A couple of weeks ago, I was part of a conversation where the question was asked, “Why did God create us if we weren’t destined for something greater? We go to Heaven and that’s it? We’re done? What do we do for Eternity?” I was surprised by the question and sad for the person who asked it.
“Heaven is the dwelling place of God and the saints who are ultimately saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone” (CARM.org). In my mind, Heaven is the ultimate reward. Heaven is where we will be with our Creator and be in continuous worship and fellowship with Him and other believers. “We go to Heaven and that’s it?” What more could there be? The stress and pain of this world is gone. You’re filled with love and joy and in continuous worship. I struggle to understand why that isn’t enough.
Last weekend I had the opportunity of spending the weekend at a ladies retreat for church. We spent the weekend focused on Jesus, learning about discipleship, and in continuous worship. It was a stress-free weekend. Filled with fun, great food, and a focus on God and what He wants for our lives. I don’t think we can ever understand or comprehend what Heaven will be like. But if there is anything similar to what Heaven will be like here on Earth, I think it is things like the ladies retreat I attended. I think spending time in community with others where the focus is on Christ.
We attend an amazing church in our little community. Because we live in a rural area with several smaller towns, we have people from all over the valley who travel to our little church. When Brian and I first heard about this church we were honestly, a little leery. A church community. People who spent their time together. Not just on Sunday, but people who did life together. We were concerned because we didn’t want to spend that much time doing “churchy stuff”. It’s amazing how our perspective has changed over the years.
Brain and I had attended a few different churches in our short Christian walk, but when we started attending our current church, everything changed. As leery as we were to be so involved with all that “churchy stuff”, it was exactly what we were looking for. For the first time in our lives we began to grow in God’s word. We began to understand why we believed what we believed and we began to become who God created us to be. That “churchy stuff” that we didn’t want was just living life with fellow believers. It was fellowship, worship, honoring God in our daily lives and making Him the center.
People think that worship is bowing down or raising your hands in praise. But in reality, worship is showing love, honor, respect, and praise, to what is important to you. As a Christian one of the greatest ways to worship God is to be in fellowship with other believers.
I really think that Heaven is going to be an awesome time of worship. It will be better than anything I can fathom. It is being in constant fellowship and worship with God without the distraction of life and the stressors we experience as human beings. “Why did God create us if we weren’t destined for something greater? We go to Heaven and that’s it? We’re done? What do we do for Eternity?” Why did God create us if we weren’t destined for something greater?” I can’t imagine anything greater than being in eternal fellowship and worship with my Creator. We go to Heaven and that’s it? We’re done? We’re done with the challenges, we’re done with the stress. We get to live in peace and contentment. Isn’t that what people are searching for in this life. Chasing the dream of contentment and happiness, only to be disappointed by the next stressor that life throws at you. So, I guess yeah, in my view, that’s it… we’re done. What do we do for eternity? I think we live in worship and fellowship with our God and fellow believers for eternity. I can’t imagine a greater way to experience Heaven.
I’m just a Small Town Girl…Living in a world of worship.
I thought long and hard about not blogging this week. I feel like the past few months I have been struggling in every aspect of my life. I know when you are doing the things that God wants you to do the enemy will do whatever he can to stop you. But even when I talked to Brian about my blog this week we both agreed a break from it for a week would be good. God had a different plan.
I have been feeling that I need to write a blog about my purpose for writing my blog and the process. Events that happened this week made this more clear and when I woke up this morning God made it clear to me that I would be writing a blog today and I would be defining my purpose.
My original intent and purpose for this blog was to write about my journey out of Mormonism. I feel like my story of how God showed Himself to me and saved my from my chaotic life is amazing. The things I have learned about the lies and untruths I learned growing up in the Mormon faith are things I want to expose and I don’t want people to have to go through the same struggles I had.
I also have a handful of friends who are either agnostic or atheist. Some of them because of walking away from Mormonism and some of them because of other life experiences. I also want these friends to see what God is doing in my life and that I trust my God completely.
When I write my blog I never really know what words God is going to give me. I don’t ever know what direction my blog is going to take until I sit down and begin typing. Sometimes things will come up during the week and I will hold on to those thoughts and that is what I write about. Other times, I will hold on to those thoughts and God gives me a completely different direction.
