Monday, December 26, 2016

God's Answers, Not Mine

It started with a prayer.

A yelling, screaming, crying prayer.

An ultimatum prayer.

I hoped everything and expected nothing from that prayer.

Because over the past eighteen months, I've asked. And the answers I was given were always pretty simple. I felt good about my new non-denominational Christian life and the church I had found. I felt good about the things I was learning and the beauty of the worship.

It felt like I had pushed away everything that was confusing me and had found the simplicity I so badly desired.

It felt so right. 

It was a beautiful eighteen months.

It's been an incredibly beautiful year.

The best one I can remember in a very long time. 

In January, after attending Mission Church for six months, I signed up for a 6-week Starting Point class that taught me a lot of basic core beliefs and gave me an opportunity to learn more about Christianity and hear the stories of other amazing people whom I was able to connect with.

It was shortly after this class ended that I was invited to Redemption Church with a close friend and found myself drawn to the smaller church atmosphere and weekly communion.

Redemption quickly became a home for us.

We were all in. 

In May, I dedicated the kids at Redemption Church. All the more beautiful. I promised to raise them as Christ would have me raise them and, at the time, that meant worshiping with our Redemption family every week. I thought it would always mean that. 

I considered serving in the children's ministry because I had served in the special needs ministry at Mission Church and wanted to be involved but for some reason, it never felt right. And so, I continued to worship and learn and grow and meet amazing people along the way.

This was an incredible time of growth for me. In fact, all of the past eighteen months have been. I have notes from almost every single week of church I've attended for the past eighteen months.

I was happy. 

But I was still struggling. 

You see, life didn't just get easier because I had made a promise to pull myself closer to God.
My loneliness at church didn't stop. My heartache over divorce didn't stop. My worries about my children didn't stop.

But the praying got a little easier. I no longer sobbed through each prayer because of the heavy weight I felt on my chest. I learned more about the stories in the Bible and God's grace.

And as I was learning about Christianity, I was building stepping stones in my testimony without really realizing it.

My late night religious conversations with my closest friends brought Christianity and Mormonism closer together for me and although I didn't want to go back, I liked knowing that some of the things I was learning, my children were being taught in both churches (since they've been attending both churches this past year between their dad and I).

I didn't want to go back---but I wanted to do what was right. 

And a few Saturdays ago, I knelt next to my bed and cried-prayed some very deep heartaches to my Heavenly Father---heartaches having nothing to do with religion---and although I wasn't even asking for an answer of where I was supposed to be, He answered my prayer with a clear understanding of what I was supposed to do next.

Eighteen months.

Eighteen months of searching and believing that I was being open to any answer He gave me.
Now I'm not so sure. 
Maybe I wasn't ready until now. 

Eighteen months of doing what I believed I was supposed to be doing.
In fact, I still believe that. 

And then one day, I was saying my prayers---well, sort of yelling them because it was a really hard day---and as I was sobbing into my pillow, the thought came to my mind, "Did I not already promise you these things in a blessing?" 

I sat up and my spinning world had stopped in it's tracks. 

God was answering my prayer very directly. Even though I had yelled it. Again.

And I knew what that answer meant. 

When God gave me my answer, that meant starting my search within the LDS church again.


Didn't I just do that two years ago ago? Didn't I read the Book of Mormon and try really hard to participate at church? Didn't I pray and ask where God wanted me? And wasn't the answer given to me when I left the church? 
Why now? Why this answer now? Why couldn't this have happened when I was actually asking? 

Those promises He was talking about had been given to me during a Priesthood* blessing two years ago and ironically, the Priesthood was the first part of my belief system that had shattered eighteen months ago.
{*To learn more about what the Priesthood is, go here.} 

And I knew in that moment that I had to make a choice. Did I believe those promises were real and that they were mine? Because if so, I believed in the Priesthood. 

It could only be one or the other. I knew it and God knew it.

Because as immediately as He answer my prayer, I vividly remembered that blessing and how I had held onto those promises so tightly at that time.

But understanding that answer to prayer did not bring immediate comfort to me. In fact, the tears started all over again---a little bit because I was happy He had heard me but mostly because I was scared.

I am scared. 

That answer scared me because it is going to take work. It scared me because I was going to have to attend the ward I was in for 7 years and then had left. It scared me because I had struggled so much with lonely feelings because the LDS church is very family-oriented and I often felt so out of place without a husband and also without my children half of the time.

I met with a friend the day after I got my answer and cried through the whole story with her. She was so proud of me for listening to my heart. I still wasn't sure. I kind of wanted my heart to stay out of this mess.

I didn't know if I could do it---go back to the church I had left. 

I didn't know if I was brave enough. 

But then I remembered---authenticity. NO MATTER WHAT. 

My goal of authenticity this year was not a disguise. It was not a goal I had made to show everyone how happy I was away from the LDS church. It was simple. At any given point throughout this year, I have tried to just do the next right thing.

Even if that next right thing was the hardest next right thing. 

Even if that next right thing meant studying the Book of Mormon and reading through conference talks for the first time in eighteen months.

Even if that meant taking out my nose ring and my other extra piercings---something that sounds so silly but that was really sad and difficult for me.

I did the next right thing these past few weeks even though they were just as hard if not harder than the day I decided I was going to be leaving the church I had been in for 28 years.
Scratch that. 
The truth is that this was harder. Because this took more humility than I've ever had to muster up in my entire life.

Because I know there will be people on both sides, in both churches, who don't agree with the last eighteen months of my life and/or who won't agree with the next eighteen months of my life.

But I don't live my life for people. 

I live my life for God. 

So at this point in my beautiful journey, I am slapping on my bravest face and attending my LDS ward again.

So much has changed in a really short amount of time which is quite opposite than when I left because as odd as it sounds, I slowly transitioned myself OUT of the LDS church eighteen months ago. I still attended every few weeks from July-December 2015 before stopping altogether.

