Does it Really Matter?

FeaturedDoes it Really Matter?

I’ll admit, the last 2 or 3 weeks have been both very spiritual and very challenging. On June 6th I officially received my signed Temple recommend again. I haven’t had a valid one since 2014. On June 9th me and some friends went to the Las Vegas Temple to do an endowment session. My first in about 3 and half years. I was so excited to go again and a little scared. You see, on October 9th 2010, I went to the temple and took out my own endowments in the Manti Temple. Consequently, it was the same day that we were doing the endowment work for my deceased brother, Ryan, on that day as well. It was a special day. So many people came down for the session. It was a full session and to boot, the temple was closing after that day for 2 weeks to be cleaned so it was a packed temple all day that day.  So on June 9th, I went back to the temple with a small group of friends. It was so wonderful to be back. Just like in 2010, I thought, Yes…..I’ve arrived. I made it.  Sounds amazing right? Well, for most people it would be, and for me, don’t get me wrong it was amazing. My closest friends met me in the Celestial room and hugged me and welcomed me home. It was so surreal. I imagine that is what heaven is like, when we pass away we are greeted by those who have passed away before us and they give us big hugs and welcome us home. They’ve just been up their waiting for us to return.

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So that was the big day, I didn’t even make it out of the dressing room into the chapel before having the spirit hit me so strong. Already tears in my eyes but trying to hold it together. During the session, I cried more. This will become a theme for the next few weeks. Crying. It’s like I have a faucet in my head that just turns on whenever it feels like it. Here come the water works.  I’ve never been so much of a crier before. I mean, yes I cry, but seriously, this was getting ridiculous. I went to the temple 2 more times after June 9th, and each time was more special than the last. However, in between these special temple visits (I’m going again tomorrow by the way), I have felt a deep depression. It bothers me that I can have what I worked so hard for and be able to experience these miraculous blessings for myself and on behalf of the dead, and then feel depressed the rest of the week. I find that notion unsettling to say the least.

 

I think this happens to me often. I never really analyzed it before, but I have spent months preparing to go back to the temple. I’ve been laser focused on it. Now that I’ve achieved that, it’s like I have a bit of a lack of focus. Maybe that’s kind of the same thing that returned missionaries experience when they come home from missions. They’ve spent all that time devoted to serving others and then they are supposed to integrate back into their former lives. I’m sure it’s not quite the same, but maybe it is similar. I spent all that time just focused on this one thing and then when I achieved it, it was like, great! Now what am I going to work towards now? So I think that is a bit of the issue, and it’s not that I don’t have things I need to still work on and progress towards and fix, we all do. It’s that there isn’t that focus. There is so much you could work on and progress towards that it’s almost like, what do I do first? Where do I go from here? Does it really matter?

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Does it really matter? What an odd rhetorical question that is. Seriously, everything matters right? Here is where I think some of my problem lies, I think everything matters now. Okay maybe not everything. I can make decisions about what to eat or what to wear without praying to see if I’m right. However, I find myself in a position of what if I make the wrong choice? What if I turn left and I should have turned right? What if I take the wrong job? What if I close my business and it’s not the right thing to do? What if I choose one debt management solution over another and I choose wrong? What if I make a decision for my family and it’s wrong? Literally the what if’s can go on forever. So the thought I had tonight is….does it really matter? Does all of that really matter to God? Am I just needlessly stressing myself out? Am I praying about things and not getting clear answers because God literally doesn’t care which of the what if solutions I choose? So the thought that came to me is it doesn’t matter. It makes no difference to God if I take one job over another. It makes no difference to Him if I pick one company over another. What matters to Him is that I make a choice. That I make that choice based on the information I have on hand. What I’ve been doing is waiting for Him to make the choice for me.  I’ve been being passive and hoping he’d tell me if I was right or wrong. I’ve been so afraid to make a wrong decision (because let’s face it, I’m good at wrong decisions) that I haven’t made any decisions. I’ve just, instead, resorted to standing still instead of moving in one direction or another. Waiting for the path to carry me in one direction or another as if it was some large conveyor belt that could move me. Driving my friends crazy with my indecisiveness.

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In the process of me standing still and waiting for answers to come, I’ve become paralyzed. The adversary is using my new-found spirituality and prayer against me. Making me think that I am somehow doing something wrong because I’m not getting the answers to my prayers. The truth is, I’m getting them, I’m just not understanding them. I’m not understanding that no answer, possibly means that God is saying, eh….do it if you want to, it is inconsequential to me or to you whether you do or you don’t. As long as you are living righteously and providing for your family, I care not where the funds come from, or as long as you pay your debts, I care not how you pay them.

