Christian, exmormon

Twinkle Lights…

One of my Facebook memories from today was an excerpt from the book; Ending Your Day Right by Joyce Meyer it said, “The highest call on your life is to enjoy God. But you can’t enjoy Him if you are convinced He is upset with you. Jesus came to deliver you from the wrong kind of fear in your relationship with your heavenly Father. You should be relaxed in His presence. You need to have reverential fear, the kind that provokes respect, honor, and obedience. But you must refuse to believe any thoughts that the Lord is angry with you.

You are no surprise to God. Jeremiah 1:5 states that before He formed you in the womb, God knew you! He knew what He was getting when He drew you into a relationship with Himself. He already knows the things you will do wrong in the future. God is not nearly as hard to get along with as you think He is. It is not your sin that hinders you, it is unbelief!”

Oh, how often I still struggle with this concept.  It is so hard to let go of the thought, “I will never be good enough for God”.  Life is hard.  Every day is a struggle.  That’s one of the things that has been the hardest things for me to accept as a Christian.  I want God to make life easy.  I want Him to say, “Hey you’ve accepted me, here ya go… here’s an easy life”. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way.

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John 10:10 says, “The thief’s purpose is to steal kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”  God has a plan and a purpose for each of us.  We are our own biggest barriers. The devil uses us as a wedge to get between us and God.  He feeds on our fears and our doubts.  We fall into that trap and we often feel worthless.

I remember growing up the struggle I had with myself and believing that God loved me.  I struggled with feeling that I was good enough.  I struggled to find happiness.  I spent a good part of my life searching for joy, for happiness, for purpose and meaning.  I really believed the mantra of; I’ll be happy when… but when those moments came, I was happy for a moment but it didn’t last very long and then I was focused on the next big thing that I wanted in my life. I had no identity and no real purpose for living other than what my religion told me.

Growing up I often struggled with the thought that God was mad at me. I struggled with believing that God could love me even after some of the things I had done.  At times I felt like God wanted nothing to do with me. I believed the more I accomplished in my life, the more God would love me.  The better chance I would have at going to Heaven.  I believed the lie that I could do enough.

When I found Christ, I was at rock bottom in my life.  I was at a point where everything I was afraid of happening was and I had lost all hope for myself and my future. I felt worthless and hopeless. It wasn’t that there wasn’t anything good in my life, it was just I was so focused on the big things, I couldn’t see the amazing details of my life.

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As I have mentioned many times, I am a huge fan of Brene Brown.  I love her books and insights, I love watching her Ted Talks and using them to help people improve their lives.  One of my favorite Brene Brown quotes is, “Twinkle lights are the perfect metaphor for joy. Joy is not a constant.  It comes to us in moments – often ordinary moments.  Sometimes we miss out on the bursts of joy because we’re too busy chasing down extraordinary moments.  Other times were so afraid of the dark that we don’t let ourselves enjoy the light. I believe a joyful life is made up of joyful moments gracefully strung together by trust, gratitude, inspiration, and faith.”

It’s so easy to get caught up in the shoulda, coulda, woulda’s, or become so afraid of doing things or afraid of the good moments that I don’t take time to enjoy them. But God didn’t create us with a spirit of fear.  God created us to draw near to Him when we struggle.  God isn’t a god of anger.  He is our Creator.  He loves us and wants us.

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The closer I draw to God the more twinkle lights I have in my life.  Knowing God, helps me appreciate the small moments in life. He helps me embrace the struggles and find meaning and purpose in every situation.  I think because I have found purpose in Christ and I know He loves me regardless of anything, it is easier for me to appreciate the small things in life.  Life isn’t about the big extraordinary moments.  It’s about learning to appreciate the small everyday things knowing that God has your back.

I’m just a Small Town Girl…living in a world of twinkle lights.

 

 

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.

Christian, exmormon, mormonism

My heart is Yours…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Where I got the title for this weeks blog

 

 

exmormon, LDS

Life is What You Make It…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t forget to check out the videos!

exmormon, LDS, mormonism

Laughing Out Loud

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just for laughs!!

exmormon, LDS, mormonism

Family, Football, & Heaven

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

exmormon, mormonism

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.