This has not been that way---and I think it's because I feel this surge of energy and confidence in what God wants for my family. I feel like because He gave me this answer, I will move forward each day, doing the next right thing.

And when that gets scary, I'll hand it over to God and He will help us make it through to the next right thing.

This is not going to be easy. But I wasn't promised 'easy'. 

This is the kind of 'hard' I'm willing to put in the effort for because I trust my Heavenly Father so much and know He wants what is best for us.

And as hard as it is sometimes---as stubborn as I get sometimes---I plan on continuing to live my life as close to what He wants for me as possible.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Parenting Alone

Most days, single parenting has become second nature to me.

I'm used to doing it almost completely alone, from the homework to the bedtime routine to the tantrums. I'm used to my children needing me when I'm already so completely exhausted.

It's been three years so I really should be used to this new normal. 

But sometimes it catches up to me. 

Sometimes I don't feel like I can take another step on this parenting journey alone. 

A few weeks ago, a lady I had only just met was asking about my kids and my life and when I told her I was divorced, she immediately asked if their dad was in the picture.

Me: Well, yes. He takes them every other weekend. 
Her: I just get so jealous of that! My husband travels all the time and I WISH I could have every other weekend off. In some ways, you are just so lucky that you at least get that break. 

You guys, this isn't the first time somebody has said those things to me and I know it won't be the last.
And while I know she meant well and that her struggles are just as real as mine, it feels like a knife in my chest when people say those things to me.

Because I DON'T wish I had a break from them every other weekend.
I wish our family all lived under one roof together. 
I DON'T enjoy the times they have things that I miss out on when they are with their dad.
And it is honestly so hard to be alone every single night in this house, wishing I had a companion who could tag team the tantrums and the homework and the bedtime routine.

This week, being a single mom caught up to me. 
It caught up to all of us.
And we've all been a mess. 

Major meltdowns have happened by all three of us this week.

And I'm just so exhausted. 

I'm exhausted and I am having a hard time leaving my house with a smile on my face.

I know it will probably feel better soon but during these times where it doesn't feel better---where divorce feels like the worst thing that has ever happened---I get so completely exhausted and frustrated that I am not a better mom to these beautiful babies of mine.

Friends, I hate complaining about this stuff because I'd do anything for my kids. My whole life is them.
But some nights it just hits me hard. Some nights I feel like I cannot take another step.

This is real life today. 

It is hard and messy and unpredictable. 

Real life this week consisted of one child telling me they hated me and then unbuckling their seatbelt while I was driving on a main road (Have no fear, I pulled the car over).
Real life this week consisted of another child participating in a gift exchange with friends and then crying because their gift wasn't like the other gifts (Enter the utterly embarrassed mother who swears she has taught her child better than this).
Real life this week consisted of so much more yelling and/or crying from the only adult in the house.

It's not always this hard---but right now, it is. 

And I'm not going to pretend that everything's always peachy over here. Because that just isn't reality.

And we are all about realness over here. 

The truth is that I'll wake up tomorrow, ready to be their mom again and throwing every part of myself into doing what I can for them. I already know that. I know I will never give up---even though I might rant to my friends that "I'm done!" and that "I quit!", which seem to be my go-to phrases when things feel super crappy. 

I'm never gonna quit. 

And I know life won't always be like this.

But right now, it is. 

And I just have to hold on to my faith that God knows me and will meet me in this hard place and eventually help me out of it.

Because without Him, I know I wouldn't have even made it this far and I'm grateful on these really low days to be able to look back and see how far we have come in the past three years.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Next Right Thing

I've tried to deny God many times in my life.

More times than I'd even care to admit.

But thankfully for my ever-doubting brain, I have been given some pretty distinct answers to prayers in my life---and sometimes I've been given answers to things I didn't even pray about.

The most significant spiritual experience I've had was the day before my husband left me.
I was driving my kids to my parents house and heard a voice---clear as day---that said, "Just remember that you have a really good life." 
I kind of chuckled and thought, "Duh!", because at the time, I felt like my life was pretty incredible.
But as I sat there, I took an opportunity to count some of my most cherished blessings.
And the next day, as I was driving away from the home that my husband had just let me know he was moving out of, I was hit with the previous day's experience. "Just remember that you have a really good life." And all of the things I had counted as blessings the day before? I still had them. They still existed and separation/divorce could not take those things away from me.

Did that stop me from struggling or becoming angry or feeling betrayed? No. I still had to keep my head barely above water throughout the divorce process and the years since then.
Some days, I'm still barely keeping myself and my family afloat.

Another significant experience I've had with God came at a time in my life when I was in a pit of despair and struggling through some very private and horrific events that had occurred in my life. I was so angry and although I did not deny God in that moment, I was angry at Him. I yelled at Him. I didn't deny His existence but I denied His glory and love for me.
I was laying on my couch, yelling at Him at the top of my lungs, telling Him that if He wanted me to trust Him, he'd need to hit me over the head with a ton of spiritual bricks because I was done!
And although I was not handling things in a very productive manner, He still sent me exactly what I had demanded. Instead of a clear voice in my ear, He used another person and sent me a text with a scripture from a friend that had no way of knowing just how significant that scripture was in that moment.
It was kind of incredible.
In fact, not kind of.
It was truly incredible.

Since then, my journey of faith has not been easy, nor has it been very steady. 

At the beginning of this year, I chose to focus on authenticity toward myself, in hopes that I could learn how to shut out my fears of what other people think of the life I'm living.
I wanted it to matter to myself and to God. I didn't want input or opinions on what I should or could be doing. I wanted to figure it out on my own.

My people have been incredible through this. They have watched me make choices that don't align with theirs and they've just loved me unconditionally. That alone has been one of the sweetest parts of my journey---the love that I've found in places I was afraid it wouldn't exist. 

It's funny because as I sit here tonight, I'm realizing just how much I still haven't figured out and yet, I have learned so much in the past 18 months. I have grown so much. I have been so brave and have tried to be as authentic as possible.

