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

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

My Take on Missionary Stranded at Bryce Canyon

While browsing Facebook this week, I couldn’t help but notice the story about a missionary who was left stranded in Bryce Canyon. Originally shared and posted by LDS Living, it has sparked extreme controversy. That article was taken down within a few days of being public. Today they posted a sort of apology in light of the arguments that stemmed from it (You can read that article here).

Doing a quick google search of “Bryce Canyon missionary”, I found three articles on the topic, one of which has since been removed. One is an LDS website (though not run or sponsored directly by the church), and one is not. I’m actually delighted with this diversity, because we can address many issues and viewpoints.

I read the first article the day it came out. I actually really appreciated the format in which it was shared, considering the source. I loved that there was a positive focus on how the son overcame the trial and how the grandparents took the higher road and were loving and understanding. I felt that they weren’t necessarily brushing aside the fact that he was abandoned by his mother, but that they were more focusing on how it was overcome.

I also think that we must be careful about condemning others in a public setting. If you’ve read any other posts on my blog (particularly Why I Left) you’d understand that I came from a situation of parental abuse and knee-jerk reactions, where one was expected to keep up appearances at the expense of personal well-being and true happiness. So, I want you to know that in nowise do I agree with the mother’s behavior. I am and always will be quick to condemn detrimental behavior. However, in times like these, where our words can do nothing to solve the situation because we are not of immediate access, we should apply a very wise words of the Savior “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” John 8:7

Looking back at the apology from LDS Living, you can easily see that this principle of refraining from judgement and condemnation was not practiced at all. It is one thing to bring to light the darkness in other people’s actions, and lovingly desire to help them return to the light through healing and love, and it is another to publicly crucify, humiliate, and utterly condemn someone for their actions, especially when you 1) aren’t the victim 2) you are not in a situation to lay down the law 3) You are not treating this woman as a daughter of God, and that is one of the most important commandments that we are given.

I completely and totally advocate against this mother’s behavior. Not because I think she is an absolute monster for what she did, but because I personally believe that this was not the most loving thing to do. Crises of faith should not be treated as a disease or something to be completely shocked or horrified by. There is such a stigma surrounding doubts. They are natural; they happen all the time, to all of us. Rather than having a knee-jerk reaction and abandoning the “problem”, I believe you should face it head on. You shouldn’t treat your child, spouse, family member, or friend like a leper simply because they aren’t on the same level of assurance as you are on now. In fact, most members who have had doubts leave simply because of the negativity everyone gave them for having natural human fallacies. They feel condemned, and their is some kind of ultimatum placed on them. Essentially, if they don’t come around to seeing things as we do now, they will forever be beneath us. No one likes feeling that we, and we need to stop making this church such a difficult environment for those who are struggling. Certainly, we should encourage them to not abandon their faith and to hold on to what they have known and not let “something you don’t fully understand unravel everything you do know.” (Quote taken from a talk given by Kevin W. Pearson Of the First Quorum of the Seventy, April 2015 General Conference.

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(Image can be found here)

We as a community, as an LDS family need to be there for one another through thick and thin, rain or shine. We need to “mourn with those that mourn” and stop telling them that we can’t be around them because they bring doubt into our own hearts. We need to have testimonies strong enough withstand that so that we can lift others in their time of need. We also need to learn to have the humility required to be the one in need. At some point in our lives, we will all have doubts and be tested. We can’t sit far away in the distance and condemn others as if we are some kind of immune God- we are just as human as everyone else, and we need to foster compassion continually. “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” Matthew 7:2 (basically this whole chapter is golden on the subject).

I hope she understands the error in her actions, but more than that, I really hope that she learns from this. I also hope that all of these people leaving nasty, unforgettable, cutting comments don’t diminish her self-worth to the point of being unable to see her innate divine nature. She is more than one mistake, but if we keep telling her that that is all she is and all she will ever be, we will rob of her of the desire to be more. We will limit and ultimately condemn her. Yes, she absolutely could’ve reacted in a much better way, and yes, someone should be telling her that. But not with pitchforks and torches- with love and concern, with the voice of a friend, with understanding and love. Just because we seek justice for the son does not mean we have a right to treat a fellow child of God as the dust beneath our feet. I don’t know about you, but when I make any kind of mistake, I like to be loved anyway, and even encouraged. If I can’t extended that same compassion and forgiveness to a woman who hasn’t really wronged me personally in any way, how can I expect the same from those I personally may wrong or affect by my actions?

