Sunday, January 15, 2017

My New-Old Life


It has been an incredibly hard and amazing month. 

A month of going back to the LDS church and throwing myself into a religion that I had left behind.

I feel peaceful at times while other times, I feel anything but peace. 
I think that's one of the problems with the amazing religious stories we might hear---they aren't always as easy as they seem. Some of them are absolutely unrealistic to most of our lives. One amazing answer to prayer doesn't negate all of the fear and doubt that was originally in place. My fears are still very real. 

I can remember when I left the LDS church, I started to feel this weight lift off of my chest because I no longer had to think through some really hard things or make sense of doctrine that was confusing me. I could walk away, knowing I had tried but knowing that I was moving on to bigger and better things for my family.
I truly believed we had found our place in this world within the walls of Redemption. I did. And I don't regret the journey we've been on.

This month has been full of questions and quite frankly, I am exhausted. 

I'm still scared. 

And although I know this is what I'm supposed to be doing, I'm not always ecstatic about it.

That's the thing with answers from God---they aren't always easy. At times, they require a lot of personal work and growth. And right now, I'm trying as best I can to put my faith and trust in Him.

Logically, I have faith that I'm doing what's right. Because if God told me that those promises in my Priesthood blessing were real then that means the Priesthood is real. And if the Priesthood is real then Joseph Smith was a real prophet. And if Joseph Smith was a real prophet then the Book of Mormon is true.

But having that knowledge isn't making this easier for some reason. I'm still over here wrestling with myself and trying to make sense of my place in this new-old world.

I went through the temple for the first time in two years this past Friday. I was picky about who I was going to invite, something that felt hard because had I been in a different place, I would've invited ALL of the people who have been there for my family these past few years. A part of me figured the temple session would be easy for me because I've always loved the peace inside the temple but there was this other part of me that was anxious and fearing my reactions and in the end, I knew who I'd want to handle the freak outs if they happened.

It was hard. But a beautiful kind of hard. The kind that you want to work through because you have this feeling you're going to learn something important in the end.
I got in to the temple session and started to feel extremely anxious. This was too fast. Why did I decide to do this so soon after coming back to church? What am I doing here? I don't even belong.
I was kind of freaking out inside of my head and I asked God to help me know what to do next. His answer didn't come with words, just an incredible feeling of peace and comfort that I was going to make it through the next few hours.

And I did. 

I ended up enjoying my morning at the temple and left feeling incredibly grateful that, even though I don't feel a strong conviction to certain aspects of the church yet, I know that God isn't going to abandon me on this journey.

Sometimes, the hardest things are the right things.

I've learned to trust that sentence these past few years as I've signed divorce papers, severing a relationship I vowed to be a part of forever, as I've opened up about how I was affected by pornography addiction and my own personal eating disorder hell, as I walked away from the only church I had ever called home to try and find my place in this world, and as I made the decision to come back to the church I had called home for so many years but now with more questions and doubts and fears.

In all of these cases, the hardest thing was still the right thing at the time.

Working through grief and doubt isn't easy. That is a truth I can attest to.

And the truth is that I considered leaving the church after I got divorced. I was fiercely grieving behind a wall I had put up. People would tell me I was handling my divorce so well and I would just cringe and think, "You have NO idea how dark my life feels right now. THIS IS FAKE! I am not handling this well at all." I started to feel extremely lonely and struggled through each Sunday meeting. I can remember one Sunday, my friend's husband said to me, "Suzanne, you are acting like a teenager whose parents have forced them to be here." And that was a perfectly accurate description of my attitude toward church.

Another truth that I'm working through is that a year after my divorce, I experienced one of the darkest trials of my life up to this point and I think this was my final straw. In fact, I can clearly remember my mother coming over and picking me up off the couch I had been laying on for two days without eating or going to work or doing anything other than crying and sleeping and as we drove to get some lunch, I said to her, "I'm not going to go to church anymore. I'm too angry at God and this was the very last straw." 
And although I didn't leave right then, although I tried to work through everything while staying active, it just wasn't working for me. I wasn't feeling like I was doing the right thing. Every Sunday, I felt like a foreign object at church and I just couldn't take it anymore.