One mantra that I've really tried to adopt in those moments where life just feels like too much to handle is stated below.

There have been many times in the past year and a half where I've wondered what I was supposed to be doing. I'd look at the future as one big picture and get overwhelmed with how hard it all looked.

And so I started doing "the next right thing".

When I get overwhelmed or I feel like I cannot make big decisions, I listen to my heart and follow what feels like the next right thing in my life.

This might sound simple but it really isn't.

Sometimes I'll feel like something is "the next right thing" and it still looks or feels too hard.

But I've tried really hard to stay true to that motto. 

I have learned a lot through the perspective of "the next right thing". I have made some really brave, scary decisions because of this promise that I made to myself. I have taken steps in directions I didn't necessarily want to go because, when praying, I discerned that those decisions were my next right thing.

And I'm so grateful that when my "next right thing" feels to scary, I have supporters to lean on.

As this year comes closer and closer to ending, I have been overwhelmed with gratitude for my New Years goal of confidence and authenticity in 2016. I think I've stayed true to that goal more than any of my previous ones---and that's saying a lot because I really do feel like I've done well with my goals for 3+ years now.

I've already prayed about my word for 2017 and chosen a path but we will get to that in a different post.

In the meantime, I will continue living my life, choosing the next right thing.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

To My Friends Who Voted For Donald Trump

They told me that I shouldn't be hurting. 

These things happen. 

They told me to stop overreacting. 

I should've seen this coming. 

And I did. 

Even in my most perfect world, I had always known this was a possibility. 

I wrote the above in my journal last weekend.

Friends, it has not been an easy week. Last Sunday, I received some news that really shook me and impacted my heart much more than I ever thought possible. I found myself a puddle of tears much of Sunday afternoon and Monday.
And then on Tuesday at 2:30am, I woke up sick and threw up *7* times between 2:30am and 10:00am. Again, the tears from how badly my body was hurting.
And then on Wednesday, while still trying to recover from "the sickness from hell", I woke up and realized that Hillary Clinton had not won the presidential election. And in that moment and in many moments since then, I've wanted to cry.

Last week was hard. 

And as I tried to explain some of the pain I was feeling in my heart, some of my people just didn't get it.

That happens sometimes. And I can't always blame them for it because sometimes, people just can't understand.

But here I was, feeling some pretty awful feelings regarding a personal matter in my life and then signing on to my social media sites to see awful posts about how I'm a cry baby and how uneducated I am.
You may not have known you were directing those comments at me but you were.

I may not be protesting Donald Trump but I am still trying to figure out how I'm going to support him as the elected president.
I may not be telling you that YOU are racist/sexist because I don't believe that voting for him makes you those things but I am not going to tell you that I don't believe those things about Donald Trump.

And every time I see those posts about how Hillary Clinton supporters are baby killers and idiots, it hurts---because I've known for months that I was going to vote for her and although I didn't want to debate it with others, it wasn't a decision I made because I am uneducated.

Hillary has flaws and you can say many negative things about her but I have yet to hear of her sexually assaulting other human beings or wanting to divide those of other races in our country.

And although it is not the only reason I voted for her, I went to bed last Tuesday night believing that we were shattering a glass ceiling that is long overdue to be shattered into a million tiny pieces. I was looking forward to telling my daughter about our first woman president and how great this was going to be for our society to see a woman in the highest job title in America.

I had a hard time feeling compassion for others on Wednesday. It seemed like every social media post was another slap in the face, another one of my friends reposting hurtful memes that felt directed straight at me.

And it was painful to witness.
It still is.

Because what a lot of you might not understand is the raw emotion a lot of us have been feeling.
Or the fear that our country is going to take steps in the wrong direction instead of what we believe is the right direction.
What you may not understand is that those of us who truly believed we knew the outcome based on polling data and our own high hopes now need to take the time to mourn and reprocess how we view all of this.

It may not make sense to you but it does to us.

Last Wednesday, I wrote a post on Instagram that said this:
"What I've learned throughout my life and even more so today is that you've gotta let people mourn their losses. You've gotta let people express their victories. But it is possible to do so while still loving.

I'm not happy today and maybe you are. Can we still be friends? Can you let me voice my sadness without telling me I'm wrong or uneducated? And in that same breathe, I will allow you to be excited, to share your joy without calling you wrong or uneducated.
You did what you believe is best and so did I.
One of us was going to be happy and the other one, sad.
But in the end, we are apart of something much bigger than this election.
We are Americans.
And right now, we're kinda sorta not acting like we are on the same side.
So let's give that a try and see how it feels."

I felt like it was the only thing I could say while watching so many of my friends tear each other's beliefs apart.

Because although I've not had an easy time with elections since I became of voting age (I've actually NEVER been on the winning end---go figure), this has been the first election where I've really been scared, where I've really questioned HOW this could ever work out without our new president truly damaging our society.

The reality is, I'm just going to have to wait and see. 

And the even bigger reality, the one I really like, is knowing that I still have the power within me to make a difference in this world. I can still be loving and kind and empathetic toward others. I can still teach my children what I want to teach them and raise them to be kind and honest and loving toward the people in their lives as they grow up.

I am not powerless just because my voice didn't feel heard in this election. 

I have the ability to make this world a better place and that is what I plan on doing.

My hope is that we can all take some extra time and think before posting on social media in the future.
Is what I'm about to say directed negatively at others?
Is what I'm about to say kind and loving?
Is what I'm about to say something that I would say to a person in real life?

And my personal favorite (and the one I use when helping my children decide whether their choices are aligning with how we are striving to live),

{What would Jesus do?}

Monday, October 17, 2016

Hello, Friends

Hi, friends.
It's been a while. 
And really, that's been a good thing.
Neglecting my blog is usually a really positive or negative thing. And I am so thankful that lately, it's been a positive thing.

There is so much I've wanted to write about. In fact, almost every week, I start a new post and get a paragraph in before realizing it just isn't flowing how it should be.
And I try really hard not to push publish on any of my writing that isn't flowing and easy to piece together.

