Why I want you to stay: A letter from a Mormon

I think the hardest business in the world is that of loving someone.

But it’s inevitable. From the moment we’re born we attach to someone like a plant’s roots wander for water, wrapping ourselves around laughter and friendship and similarities and bonds. People are everything to us.

And how ironic that because of that we experience the greatest joys–and the greatest pain.

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During the time that I’ve kept this blog I’ve seen stories that have changed me and I’ve made friends from worlds away who have uplifted me. And I’ve also seen my share of doubts, skepticism, even people struggling with their faith or the reason they’re even alive. I’ve loved people I don’t even know and I’ve teared up over those who have wandered away from a God they once loved. And that was the price of having this blog–of simply being human in general.

So you can say that this letter to you, whoever you are, is a long time coming. I’ve had the title scratched down for a while, almost scared to write it until some members of my own family began the back-stepping, the I-don’t-know-if-this-church-is-for-me journey.

All I want you to really know is that I want you to stay. Even if we don’t know each other at all, even if this is your first time reading my blog and even if you’ll never be back to it–I just want you to know that.

And it’s not for reasons you might think.

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While I was on my way to Denver a few weeks ago I was boarding my plane when I saw my stake president sitting a few rows ahead of my seat. We waved and smiled and the whole “Wow it’s a small world” conversation ensued for a minute or two. Then we landed, spent four days with family, and life went on. But as we were headed back to Seattle, lo and behold there he was again on our same plane. But this time, he was sitting right next to us.

I didn’t tell my husband this, but I knew exactly why he was there.

After a bit of small talk he turned more serious.

He asked what our opinions were on how to best convey the difference between the culture and the gospel for members. How do we tell them that the gospel is EVERYTHING–that the Savior lived and died for all of us–that the gospel was restored through Joseph Smith for those of us in THIS time who need that light to get back. How do we explain that?

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I was embarrassed to tell him I don’t know. That I’m struggling with seeing people I love doubt something they once believed. It hurts me to see the Savior fade away into some kind of illusion. And I have nothing to help them. I have no idea what to do!

That’s when he turned to Enos 1:9-10 and I realized that the struggle to have those we love remember God extended way back, long before Christ.

“Now, it came to pass that when I had heard these words I began to feel a desire for the welfare of my brethren, the Nephites; wherefore, I did pour out my whole soul unto God for them.

And while I was thus struggling in the spirit, behold, the voice of the Lord came into my mind again, saying: I will visit thy brethren according to their diligence in keeping my commandments.”

“Don’t give up on them,” he finally told me before our plane landed. “They’re worth it, aren’t they?”

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And that’s why I write to you today.

It’s not about me being right or having all the answers for you. Because I don’t. It’s not even about you having all the answers in this life. Because you won’t. It’s about you being worth the reward.

You are worth the wrestle because you are worth Heaven.

I remember, almost seven years ago now, learning about the Book of Mormon for the first time, seeing the temple for the first time, feeling the waters of the baptismal font for the first time–and although I didn’t know it all, I knew one thing: It was all true. And that’s how most of us begin. But then over time people offend us. Lessons can hurt us. Things become familiar and the stories not as exciting. Sacrament meeting becomes routine rather than a sacred ordinance and suddenly we go a week, two weeks, three weeks, without getting on our knees. We go a month or two without church.

And we start to wonder if it’s true simply because we’ve stepped far enough away that everything begins to fade and blur in the distance we’ve created.

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That will happen to almost all of us. There will be a day when we have to be converted again. But you are worth walking back.

Turning away is a statement that will only hurt yourself. Forgetting where you’ve come from and the journey the Savior took to pick you up out of that place will only plunge your further into the world where almost everyone else lives nowadays, immersed in things that just won’t last.

Let’s talk real here.

You don’t like where you are. It’s confusing there. It’s sad. There are no real answers. But it usually feels safe. Safer than vulnerably putting your soul and heart on the line, safer than maybe not making it with the rest of your family. Safer than trying–only to fail. Right?