My depression probably has some other things tied to it as well, but I think the lack of action on certain worries is a part of it. I’ve failed to act out of fear of making the wrong choice, however, in not making a choice, I’ve just failed to act which doesn’t get me anywhere but stuck. I think the Lord doesn’t care which decision we make over another as long as the choices are both righteous choices. It doesn’t really matter to Him.

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Finally, I’ve determined that what does matter is serving others. Serving our families, our friends, our communities, our country, and yes even our ancestors by doing temple work for the dead. Heavenly Father cares not about how we earn our money as long as it is legally earned and he doesn’t care much about how we spend it as long as we pay our debts. I’m sure he cares a little how we spend it but not really that much. What he does care about is if we have served. If we have helped another in need. If we have committed to doing temple work for those who passed before us. That is what really matters to him. Henry B. Eyring stated in the First Presidency message for July, 2017 the following:

“In the Master’s service, we come to know and love Him. We will, if we persevere in prayer and faithful service, begin to recognize the hand of the Savior and the influence of the Holy Ghost in our life. Many of us have for a period given such service and felt that companionship. If you think back on that time, you will remember that there were changes in you. The temptation to do evil seemed to lessen. The desire to do good increased. Those who knew you best and loved you may have said: “You have become kinder and more patient. You don’t seem to be the same person.”

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The idea is that we are all here to endure to the end, but the message of President Eyring is how well do we endure? Anyone can endure but do we endure well? Me, not so much. So that is definitely something to work on along with my patience, service, and of course continually moving forward and not staying stuck. I think the combination of those things might be the spiritual balance I need to avoid the ever-present spiritual hangover I get after coming off of an extreme spiritual high only to crash to the depressive low. I want to strike that perfect balance and maintain the perfect spiritual buzz and just ride it all the way to eternity.

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So basically, my major epiphany is that whenever I make a goal, I go full force at it until I reach it and then after I reach the goal, I have this void in its place that causes me to come crashing down to this low point until I find something else to fill the void of that goal. Usually another goal, but what happens is eventually I get burned out on the high/low yo-yo existence and I just crash for an extended (seemingly permanent) vacation. This is usually where I hit the “screw it” button and go off the rails. So this time, I feel like I need to perfect not just enduring, but enduring well. Get outside of myself, get outside of my head, stop thinking that I have to be so laser focused on one goal. Maybe the answer is to make smaller goals that don’t require quite so much energy. Also, the other epiphany was that God does not concern himself with every decision I make in my life, and it’s okay to make some of them without waiting for him to tell me “yes” or “no”.  Because sometimes it doesn’t really matter.

Life’s a Journey, Not a Destination

Life’s a Journey, Not a Destination

My life can best be described as me rushing to get to a finish line that doesn’t exist. You know what I mean? You have a goal in mind, whatever it might be, and you think to yourself, once I reach that goal….then…..then I’ll be finished. Then my life will make sense. Then I will be happy. Right? Is that just me or does anyone else do that? So what always happens is I get to that goal and then I think YES! I’ve made it! I finally arrived! I can relax cause I’m done right? WRONG! Because life is a journey and it’s ever changing and there is no destination. The only destination that exists is the fake one you created in your head. So what I have been trying to do this year is enjoy the journey. Which is hard for me, because there is a deadline right? I have to get some where after all! It must be working with attorney’s for 19 years and working under deadlines that has probably hardwired that thought into my brain. Although, that work never ends either. There is always another case, another file, another client to work with right? It’s never ending. Kind of like life. It’s never ending. Well, until it finally ends and we die, but then that isn’t the end either is it?

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What this awesome year of 2017 has taught me is that life is so much more than just going to work, earning money, and paying bills. It’s about enjoying the journey we are all on. It’s about making time for your family and making new friends and throwing conventions out the window and just enjoying what’s in front of you. The reality is this life sucks sometimes, and it isn’t fair most of the time. We get let down, we get hurt, we get frustrated and angry at our situations but those situations are temporary.  This life is temporary and beyond this life is so much more that we can’t even really comprehend at the moment. This life is about learning to love ourselves. Learning to love each other. Learning that even if we get knocked down we can get up again and move on. That we don’t have to carry all of that weight with us. There are so many things that I can look at in my own life and just think….this isn’t fair. Why did I have to go through that or why did someone I love have to go through that? Why did my brother have to be in such pain that he took his own life? Why did his daughter, my niece, get ripped from our family by her mother? Why did those things happen? They are truly heartbreaking things. But you know what I’ve learned is that there is a plan, and we don’t know the entire plan. We don’t know what God knows. Will I ever see my brother’s daughter again in this life? I don’t know. But…..after this life we are promised that if we endure to the end and keep the Lord’s covenants that it will all work out after this life! What?! Seriously!  I mean, yeah, it sucks right now….and we wish to be with loved ones now but this life is very temporary and very short in the grand scheme of things.