I've wanted to write about my life, friendship ups and downs, religion, school, my kids, etc. I know I've covered all of those subjects before but every once in a while, one of them will feel like it needs to burst into formulated sentences once again and I'll try to find the time to come on here and write.

But, you know, time...

Extra time has been precious and practically non-existent.
Because there are a lot of positive, exciting things happening in my life right now and those priorities come before my writing.

But I digress---tonight, I am here. 
So hello. 

I wanted to talk about religion again since more times than not, those are the words wanting to spill over on this blog. Because for me, this year, religion has been a huge part of my life.

But today I want to talk about how religion has always been a huge part of my life.


If you know me, you know I was raised in the LDS church.
And if you don't know me very well, I was raised in the LDS church.

I was baptized when I was 8. I went to girls camp for six years. I went to mutual every Wednesday. I was married in the temple. I have held many callings in various wards from primary teacher to Relief Society presidency.
So many hours of my life have been dedicated to a church I once called my second home.

And I learned so many beautiful things from those various stages of my life. 

I can distinctly remember a few years ago, sitting in stake conference and the importance of family council hitting me so strongly.

We came home that day and got started. 

Weekly family goals. Scheduling for the week. Any topics to discuss before the week starts.

We've spent many Sunday nights since that day holding family councils together and setting our goals and schedules for the week.

Years ago, Andersen's weekly goals consisted of running faster or learning more about dinosaurs.
Last night, Andersen's goals included daily personal prayers and focusing more in school.

I've loved seeing the goals mature as my kids mature. 
As we finished up last night, it just hit me that there have been so many positive things as a result of how I was raised.
And I don't think I acknowledge those often enough. 

My life looks very different in a lot of ways now and yet, it is also very similar to how it used to be.

It has been 15 months since I felt strongly like I had found my place at a new church. Many things have happened since then but none of the experiences that I've had can negate the beauty that has come from growing up LDS.
And let me also point out that I am not saying it was all beautiful.
It wasn't. 
I'm saying that acknowledging the beauty has been helpful in growing and finding gratitude for my life.
It has also been the reason I've been able to find positives in the church I was raised, as the world has tried to point out so many negatives.

Because what I've learned from life is that it's a whole lot more beautiful when I'm able to focus on the positives.

So today, all I feel is gratitude. 
Gratitude that my parents raised me in a family-oriented church that taught me a lot about the type of mother I want to be.
Gratitude for the beauty God has placed in my life and in my soul.
Gratitude that I have a family to share these memories with, to learn and grow from each other.
Gratitude for a life that has turned out pretty amazing, despite some of the challenges that I used to believe would break me.

I am a work in progress.
I always will be.
But I am never going to stop growing and learning and becoming.

Because becoming the me that I want to be has been one of the most vital parts of my healing process these past few years.
That goal has been the magnet that holds me together and keeps me fighting when I feel like I want to stop fighting.
I am so grateful for my life and the freedom to be myself and to be loved by so many people as I am.

God is so good.
And the majority of people are genuinely good.

Thank you, my people, for being a part of this world's goodness.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

October 14th

Normally, October 14th is in my top 5 favorite days of the year. I've always loved my birthday and I have some pretty amazing birthday stories from various years.

But divorce stings a little harder on my birthday---even on the years where my friends and family have gone above and beyond to make my day special. It just feels a little heavier on holidays.

And this year, I dropped my kids off to their dad and the exchange wasn't very positive and that usually makes it harder to say goodbye for the weekend. Especially when it's my birthday and I'm waving goodbye to my two little buddies.

So the afternoon of my birthday, I found myself sitting in a parking lot, tears streaming down my face because sometimes good people say mean things and they hurt your feelings and you realize that it's still so damn hard to share your kids and co-parent and you're feeling lonely and just want to be a "normal" family.

And I don't bring these rough times up because I want you to feel bad for me.
In fact, I got to party with my friends until 2:30am that night and it ended just fine.

But I bring that up because I often get wrapped up in the perfection of various people's social media lives and I don't want to be that.

I try so hard to find a balance between "my life is so blessed and my kids are hilarious and talented and I'm practically superwoman for going to school full time, working, and being a single mama" and "my life is hard and my kids can be really mean to each other and to me and they have a lot of struggles and divorce has given me panic attacks and being single sucks".
Two completely contrasting thoughts---both are completely a part of me.

I think that's why I try to "keep it real" with my social media.
Because, inevitably, bad days happen to all of us. And there are days we all feel like we've failed at something. And some days, we might even be right about failing. We aren't always going to succeed.

Some days, when I'm exhausted from school work and my job and being a momma, I don't succeed at the end of the day. Some nights, I yell at everyone to get in bed after they come out of their rooms for the fifteenth time and I lose my temper and don't find it again until the next day.

And some days, I really, truly cannot see myself graduating from college even though I AM SO CLOSE TO FINISHING. It's like the end in sight has made it SO MUCH HARDER to be able to focus on my school work.

And then I sign in to Facebook and see pictures of families and of wives doting on their amazing husbands and I think, "What the damn?" and I get jealous and bitter and I start hating the world.

But then I talk myself down and realize two things:
---People are allowed to brag about their awesome lives. When my kids do awesome things, I brag about them. When I do awesome things, I brag about them. Someone bragging about their awesomeness doesn't make my awesomeness any less valid.

---Most people don't put the bad crap on social media. So even when it seems like they have a perfect life, the truth is that nobody has a perfect life. Life is not easy all of the time. It gets hard. And maybe the posts on Facebook are genuine, maybe they aren't. Either way, it doesn't change my life or affect me in any way.

My 28th year of life was one of my best so far. I accomplished a lot this year and am really proud of how far I've come.
And so instead of focusing on everything that went wrong, I'm going to remember just how many things are currently going right.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Togetherness Project

I've been feeling all sorts of emotions throughout the past few days. 
The truth is that most of these emotions have been extremely high. I have been so happy. 