I get it.

But you are worth remembering why you came, no matter how long ago. You are worth the kingdom. You are the rightful heir.

I sometimes struggle with missionary work because I don’t want people to think that I just want to be right. I don’t want to seem “judgy” or pushy or God forbid, “holier than thou”. And I struggle because more than anything, I just want those I love and those I don’t even know to feel how it feels to have the comfort of the spirit when someone you love more than anything slips to the others side. I want you to feel how it feels to sincerely repent and feel entirely forgiven. I want you to know how it feels to see a prayer answered and to know exactly why it was. I want you to know how it feels to dress in white and see God in the faces of those who simply believe like you do with a faith that exceeds knowledge.

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I want you to get there with me.

And I will wrestle for you and plead for you and believe in you and cry for you. Jesus always tended to care for the 1 lost sheep out of the hundred, and that’s our burden to continue.

Because I love you, whoever you are. You are beautiful. You are SO needed. You are worth it.

And if you don’t hear it from anyone else, I want you to hear it from me.

I want you to stay.

When ‘God’s plan’ hurts the most

Yesterday was a hard day. And so is today.

I didn’t want to write about it. I didn’t want to talk about it. I sat in the bath for over an hour watching the bubbles die and staring at a drippy faucet.

My eyes were puffy–like they are now–because just twenty minutes before that I had bawled into my pillow.

I was supposed to be pregnant this time.

It had been a week, and yesterday was the day I would take a test. It would OBVIOUSLY be a positive. I had all the signs and I was already prepping how I would tell my family.

I was supposed to be pregnant.

But, as if it were some kind of sick joke, the same thing happened. Within minutes, my answer came. No baby this month either.

You’d think that I’d get used to the (-) symbol. That I’d get used to piecing myself back together. But this time was different. I got angry. Why is God turning his back on something so simple??

It’s been almost three years now that I’ve been going through this endless cycle, waiting for two minutes while biting the heck out of my nails only to see the same symbol every month and like clockwork…explode into tears. I’ve been operated on, I’ve been cat-scanned, I’ve been medicated, I’ve been evaluated, I’ve been through boxes and boxes of ovulation kits. I’ve wasted pregnancy tests and I’ve chucked them across the room. I’ve said, “I’m done” more times than I can count but I still find myself tracking the calendar each month. I still dream about our baby.

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It’s the worst pain I’ve ever been through…physically and emotionally.

Not many people see this side of me, though. I walk out of my front door and tell people around me with a smile that we’re trying, that it’s been hard, but we’re excited for the day to come. It’ll just take more time, I say. Diplomatic. Very non-dramatic. Please don’t pity me I say in my head. And so no one sees it…they only see that I’m tough. That I have faith.

No one except for one: My husband.

And it’s like I didn’t notice it until yesterday. He’s always so joyful. Even yesterday, when he was about to burst with excitement at our pending “news”, he looked down at that horrible symbol and just grabbed me and pulled me toward him. I hit his chest and told him to let me go. He held me tighter. I told him not to pity me. He was silent. So I cried and he pet my hair and he covered me with a blanket and got me ice-cream. He told cheesy jokes as I laid there, and even managed to get me to smile. He danced like a weirdo (totally wrecking his ego, but it’s all for the laughs). Unaffected. Or so I thought.

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Later that night I came into the room after my bath and he was studying, a serious expression–a sad one–on his face as he stared forward. His face changed as soon as he saw me and he attempted to make me laugh. But I had caught it.

“Are you sad too?” I finally asked.

“This is the hardest thing ever,” he answered, and I believed him.

But you wouldn’t know it. His priority was to be strong for me. To be joyful. To stay put together so I would have somewhere to land when I fall apart.

He’s heartbroken every month too. He wonders what’s going on and he battles with the whole “why” of it. But he doesn’t give up hope for me. He never isn’t there. He never loses joy.

