The biggest massacre in U.S. history wasn’t about gays.

I woke up today thinking about the 50.

The 50 who, just two days ago, had lives cut short on a night unexpected. The 50 who never came home, never responded to that last text, never got to say that one last thing. The 50 who have families and friends and loved ones who are waking up today with a hole carved into their lives–one that will always be there.

50 souls.

And as I watch the country grieve I see rainbows on profile photos and gay slogans and anti-religion propaganda because the biggest massacre in our country’s history was at a gay night club, The Pulse. I understand the sentiment. I understand the rainbows. But the thing we need to understand a little bit better is that it has nothing to do with gay or straight, religious or non-religious, male or female, white or non-white.

half staff rainbow

It has everything to do with hate.

We distract ourselves–and the media distracts us as well–with the reasons behind why triggers are pulled or knives or wielded or bombs go off. “It must be because they were black”, we say. “It must be because he was transgender”. “It was a gay nightclub, that’s why”. “Maybe it’s because he was Muslim”.

And while many of those reasons are valid and might even be a surface reason to why atrocities happen, we owe it to ourselves to look up and see things for what they really are.

Hate is real. It lives and it breathes and it seeks to harm and to destroy and to cast blame. Hate is what finds a reason to kill. Hate is what can be bred into our children from a young age and what festers and grows over weeks or months or years. Hate is pride. Hate is a learned trait.

But yet, so is love.

people crying

Those 50 don’t deserve a gay pride flag. They weren’t just “gays gunned down” at a club. They were children of God. They were precious souls with jobs, loved ones, parents, futures and children and memories to make. They were human lives who had to stare down a barrel of a gun aimed at them simply because the one who pulled the trigger was taught hate instead of love somewhere along the line. They were the repercussion of someone’s inability to see the worth of all souls is great.

And America, THAT is our real problem.

We can preach about gun control. We can enact more gay and transgender rights. We can protest in the streets and sign bills or petitions. We can yell and fight and get angry at each other. We can categorize ourselves by “liberal” or “conservative” and draw our lines in the sand.

fences.jpg

Or we can recognize the poison just beneath the roots, the poison that is creeping into minds and hearts and seizing control of our young people. We can work together, free of affiliations, to make it stop. But how do we stop it?

That’s the big question.

I don’t think we’ll ever be able to take a mass issue and solve it over night. There will still be massacres. There will still be children who die and hate crimes and suicides caused from bullying. But we can start where we’re at. We can foster and nurture love into our children and into those we have influence over.

We can recognize people for who they are–children of a perfect God–instead of who or what they associate with while on earth. We can make friends with the lonely and redirect the lost. We can write or sing or use our other passions to touch the hearts of those who need it. We can BE love.

stop hate.jpg

Even decades after Martin Luther King Jr., we still have black teens gunned down in senseless acts of violence and people burning crosses in front lawns. But yet we also have children of different races playing in the streets, a black president, bi-racial couples, and black CEOs and entrepreneurs. We have made leaps and bounds and it started with a simple voice. It started with love.

It seems like the most cliche topic ever spoken about and perhaps that’s the reason our society steers away from it now. Instead of going out in search after the one who’s gone astray we build fences to keep it from coming back in. We build walls to keep ourselves safe and stand in fear at the feet of congress asking them to do whatever it takes to protect us from the “bad people”. We perpetuate the real problem by not actively striving to be the real solution. We cower in fear.

Ghandi once powerfully said, “As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world–that is the myth of the atomic age–as in being able to remake ourselves.”

These things will happen–we will lose 50 people at a nightclub or a young singer will be shot outside her concert venue; we will see schools gunned down or families massacred in their homes. These things will happen but we CANNOT become calloused. We cannot explain away reasons or get up in arms with the means to which the act was carried out. We need to recognize it for what it is, and try a little harder to be a little better in a world that is without fail crumbling every day around us.

“Take heart,” the Savior said, “For I have overcome the world.”

We must not forget that. We must overcome.

good in the world.jpg

I love the lost 50. Gay or straight, black or white, male or female, old or young. They are brothers and sisters who were victims of a plague that attacks the heart–and nothing else.

