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

Deciding to be Me

It’s cold and rainy outside, and that always puts me in a thoughtful mood. I’ve been thinking for the past few months about how I can be more aware of myself and my needs. Certain situations can make you feel the need to protect yourself from that happening again, and I can feel how I’ve been impacted by my hesitancy to be vulnerable with people again. I’m afraid that I’m going to be hurt and ridiculed for my opinions, and yes, I feel like I’m kind of in a bit of a battle right now. What’s most confusing of all, is I don’t really know what I’m battling. The long hard fight is over, and I know it’s time for healing.

I totally was way too overwhelmed to be an amazing travel documenter, getting over things that had happened and trying to deal with current and future concerns. But I did learn things. I learned that I was right all along, that my obsession with charity was the right way to go. Yeah, I can tell myself all I want to after many of the things that I have faced that it isn’t worth it to be vulnerable with people, because the wrong kind of people always seem to take absolute advantage of you. It’s happened to me every. single. time. And this last time was so hard and damaging to me that 90% of me wants to throw in the towel and give up. It’s not worth it.

But, as I traveled Europe this summer, I couldn’t help it. I fell in love. I fell in love with the people, with the places, with people in history that maybe I had heard their story a little bit differently in the past. Being calloused is hard, especially when it’s so easy to see the beauty in people.

I thought that to protect myself I needed to start being distant (or at least that’s my body’s natural response), but I know it isn’t. I love being overly kind, I love giving everything I can to others. I love that even though I don’t have much to give, I try to give it all. Yes, maybe it makes me seem annoying and like a kiss up, but it’s who I am. When I act like I don’t care, when I’m not constantly thinking about being charitable and how to improve someone else’s day, I am not happy. No, that’s not how I think everyone needs to be, but I’m learning that that is who I am and that’s what I need to do personally to be happy.

I’ve tried being smart, practical, careful and very much catering to other people. I’ve tried to be good with money, frugal with my time, and very organized and clinical in my approach to a lot of things. But it’s not working. It only makes me cry more. I’m trying to fit my very big, very creative and crazy personality into a mold I CANNOT fit into. I somehow think that by being as “normal” as possible, it will hide the pain of my past from people so I won’t get pity. That’s not really working either.

I might not have shared a lot of things about my trip or how it’s changed me, but I don’t think I’ve fully processed or finished what I’m working on inside me. What I do know, is that I’ve been trying to live my life for other people, and it’s drowned me in a world of unhappiness and anxiety. I know I can never please everyone, so I might as well please myself and my Heavenly Father.

❤ Annie

The Truth About Scriptural Distortions

In an article that recently appeared on Facebook, titled The Thing About Getting Offended Mormons Don’t Often Understand (It was originally published on LDSLiving. You can read it here.) I made a comment that I felt was so important, I had to share it here as well. It was in response to many comments made about some members misusing the scriptures and conference talks that reprimanded those who “choose to be offended”. Their intent in this action was clearly to place the blame of their sin on the person who’s feelings that must’ve known they had hurt.

I find it absolutely necessary to make the truth known to everyone. Here is the comment I made:

Looking through a few of the comments, I wanted to make this clear. If anyone is using scripture, such as choosing to be offended, as justification for their actions, they are exercising unrighteous dominion as stated in The Family: A Proclamation to the World. In that proclamation, they were explicitly warned that they would have to face serious consequences for any such infringement on others, whether they were originally given rights over a person (read parent, guardian etc.) in order to provide care for them, or they decided they had rights over a random person. Yes, it can be extremely frustrating at times to deal with people like that, and we certainly don’t need to let them walk all over us, but we still need to exercise a level of control over ourselves. I think when Christ tells us to “turn the other cheek”, He’s not saying to passively take the abuse- He’s telling us to not allow our control over ourselves to be taken from us. He’s telling us to not give them any control over us and to hand the matter of offense over to Him to solve. He only wants to give us peace of mind, not continued hurt. But certainly do NOT let others convince you that it is okay to be terrible and that Heavenly Father has justified them, because He will NEVER justify willful sinning ESPECIALLY (but not limited to) when someone is harming another of His children.

