“While others are congratulating themselves, I have to sit humbly at the foot of the cross and marvel that I’m saved at all.” ~CH Spurgeon
Growing up in my Mormon world I struggled with the idea that I had to be perfect. I believed that I would never be good enough to go to Heaven. As a Christian I know I will never be good enough to go to Heaven, I will never do enough to get to Heaven. I take comfort in knowing that because of Christ I will go to Heaven.
Every day I am so amazed by the love God has for me. It blows my mind to think of His suffering and pain on the cross and although Christ knew of the anguish he would go through when He was put on the cross and yet He willingly went through it all for me. I am so undeserving of His love and grace, and yet, He is so willing to give it to me.
Living everyday life is hard. I try to be the person I want to be. But that is also fueled by the expectations of those around me. I fail every day. The most amazing thing is when I fail God’s love and grace are still there for me. Every day, I try to keep God at the center of my life, and every day I fail. I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t think back to my life before Christ and I wonder where I would be if I hadn’t answered the phone, or if I hadn’t believed that God loves me. If I still lived in my Mormon world I don’t know how I would survive.
There is a song called Reckless Love by Cory Asbury, the chorus states:
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah
Think about that for a minute…God loves you so much, He would leave his flock to find you, to fight for you. I fail every day. I fall short every day. I can’t earn God’s love or grace. I will never be deserving of Gods love or grace.
I know I am a sinner, a failure, a hypocrite, a disappointment, and yet my God still loves me. He’d leave the 99 to come find Me! In my hardest darkest days, that is what keeps me going. Knowing that I can’t do anything to make God not love me. Knowing that no matter what, He has forgiven a horrible, hypocritical, sinner like me.
Knowing all my failures and shortcomings, “I have to sit humbly at the foot of the cross and marvel that I’m saved at all.”
It feels amazing to know…
I’m Just a Small Town Girl…Living in the Reckless Love of God.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I had plans to post a blog all week last week but I have been super busy and, much like life, things didn’t go as planned. So here I am, a week later, finally finding time to write my blog. So often, this is how life goes. We have great expectations of how we want things to be or things to turn out. I never thought my life would be the way it currently is.
I recently read an article that talked about the biggest problem in relationships, and it wasn’t anything most people think. It listed the biggest problem in relationships as “expectation”. I completely agree with the article. And although it was referring to romantic relationships, I feel expectation is the biggest problem in every relationship; including our relationship with God and our relationship with ourselves.
Expectation creates so many problems in life. I live in Idaho and we “expected” thousands of people in our area for the eclipse. As of today, those expectations haven’t even come close to reality. And, that’s the problem with expectations. So often, we have a prefect picture of how things are “supposed to be”. We know in our heads how everything is going to happen. We worry and fret over this picture in our heads and when things don’t turn out like the picture, we are angry and frustrated; and often feel like life isn’t fair. The thing is, life isn’t fair and nothing is certain.
Living in my Mormon world, there were a lot of expectations but the outcome was certain. I knew if I was good enough, I would reach the highest level of heaven with my family. That was the ultimate goal. I’ve talked in many blogs about all of the requirements that the Mormon faithful have to accomplish. The picture that is painted is one of bliss and happiness if you remain faithful to the end. But I struggled to fit into the picture of what those expectations were. I liked the picture but had a hard time being one of the faithful followers. It didn’t matter how much I tried, I would always give into my sinful nature at some point.
As I mentioned, the biggest problem in relationships is expectation, that includes our relationship with God and ourselves. As I progressed through my Mormon life, my expectations for myself began to change and hopelessness filled me. How could I ever reach the perfect picture if I couldn’t even manage a day without doing what was expected of me. Hopelessness turned to depression and suicidal thoughts. I hated life and myself. At times, I was angry with God. The expectation was that God would help me through my struggles and God would give me strength. But time after time I failed and the only thing that was certain was that I wasn’t going to make it. I have never done well with expectations.
As a Mormon, my expectation was that I could complete the requirements necessary to go to Heaven. My expectation was if I lived according to what the Mormon Prophets taught, I would be happy and be able to be with my family forever. The requirements were black and white and I could check them off as I completed them. Baptism ü, Young Women’s awards and recognition ü, Marry a return missionary in the temple ü, and so on. The criteria are clear and the expectation is that you will complete all criteria to go to heaven.