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Basically, everyone has different trials they are faced with in this life and no two people have the exact same trial and even if it is similar, no two people have the same reaction or solution to that trial. Sometimes the answer is to just be patient. Sometimes the answer is that a particular blessing isn’t meant for you in this lifetime. Sometimes the trial is accepting the fact that you didn’t get what you wanted when you wanted it. But it doesn’t mean you go without forever. I’ve spent a lot of years feeling sorry for myself for one reason or another because no matter how hard I tried, things just didn’t connect like I wanted them to. The problem was that it was what I wanted, and I didn’t stop to think that maybe it wasn’t what God wanted at the time. Maybe, I just needed to be humbled enough to where I could actually see the Journey and not focus on the destination. I needed to take a certain path that really was quite hard to take before I could see the beauty in the journey.  When I was shown that path, when I was humbled enough to look outside myself, in the blink of an eye, I saw the light. I saw the journey, I saw the miracles and the blessings. We spend so much time worrying about what we don’t have, we don’t stop to look at what we do have.

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If we look to God in all things, and rely on His wisdom and spirit to guide us, we will find that while the journey might be long, and hard and unfair sometimes, He promises that He will make it worth it if we endure to the end. There are so many things that distract us from the journey. When we are worrying about those things we are thinking about the destination and not thinking about living the journey. However, focusing on the journey of life, on the gospel, and enduring to the end, will bring you everlasting peace and happiness for eternity! Eternity, so I hear, is a very long time….much longer than this temporary state we are in. So, Are we there yet?

2017, The Year of Me, Just Let it Be

2017, The Year of Me, Just Let it Be

I started this blog at the beginning of the year. I wasn’t sure why I was starting it. I was searching for something, just something to get myself out of the funk that I was in, I guess. The previous year had been a difficult year and I was just mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually drained.  I was a shell of my former self.  So I started this blog, I think, hoping it would just create some sort of outlet for me to express myself, or hoping it would somehow fill that void. I was empty inside in every sense of the word. There just wasn’t anything left.  I know I haven’t written anything in about 6 weeks or so. I had tried to start writing something a couple of times but couldn’t finish them. I was trying to figure out why writing was so easy before and now it was just not there. I think the answer is that these last 4 months have been AMAZING! So much has happened and it’s happened so fast and there was almost too much to write about and of course some of it was just way to personal to blog about.

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As you may recall, if you’ve read the previous blogs, that I’ve taken a spiritual journey over the last 4 months. It’s been quite a ride. It started with a song and there is no end. The song was the catalyst that got the ball rolling and once the ball was rolling there was no stopping it. It just kept gaining momentum.  It’s hit a few bumps here and there, maybe got stuck in a couple of narrow passage ways, but it always broke free and kept rolling.

This year will go down in the history of my life as one of the best years ever. For one, a new President took office in January, one that this country really needed. A President who didn’t just talk the talk but walked the walk. He had a plan and started executing it on day 1. Hallelujah! Then of course there was the song that I performed with my dear friend Griffin, who is a genius with music, by the way. I started going back to my ward at church regularly, met with the Bishop, and now I have a calling in Primary. I seriously didn’t expect all of this when I agreed to sing the song. I had no idea that it would transform my life, like it did. I started reading the Book of Mormon daily and trying to pray daily (which is a bit of a challenge for me). Just doing these little things has made all the difference in my life. Fear has been replaced by Faith. While sometimes I do still worry and let fear take over, I find that I’m able to brush it aside much more quickly than I used to be able to. I don’t dwell on it too long anymore. That is the difference of faith over fear. You learn to just say that it will all work out somehow. If I do the things I know I’m supposed to and if I have done everything in my power to fix whatever the situation is, then at that point I’ve done all I can do and I can just let it go. Let it be so to speak.

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What I’ve learned is that the Lord never leaves me. Sometimes he doesn’t give you the answer you want or the answer you expected to get but he is always there and he always answers. Even if the answer is just no, and sometimes the answer is “let it be”.  I’ve learned that the power of the priesthood is absolutely a real thing. I’ve had more than one experience with the blessings received by the power of the priesthood. Who knew right?! I didn’t know, because the priesthood had pretty much always been absent from my home both as a child and as a grown up. So I didn’t really understand its true power until just this year. I’m so grateful for worthy priesthood holders who are willing to share their priesthood blessings with me when needed. It’s just been miraculous to see and to witness and to experience.

