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  We got to the point where the roads were no longer maintained and almost got stuck.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

Believing Isn’t Enough…

After Brian and I went through the temple, we began to pull away from the Mormon church.  There were so many things that just didn’t seem right to us.  We were so tired of the hypocrisy and double standard that existed.  I am grateful for the fact that I never doubted that God was real or that I believed in Him.  So many people, when they walk away from Mormonism, are angry and hurt and they become atheist or agnostic. They don’t just walk away from Mormonism, they walk away from God altogether. My heart hurts most for the people who walk away from God completely.

Brian and I didn’t immediately start attending a Christian church.  In fact, we didn’t even really know why we were walking away.  There were just some things we didn’t like and didn’t agree with; and honestly, we just didn’t want to spend our Sunday filled with church.  I had a desire to teach our kids about God and I had a plan to teach them what I wanted them to know, someday.

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At the point we were done with the Mormon belief system, God put us back in the thick of my Mormon world. I had just given birth to my 2nd child and Brian was in the hiring process for his dream job that would eventually become his career. We moved back home to our small town and lived with my parents for a month until the house we were going to rent was ready for us to move into.  This was a difficult transition.  Brain had stopped wearing his garment top the previous summer, it was hot wearing 2 shirts and he just didn’t want to do it any more. When his bottoms wore out we just bought him regular underwear.  My decision to stop wearing them came while I was pregnant, they were uncomfortable and expensive.  I couldn’t afford to buy extra maternity sets.  When my pregnancy was over, it was a lot cheaper to just buy a pack of underwear at Wal-mart than to buy even 1 set of garments.   I don’t remember the exact cost but it was just over $3.00 for 1 top and $3.00 for one pair of bottoms. We were young and still trying to figure out life and we didn’t really believe it anyway, so we just stopped wearing them.  I must not have realized the impact this would have when my mom found out. I remember my mom offering to do our laundry, being grateful for the offer because I had a 19 month old, rambunctious boy, and a newborn baby. She came to me extremely upset that she wasn’t washing any garments.  I think that was the first time I said anything to anyone in my family that we didn’t really believe Mormonism anymore. Needless to say, my mom was extremely concerned about us. She lectured me, with a hushed voice, about the repercussions of taking off our garments.  I’m not sure why she was whispering, it’s not like the neighbors would hear.  Maybe she was worried about my little brother or sister hearing.  We had been going to the Mormon church while we lived there because we felt it was easier than having the fight or discussion, I think this gave my mom some hope that we weren’t completely lost.  We moved out a few weeks later and never attended church, a Mormon church or any other church, other than for special occasions again.

I always had a plan to sit down and teach my kids about God.  I thought I would teach them the Bible stories I loved so much.  I thought I would teach them about Noah and the flood, David and Goliath, Samson and his hair.  Every week I planned that Sunday mornings we could do this over breakfast.  Sunday morning would come and I would lay in bed or I would get up and spend hours on the internet in chat rooms.  Teaching my kids about God always turned into next week.  I bought them some books that talked about God.  We sang songs.  They knew, and probably still do know, I Am a Child of God.  They knew some Christian songs because I bought them some CD’s that had songs like This Little Light of Mine, Jesus Loves Me, and He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.  But I didn’t even know what it meant to believe in God or what I believed.  I just knew that I didn’t want to be Mormon any more.
This transition was really hard.  Brian and I were growing apart at this time.  Brian had started a new job and I left a full time job and started working part time and being more of a full time mom.  I worked from 7 am until 11 am.  I was able to be home most of the day.  It’s a good thing social media didn’t exist back then.  I would have had a complete melt down.  I already felt so inadequate about myself, still struggled with not feeling good enough, still cutting a few days a week, social media and the “super mom’s” that you see on Facebook and Pintrest would have made me feel even worse about myself.  I realize now  I have other skills and talents, they just aren’t able to be highlighted on social media. 😉
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Part of the reason I decided to start attending a church was because I realized I couldn’t teach my kids how to follow Christ or what I believed because I didn’t know myself.  For the first 2 years of my Christian walk I went to church faithfully.  I listened to Christian radio and I would swear that every Pastor I listened to knew my story and knew exactly what I needed to hear.  I learned a lot about God during that time and I learned, somewhat, about the Christian walk.  But I didn’t learn much about how it applied to me.  I learned that God loved me and accepted me.  I learned that I am a sinner saved by grace and grace only.  I learned that Christians believe that you need to say a prayer to accept Christ and I understood where that belief came from.  I said that prayer every week for a long time because I didn’t understand what it meant to accept the gift of grace.  I had such a hard time believing that I was really “saved” or that I could ever be good enough to make it to Heaven.  One of the hardest things about transitioning from Mormonism to Christianity is learning to let go of all the misconceptions that are ingrained from growing up in a Mormon world.