This week I had a conversation with a friend who expressed concern about some of the things I write in my blog and that it isn’t private. My blog isn’t anonymous. My name is listed in my contact information. I have a Facebook page. The things I put in my blog are out there for the world to see. When I began writing I didn’t take this lightly. I thought about this a lot. I considered writing anonymously. I thought about my profession and the clientele I work with and I know that the information I put in my blog is out there for the world to see and can be used to hurt me. My response to this friend was “I trust my God”.
What’s interesting is after I left that conversation I thought about the struggles I have been having since I began writing. I know that I am being attacked on a spiritual level and the devil is fighting hard to get me to stop writing. I know God is reaching people through my blog. I am doing what God wants me to do. I had to stop and think… am I really trusting my God?
I realized I have been trying to fight a battle that I was never meant to fight. I was trying to be strong and hold it all together. When that isn’t what I was supposed to be doing. I was trying to fight back against forces I am not equipped to fight back against. I wasn’t trusting my God. I was trusting that I could do it. At the point I was so overwhelmed and frustrated the song Just Be Held by Casting Crowns came on. I’ve heard it before but the lyrics just washed over me. I shared it on my blog that day. Some of the lyrics that hit me:
And when you’re tired of fighting
Chained by your control
There’s freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go
So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your worlds not falling apart, its falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held
If your eyes are on the storm
You’ll wonder if I love you still
But if your eyes are on the cross
You’ll know I always have and I always will
And not a tear is wasted
In time, you’ll understand
I’m painting beauty with the ashes
Your life is in My hands
I needed to surrender everything to God and really trust that He was going to take care of me. I really loved the words “Your worlds not falling apart, its falling into place. I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held”. I’m also listening to a Bible study on my commute to work and the day after I had this little revelation, the devotion talked about really having faith and trusting God. My God is a God of miracles. I have experienced those miracles. I know He will take care of me. It asks if there are things I have in my life that I don’t think will ever change and if there are mountains in my life that I don’t have for God to move. There are. There are things I haven’t turned over to God. There are things I haven’t been willing to trust Him with.
It was amazing how my perspective changed after I realized how much I was holding on to and trying to control. I appreciate the conversation I had with my friend because it brought so much perspective into so many things. I do trust my God. I have been called to share my story. I trust that through everything He will take care of me.
There are a few things that are consistent no matter what I write about. The first one, I never reread what I have written. I have always been this way. I am pretty self-critical and when it comes to my blog I want it to be what God has directed me to write. So I type it up and trust that it is what God wants me to write. I may reread parts of it, if there is something I need to fix but, for the most part, it is what it is. The other things I do, I always pray throughout the week and especially as I write that I am putting down what God wants me to put down. And when Brian proof reads it I always ask if it flows and makes sense and does it glorify God? And then, I silently pray again before I publish it.
I don’t write my blog to be malicious. I don’t hate Mormons or any other faiths. I don’t write because I want to get back at people or I want to hurt my family. I don’t get paid for my blog. I don’t know who reads or follows my blog. I want to use my story, my life, my experiences to help others make a difference in theirs. I want my Mormon friends to see they don’t have to live in a works based system. God has something more for them. I want my friends who don’t believe in God to know through my life and experiences that there is a God. To me, God is so real it baffles me that others don’t know Him. My sole purpose is to do what God has asked me to do.
I never thought writing a blog would be something I would do or enjoy. I never thought I would connect with people in the way that I have. It’s been amazing to me how therapeutic writing a blog has been for me. One of my favorite quotes is “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy– the experiences that make us most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light” Brene Brown.
I am working on owning my story. It’s a lot easier to “be brave” and “face the darkness” when I have the Creator of the Universe on my side. Today, I am prepared. I have turned it all over to God. I keep thinking of the words form the song Oceans by Hillsong that say:
“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior”
Today I can say, God take me deeper, make me stronger, I want to go where my trust has no borders. Today, I know He is in control. Today, I know he can move my impossible mountains.
I’m just a small town girl… called by God to write a blog.
When I was a Mormon, life was life. I went through every day with out much of a thought about God or what impact He had on my every day life. When I was in high school, I would get up and go to school, practice for whatever sport I was doing at the time, and then come home. When I had a bad day or things went wrong any thoughts toward God were never positive. If I had a really bad day then I felt God was punishing me for not being good enough and I needed to try harder.
Growing up we would sometimes have family prayer. When we were all together we would pray for the food. Sunday is the day I would generally spend time really thinking about God. I did have seminary every day in high school, so I guess for that hour I would think about God. Generally, it was a passing thought. God wasn’t the focus in my life. I though people who listened to Christian music and talked about God all the time were weird. If you had told me even 10 years ago that I have more Christian music downloaded than any other, or that I spend most of my time outside of work focused on what God wants me to do, I would have never believed you.