As a Mormon, I relied a lot on myself and the Mormon leaders for my salvation. Becoming Christian and understanding what it means to give your life to Christ was a life saver for me. I learned very quickly that my salvation had little to do with me and everything to do with Christ. I also learned when you truly rely on God and try to live life for Him, expectation goes out the window. So often as a Christian I think God should do things the way I have pictured in my head, and a majority of the time, that is not what happens. The best part of being a Christian, is when I have those expectations and the perfect picture in my head, God’s is always better.
There are many times when I have gone through difficult times as a Christian and I have cried out to God to make things different; or there have been times when I have been angry with God about the struggles in my life. The biggest problem with both of those scenarios, those are my expectations. And even in those times when I am struggling and saying to God, “this isn’t fair” the positive results far outweigh the struggle.
I have said many times, I don’t think I could have gone through my current situation if I was still Mormon. I truly feel that way about most experiences in my life. This most recent struggle is life changing and sometimes it’s difficult to see there might be something positive that comes out of it. But if there is anything that I expect as a Christian, God is always faithful, and he wants more for me than I could ever even imagine for myself. On the hardest days when I get overwhelmed with the struggles in life I focus on that. I know Who is in control and I know He only wants the best for me.
I’m just a Small Town Girl…living in a world of great expectations.
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!
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 ImperfectionBrene 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.
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.
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!
I’m just a forgiven, small town girl… living in a healed, redeemed, restored, world.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’m just a small town girl… living in a gleeful world.
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.
Just a small town girl…sending out thoughts and prayers to those who struggle in the company of family.
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.
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. 😉
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
I gave my blog a new look this week! I’m pretty excited about the look because I feel like it’s more me. You can now find me by googling justasmalltowngirldotdotdot.com. I also made some changes, you no longer need to login or have an account on WordPress to leave a comment or like my blog. I also made it so it can also be anonymous. You can leave a comment without leaving a name or email. I’d love to hear from you.
This week I want to give a shout out to my Journey Family!! I couldn’t do this without your love and support. I also want to give a shout out to the friends I have in the community who support me despite our differences. Your love and support mean more than you’ll ever know!
Since walking away from Mormonism, I have talked to many people, some from childhood and some I’ve met along my journey who have thanked me for speaking out, for having the courage to do what they didn’t. I have also spoken to many who don’t really believe in Mormonism but it’s easier to stay and live a lie than to walk away and live with the shame and disappointment from family and friends. To most,happiness doesn’t matter. I’ve had many people tell me, “You must’ve just had some bad experiences”. And while that may be true, those bad experiences set me on a path to find truth, which lead me to true happiness and contentment I would have never found in the Mormon church.
Living in a small town where 99.8% of the kids in school are LDS, where 95% of the people you work with are LDS, where in every aspect of your world you are surrounded by Mormon people, and in order to feel like you are a part of the community, you conform. And on top of it all your family is Mormon. You do what everyone else is doing because it is easier, and Mormon’s aren’t bad people, they have good morals, and do a lot of good things. I have heard this many times. It is a more common theme than you would ever realize. It’s so easy to justify.
To me it is so sad that people who don’t believe in Mormonism choose to stay. They are willing to sacrifice themselves to fit in, to not be judged. I completely understand this. When Brian and I walked away, we weren’t broadcasting our new found beliefs. I often struggled. I would look around the church we were attending at the time and see families. I would see Mom’s with their grown daughters and sisters worshiping God together. It was so sad to me because I felt this would never happen for me. But I knew that I was happier, life was better, and I was doing what God wanted me to do. At some point I felt God told me I would have a family that would worship with me. He has delivered on his promise and I enjoy worshiping with my family and knowing my children walk in truth.