There is nothing more to fight about. Nothing more to wave flags about or protest. Nothing matters except for the fact that we are warriors in a battle that consists of fighting evil every day by being one more piece of light that can overcome it. Yes, you may be on a very small scale. So am I. You’re literally one out of billions.

But it’s just the pull of one moon that creates a thousand waves.

Never let someone tell you that a couple people with love and grace and compassion in their hearts can’t completely change this world.

Because through the course of history, that’s all who ever have.

Broken things

A 16-hour road trip to San Diego from our home in Idaho was interesting, to say the very least. Miles of desert, horizons that just seem to get further away the harder you push the gas, and in my case, lots on my mind. And as you probably know, whenever you’re going through an uphill climb in life, sometimes being locked into a confined space with nothing else to occupy your cluttered mind is the WORST.

But luckily, there were pit stops. My favorite pit stop happened to be the summer home of Brigham Young, which sat relatively close to the beautiful St. George LDS temple. I don’t know what it was about walking through that home and hearing the stories of sacrifice and love, but it gripped my heart.

And then we stopped at this chair.

IMG_9159.jpg

It looks like a normal chair, right?

Nope.

Many, many years ago a young woman was walking past a junk pile that was waiting for trash pick up and she noticed the back of the chair sticking out from the mounds of rubbish. She pulled it out and noticed the design was rather unique and wondered if there was more to it. So, carefully, she picked at the pile and pulled pieces of the broken chair one after another from the pile. After all the pieces were retrieved she brought it to a historian who gasped at the sight of the pieces. This wasn’t just any chair. This was a one-of-a-kind chair from Thomas Cottam, who was a brilliant chair maker in the mid 1800’s, revolutionizing design and practicality and shape. These chairs were so scarce to come by and were esteemed very highly for the time they were created.

thomas cottam

So, piece by piece, the chair was put back together, re-sanded, glossed up, and positioned proudly in an area that can be seen by visitors coming through every day.

I remember hearing that story with the group of visitors and placing a hand on the back of the simple chair as everyone walked past, eager to head to the next room. And I remember thinking about the broken pieces that ended in the trash pile.

trash pile

This chair, valuable beyond measure, and highly regarded as a work of art for its time, was broken apart, scattered in rubbish, and waiting for its end. But then, someone recognized it, took the time to find all the parts, and restored it to its original beauty.

I think I sometimes forget that. Sometimes we are broken apart, scattered all about with no direction and little purpose. We feel scarred, used up, completely and utterly useless after the storm hits and we splinter and fail. Sometimes we sit in a million pieces and just wait for it all to end. Sometimes we forget how to stand.

And then–it happens. Just like that.

The Savior will undoubtedly come along, often when we feel it’s about time to give up, and he’ll find the pieces. And with gentle and unwavering hands he will gather those pieces together and find our value amidst our rubble. He doesn’t care about the trash around us–the sin, the mistakes, the confusion and doubts and insecurities. He doesn’t care that we turned away from Him and that we left a mess in our wake. He doesn’t care if we were our own storm. All he cares about is gathering what was lost and restoring us to our original beauty–the one that the Maker intended us to be.

potter

There is no grand chair maker who wants his masterpiece to end in broken things. There is no artist who wants his Mona Lisa to be hidden away in a drawer somewhere. There is no writer who’s words should gather dust and no carpenter who wants his carvings to swell and crack in the rain. Art is meant to withstand the ages.

So are you. You’re an eternal work of art.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 so simply and beautifully reminds us, “He has made everything beautiful in its time.”

But I know. It’s easy to forget when you’re broken into a million pieces or when over time, you’ve been chipped away at a little at a time, you’ve bent a little, you’ve warped in the storm, you’ve lost a few elements of yourself. Sometimes we lose our original shape and we forget the way the master originally crafted us. Thankfully, we have a Savior who remembers who we’re supposed to be and who finds the pieces amongst our mess.