I realize that there is so much more to this gospel of Jesus Christ that I never really realized before. I’ve been a member my entire life and there are things that I didn’t understand until just this year. It’s like a light bulb came on and there it was. I have a testimony of the power of a Ward family who fellowships one another and who looks out for one another and who never turn down an opportunity to serve. Service is a huge thing that I think I was missing. I still don’t feel I have the opportunity to serve much yet, but I’m hoping to be able to serve more as time goes on. Accepting the primary calling is a start.

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I’ve learned that the Lord sometimes puts us in other people’s lives for a reason so that we can help that other person with something they are struggling with. It’s very divine and very orchestrated and once you stop and look back at it, there are no coincidences. Someone may be put in your life to help you or teach you something and you may be put in someone else’s life to do the same thing. It’s actually pretty inspiring to think about how God’s hand is in everything. I can definitely see how my life has been blessed this year. That’s not to say I haven’t had some very dark times or feelings this year, I have, but because people were put in my life this year to help me navigate that and to help me to not give up, I came through those brief dark times and gained strength and gained a testimony of the truth of the Gospel. I also gained a testimony of the power of the priesthood, the blessings of serving others, and probably most importantly that I am a divine daughter of a Heavenly Father who loves me and who never gives up on me and who wants me to be happy and healthy and return to him one day. I gained a testimony of the power of the temple and the blessings afforded by the temple. I currently don’t have a valid recommend now, but I’m hoping to have one, hopefully this year. But regardless it will be in His timing, not mine.

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This year has been a year of self discovery for me. I’ve discovered things about myself that I didn’t even know. I always thought I knew myself pretty well, but there were things that were pushed down so deep that I didn’t even know they were there. So this year has also been me purging all of that. Just letting it go and getting rid of it. All the negativity, all the junk, all of the self-deprecating thoughts and feelings of inadequacy, just purged. Does that mean I’ll never feel those things again? Probably not, it just won’t hurt as much, if at all. I’ll still remember them, cause unfortunately the atonement doesn’t erase minds or memories, but I don’t have to feel bad about them anymore, it’s like remembering someone’s memories that aren’t your own. You sort of see it from an outside perspective after that. You know it was your memory but you don’t feel the pain that goes with the memory, it’s just that, a memory. Almost like it wasn’t you, and that is very powerful. Because it frees you, you don’t feel the weight of it anymore.  In fact, you didn’t even realize how heavy it was until you let it go.

I can’t change my past. But I don’t have to live in my past anymore. Because this year is all about me! And when the Spirit tells you to let it be…..trust me, just let it be……

Blessings of the Atonement -Are they Real?

Blessings of the Atonement -Are they Real?

YES! End of Blog!

Just kidding….the short answer is yes. The blessings of the Atonement are real. Absolutely. How do I know? Because I’ve lived it. If anyone who has read my blog and actually knows me, they know that I don’t blog about things I haven’t experienced or that I don’t have some experience with. As my blog states, everyone has an opinion, here is mine. So my opinion’s are very much derived from life experience. Also, if you’ve read my blog, you have seen somewhat of the journey I have taken since January. Not necessarily the specifics, but you get the gist.

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Here is what I know about the Atonement and blessings. I know that Jesus Christ selflessly died on the cross for our sins so that we can return to our Heavenly Father one day. I know that Heavenly Father sacrificed his son to do this for all of his spirit children. That is the basics of it anyway. The short answer of how we have the atonement. But what is the atonement? The Atonement is more than just the act of Christ saving us. It is the process by which we come unto him with broken hearts and contrite spirits. The process of recognizing our weaknesses so that he can turn them into strengths. The process of letting go of our pride and giving it up to Him. Letting Him shoulder our burdens so we don’t have to feel them alone. The atonement is so much more than just sinning and repenting. When you truly recognize the spirit in your life, when you finally realize that you are not ever left alone if you just submit to His will, you feel of his eternal, unconditional love for you. You realize that He never abandoned you, but that you walked away. He never left. You did. Once you recognize that even if you left, he is still there eagerly awaiting your return, you can fully appreciate the sacrifice, the love, the yearning that He has for you to recognize your true potential in his eternal plan. His plan is perfect, His timing is perfect, and you are perfect in His eyes. There is nothing you have done or could do in the future that He will not forgive. He will always forgive you. All you need do is ask, with a sincere and humble heart and He will give it freely.

