Then there was light

In the beginning there was darkness.

That’s always how the stories begin.

It starts right there at the bedside of your father as he takes his last breath. It starts at the wheel of your car, eyes blinded with tears, wondering how you’re going to tell your wife that you lost your job. It starts when you missed the electric payment for the second time in a row and the lights click off. It starts right there.

We’ve all been under the misconception that the darkness is where it all ends. That the light dims, the sun sinks behind the earth, the chill comes, and it’s over. It certainly feels over at times, doesn’t it?

But in the beginning there was darkness—even for God.

And how often we forget.

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Just a few years ago after my Dad passed away, I told myself the darkness would never be blacker. And in many ways I agree it’s never gotten so dark again. But like every life, I’ve seen my share of the night. 2016 brought a slew of shade and I still find myself reeling over the crippling effects of it. From a divorce to terrible financial burdens to watching people I love suffer to taking hits to my self-worth and having moments of complete agony on my knees as I wonder how to even rebuild my life or keep steady when the storms pummel away at me and rock my foundation and my faith, I have screamed into the night—I have felt the darkness I felt at my Dad’s bedside all over again in a different way that took new forms. I have searched for stars to find only clouds at times. I have wondered where my friends are, where my path is, and why my eyes can’t adjust. I have begged for daybreak, just like you have.

And yet.

I think there is something to be learned within the darkness.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that before this beautiful earth was created, before the Heavens were dotted with stars and before the mountains formed from the seas and before our hearts even started to beat—the creator of all began in utter darkness, surrounded by nothingness. A God who is all knowing, all loving, a supreme being with all knowledge and wisdom and foresight—still began with the absence of light. “Let there be light!” we quote, remembering that the sun rose and it all began. We remember that part.

But actually, the beginning went more like this: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.

That’s really how it all began.

And that’s how you’re going to begin too.

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Right where you’re at, grappling for a foothold, tears like rain. This is your beginning.

I think we too often forget where we’ve come from and what we’ve had to endure in our lives to get to where we’re at. We don’t owe ourselves enough credit to remind ourselves that we’ve always survived and that we’ve chosen time and time again to keep going anyway. To keep loving anyway. To get out of bed anyway. To keep believing and to keep moving forward anyway, even when we have no idea whatsoever where we’re going or what we might bump into. You’re still here simply because you have a trait of the creator in you that believes you can still make something out of nothing. And you always do.

The other day during a rough time where I felt like literally all of my prayers were falling on deaf ears—I stumbled across a quote that simply stated, “Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast the light travels, it finds the darkness has always gotten there first, and is waiting for it.”

And so, I find you here in the darkness, friend. Wherever you are tonight. This is why I write, as my heart is a little heavy myself and I think there’s something to be said for recognizing that we’re all fellow travelers who are in it together.

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I find you in your mound of bills and in your mountain of heartache. I find you crying in your closet and smiling in a crowded room with a pounding and aching heart. I find you lost after turning away from a faith you loved so long and I find you rejected from a love you thought was certain. I find you with your grim medical prognosis and I find you without a friend. I find you, right where you’re at and I join you in the darkness that we all find ourselves in from time to time, even when we’re certain that we’re absolutely alone. I find you there tonight and I hope you know that because God stood alone in utter darkness, we never will have to. We’re in it together, making our way and guessing our steps and waiting for the sun.

I’m a lover of light. As a photographer, as a woman in love with beauty and life, as a future mother and as a significant other and daughter and sister and friend—light has brought me so very much to be thankful for and I see it all as art. Light is what I most love about this world of ours. But I know why.

I know it’s only because I’m well acquainted with the dark.

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When the right choice is the painful one: My lesson through divorce

I hesitate writing this blog post.

I stare at a bright screen while sitting here in a shadowy hotel room overlooking the Snake River. I wanted to talk about this a while ago, but fear set in. A crippling fear actually that told me I’d lose most of my blog readers just as I’ve lost some friends already and even some family. And I might lose some, I realize that. But tonight, after the hardest day of my life, all I want to do is write. Regardless of perception.