It’s just a chair when you pass it by, I guess. I  never would have known how special it was. How it’s worth hundreds (maybe thousands) of dollars because of the master who created it. I’d never guess that at one point it was sitting by a dumpster. It seems like an unlikely story.

But so is yours.

And that’s the grand artistry of it all, even amongst your broken things.

So don’t give up–not for a single second. Like the chair, your master will come and find all the broken parts. Like the chair, your value will be restored and you will find the purpose that you have always had.

Your brokenness is the start of the healing.

 

 

 

No, Mormon members: We can’t sweep Tyler Glenn’s “Trash” under the rug

I heard Tyler Glenn’s song, “Trash” one night while I was perusing YouTube for new songs to find on iTunes. It was catchy, somewhat soulful, and it took a few seconds before I recognized a familiar prophet as a painting on the wall in the video and I realized what he was talking about. And then I saw other signs–other sacred things–that made my stomach turn. He was talking about leaving the church because he felt “pushed out”.

I watched the video about three times and on the third time, I closed my lap top and realized I was crying.

I wasn’t offended. I wasn’t suddenly outraged. I was sad for him. Very sad.

tyler glenn 3

Many of us, whether LDS members or Buddhists or Pentecostals or Agnostic or whatever else, find comfort where we’re at. Many of us fit in to the lifestyle we lead and love it. We have friends, we don’t have very unique situations (at least not situations that stick out too much) and we have positive experiences that make us stay.

And then there are those like Tyler Glenn, who are hurting and crying out in the form of blogs, music videos, interviews, art, or a slamming door as they walk out.

Since the release of this music video I’ve seen outraged members express distaste for Tyler Glen’s band Neon Trees. I’ve read awful YouTube comments and have seen plenty of blogs or statements contrasting Glenn’s message. And although I get the anger and the pain and the message that these church members are feeling and trying to convey, I think we need to step back. What’s the real issue here? Is it our need to defend ourselves and keep our bubble shiny and untouched, or should it be the need to understand those like Glenn who find themselves outcast, shamed, and lost?

black sheep

We need to be done sweeping Tyler Glenns of the world under the rug.

When I was in the Pentecostal church I worked as a teacher for the young kids, a lot like I do now in my church. All the kids were behaved, sat where they needed to, and played well with the other children. But then there was Ben (we’ll just call him that for the sake of his privacy). He acted out, he screamed, he bit me so hard once that I had to bandage my hand up afterwards. I couldn’t stand this kid and I breathed a sigh of relief when he wouldn’t show up to church, much to my shame when I look back on it now. He was so different, so misbehaved, so incredibly painful to watch. Even the other kids didn’t want to play with Ben.

But then, one Sunday as I was cleaning up the room and sweeping cookie bits off the tile floor, his parents came in the room to talk to me. They apologized if Ben had been hard to handle. He had developmental issues they told me, and had been in the foster system ever since birth. He had been abused, suffered from lots of delays, and didn’t have many friends. Ben was often sad and would scream out loud and say so in ways that didn’t make sense.

bad boy

After they left my classroom I remember sitting down and crying. Crying in guilt. In shame. In pain for Ben. And praying that Ben would come back each Sunday, screaming fits and all. Because it was where he belonged and I wanted him there.

I’m not saying Tyler Glenn is a misbehaved child. Obviously he’s not. He is a respected musician who served in the church faithfully and is a grown man. But the analogy, even now, rings true for me.

How many times do we see the Bens in our safe world screaming and biting and tearing things up, all the while rolling our eyes and turning our backs and praying they’d just be quiet? How many times do we not seek to understand that they have been rejected, they have been abused, they have lived with self-hatred fueled by the minority and never tamed by the majority?

tyler glenn 2

Why are we still children, pretending these people don’t exist? Pretending like we haven’t been them at one point or another?

Tyler Glenn said in an interview with Rolling Stone, “My entire life and perspective on God, the afterlife, morals and values, my self-worth and my born sexual orientation has been wired within the framework of this religion that doesn’t have a place for me…I served [this church]. I was the square peg trying to fit into the round hole. I believed it till six months ago.”