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Once we have come to this place of a broken heart and contrite spirit, and we submit our Will to His. The blessings are poured out. It will be impossible not to see them. At least it was for me. It was impossible to see all of the miraculous things that happened as anything but divine intervention. I mean, there are coincidences and then there are miracles. So what’s the difference, well, for me it’s the timing of things. It’s how things appeared orchestrated from above and there being no way that many coincidences could happen all at once. But mostly, it’s the spirit testifying to you that these things are true. It’s the spirit telling you that this is His plan for you. I promise you that if you align your will with His, that you will see it. It will be impossible not to see it. That’s the best way I can describe it. It will just be undeniable. Things that used to be so important to you, that were not aligned with His will, will no longer seem important and you will naturally steer yourself away from them.  It will just happen so naturally.

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I used to think the atonement was this abstract concept that sounded nice in theory, or even sounded scary a bit. It was because I’d never really tried to use it. I mean I did, a few years ago I went to the bishop and confessed 20 years worth of sins and I felt better. I even went to the temple in 2010. I’ll be honest, I thought I was converted at that time. I thought, I made it to the temple.  A place I never thought I’d go. Truly, I never thought I’d make it there. But there I was taking out my endowments. It was a blessed day. My mistake was that I wasn’t really ready. Yes, I’d gone through what I thought was the repentance process. I thought I’d done what I was supposed to do and that I’d arrived. So why did it not work? Well, it did, in part. I was forgiven for my past sins. They were washed clean and I didn’t need to worry about them anymore. That was absolutely true. But what I lacked was the rest. By that I mean, I didn’t understand God’s plan for me. I didn’t understand that he would always be there for me. I didn’t understand how to earn a blessing. I didn’t.

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The stark difference now, is that I recognize (through the help of dear friends and the spirit) that I was so much more to my Heavenly Father than I realized. That He cared about me personally. That He had a divine plan for me. That He allowed me to go through some things alone so that when I was ready, I could feel His full power, and the spirit in all it’s glory. Had I not taken a different path to get there, I would not have recognized it. Sometimes, He let’s us stray. I didn’t understand that. I always thought, why would He let me go so far off course without warning me? And to be fair, maybe he did and I ignored it. But I also think, sometimes He let’s us stray enough to see the other side of things, so that we recognize the truth more when we see it. It’s kind of like when you tell a child not to touch a hot stove and they reach out and touch it anyway. Why? Because a hot stove to a child is an abstract concept. They don’t know what hot is, so unless they touch it and feel that hot burns, they don’t get the concept of “hot”. I think it’s the same with our Heavenly Father, sometimes, He let’s us touch the stove because then, we know for ourselves and the idea isn’t abstract anymore. But, just like when your kids burn themselves on the stove, they come to you to heal them. To make it better. Heavenly Father does the same for us. He heals our souls when we have touched the stove and need to be healed. The atonement is the healing power. The blessings are that, while our Heavenly Father grieves with us over our pain, He doesn’t say, I told you so. He just applies the healing power of the spirit, and then blesses us with peace, with support, with all the things we need to get better and to stay better. Those blessings are absolutely real.

I know that these things are true. I know that my Heavenly Father loves me and blesses my life daily. I feel his love for me. I feel how He is rejoicing for me right now for finally not touching the hot stove. For turning to Him so he can heal me. If you haven’t felt the blessings of the atonement in your life, you should try it! It absolutely works and I have a testimony of that. I know the stove is hot now! Don’t touch it!

Mental illness is a myth?

Mental illness is a myth?

I was scrolling through Facebook and came across an article that said “Everything you Will Miss if you Commit Suicide” then it followed with the caption of “suicide is a real problem that no one wants to talk about. I’m sure you are no different. But we need to talk about it.” This caught my attention for 2 reasons, (1) because it is true and (2) because my brother died by suicide in 2009, so I instantly see posts like that. They just jump out at me. So why does my title say “mental illness is a myth?” I say that for a number of reasons. Number one though is because I don’t believe that it is an “illness” so to speak. What if it is just how you are wired? I mean essentially it is. You are born a certain way, with a certain personality, with a certain way of thinking and sometimes your internal wiring is different than the average person. So, why should we call someone that is wired differently, mentally ill? Why should that term be used? Doesn’t it just further stigmatize the idea that the person has something “wrong with them”? That they are some how damaged? What if the way they are is essentially the way they were meant to be. That God intended them to be different for a reason? I know, really nice idea right, but what’s my point? My point is, that maybe if we didn’t label everyone who was different as “Mentally Ill” we might have less suicides.