I used to think that my religious beliefs were a private matter and people didn’t need to know what I believed. Most of what I did to worship God was done behind closed doors. It wasn’t part of my everyday conversations and God didn’t cross my thoughts throughout the day. When things went wrong in my life, I thought it was because I wasn’t trying hard enough and I would try harder in those times to read my scriptures and pray more. But it was all on the surface. My heart was never in the right place. The intention behind my actions was all because I was supposed to be doing those things. I was doing what the church leaders told me to, believing that some how they were more spiritual than me. They had a greater connection to My Savior than I did. This was another one of the misconceptions of Mormonism.
As I have grown in my Christian walk, God is ever present in my day. There are many times in my day when I will stop and think “Thanks, God, I know that was you”. It could be for the smallest thing or the biggest thing. It doesn’t really matter. I see God’s hand in every piece of my life.
This week was a really difficult week for me. I’m not sure why but I have been overly emotional all week. Monday was a holiday and Brian and I took the kids out to a movie and dinner. It was a fun time I love being with my kids, Monday was a good day. Tuesday was an average day. I went to work. I love my job but there are some things there that are a daily struggle and I know that I am supposed to be learning something from the experience, I’m not enjoying the lesson. Wednesday the weather was awful, I have a 4o minute commute each way to work and I knew about 10 minutes in I should just stay home. But I didn’t. I was late for work and when I finally got there, got my car stuck in the parking lot. I was told many ways to get it out, how to drive my car, and that I need to get new tires. As I have written many times I don’t like to be told what to do. (I felt a little vindicated later when other people who were telling me how to drive and what to do also got stuck in the parking lot). I arranged things so I could head for home at noon; and hour and 20 minutes later they closed the building I work in for the day. It was a very stressful and irritating day for me. When I got home I took a nap.
I pulled myself together enough to go out in the community and work with the clients I was assigned for the day. I got back to the office and realized I had lost my ID badge. I did exactly what I was told and went and told the person I was supposed to. I was told I needed to go back out in the community an find it. I was told the information on the badge could be used to steal my identity. I completely broke down. I lost it. At this time it was 1:00 in the afternoon and I hadn’t had lunch. I wanted to leave but my daughter had my car. I went into the bathroom and cried. I was done with everything. I was so glad it was Friday and was wishing it was 5:00 so I could go home.
In that moment I finally stopped and said a quick prayer. I started working on turning everything over to God instead of controlling the situation. I again pulled myself together, ate lunch, retraced a few of my steps and found my badge. I was able to get through the rest of the day with out tears, and had a long talk with Brian and then God on the way home.
Thursday was a regular day but bitter cold as it has been the last few weeks. It was so cold here Thursday and Friday most of the schools in the area were closed. Friday was the climax of my horrible week. My son left to go back to college 9 hours away, I took my daughter back to her college dorm in the city where I work. I got to work feeling a bit emotional already saying goodbye to my college kids. There were things that happened at work that day that added to my emotional state and I cried all day. I pulled myself together enough to say a quick prayer.
My conversation with God was please give me strength, courage, be with me as I go through this. Not once did I ask God to fix it or take it away. In my Mormon life, I lived my life to please myself and only involved God when it was convenient. When things went wrong God became the excuse; I would think I wasn’t doing enough to please Him. When life was going OK God was generally an after thought.
As a Christian, I can see God in my everyday life. I am a strong believer in the statement, “Everything happens for a reason”. I know God has a plan for my life. I know every struggle, every roadblock, every heartache, God will take and use for my benefit and His. I’m still struggling with the emotional stress at work . But God knows what I need and He will open doors. He already brought my sister in Christ to work in the same building. I am so grateful that I can go talk to her and have her say a quick prayer for me. Or I can eat my lunch with her and we can talk about God. I love her and I love that God knew I was going to need her, long before I ever did.
Romans 8:28 says God works all things together for the good of those who love Him. Later in the same chapter in Romans 8:37 (NIV) it says we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. I love that because not only will God work all the struggles I had this week out to benefit me but I will do more than conquer. I will be victorious. In the NLT version Romans 8:37 says “No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us”. What a great promise “overwhelming victory, more than conquerors”. If you commit your life to Christ and are living for Him you are going not only win but you’re going to blow away the competition.