Brian and I have been out of Mormonism for about 18 1/2 years.  We have been Christians for about 16 years and in so many ways I would still call myself a “baby Christian”.  In 2009 God led us to a church where we actually started, not just hearing His word, but truly growing and learning what we believe and why we believe it.  In the past my family would ask my why I left Mormonism and I would get upset and defensive.  There were many times I got mad a just walked away because I didn’t know how to talk or have a discussion with them.  In the past 7 years I have learned so much. I haven’t learned just why Mormonism is wrong, I have learned what I believe, and why I believe it.  I have learned that the Bible is a historically accurate source. I have learned that there is one God, existent in 3 beings, called the Trinity.  I learned that the old laws of the Old Testament are no longer valid today.  They have been covered by the blood of Christ.  I know why Christ died on the cross for my sins.  I realize that his death on the cross is just as important to my salvation as his resurrection.

I think the biggest thing that I have learned in all of this time is that I can’t do this on my own.  I can’t live my life without God at the center.  When my life isn’t focused on Christ, I struggle.  I drift away and life seems so much more difficult.  When I am rooted in Christ I grow.  I can manage life.  I have also learned that the best way to keep me rooted in Christ is to keep people around me who are rooted in Christ.  I have learned the importance of having a church family, Christian friends, and a Pastor who you can connect with.

Believing in God isn’t enough.  In James 2:19 (NLT) it says, “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God.  Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.”  The church we attend started out as a group of friends who struggled to find a church they wanted to attend locally.  They got together and it has grown into an amazing group of genuine believers who able to connect and grow in God’s word.  One thing I didn’t realize as a Mormon, that I’ve since learned as a Christian is, all Christian denominations are the same.  We are all the same body of Christ.  The difference is, in preferences in worship.

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I think I say this every week but I am amazed that Brian and I were able to make it through all that we went through on our own.  We didn’t have people to surround us and help us through.  We made it because, I believe, it was God’s desire for us to make it.  If you are a believer but don’t have a place you are connected, go find one!  One of my favorite authors is Brene Brown, PhD.  She is a research professor at the University of Huston.  She studies vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame.  She talks a lot about connection and the importance of connection.  We are made for connection, we aren’t made to do life alone, we are made to do life together.  “Connection along with love and belonging, is why we are here, and is what gives meaning and purpose to our lives”- Brene Brown. 

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I don’t know if my walk and journey as a Christian would have been easier if we would have been connected to other believers, but I know it would have been a little lighter.  I wouldn’t have had to walk through all of the confusion and struggles I had by myself.  I would have had a group of people willing to wrap their arms around me and help me where ever I needed.

Just the rants and ravings of a small town girl… living in a connected world.

 

exmormon, mormonism

God is My Oxygen…

I work with people who struggle with mental illness and addiction.  In one of my groups this week, one of my clients who has struggled with addiction for most of her life was talking about the difficulty of trying to stay sober everyday.  She has almost 30 days clean and she talked about how sometimes she will go into the place where they hold AA and NA meetings and she won’t leave all day long because if she walks out the door she will use. She has come a long way in the short time she’s been in our program and she said something that really stuck with me this week. She said, “My worst days sober are still so much better than my best days using”.  I think that I could relate to that because, although I have never been addicted to drugs, I have lived in a world where I had an addiction and I was filled with despair and hopelessness. My addiction was cutting, and the despair and hopelessness was fueled by the knowledge that I would never be good enough.

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I cut for the first time when I was in 6th grade.  I remember the day very clearly.  It was a Saturday, I had a friend who had spent the night on Friday night and sometime late Saturday morning she went home.  I had gotten in a fight with my mom, I don’t remember what we fought about but this wasn’t an uncommon thing.  I was stubborn (still am) and liked to do things my own way (still do).  After the fight with my mom, I called and talked on the phone with my friend about wanting to kill myself, she didn’t believe me.  I don’t think I believed me either.  I had to clean the kitchen that day, I was cleaning the kitchen and washing dishes, I took an kitchen knife and slid it across my wrist.  It hurt.  It was just a scratch.  I did it again, another scratch.  The cuts were very superficial, barely breaking the skin, but it was my secret, something I had control over.  When I went to school on Monday I showed my friends.  They were worried and scared. They showed me a lot of attention and told me how important I was to them.  I liked the attention. It fueled my desire to do it more.

It didn’t take long for this to be how I coped with everything.  My mom used a straight razor to cut my dad’s hair.  I conveniently would take 1 or 2 out of the box and keep them with me or hide them in my dresser drawers.  I had one with me at all times.  When something would go wrong in my life, no matter how small, it became an excuse to cut. Bad grade on a test, cut; fight with friends, cut; woke up in a bad mood, cut.  It wasn’t long before it became old with my friends and they weren’t giving me that attention I wanted, so I kept cutting and didn’t say anything.  It still felt like it gave me a sense of power and control in my life I didn’t have anywhere else.

At times when I felt like things were really bad, fights with my mom, fights with my friends, I couldn’t wait to get home and get out my razor blade and cut. I craved putting the razor to my skin.  I craved the sens of release that would come when the blood would start flowing.  I would have times I would black out and not remember cutting. I rarely cut in nice uniform rows, most often they were chaotic.  I would just run the razor blade over my skin over and over every which way, no order, not caring, it was a release of emotion.  And then, I would have an emotional crash, and I would sleep.