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Think about it. If you feel different your whole life, if you are told you are different your whole life, if you are labeled with this affliction or that affliction your whole life, how are you supposed to feel anything but damaged? In addition to that, if you are diagnosed with this syndrome or that disorder, it becomes a part of your permanent medical file, it literally follows you your entire life. Sometimes it hinders the things that people will let you accomplish in life. So what if we said “mental illness” isn’t a thing. What if we just accepted that everyone is different and some people are a bit more different than others but they are still children of a loving Heavenly Father who loves them just as much as he loves you and I. What if instead of labeling people, we just loved them? What if instead of having government agencies and societal constructs that set these people up as failures, we let everyone be who they are without judgement? Without labels?

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Here is what I know (I don’t have a psychology degree or anything) but here is what I know for myself. I know that labels break people. I know that once you stick that label on someone, it’s over. They are now not human anymore, they are a label. People begin to talk about you, while you are in the same room as them, as if you aren’t there. You become this thing. This problem that people have to deal with. You start to feel like you are a burden to those around you. Then maybe you think, what if I just wasn’t here anymore? This is what I think, I think it is really easy to get from a label to a place of “people are better off without me here”. I recognize that I have even done this to people in my life who have been diagnosed with a “mental illness”. It is easy to see the problem and not the person. So, yes, I have wrongly done that, without realizing it. Now that I realize that this thinking, to me, is inherently wrong, I think it might be better to dispense with the titles.

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When you think about it, don’t we all have some sort of baggage we bring with us? Aren’t we all at some point or another “mentally ill” if you want to use that term? I’ve gone through depression in my life. I’ve been at very low points in my life. So why am I not “mentally ill”? Simply because a doctor hasn’t diagnosed me as such. But what if we just stopped looking at people as problems? People who see things differently aren’t problems, they are people, they are human, they likely feel very deeply about a lot of things. They likely know they are different and punish themselves for it. I’d like to stop perpetuating the cycle that people are problems. I’d like to recognize the true greatness in all people. That greatness that is God given, not man given. God loves all his children, he doesn’t see there problems as problems. He doesn’t see there quirks as issues. He sees all of us as we are, loves us where we are at. He doesn’t think there is something wrong with you. We need to be kinder. We need to insist that in schools and anywhere else that we interact with people that labels aren’t used. Maybe we say mental illness is a myth. This person is struggling with something and we just need to love them. We don’t need to label them, or break there spirits or talk about them as if they are a disorder and not a person. We need to see them as the awesome people they are, nothing else.

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I feel like if we do this, that maybe people who are struggling with whatever issue it is, will feel more comfortable coming to you and saying I feel this way, can you help me? The reason people don’t speak out about the problems they are having or feelings they are feeling is because of those labels. If I say something, they will tell me I am “Mentally Ill” and then that will be my life forever. Think about how daunting that is for a minute? To be labeled forever because you asked for help? Really? Is this the best we can do? I don’t know about any of you, but, for me, my new philosophy is that mental illness is a myth and everyone has a struggle that they are dealing with, and it’s okay because we all have struggles and we can all help each other. We should all help each other because God loves us unconditionally, regardless of our problems. He loves us. We need to do better. We need to stop judging. We need to recognize that people are not”ill” for being who they are.

To be honest, I was planning to blog about some very spiritual experiences I’ve had the last week, but this topic just jumped out at me and I felt I needed to address it because I feel like life is too short to let promptings like this go by. It is something I feel strongly about. I feel like this life is hard enough without labels. So why not? Mental illness is a myth!

Being Converted through the Atonement

Being Converted through the Atonement

What does it mean to be converted? I suppose it means to most having a testimony of certain things and of the gospel right? A testimony that you are living your life the way Christ and Heavenly Father would want you to live it and to know without a shadow of a doubt that these things are true. Sound about right? Well, in a nut shell. So, how do you know if you have reached that conversion point? What are the signs? In short, we are all converts to the Church. Meaning, even if you were born and raised a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, you may not have been converted. Thus you are a member, but not a convert. At some point anyone who is a member of this church or any church for that matter has to become converted to the truth of what they practice.

