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.