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And I realized–so it goes with Heavenly Father I bet. It hurts him too when we hurt. But his purpose is to give me hope. To give me strength. To be the voice that doesn’t say, “Wow this situation is dire” but to instead whisper to my heart, “It will be okay. Soon enough.” To be joy.

And still, that’s the person I tend to get angry at. The one I can blame and cry to and get utterly pissed at because he doesn’t talk back.

But he feels the pain. Every part of it. ALL of it. And he sees the pain of people all over the world who suffer far greater than I do– pains that I probably couldn’t even begin to comprehend.

Yet he still has–and gives–joy. And hope.

How amazing.

When the night got quiet and my husband fell asleep I flipped through my phone, blankly staring at Pinterest and photography ideas. I stumbled across this picture with the quote below it:

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“Because of His infinite and eternal sacrifice…He can reach out, touch, succor, heal, and strengthen us to be more than we could ever be and help us to do that which we could never do.” —David A. Bednar

And this is why we need him. It’s why I need him.

There are these moments in life–and I’m sure you’ve had your fair share–where I’m just DONE. I don’t want to move my feet. I don’t want to try again. I don’t feel like laughing or saying “It’ll be ok”. Especially when a righteous desire just isn’t coming to pass for what seems like no reason at all. Especially when I feel like it’s all coming against me.

And somehow, without even realizing it, He steps in quietly and sits with me awhile. He does everything I can’t and somehow gets me to do everything I thought I couldn’t do.

Somehow I have a husband who has faith enough to look ahead with hope and make me laugh. Somehow I have friends who text me at just the right time to tell me they love me. Somehow I get the courage to stand up, wipe the tears, and face another day, another round, another try.

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Somehow He stays in the room, probably holding a hand over mine, even as I complain about His timing and His plan.

This very moment–this unbearable task–is teaching us to be more like that.

Brigham Young once said: “Every trial and experience you have passed through is necessary for your salvation.”

And I believe that more than anything. Although challenging, everything that happens to us teaches us a little bit more about what we need to become and the areas we need to refine.

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I want to have children more than anything. My heart–my soul–yearns for it.

But more than that even–I wish to continue forward.

I wish to be more like my husband, who sings through the silence of misery. More like those of you who suffer through the unbearable and praise the eternal. More like the Saints who buried children and walked through deserts with wounded feet simply to see Zion.

More, Savior, like thee.

God doesn’t need your prayers

I was a junior in college when a friend of mine and I set off to find the haunted house that everyone had been raving about for Halloween. We had forgotten our phones but we had a pretty good idea where it was. Now, let me set the scene.

I went to college in Idaho. It’s not exactly the state where you should set out without a GPS. We were literally a speck in the middle of wheat, potatoes, old gas stations, and dark unkempt roads. There are side roads that lead to nothing and main interstates that lead you to towns smaller than shoeboxes. But we had been there three years and were confident we’d find the place.

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An hour went by and we were still on a dark road. My friend shifted in the passenger seat uncomfortably and we both exchanged nervous glances.

“I thought it was just a half hour away?” she said rhetorically. I shook my head and turned the wipers on. It had started to snow. Maybe it was further than we thought, I rationalized. But with each mile marker the streets became darker and suddenly the names of the towns didn’t look very familiar. No map, no GPS, no phone to call my room mates and double check where this thing was at. Needless to say, we meandered the dark streets until the haunted house was well past closed and we decided to just turn around so we didn’t get stuck without gas on top of it all.

We laughed until we cried that night and chalked it up as a crazy college memory. But looking back, sometimes I feel like that scenario is all too familiar in my life. Forgetting the map. Being completely in the dark with no direction.

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How many times in my life do the roads get dark and I’m utterly confused and taking all the wrong turns, and I still don’t ask the guide for help? How many times do I not use the tools given to me? How many times, I wonder now, do I not pray?