I understand we can’t lead everyone back. And some people don’t want to be reached out to. I get that. But firing back by saying he’s wrong and that his perception is skewed isn’t only wrong, it’s damaging. What if the sin that you carried, your deepest, darkest secret, was suddenly public knowledge? What if, even by some misunderstanding, you felt like you were a square peg?

I don’t quite understand Glenn’s pain or anger right now. I haven’t been through it. But I know how it feels to not blend in. To work through doubts and pray for the faith to endure. I know how it is to feel anything BUT treasure. I bet you do too.

tyler glenn 4

We’re all treasure, yes. But let’s take a second to look around and see the ugliness and address it and let those who are struggling simply know that we SEE them before preaching and going on rants about how wrong they are to speak out.

I love my church. I love that Christ leads it, and the culture does not. I love that the pure doctrines and truths are completely simple and lead to joy and are not convoluted with opinions and skepticism and misunderstandings that lead to false teachings.

And because I love it, I love who Christ loves.

Tyler Glenn, outspoken angry ex-members, bloggers who have re-blogged my words with fiery come backs, the black sheep, the ones who wail and scream and bite me until I bleed all because they aren’t heard. And I don’t want their trash and their muck to be quickly swept away.

I want to hear them and see them and undo the taboo. I want to fight for them and work toward a day when this happens less and less and even when it does happen, at least we did our part to be the people we need to be.

Because I know without a doubt that Christ would fight for them.

And I know He’d tell us to turn around, to face the ugliness, and to remember that this is our purpose–to go in search after the one.

Note: Edits have been made to protect identities as well as to withdraw a statement I made without realizing it was untrue and that I had misunderstood this person’s message. I appreciate this person reaching out to me to let me know the error and welcome all feedback.

 

 

There’s no such thing as Karma. But there is THIS.

I don’t like talking about hard lessons when I was in the wrong to begin with.

It’s a pride thing. Or an ego thing. Something like that.

It’s just simply uncomfortable.

I’d rather be the all-wise guru of knowledge that reeks of love and acceptance and all things righteous (yes, you can laugh). But…*sigh*. I’m human.

So are you, so I think I’m in good company, especially since I know so many of you and you’re all pretty much my tribe.

Today something difficult happened and I think the reason it was harder than usual is I haven’t had these kinds of feelings before and I haven’t had such inner turmoil about something like it either.

Someone I know pretty well has risen to the top in many ways. Lots of friends and acquaintances have shared this person’s work on social media and even affiliates from my church has endorsed this person. But each time I see it or read about it, a lump forms in my throat because of what I know. You see, I know this person and details that aren’t published for the world to see. I know what’s real, I know what’s fake, I know the back stories and the histories and even present situations and I know the damage that has been caused to other people who are now a platform for this person’s success. I refuse to discuss details. I haven’t told a single soul anything–not a name, not anything. But today I have carried it in my heart like a heavy stone and even said a simple prayer.

praying

“Why, Heavenly Father, is (this person) allowed to deceive? Why do people who hurt or lie or become like the world gain such success and have NO repercussions?”

I know it probably sounds silly. Some of you might even think it sounds immature of me. But this blog isn’t to flash my perfection. It’s to discuss our collective imperfections.

I know that at least one of you out there have experienced this very thing, even if it’s a different circumstance. One of you has seen an abusive ex gain an incredibly prosperous life without you. One of you has been betrayed by a friend who looks perfect in all her profile pictures and hasn’t batted an eye that you carry pain. One of you out there has been hurt by a pastor or a minister who drives a Rolls Royce and couldn’t care less that you’ve left and feel like you have nothing. One of you out there, at least one of you, has wondered why karma hasn’t caught up to those who have left dirty, bloody war wounds on those around them.

successful person

And now, it’s later in the night and I think the quiet has helped me realize something that I wasn’t able to grasp during the noise of the day.

There’s no such thing as karma. And I shouldn’t even want there to be.

But there is such thing as a Heavenly Father. And He works everything out.

