True Beauty

This might not be the most amazing picture you ever see in your feed, but to me, it is a miracle! Today, for the first time in my whole life, I feel beautiful.

Yesterday was one of the hardest days of my life. I had my first full-blown panic attack in months, in the middle of church no less. I was embarrassed, and ashamed. I was at my lowest, and the darkness seemed to swallow me up. I didn’t know if I could ever be happy again, and I didn’t know if I could ever find my place in the world.

It was so difficult to relapse like that. I’ve been working so hard for so many years to overcome everything, and it felt like I’d just been pushed back to square one. It was devastating.

But all of those feelings of hurt and pain –as intense as they were– were fleeting and brief. At My Darkest Hour, I was not alone. As my soul was weighted with all the pain that I’ve ever felt in my life that I had yet to overcome, I cried out to God. Kneeling in the bathroom stall, I leaned against the wall and repeated over and over “God please hear me, please help me. I can’t heal myself, but I know you can.” It was the longest hour of my life. But I know God heard me. This was what he had wanted, all along. He had been waiting so patiently for me to let him in my heart, in a way I have not been able to in years. And now, his love engulfs me.

God hears us. I know he’s been with me from the beginning, my trusted friend and confidant. How it must have absolutely broken his heart to listen to my cry every night and not be able to take away my pain because I wouldn’t let him, how my Savior must have agonized over the sacrifices he’d made for me that I wouldn’t accept.

The Savior’s atonement is not just for sinners. He can help us carry any burden, and I know without a doubt he has lifted mine. He has placed people into my life to help me, and I’ve struggled very much to let them in. And through it all, they still loved me. I will forever be grateful to my Savior, and I am ELATED to feel beautiful

~Annie

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Joy

God is SO in charge of our lives. If he told me when I was younger that I would be where I am, I don’t know that I would’ve believed such a dream. Not a single part of my life is how I had imagined. The trials I face wear me down in ways I never thought possible, but the way I rise above them and pick myself up is astonishing. The friends I’ve gained, the things I’ve learned, the way my goals and dreams have shifted and changed, it all leaves me amazed.

Every night before I fall asleep, I have to remind myself that everything is real. It really is this hard and confusing and glorious. I really am surrounded by marvelous children of God whom I love and adore, and who love me back. This really is the life I get to live. What a gift I’ve been given!

I’ve fallen in love with so many aspects of life, I’ve learned so much about embracing the crazy and rolling with it. My path is not straight on, but a winding road of unexpected twists and turns that both surprise and delight me. What an absolute joy to have such amazing experiences, to learn beyond what I once knew.

Each new chapter, each new place, each new person- leaves me breathless. I can never predict or pinpoint the amount of joy and pain each will bring to me, or how I will stretch beyond my comprehension. But if I must live in this crazy, upsidedown world, I have concluded, then I must live!

Love, Annie

Alleluia!

This past week has been amazing. I’ve done so many thing that stretched me as a person, and faced many fears. There are lots of things I never thought I’d be able to accomplish, and yet here I am. I’ve at last and finally started the process of facing and recovering from my PTSD, which has all but taken over my life for the past two years. I have had such a difficult time admitting just how much it has affected me, and pridefully, it embarrasses me. I have had to unlearn the art of lying about the extent of my problems, something I am still not good at.

It’s been a painful struggle, and finding my value and worth in the midst of such a trail been has been soul-stretching, to say the least. But throughout it all, I have found the comfort of God. He lead me to the highlight of my life this weekend, when I was blessed to receive my endowments. This is a day I will forever cherish. I felt both prepared, and yet so unprepared.

I had challenged myself to attend the temple every day until then in order to better understand the promptings of the spirit that I might feel. I didn’t want to miss a single thing on my big day. I knew this was a huge step for me, and that God was very proud. What I didn’t know is that that challenge was what would keep me sane. As it always is when making wonderful, righteous decisions, the adversary tries extra hard to hurt us beforehand, as well as after. My personal struggles that I had already been failing at increased beyond everything I thought I could bear.