This was my life day in and day out.  The smallest things would push my buttons and I would have a reason to cut and I would find a reason or make a reason.  I would manipulate situations and people so I would have a reason to cut. I didn’t know any other way to cope and I didn’t understand the emotions I was feeling.  As I got older and into high school I became more and more hopeless.  The secret I was hiding about my cutting, ugly scars that were materializing all over my body, and the shame and guilt that was building within was fueled by daily seminary lessons on living a life of morality.  Weekly Sunday school lessons and young women’s teachings about integrity, faith, accountability, living by church standards, and dying inside because I really didn’t know how to do these things.  I wasn’t made to be this way.  I knew with every fiber of my being I would NEVER measure up to the standards that were set for me.

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I tired and tried every day to be the person I was “supposed” to be.  I tried so hard, I read the Book of Mormon, and tried to understand and feel something.  I didn’t, I thought “There must be something wrong with me.”  Every time I tried harder it would drive me deeper and deeper into depression.

I was so lost and alone.  I was so broken, I had no sense of who I was or where I belonged.  The harder I tried to draw near to this god that my religion taught me about the more broken and hurt I felt.  Who was I? Why would God want me?  I had no desire to be the person that the Mormon church taught me I should be. I remember being in high school and laying in my bed and truly feeling hopeless.  I remember thinking “I will never be enough.  I can never do enough, so why even try?”  I know that it is only by the grace of God that I made it to where I am today.  If God had not put Brian in my life in high school I’m not sure I would have made it.

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Just after Brian and I started attending a Christian church, God began to do a lot of healing in our lives.  We became pregnant with child 3.  This was one of the points that was leading us to divorce.  Brian didn’t want any more kids.  I did.  It was a topic that wasn’t even up for discussion, and although I became pregnant earlier than we had planed, we were excited.  When I was 7 months pregnant I tore my meniscus. In high school I had torn my ACL and never had it repaired.  So at 8 months pregnant, I had knee surgery.  Before Christ this would have caused me to have a mental break down and sent me into a tail spin. I would have felt worthless and hopeless and that I couldn’t do anything right.  Kassidy was 3 1/2 weeks early but completely healthy.  My knee surgery went well. I didn’t cut.  When Kassidy was about a year old we found out we were pregnant again. I did go into a bit of a tail spin with that.  We didn’t plan to have any more children.  Being pregnant with Kassidy was hard on my body and I had toxemia.  But Brian was my rock and reminded me that God was in control and we just needed to trust Him.  I became very sick, my blood pressure was so high they had to deliver Aspen 2 months early.  I didn’t blame myself or have a break down.  I handled this time in my life well.  Especially for being someone who struggled with depression and coped with life by cutting.

Within the next 4 years there were many more struggles and major life changes that in the past would send me into a compete mental break down.  It is only by the true grace of God that I am alive today.  Things sill go wrong.  I still have struggles.  Sometimes it is the smallest things that I struggle with but I always remember that God is in control, I am already forgiven, and I am enough.  If I keep my focus on Christ then no matter what is thrown my way I can manage.  John 10:10 NLT says “The thief’s purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”  It is Satan that fuels my fire when I am having struggles.   When I trust in God and remember He is in control it doesn’t make the hard times go away but it makes them a lot easier to manage.

Every time I think back to where I came from and where I am today, I am truly in awe.  God’s hand print is on my life.  There is no way I would be here if it weren’t for God wanting me here. I still get overwhelmed with life sometimes.  This week the littlest of things have been my struggle.  I dropped my phone in the toilet.  I have lost my wallet. I have some things at work I’m struggling with and some things in my personal life I’m working through.  And this week God took my Love, My rock the thing that is tangible away from me and I had to stop and really pause and rely on God.  Brian had training out of town this week and although I talked to him on the phone, it was hard.  Remember, I threw my phone in the toilet, my communication with Brian was limited because I didn’t have MY phone.  We couldn’t text or talk like we normally do.  What amazes me is the same thing 15 years ago would have caused me to have a complete break down.  I would have cut, binged and purged, and made him feel guilty about being out of town for his job and having a good time. I am so grateful that God has brought me to place where HE is my rock, my sanctuary, my refuge.  God is my safe place.

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I’m just a small town girl… Living in the world.  My hardest days with Christ are far better than my best days with out Him!

Uncategorized

The Rants And Ravings Of A Small Town Girl…

It has been on my heart for a long time to start a blog.  I’ve always had the excuse that I don’t have time.  Working full time and being the mom of 4 busy kids it was a good and valid excuse.  This fall my husband and I sent our second child off to college and our lives have slowed down significantly.  So I don’t really have that excuse any more. So here I go.  I’m starting a blog.

One of the main purposes for this blog is for me to share my story of how I transitioned out of Mormonism and overcame some severe mental health problems.  I struggled with depression through most of my adolescents and early adulthood.  It wasn’t until I realized the love and grace of Jesus Christ that I was able to overcome these struggles and find true joy and happiness.  I hope that I can touch the lives of many and help them also find truth and happiness.  So welcome to the rants and ravings of a small town girl…lighthouse-quote