Our job on this earth isn’t to be on His jury to dole out the punishments we think we see fit or the “karma” that should roll around. If that were the case, that’d be a pretty sinful, hypocritical, biased jury wouldn’t it? I surely wouldn’t belong on that panel.

I’m grateful that we have a loving Savior and a gracious Heavenly Father who sees all things, just as we do, but who also sees the heart and can be the perfect judge. I’m grateful that when I feel the inclination to judge and be offended, He reminds me that I’m overstepping my bounds and that I shouldn’t judge lest I be judged likewise.

Tweeting Jurors Fines

In James 4:12 it says so simply, “There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?”

And in Galatians 6:7 it reminds us that He sees all and will take care of it even better than we could: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

It’s so hard to remember this, especially when our first inclination as human beings is to defend what we feel is right and to “correct” the wrongs that we see. I think we sometimes have the nasty habit of sniffing out wrongs like hound dogs and forgetting the things we still have to work on.

I see so many positive things now that I’m looking for them. One of my blog reader’s daughters just beat cancer. One of my friends who has been battling infertility just sent me a picture of her first ultrasound. My dog sleeps at my feet, precious and perfect. It was sunny today and the tulips in my front yard decided to burst into full bloom. Beauty everywhere.

So much to praise. Not enough time to condemn.

I’ll just go ahead and leave that up to the Master.

atonement

Your chariots of fire

I am SO lucky.

Actually, I should use the word blessed because that’s the only way to explain it, isn’t it?

You see, I have a HUGE family.

I wasn’t born into it. My side of the family is relatively small–I’m one of three girls (my older sister never lived with us) and our extended family reunions can fit comfortably in a house if everyone is present. My dad has died, so coming home for week-long stays now includes my immediate family of two. But I love them so much and we’ve never lacked. We’ve always been close.

family my side.jpg

But then I moved out and went to college and accrued a whole plethora of friends who have become family. So close, in fact, that my kids will call them aunts and uncles.

And then I got married and BAM. Just like that, I accrued 14 other sisters and brothers (including spouses) and 21 other nieces and nephews besides the two I already had. I got another set of parents, and more cousins and uncles and aunts.. When we first got married my husband and I actually made a game out of memorizing everyone’s names because it was like memorizing the names of an auditorium of people at a football game.

But it wasn’t hard to memorize each of them because they worked their way into my heart really fast.

everyone at wedding

 

This last weekend I learned a little bit more about how blessed I am–and how blessed you are too. Let me tell you why.

We went to Utah for the baptism of my little nephew Colton. His mama, my husband’s sister, passed away three years ago from cancer. It shook our family to the core to lose her, but we all made a pact that we’d stay close to the kids and to her husband and his new wife now. Not all of us could make it to the baptism/reunion weekend but lots of us did, and I’m so glad we were there. During the confirmation blessing Colton’s daddy made it clear that Natalie, his mama in Heaven, was so proud. And we all felt it at that moment. She was very near. So it was only fitting that after we had our playtime and went out for ice cream after, we would visit Natalie’s resting place together.

I write about this time with the utmost reverence because it isn’t something that should be flashed around. I wondered if I should even include it at all. But I feel that I should. Natalie is buried in a family plot and since her youngest, Ella, wasn’t even two years old when Natalie died, she had lots of questions. As the family walked back to their cars and left them behind I captured a shot of my sweet and incredibly strong brother-in-law explaining with the utmost simplicity the resurrection.

ella and ted.jpg

“Someday, when it’s our time to go home to be with Heavenly Father we will see Mommy again,” he said sweetly. “We will give her a big hug.”

“I can’t believe she’s in the ground,” Ella said.

And that’s when my brother-in-law explained that she isn’t in the ground. But in fact, she’s with us as a beautiful spirit.

As I write this I remember the feelings that came over me in that family burial plot watching a daddy and his daughter over a mother’s grave. I remember feeling like the cemetery was suddenly packed, standing at attention–saluting a small girl who has to face a life of strong faith and courage.

nat with kids

Those stones in our graveyards are reminders in the emerald grass of the chariots of fire that run to our rescue daily. They remind me that whether you have a small family or a large family on earth, it doesn’t compare to the crowd that loves you in Heaven.