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Hi, my name is Desiree Ryan, and I have been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints for my entire life. I am almost 43 years old and until recently, I was not a convert. I thought I was at one point, but I think I was just borrowing someone else’s testimony. I am not sure, even now as I write this, that I can say that I have been fully converted to the gospel yet. I think I’m closer than I have been in the past. Here is what I know, my testimony as it is at this point. I know that Jesus Christ died on a cross for our sins so that we could all return home to live with our Heavenly Father, I know that his Grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before him. I know that I have made many mistakes and will likely make many more but I also know that his Grace has already saved me, but that being saved is not the question. By virtue of his amazing gift he already saved everyone. However, Grace without works is just an unused gift. Jesus paid the price, he gave us the gift, but if we don’t use it, it doesn’t make the gift any less ours, it just means that it is like a wrapped present that we never open. What good is a wrapped present that we never open? If you don’t know what the gift is and how it works, how will you be able to use it? The gift of the Atonement was meant for everyone, but we have our agency to choose whether or not to use it. Regardless, the gift is ours.  I’ve used the atonement once in my life, well, twice now. But once that is complete. It was like taking 20 years of rocks accumulated in a bag and setting it down and walking away. Leaving it there and then asking myself why I carried it for so many years. Was it scary? Maybe a little but mostly it was peaceful and you realize that you didn’t know why you didn’t unwrap that gift sooner.

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So why do we wait so long to set that bag of rocks down? Do we find all that crap we lug around to be somehow our identity? I think that is what it is. I think at some point we start to feel like we are beyond redemption. That somehow his atoning sacrifice didn’t apply to us? It’s so illogical when  you actually think about it. Of course he didn’t leave you out of the atonement. He didn’t say, “this gift applies to everyone, except Desiree Ryan”. I mean really, that would be silly. So knowing that the gift applies to everyone, why is it so hard to actually go through the process? Well, in short because the process is hard. It isn’t easy, and it’s not meant to be. If it was easy, you’d just sin and then repent and then sin and then repent, and then sin again and it would be endless because it would be so easy right? I’m reminded of Laman and Lemuel in 1 Nephi where they go through that cycle repeatedly. Sin, repent, sin, repent, sin repent….ad nauseam. They would sin, then Nephi would chastise them and they would humble themselves before the Lord, and then be forgiven. It sounds easy when put in simple terms like that. But really it is not. It’s a process by where you feel bad about what you’ve done, you don’t desire to repeat that action, and you humble yourself before the Lord and are willing to submit to his will and not your own and that you will be willing to do anything that is asked to make the situation right if at all possible. Sometimes that is just a simple apology, sometimes you need to truly be penitent and go through steps to show how truly humble and repentant you are for the action. It may take time, but the healing will be worth the time and energy, and maybe even heartache you endure to be able to finally say that you’ve done all you can do and the Lord has forgiven you and he remembers it no more.

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A lot of times it is our pride that keeps us from repentance and from true conversion. I love the idea that the Lord will make weak things strong unto us and his Grace is sufficient for all men. My favorite scripture is Ether 12:27 which states: “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”  All we need to is come unto him, open the gift and use it, and you will see amazing things happen in your life. The Lord cares for all of his children, and he truly desires that we all return unto him. He knows we will make mistakes. He knows it will not be easy. But I have a testimony that his timing is perfect. Everything happens in his time. I don’t question that now. Sometimes we don’t know why we have to go through certain things before he shows us the light. Sometimes, we think, why does so and so have it so much easier? Why did I have to suffer through what I did before I was shown the truth and the light? Because his timing is perfect, and when you reach that perfect timing, you realize, this is why. This moment right here, is why.

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Over the last 5 or 6 weeks, I have seen the Lord’s hand and timing in my life. I have seen the fog lifted. I have felt his divine hand in everything, and yes I have suffered. I have heard the spirit speak to me and felt it in my soul. I have received hard and fast answers that even, pray as I might have before, I never received,  not like this where the clearest answer was just plain as day. I always wanted to receive answers like that before and never could, and it wasn’t because I wasn’t righteous enough, it was because I wasn’t ready enough. It was because it wasn’t the right time.  It was because the right people hadn’t been put in my path yet.  When you receive, undeniable proof transmitted into your soul, you have then been converted. You then see things differently.

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My conversion story starts with an invitation to sing. Something so simple, a small seed. Something so benign. It is planted with a conversation. It starts to grow with friendship and fellowship. It flourishes with the testimony of others. It blossoms with the Holy Spirit and promptings. It blooms and grows with humility and grace. It holds steadfast with repentance. Through the love and help of others, through the Grace of God, through the Atonement of Christ, I am converted.