The temple became my refuge. I needed it so badly every day that I put everything I had into getting there. I barely had the health to walk there, but I knew I had to. While this sounds extreme and crazy, and looking back I honestly don’t understand half of what went on, this was an amazing testimony builder to me. I learned so personally to lean wholly and completely on God. I let go of all of the little things I’d been using to cope before, and God was all I had left.

Sometimes, it’s honestly hard to put everything aside and look to God. Sometimes, I’d rather do anything but, because I’m ashamed, angry, confused, or lost. Sometimes even when I’m happy and content. But I know without a doubt that he makes everything possible. I may not always like who I am without his help, but I sure like the me I’m becoming with his loving guidance.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t say how incredibly in love with life I am. God has turned my storms into something beautiful. After this Friday, I have no more desire to sin. Obviously, though, I’m human and I still do thoughtless, dumb, and clumsy things, but my malice is gone. Maybe not forever, but I’m going to enjoy every minute it is. Love is the answer. God is love. We live in a beautiful and amazing world surrounded by brothers and sisters with so many unique and precious gifts, and we are showered daily in blessings of every kind. I am so grateful to my Savior, Jesus Christ, and to my God and king. With all my heart I wish to shout, “Alleluia!”

Love, Annie

Remembering Who’s Steering

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Today reading my scriptures was tough. It was not something I wanted to do at all. I reluctantly put away all of my musical distractions a few minutes ago, though, and learned something powerful. God is amazing. In Doctrine and Covenants 49:5, God sent Christ into the world for the Redemption of the world. Then it says he received them to be saved. He wants a relationship with us so he can save us, not for his own personal benefit or happiness, but for ours.

It’s wild to me that of the beauty and intricacy in the world could have been created just for us, that someone could love us all so much to provide us selflessly with more than we could ever earn or deserve of our own volition. The only we reason we are entitled to God’s blessing is because of the divinity that he has placed within us, yet another gift. It absolutely blows my mind.

Delving further into my studies, in Doctrine and Covenants 76:25 this is where I really got hit hard. It talks about Satan’s rebellion in heaven against Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. There is a cross-reference to Moses 4:1-3, it says in verse two that Heavenly Father chose Christ from the beginning and it was not Satan’s right to stand up and proclaim that he would be the savior.

Even though there was a council in heaven, we were still children and we weren’t given full power over everything. Just like right now on Earth, we didn’t know everything and we needed to trust in Heavenly Father. Likewise, we did not vote on who we wanted to save us. What choice we did make, what is whether or not we would trust in God’s judgement, or rebel and try to follow our own plan. It wasn’t about whose idea was smarter or better, and it wasn’t between Christ’s plan and Satan’s plan, it was between being valiant and obedient and having trust in God, and being full of pride and believing that you know better. It was less about who performed the ordinances and made the sacrifice, and more about having faith in God.

This applies so perfectly to life on Earth. So often we have a plan that we want to follow, and God has a plan that he wants us to follow. We can choose to follow our own plan, or we can choose to have faith in Heavenly Father and follow his plan. Only one of these will bring us happiness, and only one of these will bring favor to us in the sight of God.

It’s not about the what, it’s about the why. Why won’t we follow God? Why won’t we trust him? Why are we so prideful that we think that we know more than an omnipotent omniscient God? Why do we have such little faith that even after all the Miracles we’ve seen and all the blessings you experienced, every time we’re asked to make a sacrifice to face a trial, we hold back? Why do we stop and ask what am I getting? How big is the sacrifice? How long before I’ll get my blessings? When can I prove to the world that I’m still smart, cool, and acceptable? God’s plan has never and will never be convenient, or popular.