For all that I’ve lost, I remind myself now, I have gained so much in Heaven. My uncle, my cousin, my dad, my sister-in-law, my grandma, my grandpa, friends…all the others I’ve lost along the way–they guard and protect and serve me daily. They whisper in my ear and hug me from behind and lift my chin to the sun when I feel despair. They stand at attention during my time of sorrow and celebrate when I feel joy.

Yes. Angels are real. It’s called family.

ella and matt.jpg

One of the little boys I teach in primary at church said a sweet prayer the other day that comes to mind now.

“Thank you that Heaven loves us!” he exclaimed last Sunday. I’ve never heard that kind of phrase before, but what a little spiritual giant he is to exclaim what my heart sings over now. Thank you that Heaven loves me! Thank you that I have family and friends and ancestors who cheer for me and root for me and have passed down their talents and love and faiths just for me! Thank you that throughout the course of history we are one long chain that pulls and tugs through time, reminding each other and comforting each other and loving each other back to the kingdom.

Elder Holland said it best I think. I included this quote in a past blog of mine but why not share it again? It’s just THAT good.

“In the gospel of Jesus Christ you have help from both sides of the veil, and you must never forget that. When disappointment and discouragement strike–and they will–you remember and never forget that if our eyes could be opened we would see horses and chariots of fire as far as the eye can see riding at reckless speed to come to our protection. They will always be there, these armies of heaven, in defense of Abraham’s seed.”

You are the seed of Abraham. You are a link in a never-ending chain of God’s children. You matter enough to have angels, ancestors you never met, and those you have loved and lost, form rings of fire around you. You matter enough to have Heaven work to keep you uplifted, safe, and in the light, even against the dark evil that you can’t see.

It blows my mind and comforts my heart all at the same time.

temple

Our feet that pass by these gravestones now will someday be joined in Heaven–someday WE will be the ones to help our loved ones from the other side of the veil.

The eternal plan for eternal happiness. The eternal pattern.

My face streamed with tears as I watched Ella learn about where her mama is right now. My face streamed with tears when I had to learn that same lesson with my dad.

But I can’t help but turn my face to the sunshine and thank God for the angels that hold us up. I can’t help but thank God that despite death, despite pain, and despite the blindness to the spiritual realm, I have a HUGE family.

And we have chariots of fire on each side running at reckless speed.

Just for me. Just for you.

angels guarding

 

The reason you matter

One of the lower points in my life was the day I applied at a mattress store.

Don’t get me wrong–it eventually turned into one of the best jobs I’ve ever had and I met some of my best friends there. But at the time, with a brand new bachelor’s degree in hand, years and years of experience, and dreams upon dreams mounded in my little heart, I was disappointed that I had to apply there. The jobs I liked didn’t pay enough or weren’t hiring at all, and this job had a lot of promise to give us a good income while my husband attended nursing school.

I became depressed.

I no longer held a camera every day, I didn’t get to write much, and I had to learn a whole new skill set that proved pretty challenging, and I didn’t know if I’d even be very good at it.

selling mattresses

I even remember one morning, sitting in traffic, my new sales tag pinned to my blouse, where I said out loud, “I guess I don’t matter anymore.”

Silly, I know. But it’s how I felt. And I honestly felt that way for a while, especially during the learning curve where I flailed without any kind of life raft for a while, completely unsuccessful at closing even the easiest of sales. But bit by bit, day by day, I learned the difference that I could make in people’s lives and why my  job mattered to so many people. Most importantly, I remember the moment where I was reminded why I matter–regardless of circumstance or profession.

I helped an elderly man one day find the right bed and he happened to be a professional photographer when he was younger. We talked for quite a while and he told stories and we laughed and he eventually bought everything I fit him for. It was a great experience, but I eventually moved on from it and didn’t think about it. Not even a month later, his daughter called my store and told me he had died in his bed the night before and she wanted to personally call and thank me.