But it's almost like my body was saying, "No! You can't be happy this week! This is the anniversary of the day your world fell apart." And I'd have to try and fight it off. 

Because the truth is that this anniversary IS hard and important and a big deal to me. I had my life planned out and part of that plan was being married and staying home with my babies and making more babies. That plan did not involve divorce. 

But I guess the reality is that most people don't "plan" to get divorced when they get married. 

And I guess the reality is that addiction can overturn a lot of your plans. 

The other day, a friend posted a Fight The New Drug article on Facebook. {Is it weird that it makes me smile when I see these articles being posted/shared?} If you're not aware of what FTND is or more specifically what "the new drug" is, this company brings awareness to the harmful effects of pornography. 

And maybe you know this about me or maybe you don't but I am a huge believer in what FTND promotes. 

Because not only have I studied the harmful effects of pornography for college courses. 
Not only have I met many people who struggle with pornography addiction. 
Not only have I come to know some pretty brave women who have had a great deal of marital strife directly related to pornography addiction. 

I have witnessed these harmful effects firsthand as a wife. 

And as I was a newly divorced woman, struggling to see any worth within myself, a friend pointed me in the direction of The Togetherness Project. 
And shortly after, I attended my first TTP conference. 

Since then, a lot has changed. 

When I first went through my divorce, I leaned a lot on the women in my TTP support group to help me understand the situations and feelings I was living through. 
I am so grateful for that time in my life. 
But I spent less and less time with my family and the friends who weren't a part of Togetherness. I didn't think they'd want to hear it and I doubted they'd even understand. 
I almost lost some of my dearest friends during this time. 

And since then, over the past two years, I've rearranged my boundaries of what these support groups look like in my life versus how much I rely on my friends and family. 
Because the truth is that they don't need to fully understand me to be there for me. 
And I had to learn that on my own through my experiences these past few years. 
(And boy was I lucky that they stuck around for me to figure that out!)

I no longer rely on The Togetherness Project support groups or participate in them often. 
A huge part of that can be attested to my healing process and needing to rely less on others. 

But Togetherness will always be a part of me. 

Today, The Togetherness Project held it's very last conference in Midway, Utah. I had planned on going but then decided it wouldn't be the best thing for me right now. 
It was hard for me not to be there. 
There were so many people I wanted to see and connect with. 
I've spent a lot of today thinking about Togetherness and everything the founder, Jacy, has done for me personally by starting this foundation. 

Because of Togetherness, I was able to find resources that helped me realize a lot of missing puzzle pieces in my failed marriage, which brought a lot of closure for me. 
Because of Togetherness, I was able to be supported during some of my worst panic attacks. 
Because of Togetherness, I found another support group for eating disorders and was able to (with the help of friends, family, and a therapist) save myself at a point in my life where I was literally dying. 
Because of Togetherness, I have a whole slew of online friends who understand some of my darkest fears because they have endured very similar challenges. 
Because of Togetherness, I was able to meet many incredible women but two in particular who have stuck around during some of the messiest challenges I've faced. These two women live close to me and are two of my very best friends now. 

Because of Togetherness, I have answers and more questions and I have been able to learn some very beautiful things about myself and what I want out of life. 

When I was first introduced to Jacy's blog, I had no idea what that would spark over the next two and a half years. Some of it has been really dark and difficult but a lot of it has been life changing and beautiful. 

And I will forever be grateful to Jacy for being brave enough to create The Togetherness Project that has changed so many of our lives. 

As I've sat here today and reminisced about everything that has happened over this past two years, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for everything I've conquered and learned. 

I used to have this vision in my head of what my life would look like in my late twenties and this wasn't it. 
That being said, in so many ways, it is much better than what I had imagined. 
I am so thankful for everything I have learned through The Togetherness Project. 
I am thankful for the message of hope that it sends to women who have found themselves in situations that are extremely dark and messy. 
And most importantly, I am thankful for the hope I have found in my own life to continue on despite the many times I wanted to give up. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Three Years


Three years ago, on this very night, was the last time I was in a serious relationship.
And I could pinpoint many reasons for that---two kids who keep me busy, working two jobs, being in school full time, struggling with an eating disorder and my self-worth, feeling betrayed/traumatized and wondering if I could ever trust someone again, my religious shift---so, so many reasons.

So many things have changed in the past three years. 

And although I wanted to casually date, I didn't want to be in a relationship for a while.

Because I got married at 19. NINETEEN! And divorced at 26. And I found myself not knowing what I even wanted out of a relationship and on some days, I've even questioned whether I wanted another relationship. I mean, the last one wasn't a walk in a park and honestly, that's kind of how most of my relationships have been.

But here I am, almost 29 years old, and I'm ready for a relationship. And ironically, now that I'm actually trying in whatever ways I know how, the dating gods have placed nothing in my path.

And I'm sitting over here wondering whether that means I'm just supposed to keep waiting or whether there's something I'm doing wrong.

I've tried online dating and am still currently on a few online dating sites and yet, online dating is not easy for me. Because I still have trust issues and meeting complete strangers is scary even if you don't have trust issues.
Also, what's with all of the perfect bodied, shirtless, tan, rich guys on the internet? Is this REAL LIFE? Has dating really changed that much since the last time I was single? Have men changed that much since the last time I was single?

Are there still real men? 
The kind that don't say on their profile, "I'm perfect and rich. I love to travel the world. Oh and I'm looking for zero drama." 
And not that I'm a drama queen but are there really people with ZERO amounts of drama in their life? Like they've never had a bad day where they need to vent? They've never gotten in an argument with a family member or friend or gotten their feelings hurt and just need their partner to listen while they talk?

Because if you date me, you're going to need to LISTEN TO ME sometimes. I will have bad days. I will complain. I will get upset.

I don't know. Often times, online dating is a huge turn off because it seems like everyone is looking for perfection and is that even a thing unless your Jesus? Is anyone really the perfect match?