When you grow up in a Mormon family and live in a Mormon community, it’s hard to know that there is anything else out there. Growing up I thought there were basically 2 religions, Mormon because that was the world I lived in, and Catholic because that’s what I saw on TV. I have a lot of frustration toward my parents at times because I had the amazing blessing of growing up within 1 mile of both sets of my grandparents. I had one set of grandparents who were LDS and one set who weren’t. We spent a lot of time at my Mormon grandparents home and with that side of the family. I remember thinking that my other set of grandparents must not be very good people because, “they drink coffee.” I struggle with this because it wasn’t until a few years after we left Mormonism that we ran into them at the grocery store one Sunday and we told them we had left the Mormon church. My grandma told me they had been praying for all of us our whole lives and they were grateful that we had found the truth. It wasn’t until then that I realized that they were Christian. I spent all of my childhood not knowing my grandparents who lived less than a mile from my home, mostly because they had a different belief system. Shortly after we became believers in the true Christ, my grandparents sold their home and began traveling the country. My grandpa became one of my biggest supporters, biggest prayer warriors and I knew I could count on him to support me when it came to the struggles I had with my family. My grandpa passed away in 2012, but during the time that he was alive I truly learned what a man of God was by his example. It’s hard to think that I thought he might be a bad person because he drank coffee (I now love coffee).
But I think the biggest kicker is, Mormon’s believe in family. It is one of their best promises. They teach that families can be “together forever”. This is one of the hardest things I struggled with. Growing up I was taught that family is important. I spent a lot of time with cousins, aunts & uncles, and my LDS grandparents. We celebrated every event and occasion. I am grateful for those memories and the traditions that came along with those experiences. I have tried to carry on the importance of family with my own children. When my kids were little it was important to me that they were able to spend time with their grandparents and family on both sides. My side of the family continues the tradition of finding a reason to celebrate anything and everything. But the idea of a “forever family” is a facade. In my parents home hangs a picture of the local temple and surrounding the temple are family pictures of all of my siblings. There is an empty picture frame on the wall for my family. That is by my choice. When my sister asked me for a family picture, she didn’t tell me what it was for. When I saw what she wanted my picture for I told her I wasn’t comfortable with that because it was portraying a picture that wasn’t real. So, the picture fame still sits on the wall, empty. I feel like this is very representative of my relationship with my family and the LDS church.
Because Brain and I have walked away from the LDS church, and we have raised our children up as Christians, there is a disconnect with my family. It took many years before I was comfortable to even talk about that I believed something different, and when they would ask me about it, I would get upset and defensive. I believe that’s because I was still a new Christian and didn’t know how to express or defend my beliefs. My kids have always enjoyed spending time with their cousins and have never felt “less than” around them and I appreciate that. But it’s a struggle for me to spend time with my family. We can’t have a conversation about God. I see them struggle with things and my heart breaks because I know if they would just accept the gift of grace. as it is with no strings attached, it would be life changing. And yet, I continue to watch them struggle and hurt.
I have lost a lot over the years because I walked away from the core belief system of my childhood. But I have gained so much more. Back when I was a new Christian and I struggled watching families worship together, God told me I would have a family that worships with me. I have seen that. I have an amazing husband and 4 amazing kids who know and believe in God and know the true message of the Gospel of Christ. They don’t live a life where they believe they have to do enough or be good enough for me or for God. They understand they are already there. The biggest thing I have gained is GRACE, I have done so many things wrong in my life. I continue to have days when I struggle, or am not the person God wants me to be. But at the end of the day, when I talk with my Creator, with God, My Father, I know that I am already forgiven. I don’t have to do anything, except try again tomorrow. The gift of grace has lead to so many other things, joy, peace, and contentment. I have a church family that I wouldn’t be able to survive without. It is a true blessing to call them family. I have a marriage that has been healed and restored. And I have me. The true, raw, 100% version of me that God created. I don’t have to pretend. I don’t have to put on a mask or be fake. I get to be real. And I know no matter what God loves me and accepts me just the way He created me.
Why do people stay in Mormonism even when they don’t believe it? They stay because they want to belong, and they don’t, the Mormon church does a great job at making you feel like you can’t belong with out them. Recently, one of the leaders of the LDS asked, “If you leave the church where will you go?” The answer is simple. Jesus!! Jesus offers everything you need and He is enough. You don’t have to believe the lie that no one will accept you, you won’t be happy, or that there isn’t a God.
I walked away from Mormonism and I did receive backlash from former friends and family at times. Walking away has created a strain on family relationships, friendships, and at times made things difficult for my kids. But I wouldn’t trade any of it for my relationship with Jesus. A picture may be worth 1,000 words but so is an empty picture frame. I’m just a small town girl…living in a Mormon world.