I struggle with pride sometimes because I like to feel like I have a good grasp on my life–that I can literally handle it ALL. I can balance 11-hour work days, house upkeep, my small business, my pets, my husband, my friends, my family, my scripture study, my insane LIFE because I just CAN. And then two days will go by and I’ll realize with shame that it could have been so much easier if I had just asked and taken the time to get on my knees. In shame I realize that “taking it all on” and “knowing” all the turns and all the steps forced me to not communicate with my guide, my built-in GPS–my Father.

So many of us I think have prayer on a checklist. Scripture study? Check. Visiting teaching? Check. Prayer? Check check.

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And we treat it as one of the duties we have to be right with Heavenly Father. We say our prayers and we thank Him for the food and suddenly–BAM–we feel good about ourselves for getting it all done and still managing to be a saint.

I’m guilty as charged. But it has to change. Yes, even for you.

To put it simply, God doesn’t need your prayers. He has always existed and will continue to always exist without you. He loves you and hurts when you don’t talk to Him, but He doesn’t wilt. He doesn’t cease to be working and creating and blessing lives. He is there whether you turn to Him or not. So prayer on a checklist doesn’t satisfy Him for the day or open the gates of Heaven. No, prayer is all for you. It’s for me.

Prayer is the only way we can get the guidance we need when our lives are void of streetlights and we’re running out of gas. We need to nurture our relationship with Heavenly Father just as much as we need the air we breathe.

I went back to Idaho this past Christmas to spend the week with my best friend and her family and to also surprise my sister who I rarely get to see. I hadn’t been back to that part of Idaho in two years and I felt my heart warm at the view of the endless fields, the snowflakes big enough to fill the palm of my hand, and the sky uninterrupted by cityscape.

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It occurred to me while I was there that life kept going on without me, of course. My best friend existed just fine, had a baby, and looked just as beautiful and talkative. My sister still worked every day,  my nieces getting so tall, going through life without me. Nothing needs me to exist. But boy, do I need them to live.

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It takes effort to nurture relationships, to be part of lives, to glean joy and strength from the people you just can’t handle living without. Could we exist without each other? Sure. Do we want to? Never.

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The same goes for God. Sometimes, I think, that goes unnoticed. Life propels forward, and we forget to ask Him questions, tell Him we love him, or thank Him for the strength to keep moving. We forget to ask for directions.

The road is dark. It’s endless. There are turns we shouldn’t take and turns that we miss. But we have the map.

He doesn’t need my prayers, I realize now. He doesn’t need anything.

But boy, do I ever need Him.

Joseph Smith’s multiple wives: And why I don’t care at all

I wasn’t always Mormon.

Not even close. I was baptized about three different times in three different churches and I sang the songs out of almost every hymn book there is. I’ve worshiped at altars and I’ve rocked out to Christian rock (still do) and I’ve sang in gospel choirs. And along the way I took steps–vital steps–towards getting to where I am. And to where I’m going.

Each religion, each church, each sermon taught me a little more and steered me a little more and prompted all those important questions that beg to be answered. And slowly, little by little, I was converting to Christ.

And I still am, even now.

My baptism in the Mormon church didn’t stamp on my forehead a “Good to go” pass. To be honest, I knew very little except for the fact that I knew it was true, I felt the spirit like never before, and I was so IN LOVE with the light. But it was just the beginning–the very beginning trailhead–of a daily journey and a daily conversion.

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Because of that, you can imagine my confusion when I learned, around the fall of 2010, that Joseph Smith had multiple wives near the end of his life. You can imagine the way I shrunk in my seat during my Book of Mormon class and hurried back to my apartment with my hood shielding me from snowflakes and frozen tears.

I was angry.

They didn’t tell me about that! I said through clenched teeth. Sure, I knew polygamy was part of our church’s history, just as it’s part of Biblical history and even pagan history. But Joseph Smith? My newest hero?

It felt like he died all over again and turned into a monster at the same time. I crumbled. I wondered if I should go home. If I should even be a member anymore. I prayed a lot, wondering why something so big hadn’t been brought to the surface until now.