She said that he had talked about me to her, telling her that it was nice to feel important again–that most sales people just treat him like a senile old man who won’t buy anything expensive enough. He was mostly ignored. But with me, she said, he felt important again and he could tell that’s because I was a child of God and recognized the same in him. She said he told her that was the only reason he spent the money he did, and she was grateful that I did that for her dad.

After many tears over the phone, I went to the back room and wrote a reminder on the white board we kept on the wall: “Everyone who walks through our doors matter. Just like you matter.”

elderly

It was more of my reminder than anything. I had forgotten why I really matter. It has nothing to do with occupation or a degree or a social status. It has nothing to do with my education or where I live or what I drive. It has nothing to do with how “important” this world considers me compared to everyone else. It’s simply because I’m a child of God.

And I matter to Him.

When we come to that realization, we’ll instantly treat others with more kindness, more gentleness, and more respect simply because we know they are a child of God too.

During this General Conference (a conference the LDS church has semi-annually) I have been reminded of my identity and I feel grateful that I was able to learn those lessons young.

I don’t sell mattresses anymore and the days of working 12 hours without a camera in hand are over. I’m finally doing what I love with my own business, but I know now that my business, my hobbies, my experience and my resume don’t define me whatsoever. And I know that’s why Heavenly Father humbled me, placing me in a circumstance I wouldn’t choose for myself, and breaking down my pride, all to remind me that my worth doesn’t change. To this day, I thank God for that circumstance the most.

in kanab

“God sees us as we truly are–and he sees us worthy of rescue,” President Uchtdorf said.

And even President Monson said, “Remember who you are and what God expects you to become.”

This is how we start. By remembering that. It is our first step.

You might feel like you aren’t much. Maybe you can’t think of any talents that you have. Maybe you’re getting older and can’t do what you used to do. Perhaps you work three jobs to keep up with rent and none of them are what you want to be doing. Maybe you are a waitress during the day, studying to be a nurse at night. Maybe you are lots of things.

But despite it all, none of them matter as much as the fact that you were created by the Creator, loved by the maker of Love, cheered on by the most intelligent, all-encompassing being of the universe.

matt in africa

So if you forgot, let me remind you.

Yes, you might be a mother, a father, a caregiver, a doctor, a plumber, a photographer, a writer, a teacher, a lawyer, a bishop, a gardener.

But more than that you’re something that matters much, much more.

You are a child of God.

And that makes you absolutely, beautifully divine.

When God doesn’t show up

Today in church a newborn baby was blessed.

In my church, how a baby blessing works is the father will hold the baby in the center of a circle of family and friends and a prayer is said for the start of the little one’s life. Today something that was said in the blessing caught my attention.

“I bless you to always feel Heavenly Father near and His love for you,” the sweet dad said.

Wouldn’t that be nice?! My inner thoughts said back. And maybe there are some of you who legitimately have the gift of always feeling Him near and knowing without a doubt that His love for you is bigger than life. *If so, I totally want your life.*

But I wasn’t born with that gift.

Instead I was born with a skeptical little heart that I have to hold at bay now and then, and a talent for working really hard at things and not giving up, even when my insides aren’t really feeling it. I’ve always been embarrassed about that.

Why does it feel like sometimes I just got the short end of the stick? Why do some of my trials feel like a really personal blow? Why, when I’ve spent years praying for something, it feels like a brick wall is listening instead of a loving Father in Heaven?

Why does it feel like sometimes God chooses to just not show up?

alone on dock

As painful as it is to talk about, as embarrassing as it is to talk about weaknesses, I know I’m not the only one. Don’t worry, you don’t have to admit to it. I’ll take the fall and maybe you’ll relate along the way.

I was so blessed to be able to attend Time Out For Women this weekend, two nights filled with messages, music, and heart-to-heart honesty about trials, overcoming, and patience in the storms of life. All of the messages touched me deeply, but it wasn’t until Michael McLean, a wonderful singer and song writer, took to the stage that I suddenly felt like the Savior himself took my hand and wanted to deliver this very personal message straight to me.

