I type this with a prayer in my heart that I will express what Heavenly Father needs you to hear……..
Several months ago I was a part of a “movement” per say to help encourage women to help heal each other through our stories…..we all have one. And they all have a purpose. For a long time I have been drawn to this very idea. I have known that in some way, some how I would be able to do something to build others up(while building myself up at the same time). I have felt it. I’ve known that the special gifts(experiences and trials) Heavenly Father has given to me are for reasons far above me and that I needed to share that. To share my strengths(when they are there…), my weaknesses(because they are always there…for everyone) and my testimony(which wasn’t always there). At times it is so strong that I want to shout from the roof tops. I am a force for good and Heavenly Father has prepared me to make a difference. Whether it will be in my home, in my neighborhood or reach even further, who knows, I just know it is my purpose. So when I was given an opportunity by my incredible friend, Bonnie, to share “my story“, I knew I had to do it. And I did. As vulnerable as it feels, I also feel a deep satisfaction in knowing that my story will somehow help lift at least one person…for one moment. But because we had to keep the post to a certain number of words, I left much of the feeling out of it and I left the most important aspect out as well…and that is my Savior and my Heavenly Father(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints). They are my life and the reason I have it! They are my rock and foundation and I will not deny it. But luckily for you, you don’t have to be a “believer” to relate so read on and take what makes you feel good and leave what does not………………
I am the 9th of 10 kids. 5 boys and 5 girls. We grew up poor and didn’t have many extras or luxuries but we never did completely without. And this is not a complaint simply a description. Elementary school was rough. Luckily I wasn’t teased or bullied but I wasn’t liked either. I was shy to begin with and insecure as far back as I can remember. Why does that start so early?! My school was a good mix of incomes but I just never seemed to fit in. I was athletic and that would occasionally work in my favor but that’s about all I had to go on. I wet my bed for the first part of elementary and didn’t get regular baths( I get it, there were a lot of kids to take care of and I feel exhausted by my own duties some mornings). So I often smelled. I had ugly haircuts, I sucked my thumb(until I was 11), I pulled out my top eyelashes(don’t ask, I don’t know) and I never brushed my teeth. Look at that poor little girl! Come on Mom, couldn’t you throw me a bone…help me out a little…..anyway, it’s clear that I struggled with self esteem.
My family is LDS or Mormon and that is what I grew up learning. Half my older siblings went to church and half stopped going. By the time I was becoming a teenager my parents had already been divorced for several years, my mom went back to nursing school which was great for her but made it so she was involved even less. I can’t fault her completely because I recognize that her marriage had been a huge struggle and 10 kids is crazy and being poor puts a serious burden on anyone and she was tired. I’m tired now and I don’t deal with hardly any of that. Never the less, it was the reality. Naturally I stopped going to church, like my older sisters. Simultaneously I quit going to school. I was in junior high and finally had a few friends. I had never been a part of the popular crowd and I still wasn’t so I found friends where friends were offered. They weren’t “bad” friends they just didn’t make good choices and I followed. I quit school in the beginning of 8th grade. I just stopped going. I was “supposed” to go to an assisted studies program but I never intended to really go. Also somewhere in there my moms friend had moved into our house with her kids which made a difficult situation even more chaotic. We struggled to get along and I know that we all carried our own burdens.
During the next 3 1/2 years I lived whatever life I wanted. And I experienced things that I regret. I moved out with an older sister when I was 16 and I learned how to take care of myself. I worked full time, I walked to work rain or shine, I paid my bills and simply lived. I had no focus or plans, I just lived day to day.
One day my sister in law, who is from Spain, invited me to go on a trip with her to Spain. It was so appealing but I’d have to earn money without having to put it toward rent or bills. So I decided to move back home. My Mom had since moved to a new town that is small and wonderful. My intent was to get a job, earn money and go on a seriously cool vacation. During the first day or two of me being at my Mom’s I took notice of the other kids who had just started school. Now I know that you don’t understand the weight of that comment but when I “took notice” of the kids coming home from school it was really a strange piercing in my heart. A piquing of my interest. Which was soon out of the ordinary. I had absolutely no interest in school! It had been a nightmare and I never wanted to go back. I wouldn’t fit in…especially now. But I couldn’t ignore this tiny desire that sprouted in my heart. I wanted to be there. I wanted to feel the excitement of classes and friends and homework. Where was this coming from?? It didn’t matter(I tend to just do it, if I know I need to do it without the over thinking…..it will work itself out). So I told my mom that I wanted to go back to school. And we set up an appointment with a school counselor the next day. Holy crap, talk about exciting and terrifying at the same time. Not only had it been forever but also I thought I was the only fat girl that would be there. I wasn’t even fat, but in my mind I didn’t have a perfect cheerleader body like every other girl at school does…because they all totally do, right?! Wrong! But in my mind it was true. And all of my self doubt bubbled to the surface. I hated it, but it wasn’t going to stop me.