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Reading my scriptures today was not convenient. I didn’t have a great attitude, and mostly I just wanted to reach my time limit and move on to something else. It wasn’t until I swallowed my pride and made something of my efforts that I realized how much the uninteresting scriptures I was studying really had to offer. And then? Time flew and I felt like I learned something important. It’s really easy to push God aside. Church isn’t convenient, repentance isn’t convenient. Going out of our way to serve and love, is sometimes exactly what we don’t want to do, and it takes everything we have to not push God away. It’s hard. It’s the furthest thing from easy. But we don’t want to do what’s easy! We want to be happy.

And we can do that by following God’s plan of happiness.

Love, Annie

More Than Our Trials

Today was definitely interesting. Last night when I thought all was well, I got hit with a bill I never expected and that’s way out of my ability to pay. I ended a great day crying and I kind of wanted to give up. I couldn’t attend my classes this morning because of fainting issues, and I ended up being late to a very important rehearsal. I’m struggling a lot in my classes with being able to sing with confidence on my own and it’s stressing me out. High notes make me crazy shy and I tend to hold them in and make everything sound awful. It’s so frustrating because it’s a really bad habit and impulse that I don’t really know how to control. It’s self-sabotage that I just can’t seem to turn off. It really sucks, especially because I’m in a trio and they’re counting on me to deliver.

I was seriously going to just go cry about my failure in a dark corner somewhere on campus when I felt like I really needed to get lunch in the MC, which has started to become a regular feeling. Randomly, I ran into three people that used to be in the same ward as me. I had no idea that any of them were here, and it was super exciting. I guess it was a reminder to me that Heavenly Father knows what he’s doing, that I have the people in my life that I do for a reason, and wallowing in misery never changes anything for the better.

Positive thinking can be a really irritating concept, honestly. How in the heck am I supposed to deal with life and be positive?? And yet, somehow we’re figuring it out. I feel so lacking when it comes to a lot of things, and Heavenly Father constantly proves me wrong, whether I admit it or not. I’m grateful that he has enough confidence in me to push me so much, but I sure wish he’d calm down a little more with the whole trusting thing.

My struggle with singing hasn’t yet ended, but on a good note, Monday I performed the best I ever have in my life. Now I suppose everyone will be expecting that level of performance always (ugh, why me? 😣), but I don’t think my success was really for anyone else but me. Heavenly Father loves and encourages us, and I have never felt so encouraged before. For the first time in about a decade, I could actually picture an opera career for real. More often than not, it feels like a vain yet impossible hope, and that my talents are all in my head. So many people have so much faith in me, though, and I pray I won’t let them down.

What in the world is this jumble of trials and joys supposed to mean to you? God has a plan, and it’s happening whether we choose to be aware of it or not. We can work with or against the Lord, but we cannot stop, slow, or change his plan. I hope one day to be like Nephi when he said,

“I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” (1 Nephi 3:7)

I’m grateful for the many beautiful blessings, but even today in the midst of everything, I am grateful for my trials. I’m grateful for the knowledge that I have of my Father in Heaven and my Savior Jesus Christ’s love for me, and I’m grateful for the opportunity I have in this life to learn and grow, and to know that I am more than my mistakes.

Where Am I Going?

Look look loooookkkk! I finally made my own quote pictures after years of stealing others’ work!! I’m so proud of it, and it only took procrastinating an exam I should be taking now to make it haha.

This is my thought for the week, and something I ponder more than a few times each day. As a society, we are a little obsessed with this concept. We ask “will this endeavor be successful? Will I gain fame and praise from it? Will it be worth my efforts, and what can I get out of it?” Rarely I think do we stop looking at what we’ll receive and take any time to think about what or who we’re giving to. Giving kind of isn’t in the equation at all. But I believe it is in by examining our giving habits that we will find out where we are going. Who are we giving the majority of our time to? Who are we thinking about when we do things? Is it mostly just ourselves, the world, or those we love? And what do we expect in return from that giving? Are we giving in a sense as a business contract, or are we doing it out of kindness and love?

