

Micah Tyler has a song out right now called Different.  The Chorus is

I wanna be different
I wanna be changed
‘Til all of me is gone
And all that remains
Is a fire so bright
The whole world can see
That there’s something different
So come and be different
In me

I think this is exactly how I feel as a Christian.  I don’t feel that I am ever free to sin, but I sin every day.  I want to be different.  I want people to be able to see Christ in me!

 

I feel like when I became a Christian, and recognized I was saved by grace and it didn’t matter what I did, God would still love me.  I felt hope again.  Being saved by grace I have become a more willing participant in my life and the world around me (most days).  I make more of an effort to live a life pleasing to God.  I want to be different for Christ.  I want people to see what He has done in my life and I want His light to reflect out of me.  In most situations I try to do the right thing.  I focus on being positive and trying to be a positive light to those around me.  It took me a while to be able to say, “I am saved” and believe that I had truly accepted Christ into in my heart and would go to Heaven, but when I did I wanted to shout it from the roof tops and share the love and grace that I received from Christ with everyone.

contribute

As a human, I have a sin nature.  I sin on a pretty regular basis.  The nice thing about grace is, I know I am forgiven.  There is nothing I can do ensure my forgiveness other than accept Christ as my Savior.  But the best part of being a Christian saved by grace alone is at the end of the day I can say, “God, I tried today, I didn’t do too great.  But thank you for loving me any way.  I’ll try again tomorrow”.  That’s the great thing about being saved by grace.  So, as I Christian do I feel like I am free to sin?  Absolutely not!  But as a Christian am I grateful for the knowledge that no matter how bad I mess up in the day, and regardless of the consequences I face, I am forgiven?  Absolutely YES!

sin

I’m just a Small Town Girl…wanting to be different in a sinful world.

 

Christian, mormonism

Not a symbol of death…

Finally had a minute to finish this up and get it published.  I hope you all had a great Easter!

I’ve thought a lot about what I would write about this week.  There is no better subject than the Cross!

Growing up in Mormonism, Easter was a holiday that was more about the Easter Bunny, Easter eggs, and candy than anything about Jesus.  I never knew anything about Palm Sunday or Good Friday.  And I was taught that Christ bled and atoned for our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane and not on the Cross.  The focus for me as a Mormon was that Jesus rose from the dead.  The events leading up to that really didn’t seem to matter much especially His death on the Cross.

eph 1 4 stg

I remember thinking as a teenager about the anguish that Christ went through in the Garden; the weight of sin that he had to bear for me, let alone the whole world.  I knew I was a sinner and I knew that just for the weight of my sins, a lot of blood was shed. I always felt guilty for the pain I caused Jesus. I had no clue about the things that happened to my Savior before he was hung on the cross. I don’t think I even had a clue about the suffering he endured while hanging on the cross.  I think in my Mormon world, that was skimmed over, because it’s brutal and violent, and because Mormons struggle with understanding the concept of death.  It’s difficult to imagine, the beating that Christ took.  The lashes and whipping that he received.  Not because of any crime but because of who He was. That he carried his own cross up to Calvary.  He was then nailed to that cross and left there to die.  He was made fun of and the guards gambled for his belongings.  He was tortured and he suffered and died.  Christ chose to go through all of this, because He loves me…

isaiah 53 5 stg

It’s overwhelming to think, of the pain and agony that he must have felt.  The humiliation and embarrassment.  And yet, even though He had the power to remove Himself from all of it, He still took it all on so that I, an undeserving sinner, can be forgiven of all I have done wrong, and everything I will ever do wrong.   Wow!  Amazing!  Just the thought of what Christ went through, so the world’s sin would be paid for, leaves me in tears.

In Mormonism, the Cross is a symbol they choose not to focus on.  The official statement on the matter from LDS.org is:

“The cross is used in many Christian churches as a symbol of the Savior’s death and Resurrection and as a sincere expression of faith. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we also remember with reverence the suffering of the Savior. But because the Savior lives, we do not use the symbol of His death as the symbol of our faith.”