And so I left.

I left because it was right.

And I came back because it was right. 

I don't believe that the choices I made would be right for everyone but I believe they have been right for me.

I have loved these past two years of religious growth. I have had friends who have pushed me and asked me hard questions and I've had to figure out what it is I believe.

In fact, I'm still figuring that out. 

You guys, I guess I'm just here to tell you that this process isn't perfect or easy.

But although it hasn't been easy, I have been thinking about the person I used to be and the person that I am now and I like this girl a lot more. I like the experiences that have brought me to this point in my life.
And although I've hated the dark trials, I like seeing how far I've come and how much I have healed.

In fact, as my daughter was baptized yesterday (an experience I'll post about separately), I experienced a gratitude for her father that I haven't felt in a very long time. I felt like we were a family again---a different kind of family but still, a family. As he baptized her and we both started to cry, I realized that the reason I am fighting to heal is because I want our children to know that we will always be here, that we will always be bonded together because of them.

This kind of healing and perspective is not something I expected to happen.
I still struggle with hurt feelings a lot of the time toward Hayley and Andersen's dad.
We are both guilty of not being very kind to each other.

But this perspective showed me just how much I have worked to find myself since getting divorced.

I am a completely different person and I believe I'm a better person now. 

So as hard as this all is for me, as scary as it feels to adjust to this new-old life, I am putting my trust in God and having faith that, with Him by my side, this is going to get easier and better.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2017

2016.

One of the most growing years I've had without really difficult challenges accompanying it.

This year was one of the most positive ones I've had since becoming an adult.

And I owe that all to my Heavenly Father. 

It's funny because, for years, I've begged Him for a break, a longer period of calm after the storm. Because although I recognize that He hasn't thrown all of my trials at me, I also have faith that He has the power to take my trials away.
And each time I was faced with a big one, I'd think, "Really? Didn't I ask for a break? Why oh why can't it just be calm for a while?" 

So while it hasn't just been a completely easy year, it was much calmer than the previous ones.

2016. 

The year I practiced authenticity and focused on my confidence. 

This part was difficult. Self-confidence does not come naturally to me. I've struggled with my body image since I was a child and this past year was no different.
But with everything these past few years have put me through, I can sit here and tell you that I CHOSE to ignore the eating disorder lies more days than not. I CHOSE to talk to myself more positively than I've ever done in the past.
My body and I may not always be friends---I might really struggle to like her---but I also realize that God created me in this body for a reason and that health, for me, needs to involve more positive talk and less hate.
And I believe I am finally at a point where I can start working on that more. 

2016. 

The year I finished three more semesters at Arizona State University. 

This year, my grades were not great. I struggled a lot, especially this past semester. Senioritis is a real thing. But I also finished 12 classes. I took numerous tests, wrote what felt like a million discussion board posts, and finished multiple research papers.
Juggling my school and home life was a major challenge for me but you guys, I ONLY HAVE ONE MORE SEMESTER!
And I am going to successfully finish this last semester and graduate in May. 

2016. 

The year I learned more about the Bible and tried to stay true to what God wanted for me. 

'Tried' being the keyword.
There were times I fell off that path, where God wasn't really a major part of my decision making processes. There were times I woke up in the morning after making childish choices the night before and wondered what the heck I was doing.
I wasn't always following God's path---but instead trying to fit Him into my path.

And I believe that is the reason this has all happened so quickly. 

I believe I was supposed to learn certain things outside of the LDS church. I believe there were experiences and church services I was supposed to be a part of to teach me more about myself and about what I believe this life is about.

I believe I am a better Suzanne because of the religious decisions I've made in the past two years.
I have learned so much outside of my comfort zone and that has made me more confident in my every day choices.

And a major key in choosing confidence and authenticity for 2016 had to do with religion. 