Because of those feelings I turned to a mentor who I had grown close to and trusted more than anyone else.

I cried to him about my predicament, expressing how betrayed I felt.

And he said just one thing: “Do you believe he’s a prophet?”

“Yes.” I answered it without thinking. Because–well, of course I did. I’ll never forget the chills that ran through me when I read Joseph’s testimony or heard for the first time of the story when he knelt to pray in a grove of sunlit trees. I’ll never forget the peace that rushed through me when I closed the Book of Mormon after reading the last page or the way those I’d lost along the way somehow seemed to encircle my bed and sing a chorus of joy. Of course he was a prophet. I had no doubt that he was chosen to restore all that had been lost and degenerated over the years.

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After I said yes my mentor nodded simply and tears filled his eyes. “Then that’s our answer.”

And with that, he encouraged me to go on a trip that was about to take place. A week long church history trip that would start in Illinois, a place where the early saints lived and worshiped and built a temple and then started a long and deadly journey to the west. Without thinking twice I went.

And it was there that I learned about it all–the good, the bad, the ugly–the reason he’d be known not only for his compassion and dedication and the way he’d play with the children and write love letters to his true love Emma, but for evil in a day and age where some deeds are misunderstood and mislabeled.

I sat here at the place where he fell to his death.

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I touched every statue that paid tribute to his sacrifice.

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I stood in reverence at the staircase where the herd of men stormed toward the room where Joseph hid with the others, guns in hand, ready to end it all.

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And I sat at his final resting place, listening to the wind and smelling wildflower that blossoms every year beside the stones.

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And I loved him more, even while knowing more.

Like Abraham, Jacob, Solomon, David–and who knows how many more–he sealed to multiple wives for reasons that seem unsettling to us today. Like prophets before, he did things that seem disturbing in modern day times all for the work of the Lord. Like prophets that came before him he put God first, even when his reputation threatened to decay and even when he’d be like a lamb to the slaughter. Like prophets before him, he spoke truth. He put God first. He had no other Savior except Christ Himself. And because of that, I sat at his tombstone over 150 years later with tears in my eyes, my heart knit to a gospel I might have never known without him.

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The Savior wasn’t popular…and He still isn’t. Moses could barely speak. Abinadi burned at the stake as he spoke of the coming Messiah. And people laughed and mocked Noah as he spoke of the flood and built an ark in the glow of a dry sun. But they were God’s servants.

And I love them for it.

There will always be a shadow if you look for it–some reason to doubt, or fear or wrinkle your nose at the thought. There will always be the one thing that Satan uses to convince you it’s all a lie. All an act.

But the spirit of truth tells us to remember. The love. The truth. The doctrine. The goosebumps during that part in the song that reminds us, “Millions shall know brother Joseph again”.

So I say praise to the man who communed with Jehovah.

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Praise and honor given to the man who reminded us of Christ and whose hands gently fit in all the missing puzzle pieces.

Praise to the man who taught of a loving Heavenly Father and taught of His ways, even when tar burnt his flesh the night before.

Reverence given to a mouthpiece who said first that families are forever, well past the grave. That my dad, my cousin, your mom, your brother, our friends before us–will all see God.

That’s all I need to know to love him.

Praise is given to that.

Marriage took everything out of me

I got married young. And fast.

To some, that’s a bad combination. But it wasn’t to us. I was nearly done with schooling and he was somewhere in the middle, and it would be…well, perfect.

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But then I learned something. The part that romance novels and Hollywood and love gurus don’t talk about when you’re getting ready to be fitted for a dress and testing wedding cake. It was a truth that had me shocked and keeled over in tears when it first hit me. And I remember saying it out loud and watching his face from the bathroom door completely change as I said it.

“This marriage is taking everything out of me!”

Looking back on that night, almost three years ago now, I’m glad I realized it. I’m glad I learned that marriage does, in fact, take it all out of you and it never gives it back.

And you know what? I’m grateful for all those things that it never gives back.