I think my whole point this week is that I became so caught up in my emotions, my struggles, my problems, that I forgot who is looking out for me. I forgot to stop and focus on God and what it means to be His child. I forgot who I gave my heart to and that He wants more than anything to protect me and keep me safe. I fell back in to some of my Pre-Chrisitian beliefs and was focused on me and what I could to do fix things not on God and what his goal and purpose is for all of this. It makes things a little easier knowing at the end I will be “dancing in the end zone”.
I’m just a small town girl… living in God’s world.
One of my most favorite songs click the link and watch the video.
The holidays are always a difficult time for me. I struggle with wanting to spend time with my family and knowing that being around my family only makes me irritable and depressed. Thanksgiving was just that, we time spent with my family and when I left I spent at least an hour after I got home having to de-stress.
Growing up Mormon, I was taught family is everything. It is the end goal of life. It is the reason to live. It is the point of salvation. Mormons teach, family’s can be together forever. They believe that if you are good enough and do enough to make it to Heaven, and your family does the same, you can all be in Heaven together.
As a Christian this was one the of the hardest things for me to reconcile. It was hard for me to let go of. I love my family and although we don’t get along all of the time, and some of them drive me absolutely crazy, they are my family. But the reason I have a difficult time is because of the man God put in my life. How could God put someone like Brian in my life and not let me be with him in the next life. I want to be married to him forever! I know for some that may be a crazy thought but Brian and I have been married for over 22 years. We have been a couple for over 24 and best friends for over 25. That’s more than half our lives!! I really don’t know what I would do without him. He is my rock. I also want to know I will be able to be with my kids forever. So this promise the Mormon’s make, of forever families, is hard to let go of.
We spent Thanksgiving day with my family. One of the first things I did was walk into the living room. I had to make sure the picture frame was still empty, because like I’ve said before, this is the real picture of my family. As we spent the day eating and playing games there was, as always, a heaviness in my heart. I want my family to know Christ like I do. I want them to experience the freedom that comes with the knowledge and understanding of true grace. As I sat there and watched, I could see the sadness, the depression in my sisters and sister-in-law’s eyes. It’s exhausting to try and be enough. It’s hard to try and fit into the cookie cutter mold of what you are supposed to be when you are created for so much more! I wouldn’t say they aren’t happy, they have moments of happiness, but they are lacking joy and freedom. They aren’t able to be who God has created them to be. It’s so hard when you know just one small change in their mindset would truly set them free.
One of the hardest things I struggle with is the fun times we always had as a family growing up and the fun times my kids have when they get together with their cousins. We have such fun family traditions and fun things we do together. One of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions is our family Turkey Bowl. The whole family gets together and plays a game of flag football. We have a family of athletes many of the kids have played sports in high school and all of my siblings played sports in high school. So it is a fun event. It’s also common in the summer time for my family to get a game of basketball going on the cement slab in the back yard, or a game of “ennie inne over head”, a game where you have 2 teams, one on each side of the house. One team throws a Nerf football over the house and if the other team catches it they run around to the other side and try to hit as many people on the other team with the football as they can. It’s a fun game we have played ever since I can remember. We have played tennis together and an endless number of board games and card games. We are a competitive family, but always have a good time. We know how to celebrate a win but have also learned how to lose.
We also know how to eat, and no one ever goes hungry when we are together. We come from a family of good cooks, there is always something cooking or something that just came out of the oven. Never say you are hungry around my family because they will offer to make you something to eat, even when the kitchen counter is full of food. It’s been fun to watch my kids grow up with many of the same traditions. I love that they get to spend time with their cousins and have good friendships with them.
This is what makes the family struggle, so hard. There is a part of me that thinks, at times, it would be easier to just go back to being a Mormon because maybe there wouldn’t be the tension that now exists in my family. But then I look at my life and I know there is no way I could ever go back to the struggle of having to be, “good enough”. Wondering and doubting myself. Trying to fit into a cookie cutter that I was never created to fit into.
The hard part about the forever family in Mormonism, is that there is no way to determine if you’ve done enough. And even if you manage to do enough, that’s only you. How do you have a forever family if you allhave to do enough?
When I first became a Christian one of the songs I fell in love with was Audio Adrenalin’sBig House. I love it. I describes what I think Heaven will be like. It is what I imagine a forever family to be. The chorus says:
“It’s a big big house
With lots and lots a room
A big big table
With lots and lots of food
A big big yard
Where we can play football
A big big house
It’s my Father’s house”
How can you not love that! I think that sounds just like my family. I love the thought of a good game of football and Jesus is the quarterback. Or us sitting around a big table full of the most delicious food you can imagine sharing a meal with Jesus. Being in Heaven and spending time doing the things we enjoy as a family, but all in worship! I don’t know if that’s what Heaven will really be like, but I think it would be amazing.