I 113% stand by my words. I wish I could teach all who have had any moments of confusion about this and calm all of their doubts and pain. Please know that the commandments of God were created to make us happy! As my professor here at BYU-Idaho says, “Does it taste like light?” If it does not, I urge you to pray about it. I promise that Heavenly Father is the source of all truth and light, and He will NOT do anything that won’t eventually lead to your ultimate happiness. If ANYONE is continually using the words of God to hurt and belittle you, please seek help from those who love you. This is manipulative and unrighteous dominion! Talk to your Bishop*, a friend, anyone who you know you can trust, and allow yourself to find what will truly make you happy in this life. Pray for guidance as you search, and read the scriptures for direction. You deserve to be surrounded by people who acknowledge and celebrate your divine nature and encourage you to seek (and have! See Utchdorf’s Forget Not to Be Happy Now) true happiness. Heavenly Father loves you and His two deepest wishes and ultimate joys are to see you happy and see you return home to Him.

*Your Bishop is inspired by Heavenly Father to be a righteous judge in Israel. He is there to help you heal, whether it be by your own choices or the choices of another. He should be working closely with the Savior to help you achieve peace. If he is reacts in a way that does not taste like light, such as making you question whether the abuse is indeed real, understand that that is his choice to not fulfill his calling righteously. Not all bishops are like that. In that case, talk to your stake president. Talk to as many leaders in your church as is needed to get help. Remember that when a leader does not fulfill their calling they way they should, it is NOT your fault. they still have your agency. Pray for guidance, and as you work with your righteous church leaders, I can promise that you can find peace. It may be a long road, but all righteous people will find happiness in the end, and even the most arduous journey can be filled with many moments of joy. God loves you. Of all things, never forget that.

~Annie

I Believe in a God of Miracles

I totally believe in miracles, guys. God is so real, and He is such a part of my life. This past year has been an absolute financial nightmare, just from trying to stretch loans and grants to cover school and barely having any food to eat all semester. It’s been a real miracle I’ve gotten where I have, but I am SO blessed, because I’ve made it this far, and I’ve had so many help me along the way.

These past few months, I’ve been praying about going investing in a trip to Europe this summer to further my education as a music major. Not only that, but I would have the opportunity to go to the Paris temple, something that has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember (it’s actually going to be in operation and there is time for it on the trip!!!!). It’s an incredible opportunity that I felt crazy for shooting for. I attended the first few meetings, but I very quickly felt like there was no way I could ever afford such a luxury. However, after speaking with my professors (who all urged me to consider going), and much prayer, I felt inspired to prepare to go. I prayed to Heavenly Father to please help assist me in my efforts if it this trip is really the best thing for me. It’s been hard to feel like a “real” part of the group, and not just a charity case because of my finances, but my professors have been so good, and haven’t thought any less of my efforts.

This past week has been a bombardment of miracles after miracles. I’ve been striving to grow closer to Heavenly Father these past few weeks. As you’ll see later in this post, there were a lot of miracles I have hoped for at this time, some because of righteous desires, some because of need. I wanted to give Sign to my Heavenly Father that I trust Him, so in the thick of my trials, I bore my testimony of miracles. Bearing my testimony was all it took for me to feel a 1000x more confident in the trust I’ve placed in my Father. It was a beautiful start to my week.

I also tried my hand at fasting for the first time in years (I know better, but I really wanted an answer), which resulted in my being sick the entirety of Monday and missing all of my classes (My sweet bishop, when I met with him on Sunday, promised me that a half fast, or a different fast didn’t mean any less to the Lord. So no more fainting for me anymore haha). It made the rest of my week insane, which was mildly discouraging because of my goal to attend the temple this week. But, again, miracles! I was able to do the biggest load of homework ever after days of non-stop studying, and I was actually able to go to the temple and do the work of family names I had found early last semester. It was by far one of the sweetest temple experiences I’ve ever had. Taking your own names always changes the game, but this one was particularly meaningful, and I left with my heart touched and the cares of the world gone from my mind. Also!!! The temple workers are willing to help me complete 200+ male names this Friday! I’m so excited to have their work officially completed!