About a month ago my husband and I filed for divorce.

I won’t go into the reasons, but the decision wasn’t made lightly. It wasn’t made overnight. And it came with many tears, hurtful words, and cries on bended knees. It came after wrestlings with God, anger at the world, and heart-to-heart conversations with nothingness long after the world went to sleep.

Needless to say, the decision was a right one.

And yet…

Yet I still feel the pain.

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I lay here with reddened eyes that burn like fire, a stomach that twists and churns, and eyes that keep wandering to the river that my husband and I used to walk with our dog. Today I came back into town to get the rest of my things piled into a U-Haul before I make the trek back to my home state of Washington. The sadness I felt as I pulled away from the driveway for the last time was excruciating. There was my husband of four years who I deeply care for, left with an empty house, some nails on the wall where pictures once hung, and eyes full of tears. I felt awful. Yet I pushed the gas on the U-Haul and rounded the corner, reminding myself of my conviction and the answer I had received and he had received shortly after.

 

I have lost people through this process who disagree with divorce and who have boldly told me that Satan has his grip on me and this choice would never be of God. I’ve lost people I’ve loved with my husband mutually for four years who have decided that I must have lost my mind when this decision was made. I have lost a lovely house. Friends. Two bunnies we had to sell today. A community. A darling neighborhood with sweet neighbors. A marriage.  In-laws. My upcoming chance at motherhood through adoption. Respect of some of those around me who stand on the outside looking in.

Yet even now, through burning eyes, I want to speak to you of what I have gained.

I know one of you need it–that there’s a reason behind why I write tonight.

Sometimes, I have decided, to truly follow the plan of happiness, you have to trek through the valley of sadness.

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You have to sometimes make a decision that breaks your heart into a million pieces. You have to sometimes lose everything to rebuild something. You have to sometimes face the world completely alone with their jeers and their snide comments and their turned backs and decide to keep walking anyway. You have to sometimes smile through the tears. You have to sometimes completely and fully trust your inner compass, even while standing in the dark and fighting the urge to flee. You have to sometimes tell your complacency to take a hike, and go forth fearlessly anyway.

The greatest pain comes right before the greatest joy.

But it can be hard to remember that.

After leaving Idaho several weeks ago, I met with my bishop at my church to get some advice and to let him in on how I was feeling. He asked hard questions and dissected what was going on and finally gave me a knowing look. He asked me if I know about the atonement.

Of course I do, I responded.

And that’s when he proceeded to tell me that too often we see Christ’s atonement as a remedy for the sinner and the lost and the ones who choose wrong. What we fail to remember though, is that Christ also felt the pains of those who follow spiritual promptings and choose to do what is right, even at the cost of persecution and great pain.

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His sacrifice, he reminded me, covers the heartache that comes when choosing the right path also means choosing the rocky and thorny one–sometimes totally and utterly alone.

He knew, better than anyone else in the history of mankind as he carried out His father’s will, that the most difficult path often leads to the most beautiful destination. His choice was a difficult one, but He trusted that what was up ahead would be far greater than standing still.

It requires courage. And bravery. And honesty.

It calls out for identifying your self-worth and your purpose and your reason for coming to earth. It demands that you remember who you are in the grand scheme of things and that you can trust Heavenly Father’s plan, even when you can’t see too far ahead.

I know for a fact I can’t see too far right now. I feel incredibly blind.

Right now all I can see is the computer screen. And the river in the moonlight. And the flash of a lone TV against the wall. And that’s about it. Not even going to lie.

But I do trust a few things. I trust that the sun will rise. That Heavenly Father has my back. That I’ll keep breathing in and out and my feet will hit the floor when I wake.

And I trust that because I listened to the still-small voice, even amidst the sorrow, tomorrow will be better. And so will the day after that.

And joy will come.

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I hope that you, wherever you are or whatever you are going through, will take hold of your compass and follow its arrow and trust Him while in the dark.

You don’t have to run or take short cuts or even smile through it all.

You just have to keep moving.

And remember that the man who walked the path first walks it again right now–with you.