People would ask me why I had left or what I believed and it scared me to answer. I hated answering those questions. I felt so inadequate, as I've often felt when it comes to religion.
So when I decided that I was going to be an authentic Suzanne, I made a decision to answer questions more honestly, more confidently, and also opening myself up to listen to the other sides of those conversations.

I've had conversations with Mormons who expressed their opinions of non-denominational Christianity.
I've also had conversations with non-denominational Christians who have expressed their opinions of Mormons.

Both of these conversation types have brought me to a stronger foundation of who I am and what I believe.

2016. 

The year I finished 30 hours of PS-MAPP courses to become a licensed foster parent. 

This was another call from God, one I had felt compelled to seek out years ago but never felt like the timing was right.
This year, the timing was right. 
And in the near future, my licensing should be complete.

This choice was not decided upon lightly and it has not been an easy journey. I have prayed so much about this decision that will alter our family dynamic.
But after everything my Heavenly Father has done for me, I am not going to argue with Him just because I am scared.

Because---confidence

I almost backed out of this process earlier in the year because the thought of opening my home to more children and potentially being blamed or scrutinized by the state or others involved in the process was more than I thought I could handle.
But God just kept bringing it up---and when I finally made the call to start my license, everything fell into place smoother than it ever should have.

I also held off on this for a while because I was worried it would interfere with my single/dating life---which is just downright hilarious because that part of my life is non-existent. But I worried about this for a while and prayed about it before realizing that I am not going to put my life on hold for greater things just because I am single.
I'd be happy to be dating but I'm also happy right now.

And I won't be sitting around waiting for my life to change before doing what God wants me to be doing.

If He tells me I need to stop or that I am needed elsewhere, I'll listen and obey that call.

But for now, I feel like I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be.


2016 was one for the books.
It was positive and authentic and scary at times. It was full of spiritual and emotional growth.

And a few weeks ago, as I was considering what I wanted to work on in 2017, a new song by Danny Gokey came on the radio that impressed upon me my word for this coming year.

There's a brokenness inside of you
There's a wound that still reminds you
Of the fear, shame and rejection 
You have seen it, you have seen it

You know it's time to get up
But your heart's paralyzed, you're so stuck
You're past the point of trying again
You're defeated, you're defeated

But something inside you can't deny
You hear the call of your creator
I made you for more, unlocked the door
I wanna restore your glory


So rise
Breaking the dark, piercing the night
You're made to shine
An army of hope
Bringing the world
A radiant light
A radiant light
You were made to rise

Lift your head and look around you
See the dreams you lost, they have found you
And the heart that once was beating
Is coming back to life
Coming back to life

Shut the door on yesterday
Leave what happened in the grave
You were made to rise
You were made to shine
Creations longing for the day
For kings and queens to take their place
You were made to rise
You were made to shine

Rise
Breaking the dark
Piercing the night
Made to shine
Bring the world
A radiant light



As I listened to the words in this song, I knew what my word for 2017 would be.

Rise. 

Because although I feel like I am right where I am supposed to be, there is still so much to do.

There is still so much growth ahead. 

And I will rise above the negativity and the anxiety. I will rise above the impatience and the laziness.

I will fight for myself, for my children, and for the people that I love. 

When I am needed, I will rise. When I am called upon, I will rise.

This year, both of my children will be baptized and I have made a goal to attend a temple session every month. This is a goal I made when speaking with God last month. I promised Him that if He would guide me through 2017, I would do everything in my power to plant myself firmly in His gospel.
I am scared---but I don't make promises lightly and this is important to me. 

I did this a few years ago, before leaving the church, and it was one of the most positive experiences I've had.

This year, I made a goal to cook more, become more organized, and be more present with my children.
They need me. So much, they need me. And when they need me most, I want to be available.

This is the year that I rise above the negativity and the fear that grips me so often and become a more loving and patient Suzanne.

I believe I am capable of so much and I plan on continuing to learn and grow.