As I’ve grown in my Christian walk, I have realized one of the biggest differences between Mormonism and Christianity is, the focus. Mormons focus so much on the effort of man and man made things they forget about God. The difference between Heaven in Mormonism verses Christianity is, in Mormonism you continue to learn and work and try to gain your way to the different levels of heaven, even after death. In Christianity, Heaven is continuous worship of God. You are in Heaven to worship God, there is no more.
I also know, as I have grown in my Christian walk, the only way to be with my family forever is through grace. I will never be good enough on my own, neither will Brian, my kids, or my family. So accepting God’s grace, though the sacrifice of Christ, and teaching my kids and family about grace, that is the only way to be with family forever.
I know I have no control over the future. I have no control over whether or not my family ever accepts grace and truly comes to Christ. But I trust my God. I know he has a plan for my life and he has a plan for my kids and my family. I know that if I keep my focus on God, he will direct me in everything I do, and that’s all I can do. I know most days I’m not the greatest example to my family. I avoid them because I have a hard time with the negativity and the stress when I am around them. But I hope and pray, that someday they will see the difference Christ has made in my life and they will have a desire to at least explore what made that difference.
I’m just a small town girl…. living in a world of grace.
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.
One of my favorite quotes states “The essences of a lie isn’t the words you choose but the intent behind it.” Unknown. I feel like this can be applied to many things in life. What is your intent behind the things you do?
Growing up in my small town Mormon world, I was always asked, reminded, and told, to “make the right choices” and “what will people think”. Of course there were always different variations of those statements. But my motivation and intention in life was to live according to LDS standards and because my dad was a prominent member of the community, I had to always be aware that people were watching and judging what I did.
I was very good at playing the role, putting on the mask, and saying the right things. I would complain and whine about having to go to church on Sunday, for all 3 hours. I would try to find excuses not to go to mutual or any of the other church activities they would have. It wasn’t very often that I was able to get out of it. And so, I would show up, I would put on the face, and go through the motions. All the while, the intent behind my actions was because, I had to.
I feel like this is a common practice in the Mormon church. They often talk about service and doing things for others. They boast about the service they do. Yet the service that is done, is often out of requirement to earn their position in Heaven, and not out of a desire to worship God.
When Brian and I had our first born and I was in the hospital, the Relief Society President showed up, unexpectedly. We had lived in the ward for several months but we hadn’t been to church yet. She decided showing up at the hospital was a good time to stop by and introduce herself to me. I had no clue who she was. My labor was long and difficult and I wasn’t up for meeting new people. I don’t believe she was there for me. She was there to check the box off of her list, “did her good deed for the day”, “met her obligation as Relief Society President”. Needless to say, I don’t remember her name, what she looked like, or even what we talked about. I’m not sure if I even ever saw her again. We lived in the same ward for about 2 years. We were still living there when we had our 2nd child. Did she come to meet with me out of true care and concern for me as a human being that she wanted to get to know, or out of obligation to her role in her church? I believe it was completely out of obligation.
Sadly, this was a very common theme in my adult experience as Mormon. Wherever Brian and I lived, it was common for us to have a knock on the door and there would be our home or visiting teachers. They would come in for their brief visit and then they were gone again until next month. We were always welcoming and friendly. Sometimes they would bring cookies or little gifts and I was always kind. We would let them share their messages and never argued or contradicted their teachings.
When we moved back to our home town, things were a little different. By this time we had started attending a Christian Church. We weren’t outspoken about our Christian faith but we weren’t open to Mormonism at all, and weren’t willing to have that discussion. We were what is considered an “inactive” Mormon. We were still on the list, so the check mark still had to be made. We still had to have visiting teachers and home teachers, but because we were going to a different church, the rules must have been a little different. At this point our son was starting be involved in community sports because of this we were more involved in the community than we had been in other places that we lived.Every month at a game or practice the same guy would come up and talk to us. Ask us about the family how things were going. We would engage him in conversation for a few minutes and then he would go back to his side of the field and go back to his life. It didn’t take long to figure out he was our home teacher and this was his way of being able to check the box off the list. “Did you meet with the Johnson’s this month?”