Hello, my name is Desiree Ryan, and I am a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Finding Strength in Unholy Places

Finding Strength in Unholy Places

I started this blog around 5 weeks ago. As stated in my first blog, I wasn’t sure why I started it. I am still not sure. I think it was a need to get my thoughts out instead of holding them in to fester. For some reason, typing them out was easier than just talking to someone in person. I think because if I suddenly spewed all of these thoughts out on a person they’d be overwhelmed or at the very least, avoid talking to me again. I’ve probably over shared in some of my posts, inadvertently. You see, my posts are very much just an idea that my stream of consciousness runs away with.  I’ve learned recently that I should at the very least, not publish all of my thoughts. Live and learn right?

So back to my current thought, finding strength in unholy places, I’m sure that title seems strange. It is, in the sense that unholy is subjective, but the strength is real. So what do I mean by that? Well, I mean that my life is very much unorthodox when it comes to most LDS, married women’s lives. I’m sure I’m not the only one with my circumstances, but I’m the only one I know of.  I haven’t always found strength, in fact until recently I would just buckle. I suppose that was easier, or at least I thought it was. Quite frankly, it only seemed easier at the time.

 

As I sit in my living room, the night before fast Sunday, fasting for the first time in years, my thoughts are on strength. I’m looking at the pictures on my walls, which is a Hodge-podge of pictures such as: a gorgeous picture of Christ with a child on his lap with the quote from Matthew 28:20 “For Lo, I am with you Always” inscribed on it, family photos, a picture of the Manti Temple and the Las Vegas Temple, posters from the suicide prevention website, “To Write Love on Her Arms”, my brother’s eulogy, the Proclamation to the Family, Football memorabilia, Motorcycle paraphernalia,and a large painting of a motorcycle club that my husband belongs to, among other things. I realize the things that are important to me. My family, first and foremost, Christ, my deceased brother’s memory,  music and the biker lifestyle. Pretty eclectic right? I have always felt comfortable (at least after I got older anyway)  in most situations. I am adaptable to most things. I can be comfortable sitting in church on Sunday by myself and also comfortable  hanging at the bar later on. I am comfortable listening to (and I love) rock and roll, #aerosmithisthegreatestrockbandever, country, punk, alternative, underground bands, etc. You name it, I am probably comfortable hearing it. I don’t flinch at curse words the way some people do. I am comfortable letting strangers sleep on my couch (well, strangers to me, my husband usually knows them or knows someone who knows them) but still strangers none the less. So when I say, strength in unholy places, I mean places where the spirit generally doesn’t dwell. My house for example. The spirit dwells there temporarily, but never permanently, by virtue of external factors that may come into my house.  I love the life I have. I think maybe a few months ago I might not have said that. The lifestyle catches up to you at some point. But, having reevaluated how I deal with the situations, I find that I do love my life. I love the bikes, and the noise, and the friends/family, the smell of cigarette smoke and whiskey. I love the loud music and the lyrics and the feeling. I love the company that stays at my house at a moments notice. I love riding on the back of my husband’s Harley in a pack of other Harley riders, heading down the road with the wind in my face and tunes blasting in my earphones.

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What I have found, is that I can stand alone in these places, in these situations, and I can still be me. That I don’t have to buckle under them to make things easier. I used to think I did. But now I know I don’t. So I find strength every time I go to a bar and I stand alone. I find strength every time I find the joy, the pleasure, and the fun in the situation that others may find cringe worthy. That yes, I can even laugh, dance, and make jokes, and that I don’t have to buckle. The strength comes from within me, regardless of the holiness or UN-holiness of the situation. What I lacked before was the faith in myself that I could stand alone. I always stated that I didn’t lose my faith in God. I really didn’t, it was faith in myself that I lost.

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I get that it isn’t a lifestyle for everyone, and not everyone could exist in it. But this is my life, this is where my journey took me and it’s chaotic at times, and it’s loud, and it’s atypical, but it’s perfect. Yet, I also find strength in the scriptures, in the church hymns, and the talks and lessons in church. I find strength at the temple, just walking around the temple grounds. I find strength in friendship and in music. I find a lot of strength in music I think. It grounds me, regardless of if it is rock and roll or if it is a beautiful piano solo of a well-known hymn. I think that everyone should find what brings them strength and figure out how that fits in your life regardless of how typical or atypical it is. I truly believe that the Lord understands each of us individually and understands that different things strengthen different people. I don’t feel like there is a one size fits all recipe to finding strength in the gospel. So whether you find it at church in a pew, or on the back of a motorcycle, or in playing music or singing music, or however your strength is revealed, remember that you can find strength in any situation because the strength is within you because the light of Christ is in all of us and we all have the ability to feel that strength. We just have to reach inside ourselves and find what triggers that strength in us. You can always stand in holy places, even if you stand alone and even if the external environment is unholy because the holiness and the strength lies within you.