exmormon, LDS

Life is What You Make It…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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LDS, mormonism

Jesus is my lucky penny!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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