If you think you've found that, you should feel extremely lucky because I don't really believe in perfect matches. I think the majority of us have found that relationships come with compromise.

Or that they're just non-existent, as has seemed apparent in my life for the past few years.

August has been really hard for me for the past few years. 

And as I'm trying to put myself out there and look for relationships in all the right places (since the only guys I seem to have crushes on these days are not guys I can date...yippee...I'm winning at life), I have found this new level of anxiety that has followed August right through my front door.

There was a guy I was talking to a month or so ago that asked me the dreaded question that seems to lose ALL GUYS once they hear the answer. "How long has it been since your last relationship?" Because it seems that the second I tell them it's been three years, they go running for the hills.
Well, this particular guy didn't. Instead he made a worse decision and asked if that was also how long it'd been since I've been intimate and if so, HOW WAS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE because he is struggling after only a couple of months.
Does anyone else see where he ruined his future relationship chances with me?

And it is after events like the one above that make me question whether online dating is really ok for me and whether it could even work. Because are there even guys out there who are compassionate and would be willing to "take on" my situation (that contains drama) and carry on deeper conversations and love me (despite all of the disorders that like to follow me around)? Does that even exist? And if it does, would one of you be so kind as to show me where it is I'm supposed to be looking for this unicorn man?

Gosh, I'd really appreciate it.

Tomorrow isn't an easy anniversary for me and it's hard not to look back at all of the pain and be frustrated that I'm still single and have no clue how to date three years later. Wasn't I supposed to be learning those skills somewhere along this path?


Three years. 
I'd like to be cliche and say that I can't believe it's been that long but in all honesty, I can. In fact, it feels like it's been longer.
I have accomplished so much on my own in the past three years and I'm proud of every learning curve I've fought through.

This has not been easy and it will continue to have highs and lows but I am a warrior and I won't ever give up.

Monday, August 1, 2016

So Maybe I Failed

Sometimes it’s hard or weird to reconnect with people through social media or in real life that I haven’t seen or heard from in the past 4+ years.

Because my first thought, my initial fear, is that they’ll look at the facts of my life and believe that I have failed.
And this is probably irrational because nobody has come up to me and said, “Hey Suzanne, you really failed miserably at that whole marriage thing. And now you're overweight with purple hair, a tattoo, and a nose ring. Sounds like the problem is YOU.” 
But more so than this being a rational fear, I’ve come to realize that it’s an internal fear.
And it’s not an internal fear because I just have this belief that people are critical of me. It’s an internal fear because I used to be that condemnatory, judgmental person. 
I cringe thinking about how I once was that person. 
Because if you just pray more or work harder in your marriage, those things don’t dissipate.

I've learned a lot these past few years and one thing I've really come to know is that you can't judge a book by it's cover OR even by it's prologue. 
Because you won't get all the facts. 
And in truth, you may never get all the facts. Ever. 
Although I've talked about the "why" of my failed marriage, there are actually so many "why's". There are so many times we fought for each other and there are so many times we fought against each other. 

And as my husband was piecing his puzzle back together, I was also changing. I was growing and molding into this person that I very much liked---a stronger and more opinionated Suzanne. I started asking questions and learning more about why I am the way I am (Although, all that really did was give me a list of "disorders" on my medical records)

I struggled with this love/hate relationship against myself because on the one hand, I've had a hard time with self-esteem and believing in myself but on the other hand, when I really sit down and think about it, I love the person that I am. 
It’s been a really hard summer for me. Finding babysitters for my kids and missing out on so much time with them has not been easy. Struggling through and then quitting my job teaching dance was not easy. Co-parenting is not easy (Will it ever be?). The anniversary of being on my own is coming up and that isn’t easy. Summer school was not easy (and I failed a class for the 2nd time in my college career)

There have been nights where I feel like I'm back to square one, where I lay in my bed and feel the anxiety take over like it used to when I first became a single mom. 

I feel all of this pressure to be a good mother and a good student and a good coworker and a good friend and one any given day, I'm sure to drop the ball in at least one category. 

And then some days, new conflicts arise and I think, "But it was already hard yesterday without this new conflict!" and I wonder how I'm going to keep going. 

But I do keep going. 

Although this summer has felt pretty messy, today in particular was not my best day. My anxiety was winning and I was just letting it win because I was tired of fighting. 
I was letting other people dictate my emotions and I was feeling really low when I pulled up a blog post (here) from one of my favorite public figures, Glennon. 

And as I read about her separating from her husband, her words hit me with such strength. 

There is a excerpt from her post that I wanted to share here because she says it far better than I could ever describe.

"But what can happen over time is this: You wake up one day and realize that you have put yourself back together completely differently. That you are whole, finally, and strong – but you are now a different shape, a different size. This sort of change — the change that occurs when you sit inside your own pain — it’s revolutionary. When you let yourself die, there is suddenly one day: new life. You are Different. New. And no matter how hard you try, you simply cannot fit into your old life anymore. You are like a snake trying to fit into old, dead skin, or a butterfly trying to crawl back into the cocoon, or new wine trying to pour itself back into an old wineskin. This new you is equal parts undeniable and terrifying.
Because you just do not fit. 
And suddenly you know that. And you have become a woman who doesn’t ignore her knowing. Who doesn’t pretend she doesn’t know. Because pretending makes you sick. And because you never promised yourself an easy life, but you did promise yourself a true one. You did promise – back when you were putting yourself back together – that you’d never betray you again." 

As I read this, I just sat there, nodding my head. Because this thing that I was so worried about---the silly critics and their uneducated judgments---does not need to exist inside of my mind, even if it exists in reality. 

Because I have put myself back together differently. I am a completely different person than I used to be. 
And when I put myself back together, I did it more carefully. I thought about what I wanted out of life and what I felt the point of life even was. 

And after every messy thing I've been through, I've learned that the person I need to stop betraying is myself. 