In that tiny counselors office we discussed what I wanted and what I was working with…which was not much. I was mentally prepared to do extra work and makeup everything that I missed so that I could eventually graduate.
But Heavenly Father had prepared a way for me to get where he intended me to be…….I had wandered far off the path…pretty far…and all the while he was preparing a way so that I could get back.
It so happened to be that that very school district had recently adopted a program that allowed seniors from a different district, who only had a little bit of credits, be able to graduate as long as they maintained good grades in the required classes. No making up ANYTHING! Okay, so I’m really not even sure what the actual program was detail wise but that is all I heard…..and that is exactly what I did. I got really good grades and I graduated with my class. And on top of that, I really loved going to school there! I made really great friends and started to find myself when my confidence grew. I loved every minute of it.
During my senior year I also learned that I wanted to have a real opinion of whether I believed in what the Mormons believed or not. Obviously I hadn’t been living by the church’s standards for a long time and I had taken on the opinion of those around me…..”Church was lame!” “Church is too restrictive.” blah, blah, blah. I had never really decided for myself one way or another……and I’m wondering how many of us really do that. We don’t go or won’t “believe” because it’s inconvenient, not because it isn’t true. This was exactly where I was. But I didn’t look at it that way…until one day during an impromptu family home evening( a special night set aside for a spiritual lesson and family time each week). This was not a regular occurrence at my moms house….I think she always intended to but it’s just one of those things that happens when the stars align. I may not have been making the “right” kind of choices but I had manners so I sat in and listened. I have no idea what my mom talked about that night….I can’t remember what the lesson was on….all I can remember was the warm feeling that began to grow in my chest and I felt choked up. In that very moment I simultaneously asked and then answered a question I had never considered before……..Do I really KNOW whether the church is true or not? Do I really know? No. I didn’t know. I had never thought about it. I just wanted to live without rules. But now, now that I felt that there was more, I knew I needed to find out for real this time. And my heart was softened. I didn’t jump back into church but I wasn’t hard hearted anymore. I felt like an outsider(due to my own insecurities…not because anyone treated me that way) and I needed to ease in where I felt comfortable. Heavenly Father can be very patient and He knows our hearts and our potential. He also knows our weaknesses and how confusing life will be.
After high school I actually went to college. That was something that I had never considered! You know how in some families it is expected?! That is the natural flow of life. Not in mine. Not for any particular reason…I just don’t remember it ever being implied or expected or even affordable. You graduated high school and then kept on living. Well, thanks to the school counselor again, I was given a small scholarship which sort of made my decision about college. Why not?? From there I went to a larger four year college and I was finding myself. I felt like I was worth something. I wasn’t another dead beat who didn’t graduate high school. It din’t matter whether my parents had money or not….I was dependent on myself and no one knew anything about my past. I was going to church and my testimony grew so much! I could see Heavenly Fathers hand in my life and I was blessed. That didn’t mean that life wasn’t ever hard it just means that life wasn’t ever done alone. I have been so privileged to meet and know so many real, true, sincere hearted people. Not all of them members of my church(because that’s not required) but when you fill your life with light you will naturally be drawn to others who spread light as well….and they will be drawn to you.
I met my sweetheart in college(and that’s a whole 2 1/2 year crazy story for another day). I could never have hoped for someone more perfect for me in this life! He is more willing to sacrifice and give service than anyone I know and even in all of his imperfections(because no one’s perfect) he wants nothing more than to follow his Savior. If anyone could love their daughters more than him….ha, I know there are many but he is a truly loving and devoted father. He is a truly loving and devoted husband who nearly always tries to serve me even more if he is starting to feel frustrated with me. I love him so much and I am grateful to my Heavenly Father for knowing that I deserved this life(the good and the bad). I am grateful that He has been patient and allowed me to suffer and learn for myself so that I can lift others through my experience.
Right now I am gratefully the mother to 4 wonderful and devilish daughters. My husband is the bishop at our church and has been for 4 years. I imperfectly but willingly serve in my callings and I press forward. I try and fail each and every day and I get up and try again…that is the only way I get a little better each time…..if I stop trying then I am really moving backwards. Every day is still work and some days or moments are a huge struggle. Being a parent is the most amazing and hardest thing I will ever do! And that is because it matters so much……and the dang kids don’t listen and obey like robots, dang it!! j/k. Most days I don’t want them to be that way…..but some days it sure would be nice. Some moments I feel like a failure. Usually the mornings after getting kids to school…barely. But I try to allow myself to feel sad for a minute and then start over. I can’t un-do what has been done but I can change what happens next. I only really fail when I quit trying. And Satan works hard on that aspect of life. If he can get a mom to quit, then he just conquered the whole family. So mom’s, expect his worst because you are the hinge on which the balance of life lies.
We matter! You matter! And Heavenly Father loves you, dang it! No matter what!
And one day you’ll be a super model like me….Just kidding! Come on, that was funny, right?! Maybe you need to know my humor more…..
If you want to read more about my thoughts on this subject…..click here