Patheos.com cited a quote from Jason F. Wright (whose post has since been taken down) saying, “I asked Alabbas what was going through his mind that night. “I’ve just been left at Bryce Canyon,” he laughed. “By my own family!”” Hemant Mehta, who wrote the post titled “This “Inspirational” Story About a Doubting Mormon is Horrific”, expressed dismay at the flippant attitudes. I’m a little bit embarrassed reading the comments, which are primarily from atheists. These really aren’t the kinds of attitudes I’d like people to have about a church I fully believe in. I know it hurts God to hear them say these things. I also know we aren’t perfect, but I wish there was some way I could clean the slate. That being said, I do also think these people are being extremely hard on her and the church as a whole. I guess this is another example of why we need to “be examples of the believers at all times” Timothy 4:12

In his article on This Week in Mormons, Joseph Peterson stated, “…my feelings are that this young man was abandoned, at least emotionally abandoned, a long time ago…”. This is absolutely how I feel. I’ve noticed that a lot of parents might be caring for their children physically and maybe even spiritually, but as a culture we have become increasingly unable to provide for the emotional needs each other. Citing a perfect example from my own life, I had expressed my feelings about my situation during my childhood to many adults, all of whom gave little heed to my concerns and even went so far as to tell me I was overreacting. This is NOT what Christ would have done or said. Now, I’m not condemning anyone for not hearing me out and this isn’t pity party for myself, but I would like to use this as warning sign. Can you see the decay in our ability to listen to others?

Peterson’s last point is titled “All Is Well And Zion Weeps”. I 100% feel this in my heart. We are so desperate to be perfectly righteous, to shun all that opposes our ideal, and we continue to tell ourselves that “all is well in Zion”. Things will never be well in Zion until we can face head on ours and the trials of others with the love, compassion, and understanding that the Savior had. Our need for sinless perfection is polluting our ability to practice true discipleship, and I know that this grieves our Father in Heaven. Progression cannot be obtained where fear and secrecy reside. Until we can be open and honest about our shortcomings and allow those around us to do the same, we will continue to suffer alone, and that is NOT Zion.

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

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.

 

 

Our Ancestors Are in Us

Last Sunday, I was asked to prepare a talk on family history. It basically turned into 100% me losing it and crying my eyes out in front of everyone. However, I thought it would be fun to share a piece of myself with everyone.

(audio recording available here, if you’d rather listen than read)

Oftentimes, we each have moments of loneliness. We think we are completely and utterly alone in our trials, and we feel we have hit a dead end. I testify that we are NOT alone, nor will we ever be. Though we may not physically have the guidance and help we need, not only do we have the gift of the Holy Ghost and the Atonement, we are constantly surrounded by angels- those who are completely on our side, and fighting for us. It is a common feeling that family history is something that we do for our ancestors. Let me share my personal experience. Continue reading

Why I Left

Many of you know that I left home at a young age. It’s been hard for me to really explain what lead up to that point. I’ve been self-conscious, guilty and felt the need to justify it many times, even to myself. Many did not and still do not fully understand why I did what I did. I have also had a hard time accepting  the reality of my life circumstances.

However, I feel like I’ve grown a lot in the last month. Because of many trials in my life the past few years, I’ve gone through a bit of a rough patch with my testimony. I have never doubted my testimony, I’ve struggled to understand myself and therefore my relationship with Heavenly Father and Christ has suffered. It’s been very difficult, and a time of deep self-reflection and spiritual distress.

I know without a doubt that my trials have been tailored specifically for me. My Father in Heaven knows that nothing hurts my soul more deeply than hurting someone- especially those whom I love. Continue reading