Because when the kids are in bed at night and I'm sitting all alone, I'm all I've got. And I need to be able to trust and love this person that I am so that when things are hard (which is inevitable on occasion), I can rise up like the warrior that I am and fight for myself. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

When Change Is Scary

 It all started with a tiny little 3 year old.

We signed her up for dance lessons out of someone's renovated garage-turned-dance-studio, mostly because I was a dancer and we thought it'd be a cute thing for her to try out.

And then she turned 4 and we found a studio that was recommended to us by some friends.
And that tiny little girl started taking two classes---one of those classes being a team prep class to prepare her for team tryouts the next year.

And then she turned 5 and made the SNS team where she danced 4 hours a week.
 And her second year of team, at age 6, she was asked to do a solo by one of her teachers and she STOLE that stage. She was beaming and I saw this fire in her eyes. That first solo experience really cemented her commitment and love for dancing. She had such a great experience on that stage and I'm so glad we chose that, even though she was a little young at the time.

Here is a video of that solo---adorable.

 When she turned 7, I was hired as an acro/stretch/tumbling instructor at a new studio and we moved her there.

Those people quickly became her family. I found myself teaching and assisting 6+ hours most weeks in the acro/technique/jazz/team classes and our family practically lived at the studio. She chose to take 10+ hours of classes each week and grew so much as a dancer.
 She competed another solo and it got better every time.
Every. Single. Time.
It was a lot more difficult and she spent a lot of extra time figuring out the counts and the acro tricks and making sure she was ready for the stage.
And each time she hit that stage, she was ready for it and you could see her enjoying those two minutes of "fame".
 And by the time she turned 8, most of her afternoons at home looked like this. {Seriously, those muscles...}

But sometimes hard things happen outside of our control and when the extremely difficult decision was made last week that I was quitting my job at our then-current studio, it caught this little girl in the crossfire and she got burned.

And she was not happy. I mean, why would she be happy about something like that? I wasn't even happy about it. It's been a week and I am already aching that I don't have the job title "dance instructor" anymore because teaching children to dance was quite possibly the most rewarding thing I've ever done (besides motherhood).

But this ache wasn't about me anymore because more than anything else in the world, I want to support her and find a way to let her do the things she loves.

And so I reached out to a friend and she suggested doing trial classes at her studio.

And for the very first time in Hayley's life, no tears were shed as she walked into this new place to take classes with children she didn't know.

Because I can remember the tears from her first studio class and how she cried both years she tried out for team. And I remember so vividly when she tried out for company a little over a year ago how she cried through the majority of it because new things overwhelm her sensitive little heart so much.
 Although she was a bit nervous, she walked in and joined the class and begged me to let her take every single class she could this past week.

And when a full hour of stretch class had her tired and sore and I told her she didn't have to take the next day's stretch class, she still wanted to and we went back the next day for another hour of stretching.
It isn't that Hayley is MORE amazing than other kids.
That's not the point of this post.

The point is that my sensitive, shy daughter has gone through a few hard things in her life and she is learning and growing and finding her own bravery in the process.

In fact, as we were eating dinner after her first night of classes, she said to me, "Mom, you can just drop me off at the studio tomorrow...because I'm already THAT brave." 

And she is THAT brave. 

She has now started her second week of classes at the new studio and this morning, we got an email inviting her to join the Micro Company team.

To say she is ecstatic would be an understatement. 

Change is hard for our family and it seems like we've seen a lot of huge changes over the past four years but through it all, it's been a really beautiful thing for me to see all of us learning and growing from the things we've been through.

More than anything, I just feel extremely lucky that I get to be the mom of this brave little girl.
I get a front row seat to watch her grow up and learn and be in new situations and when she has hard times, I get to be the one she comes to and cries with.
I'm so lucky I've been trusted with the job title "Mom" because that is more important and rewarding than being a dance teacher, a therapist, or any other job titles I might have.

I see great things in this girl's future and I am so proud to be her mom.

Friday, May 27, 2016

If It's Worth Doing

I had a dream once.

I had a dream that I was married---and I felt whole again, as if marriage is the only thing that could fix ALL of the other problems in my life.

I had a dream that I co-parented well and that my kids never had to feel split between their parents.

I had a dream that I never got upset with my ex-husband and that forgiving him is something I'm NOT still working on.

But in reality, I'm not married and I don't always co-parent well and I often get upset with my ex-husband. 

And I've been told on countless occasions by numerous different people that I need to forgive him and move on. In fact, over and over, I've convinced myself that I have fully forgiven him.

But I don't know if that's always true. 

I can remember when my husband first left me and I begged and pleaded with my family and friends to love and support him, to talk positively about him so that this would all be easier.
And I remember when I got to a point where I begged and pleaded with them to stop liking him so much, to focus on supporting me and my kids so that this would all be easier. 

'So that this would all be easier'

I guess I don't know what makes this all easier because it isn't easy. It's messy no matter what. And I'm still trying to figure out my relationships and boundaries and how to navigate a relationship with not only my ex-husband but also our shared relationships.

I get insecure about my divorce because of the little details, the memories from those first few traumatic months where I was literally just surviving day to day.

And I get triggered by the memories from my marriage, the memories where I look back and think, "I should've done something differently. I should've said more. I should've said less. I should've loved more. I should've cared less. I should've..." And I could go on and on with SO MANY things I should've done to change the circumstances of my life but I don't believe that actually would've changed anything.

I go through periods where I like my ex-husband and frankly, I go through periods where I don't like him.

And I'm not good at being an ex-wife. Oh my goodness, I'm not. In fact, I'm horrible at it. I am overly protective of my kids and I am not always patient and I let old memories dictate present situations.

I'm trying to work on it. 
I am working on it. 

But it's hard because I feel like if I can't step up to the plate as an ex-wife, maybe I wasn't a good enough wife. And when I start to think that, I have to remind myself that I'm doing the best I can. I'm trying to be a good person who sees others through Jesus' eyes and understands that we all act crappy sometimes and make mistakes.