My temple experiences have been quite lovely, but one of the biggest miracles of my life also happened this week. At the beginning of last week, while pondering my temple worthiness for my temple recommend renewal this month, I realized that I had quite a chunk of tithing I had forgotten to pay from my last job. It wasn’t that I meant to avoid it before, but it hit me a little hard at this time.  It was almost like a punch in the gut. I felt like Heavenly Father was telling me that Europe wasn’t for me. Though it broke my heart, I knew that if it was God’s will, it should be mine as well. I was still concerned about my finances in general, but I never doubted because I know that my Heavenly Father always provides. So, after praying and putting my faith in Him, I paid my tithing.

A few days later, I went to go see my financial aid counselor. I can’t express what happened next. We reviewed my financial aid and my situation, and she told me I should be getting the maximum in financial aid assistance. I was not only to have an increase in support, I was to be compensated for the past year I had spent budgeting insanely. I was blown away. I gave Him what little I had, and He provided me with the hugest financial blessing I’ve ever experienced.

I couldn’t contain myself from crying. I was staggered. I always knew He would bless me, but I had never expected to be blessed like this. To me, He was saying that He approved of and supported my dreams. He provided me with more money that I had hoped to scrape together for my crazy endeavors. I know this blessing came because I gave what I could, and He definitely multiplied it beyond anything I could ever do on my own.

Faith is so important. If I hadn’t had faith in God’s will starting in January, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I wouldn’t have even considered this crazy trip to Europe. I wouldn’t have paid that tithing that stretched my little budget. My testimony would be smaller than it is now.

Every sacrifice I have ever made, small or large, and resulted in a gigantic mound of blessings. I don’t even know when I hesitate on some things anymore. He always, always comes through. Whether through friends willing to feed you breakfast on Saturdays, friends who send you money because they’re crazy and they love you, professors who love and support you and don’t think you’re any less than anyone else, and just the people who listen and care on the daily. Blessings are all around us.

I need you to know that God loves you. He knows your challenges and struggles. He loves you so, so much. He knows your dreams and goals and deepest desires. I know He knows me personally, because He blessed me in a very personal way. He wants to bless you, and He’s waiting for you to ask for His help.  I am so grateful for the way my relationship with Him has impacted my life. I wouldn’t be where I am without His love and endless, unconditional generosity. God is truly good.

And, because of Him, I’m totally going to Europe this summer!!! (and possibly some other beautiful surprises…Heavenly Father is awe-inspiring ❤)

~Annie

Our Trials Do Not Define Us

I have no idea why trials keep bombarding me, but they honestly do. The other day, I was talking to a dear friend about what is going on in my life. I was overwhelmed, scared, and I’m still a little unsure of what I’m supposed to do. I feel like my world has been tipped upside down.

It’s easy to let your problems drown you until you don’t really exist anymore. It’s easy to hide behind them, to make excuses, to play the victim and run away from the world. Trials are some pretty tough cookies. But God is insurmountably tougher. 

I’m exhausted from running from my problems. My sweet friend related her own experience of taking on her trials without letting Heavenly Father help her, and her gentle warnings reminded me that that would only make my trials worse.

One of Satan’s favorite ways to hurt me is by telling me that my trials and problems are a part of who I am, and by extension, I myself cannot progress. I will never be worthy enough to receive God’s love because of how dirty and sinful I am. But what I’m learning more and more is that our trials do not define us. No matter what we go through, we will always be children of God, infinitely loved and forever in his thoughts. He gave up His son so that we could repent. We must not let Satan frustrate that! But it is still so hard in practice.

I’m grateful for the reminders from my Father in Heaven this week. I don’t know where I would be without His love. So many great things are happening in my life, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t feel his those blessings working. I’m so thankful for the peace that His love brings me every day, even if it doesn’t make things any easier.