The purpose of the Cross is so much more than a symbol of Christ’s death.  It is a symbol of sacrifice, forgiveness, and grace.  It is important to understand the purpose of why Christ had to die.  In the Old Testament, the Israelites, had to perform animal sacrifices to receive forgiveness of their sins.  They had 613 laws they had to follow.  When they would go to the temple to perform the rituals and sacrifices, they would pick the best animal they had.  The one that was closest to perfection that they could get.  Yet, the animal sacrifices weren’t enough.  We as Humans needed sacrifice to forgive us of our sins.  It couldn’t be just anyone.  It had to be a perfect living sacrifice, who’s blood would be spilled for the redemption of the world.  1 Pet. 1:18-19, ” knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.”  Christ came down to earth as that perfect living sacrifice.  He faced sin, temptation, ridicule, and willingly spilled His blood so the Old Law would be fulfilled and the animal sacrifices would no longer be needed.  This started a New Covenant with Christ where our sins are already forgiven and we are covered by grace.

paid in full stg

I don’t understand how the Cross can so easily be swept away.  It’s like recognizing the beauty of a butterfly and saying the caterpillar doesn’t matter.  The butterfly wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the caterpillar.  Christ wouldn’t have risen from the dead if he hadn’t first died on the Cross.  They are one in the same.  You can’t separate his death from his resurrection just as you can’t separate a caterpillar and a butterfly. To me, Palm Sunday, the day that symbolizes Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, through Easter Sunday when Christ is no longer in the tomb and has risen from the dead, are all one event.  Intertwined and connected.  And his death on the Cross is where my sins were forgiven.  The reason I know, I am forgiven is because Christ conquered death. Christ’s resurrection is proof that He overcame and conquered death.  If he conquered death, I am forgiven.  But you can’t celebrate His resurrection without first accepting his death.

cross stg

What a greater symbol of Christ being alive, conquering death, and being forgiven of our sins than the Cross!! To me, the Cross encompasses Holy Week all into one symbol.  When I see a cross, I am reminded of what my Savior did for me, for the world, and that because He lives, I am forgiven and will live with Him again.

Zak tattoo stg

I’m just a small-town girl…forgiven, loved, redeemed, by His death on the Cross.

Christian, mormonism

He is my Strength…

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

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

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

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

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

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

motivation-christ-stg

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

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

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

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

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

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

philippians-4-13-stg

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

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

unlikely-people-stg

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

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

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

 

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

 

Christian, exmormon, LDS, mormonism

My Chains Are Gone…

I was thinking about writing about the forbidden drink of Mormonism this week which has become one of my most favorite drinks in the world.  But that isn’t what God had planned for this week so I will address my thoughts on that in a future blog.

This week as I was scrolling through Facebook, I came across a post that discussed the Mormon Church and grace + works. At first the writer seemed to express an understanding of grace.  That it’s free, and gives us hope.  But then they stated “The works that I perform are to keep his commandments, to feed his sheep and to partake of the saving ordinances that He showed us we need”.  This is the part I want to address. cheapen-sacrifice-stg

Anyone who is in the Mormon faith and believes they aren’t in a works based faith is lying to themselves.  The key statement from above is “saving ordinances”.  That is the biggest difference between my Mormon beliefs and my beliefs as a Christian.  In Mormonism there are requirements for salvation; “Saving ordinances”.  In Christianity, Christ did all the work.  There are no requirements for salvation.  When Jesus said “It is finished” (John 19:30) He meant all requirements were fulfilled. There is nothing left do except to accept Him- Christ, as your Savior.