But. It. Is. Still. Hard.

None of this is easy to explain. It isn't necessarily hard to talk about---I'm ok with admitting that I fail at being a co-parent or an ex-wife sometimes---it's just hard to explain in a way that dictates the things that I'm feeling.

The truth is that I still struggle with resenting my ex-husband for the choices that were made that got us where we are---and although I don't think about them often, I still find myself spiraling when I miss something in my children's lives because of the co-parenting situation we are in. I still get angry that I have to 'share' my children instead of us just being a family.

But that doesn't mean I don't love the life we are living.
My children are so blessed. I am so blessed.
We have SO MUCH.
We are thriving and for the most part, life is really happy. It's just that when it is hard, it is usually really hard.

But we are resilient.
I am resilient.

And someday, probably when I'm 80, I'm going to have this 'ex-wife' thing figured out.

But in the meantime, I am going to have to learn that it's ok to fail sometimes. 

I can remember back to two years ago, almost exactly, and sitting in a new therapists office (which I was really unhappy about because I didn't want to have to start all over) and telling her how fighting my eating disorder wasn't worth it because every single day, I failed. At that point, it had been MONTHS without even ONE day of success.
And she said to me, "Suzanne, is it worth fighting your eating disorder? Is your life worth the fight?" And I replied, "Yes." 

And she said, "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing poorly." 

I kept that motto close to my heart as I struggled to pull myself out of the hole I had dug. When I'd fail, I'd give myself grace and remember that if it was worth doing, I wasn't going to give up just because I was fighting poorly.

I was still fighting. And that HAD to count for something. 

So now that I'm here, in a completely different life than two years ago, fighting similar things but also some very different things, I have to remind myself that this fight is worth it---no matter how I fight it.

So maybe I suck as an ex-wife but it's worth it to me that I keep trying, that when I fail and I get angry or selfish, I take some time, pick myself back up, and try again the next time.

And goodness sakes, I am not the best at co-parenting. It's hard work! But when I fail, I am going to give myself grace and remember that I will have many opportunities to figure this thing out.

And maybe I go back and forth between forgiveness of the past and letting it trigger feelings inside of me in the present but that's ok because I am working on this every day of my life.

And this fight to understand others who have hurt me and feel compassion toward them? It's worth it. It will always be worth it.

And if it's worth doing, it's worth doing poorly. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Child Dedication + An 8 Year Old

 This is another one of those vulnerable-ish posts that I'm still a little unsure of how to explain but I'd like to try explaining...sound good?

When I left the LDS church last year, it wasn't abrupt and it wasn't out of hate and I feel like I need to express that second part over and over again when in reality, I don't actually have to explain myself---I choose to.

Hayley was 7.5 at the time and I was super panicky about her baptism age approaching and how this change would affect her. I wanted her to have her normal routine---and so I kept going to LDS church on the Sundays I had my kids. And then when I stopped going altogether, she went with my best friend's family for a while.

But she was 7 and her testimony was more cemented in her parents faith than her own---as it is with the majority of our children.

I left the baptism choice up to her and she went back and forth with it.

She came to the conclusion a few months ago that she wasn't ready but asked if I'd buy her a big white dress as a birthday present because she didn't want to miss out on that present.

I spent the majority of my nights in April praying over and over that she would be able to feel loved and included and special when it came time for her big 8th birthday. I asked God what I could do to take the pressure of baptism off of her shoulders and I firmly believe that He followed through and answered that prayer because shortly after, my church advertised child dedications that would be happening on Mother's Day 2016.

I felt very strongly that this was a gift from God to us because instead of putting the pressure on Hayley, the dedication puts a healthy amount of pressure on me.

If you're not familiar with dedications in a Christian church:
"Child dedication is not a sacrament like baptism or communion—you won’t find instructions for it anywhere in the New Testament. There’s nothing magical about it—it doesn’t save your child or guarantee that they will eventually come to trust Jesus as Savior and Lord. However, child dedication can serve as a powerful moment, for both family and church, as both parties commit to working together to raise the child in a way that honors God." source

So on May 8th, 2016, I made a promise to raise Hayley and Andersen with a knowledge of who their Heavenly Father is. All of the vows had meaning and were important but my favorite was #4:
"Do you dedicate yourself to raise your children with biblical love, instruction and discipline? Will you take every opportunity that life gives you to diligently teach your children to love the Lord Jesus and observe all that he commanded, knowing that your primary responsibility as a parent is to train your child to be Jesus’ disciple?"

Friends, it was a beautiful day and we were so thankful to the people in our lives who came and supported Hayley and Andersen. In fact, I'm just so grateful for everyone who supports and loves Hayley and Andersen! 

And with that explanation out of the way, I need to acknowledge the fact that I HAVE AN EIGHT YEAR OLD CHILD!!!!!!!!! 
From the time she was little, Hayley always had this huge heart. She was this tiny little girl who would feel compassion toward others. Often times, when she'd hurt her brother or someone else, she would end up in tears because she felt bad for the choice she had made.
Hayley was also born with a lot of sass. She pulls off the duck face better than anyone I know and likes to snap her finger and raise her eyebrows at me---and usually it isn't when she's arguing, she just thinks it's funny.
Hayley is so very, very bright. She loves to read and does really well in school. (Besides homework...homework is another story but she promises me 3rd grade is going to be different.)
Hayley is not only a talented dancer, she is a dedicated dancer. If you ask her, she'll tell you that, yes, she is quitting dance and trying a new sport---when she turns 18. She says up until that point, she won't be quitting dance. :) She works hard to get new tricks and has grown leaps and bounds on RMDC's dance company this past year.
This last picture is of Hayley on her birthday at ages 6, 7, and 8. My goodness, this girl brightens my life.

She is very responsible and gorgeous and happy and compassionate, among SO MANY OTHER amazing qualities.

I am so lucky that God blessed me as the mother of this darling girl forever and ever. She is one of a kind and anyone that knows her knows it.