So often I have to stop what I’m doing and check myself. With the business of college life, I often have to consider the balance I’m giving to my classes. Did I practice today? Did I even bother to look at a piano in the past 48 hours? Am I spending any time at all with my roommates? Do I remind them often enough that I love them for them to know that? I have to quickly go through my long checklist, carefully avoiding missing my scripture reading or prayers while still walking out of my apartment with all of my materials.

That’s a lot of crazy details, but what I’m saying is, life is hard. It’s not as simple as fixing a spelling error or erasing a minor mistake to alter the way we think and act. We’ve been doing many things for years and years. Certainly no one flip flops from being unconscious to completely conscious of their actions in one day. I know I never could.

But, I would like to throw out the words of President Hinckley, “Try a little harder to do a little better” for as the scriptures say, “But behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.” Alma 37:6 I don’t know about you, but bite sized pieces are a walk in the park compared to giant goals that I frequently make and never actually complete.

So, as I ponder this question “Where are your footsteps taking you?” this week, I hope to remind myself what I am here on this earth to achieve. I hope your answer, as well as mine, is to come closer to my Savior and learn to be as he is. What greater or grander goal could I ever make? And perhaps through little changes here and there in the many wonderful things we already do, we will one day see that goal fulfilled.

The Answer to Every Difficulty

The months have just flown by. Nothing in my life at this point is as I had ever imagined it. I wake up every morning wondering where in the world things are going, and how I’ll get there. It seems as though I’m not at the helm in my life, but rather a passenger, watching silently as events unfold. I used to think I could captain my ship anyway I pleased and there would be no stopping me, but the longer I live my life, the more I find the concept of control to be completely illogical. I’ve learned that I don’t really want to be the captain, anyway. It’s an overrated job, in my opinion. Enjoying the ride, seeing the beauty of the world around me, and letting myself be free from obsessive worries is a far cry better than anything I had anticipated. And, in any case, Christ knows exactly where we’re headed. Whether or not I’m aware of that destination makes no difference. He knows me, and he knows exactly how to get me there without causing me to radically change myself.

And, on that note, I’ve also come to a brilliant conclusion. Perfection is actually a lot closer to us than we think. No, it’s not in eradicating every ounce of us that we find distasteful. It’s by fully embracing who we are, acknowledging our divine nature, and allowing God to help us forsake our sins. Not by changing our desires or needs, but by redirecting them. Every sin we commit is a counterfeit for something good we instinctively know we are missing. Because we don’t know how to obtain that good thing, we accept whatever way will remove the pain and discomfort as quickly as possible. Sin is rooted in ignorance. It stems from a good and righteous desire, and comes when we don’t know what source to look to. In the Book of Mormon it says,

“And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” 2nd Nephi 25:26

This morning while pondering, it hit me square in the nose. That’s the whole point of the gospel! It’s not to change who we are, but how we are. When we start with the how and change our actions, the who inevitably will follow. It’s my own personal discovery that I’ve been looking in the wrong places for the right things. No one wakes up in the morning and thinks “I want to do ___ and ___ wrong, I think that will make me happy.” No, because if we know it’s wrong, we know it won’t truly make us happy. We’re all looking for what’s right to help lead and guide us, but not all of us know where to look. That’s where the gospel comes in. It’s the sweet, simple answer to all of life’s problems. We need to look to Christ. He is and will always be the one and only right answer to all of our needs. As in the popular Christmas song “O Holy Night”, “He knows our needs, to our weakness is no stranger”.

I’m a little reluctant to say after a whole lifetime of church and hearing that song and reading that scripture, it’s taken me this long for that light bulb to go off in my head and in my heart. I’ve felt so lost, and yet the answer was right in front of me. What joy this brings my heart and soul to know that I’ve known the truth all along! What a beautiful message to understand at this time in my life when so much is so difficult. My soul is filled with peace, knowing that even though I don’t know everything, I know enough. I know enough to lean on my Savior, to live life happily, and to share that happiness with all around me. Life is complicated, messy, and sometimes way too over my head, but I know in my heart that there is beauty all around. Oh, what joy this sentence gives: I know that my Redeemer lives!