In Mormonism, they believe in order to reach exaltation or the Celestial Kingdom the desired degree of Heaven, you have to follow or meet certain criteria.  You have to be a member of the LDS church which most people in the Mormon faith do at the age of 8 by getting baptized.  I blogged about that last week (the age of account ability). Being a member adds all sorts of requirements and those increase as your age increases.  You are not allowed to say no to any callings, you are required to pay 10% of your income to the church.  You are expected to follow all the rules and requirements which include family prayer and scripture study, tithing, fast offerings, monthly fasting, following the word of wisdom, temple marriage, and  regular temple visits if you are close enough.  Every year you are required to have worthiness interview to make sure you qualify for your pass to go to the temple.  Adults aren’t the only ones who are expected to go to the temple.  Youth, starting at age 12, begin attending the temple for the ritual practice of baptisms for the dead (this will be a future blog).  There are also all sorts of unspoken expectations and requirements that if you’re not meeting you are at risk of not getting your temple recommend, which is basically the pass that your bishop gives you verifying you are worthy.   All of these are exceptions you must follow in order to meet the Mormon requirement of worthiness, determined by a man in your ward who is deemed more worthy than you and now you have a piece of paper showing how “worthy” you are.  I’m not sure how any of this has to do with being saved and or worthy.

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As a Christian, the expectation for salvation is to accept Jesus Christ as my Savior.  He has already done all the work.  There are no expectations or requirements. Baptism, tithing, marriage, church attendance, service work, none of these things are a requirement of salvation.  Do I do these things. Yes.  I was baptized, I pay a regular tithe (an amount that I feel God has led me to give), I serve in my church, I attend church service weekly.  The difference is I do these because I want to.  I do them because they help me be closer to my God and help me grow in His word.  They help me be a better person and connect with other people who are also trying to grow their relationship with Christ.

Nothing in the Christian Gospel is about repaying God for my salvation or doing things so that I can earn my salvation.  Acts 4:12 states “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name  under Heaven by which we must be saved”.  I feel that Mormon believers put as much, or even sometimes more emphasis, on Joseph Smith  or the current prophet than they do on Jesus Christ. They accept the word of man over God’s word.  Romans 10:9-10 states “If you declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved  For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved”.  God’s word doesn’t say you need to get baptized, pay 10% to your church, do everything your pastor tells you, go through an annual worthiness interview, fast once per month, get married in a “sacred” ceremony that only those over 18 and who are deemed worthy can attend, do as many good things as you can, then cross your fingers an hope it was enough to make it to Heaven.

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I’m tired just listing a few of the expectations. It’s no wonder I felt so helpless all the time.  Really, I don’t know who would want to live their life under so many rules and laws.  I have a hard time just following the general rules of society. I have to set my cruise control just so I don’t get a speeding ticket.  It amazes me still to look back on my life.  I was truly bound by the chains of Mormonism.  I was bound by rules, requirements, and restrictions.  One of my first blogs was Cookie Cutters are for Cookies, because I tried so hard to be a Mormon.  I tried so hard to live with the chains and restraints of a religion. I believed, just like my friend on Facebook, that the Mormon Church was true and if I tried hard enough and did enough that maybe I would be worthy of God’s love and I would hopefully do enough to be with my family forever in heaven.  As a Christian, I know I can never do anything to be worthy of God’s love.  I was set free from those restraints when I gave my life to Christ.  I began to truly experience what life is meant to be like. I accepted what Christ did on the cross for me and it humbled me.

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The bottom line is, we don’t need any saving ordinances like my Facebook friend stated.  The only thing we need is Jesus Christ.   The most heartbreaking thing is, I see so many people bound by the chains of Mormonism.  Who are exhausted by the struggle of trying to do enough and be enough.  I don’t know for sure, but I believe the comment I saw was in response to me posting a link to my blog post response to grace, of a friends comment that said, “I never think I am enough or doing enough… I just have to keep trying”.  It breaks my heart to see people share these things because I have lived in that world  and now MY CHAINS ARE GONE!! I’ve been set free. My God, My Savior has ransomed me.  Not by anything I’ve done but by what Christ did for me.

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I’m just a small town girl…free from the chains of a works based world.

exmormon, LDS

Life is What You Make It…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t forget to check out the videos!

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!!