TOFW.jpg

I won’t cover his whole message because it was long and you would fall asleep halfway through the blog because I wouldn’t be able to tell it as beautifully as he could. But long story short, Michael had a decade-long faith crisis. During this crisis of faith, he didn’t let anyone know what was going on internally or the doubts that singed his heart. He continued to go to church, he continued to write music, he kept going to the temple with his wife and joining in on family prayers. But he felt, all along, like he was in the darkness. And then one night he had a dream, in song of course, and he woke up and wrote the music that he heard in the dream.

“I choose to pray to one who doesn’t hear me. 

I choose to wait for love that He conceals.

And though God’s chosen now not to be near me, 

I’m keeping promises my heart no longer feels.”

I wouldn’t consider myself to be in a faith crisis that lasts years upon years like Michael and some others have experienced–but I have had pockets of moments, sometimes pockets of days or weeks, where these lyrics are what my heart would say while in the midst of the dark.

I felt that moment three years ago when my husband told me over the phone that Dad was just given nine more months to live. I still remember sitting against a vending machine, unable to stand, praying in a room that wouldn’t even echo. I felt nothing come back to me.

hug on bed

I felt that moment when the doctor said the word “infertility” and my prayer to be a mom fell on seemingly deaf ears.

I felt that moment when the only members left on my side of the family left the church and my prayers for them to stay seemed completely meaningless.

I have stood, alone and utterly broken, wondering why God decided not to show up when I needed him the most.

I have lived these moments.

And yet–so has He.

savior in garden

And although I’ve always known it, it wasn’t until I was reminded the other night that I put the pieces all together. Jesus–the Savior of the world, the perfect man, the CREATOR of the galaxies–was literally left alone. In his greatest hour of need Heavenly Father stepped away from Him and took away his presence completely.

Why did he do that to his only son? His perfect son??

Yes, it’s because he loves us so much. We’ve all heard that answer and we’ve studied it in Sunday School manuals.

But another answer is one we don’t think of that often. Heavenly Father had faith in Jesus.

He had complete faith that in the moment when Christ felt most alone, in that moment when there was darkness and emptiness and no voice whispering back, in that moment when the Spirit had left and the pain was immense and the blood stung his eyes–he decided to pray anyway.

jesus praying

He decided to do the Father’s will anyway. He decided to keep His promise ANYWAY.

So what more can I do? What more can you do?

Because of the Savior we will never be truly alone.

We might feel it–we might get a taste of what the Savior felt in Gethsemane as he cried to the Heavens and was later pinned to a cross on a lonely hill. But in those hours of feeling it, we need to do what Christ did when he was actually, truly alone and didn’t have God near by.

We need to pray anyway, even when we don’t get an answer back. We need to keep our promises, even when we don’t feel like it anymore. We need to love Him, even when we don’t feel very loved in return. Because in those moments, those little moments where our eyes put a roof on our perspective and we can only see a few feet ahead–

In those moments He’s counting on us to choose Him anyway.

pryaing

Life is so hard. There’s a million things we want and a hundred things we need and it’s so easy to see his hand in other’s lives and a little harder to see him working in ours. It’s so hard sometimes to watch our kids leave the church and to take the sacrament at church while feeling like it wouldn’t make a difference anyway with how terrible it has all been. It’s so hard to feel like you don’t have any friends you can talk to and to get on your knees to pray, only to cry instead, feeling like there isn’t anyone on the other end of the receiver. It’s so hard to deal with an empty home or a too-full home where you have no time to breathe. It’s so hard to deal with a spouse who has fallen away, an addiction that seems unbearable to handle, or a calling in life that makes you the one people go to for spiritual strength and there’s no time in the world to fall apart.

Life is so hard. I know.

But we have to keep going.

He has faith we’ll love him, even in those empty patches. Even in those moments where we’re almost completely convinced that He isn’t there.

If you’re in a crisis of faith right now, don’t try to convince yourself of anything. Just choose to keep going forward. Your faith won’t always be perfect–mine sure isn’t.

But He has perfect faith in us.

And for now, here in the dark, that’s enough light to hold on to.

“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” -John 8:12, KJV

candle