One of our neighbors, was a guy I went to high school with and I soon realized his wife was one of my visiting teachers. Every month at the beginning of the month she would stop by for some reason or another. She stopped by with a catalog of something she was selling. She stopped by with cookies. She would stop by just to say hi. But it was never to get to know me. It was never to see if I needed anything. What was her intent? To check that off her to do list.
When this neighbor moved, every month I started getting a letter in the mail with no return address that had the visiting teaching message for the month in it. And I guess that counted as the check mark too. Because at least they were sending me the message. This was more insulting to me than than anything else. I would have preferred someone to say, “Hey, I’m your visiting teacher and I know you’re not Mormon anymore but can I stop by once a month and say hi to you so I can do my calling?”
Another great example is when I had my youngest daughter, I was very sick and she was born 2 months early. I was in the hospital 40 minutes away from home. At this point, Brian and I had not been attending the Mormon church for 3 years. Due to the problems I was having, they kept me on the surgical floor for 3 days and I don’t remember much during that time. They had finally moved me up to the maternity ward and I was starting to feel better and become more stable. One day, I was sitting in the bed, in my hospital gown, I hadn’t been able to shower for several days, and I was pumping some breast milk. I had a double breast pump and in walk the whole bishopric from our ward. I of course looked horrified. We had never been to church. I only knew them from my childhood. I’m still not sure why they were there. I don’t remember much about the conversation. I was focused on making sure my blankets stayed up so I didn’t reveal myself to these men that I only knew from when I was a kid. It still mortifies me to think about. Why did they drive 40 minutes without calling to see if it would be OK if they stopped in? I don’t believe there was any intent to worship or connect with Brian and I out of true care and concern. I believe it was to,check the box.
Since becoming Christian and finding our home church, I have learned a lot about service and the intent behind what you do. When we started attending Journey Church, I was just finishing my bachelors degree. I started my Masters program shortly after, which was only a 1 year program. When I was done I need to come up with $300.00 to take my licensure exam. My church family organized a fund raiser to help me pay for my exam. I was blown away. They raised enough money for my exam and gas to drive to Utah where the testing center was. I felt so unworthy of such a blessing. What was their intent? To be of service and worship God by helping others. There was no box to check off.
The other thing that changed in the aspect of worship as a Christian at our home church is, when people talked to us and interacted with us, it was authentic and genuine. We have friends who reach out to us during the week and we also reach out to them. We know their struggles and they know ours. We have people we pray with and read the Bible with and truly share our lives with. This is the truest form of worship. Not who we are on Sunday or at a church activity, but who we are in our daily lives and our willingness to accept and connect with people regardless of where they are at.
I have seen my church family come together and build a tree house, paint a house, bring meals to families, and to raise money for medical needs. We have come together for weddings and funerals, for Sunday service, and Bible study. The intent of coming together at these times isn’t out of obligation to earn our salvation. It isn’t to make sure we are trying hard enough or doing enough. It is completely, 100%, because we have a desire to worship our God!
The most telling part, to me, of the intent behind the actions of the Mormon church, at least here in this small town, is… When the ward bishop came to us and told us we needed to remove our records or face disciplinary action. When I was in grad school, the ward bishop approached Brian and I about removing our records, honestly I was a little surprised. I was unsure why he felt it necessary for that to happen. I had thought about it, but never felt it was that big of a deal. I didn’t care what they did with the paperwork they had on me. Brian and I spoke with our pastor about it, and he advised us that removing our records would be the right thing to do. Just a way of “playing nice”. It would create less struggle and problems for us and our kids since we planned to continue living in the community. The bishop came to our house several times to ask us about this. He had never spoke to us ever. But for some reason it seemed like it was his personal mission to make sure we had our records removed on his watch as bishop. The bishop told us, “You’ll still be part of the community, you’ll still be invited to do things with the ward”.
We of course removed our records, not out of fear of disciplinary action, but because we felt it was the right thing to do. Just a few weeks before his time as bishop was completed, he stopped by to verify when he would have our letter. We turned it over just a week before he completed his calling. When I asked Mormon friends why he would do this, the only answer I have gotten is that for some reason he feels some sort of obligation for our salvation. Since then, many people from the ward who would at least say hi to us won’t even acknowledge us. And that bishop won’t even make eye contact. The motivation and intent behind doing any thing in Mormonism is because they have to do it, not because they want to. It’s all about making sure they are trying hard enough and has nothing to do with God.
I’m just a small town girl… living in a checkbox world.