But it took a while to be thankful for it. Because when you first get married you cling to all the things that in reality decays a marriage. The things that are comfortable. The things that make you right. The things that tell you this isn’t the fairytale you thought it would be and this is actually hard work.

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But looking back now, I can’t help but feel thankful for that night when I shouted that it was taking everything I had inside of me. Here I am now, sitting beside an imperfect man who stresses out over nursing exams and keeps his crusty cereal bowl on the nightstand, and I love him more than I ever have. Imperfections and all. And that’s because of the daily process of letting marriage refine us.

Marriage strips you of selfishness.

It robs you of impulsiveness.

It teaches you painful lessons of compromise and scolds you to pick your battles.

It brings you to your knees in prayer when your spouse is hurting and you suddenly realize your own heart hurts too.

It binds blind ambitions and prioritizes what matters. It makes you rethink your dreams and steals the dreams that suddenly hold no more weight in your heart.

It burns down the towers of bad habits and hammers out expectations that disappoint.

It takes it all out of you little by little.

But yet–three years later, and still on the beginning trailhead, I see that it gives back a whole lot more.

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I’m grateful for the woman that marriage made me into. I don’t think the old Kayla would ever allow myself the same grace to have a messy apartment every once in a while in order to take that extra nap I need. But Matt did. So I do.

I’m stronger now and more resilient simply because I chose to stay–to work hard–at something that was difficult. I got up from the bathroom floor and decided I wouldn’t quit this time around like I had quit so many things in the past. That Matt was worth it. And I carried that virtue into every detail of my life, working harder than ever before for things that are worth it.

I bite my tongue more, practicing kindness and love for people who often seem undeserving. I choose to redirect frustrations and calm arguments and we’ve chiseled away at all the rough edges that comes with learning how to work through the meaningless, “But I think I’m right” debacles.

I’ve learned to be a whole lot more spontaneous. From adopting bunnies from cardboard boxes to deciding one day to drive to the ocean “just because”, Matt has taught me to seize life by the reins. No need to pencil it in or be logical about it.

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I’ve learned to love. A lot. When I said “I do” I thought that was the pinnacle of it all. That I had reached the point where I understood what true love is. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Every single day is another lesson in how to love and it’s taught me so far that love isn’t given to you, it’s worked for and chosen.

Love is dirty laundry, two separate blankets on the bed to stop early morning tug-o-wars, netflix, make-upless faces, mascara on his dress shirts, texts to get milk after work, and lots of hugs after a long, bad day. Love is admitting you’re wrong, listening when you’d rather talk, and surrendering when you’d rather say the last word. It’s opening yourself up completely and letting everything fall out, letting your inner being be replaced by something that is refined and smoother and more equipped. Love is a daily choice.

I look back at my wedding pictures and smile.

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Such a beautiful day for so many reasons. It was the first day of the journey toward becoming SO much better together. I see two people who are just about to learn what love actually is. Two people who truly won’t give up, just like their wedding song stated. And I see a girl who eventually let marriage take everything out of her.

That’s all it really takes, after all.

Sure, we have miles to go. Years to go. Lots more lessons to be learned and lots of experiences to be had. We have children and moves and losses and celebrations and milestones up ahead. But I’m thankful we learned a lesson that some people, years and years in, still have yet to grasp. A painful lesson, but a rewarding one at that.

Marriage will beg to take everything out of you.

Let it.

Why I chose to be a Latter-day Saint: And not a Mormon

I still remember the smell of the chapel as I sat down five years ago.

It was a scent l I hadn’t smelled before–a scent that I’ve since gotten used to. The walls were bare except for some paintings of Christ and people I didn’t recognize and I wondered briefly where the crosses were. I remember touching the broken spine of a hymnal and only recognizing one or two hymns inside.

It was different. Somewhat strange. It was my first time in an LDS chapel and I had just turned 19.

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But I like looking back at that day. It was that day–before I even read the Book of Mormon–that I chose to be a Latter-day Saint. Already coming from a Christian background, I had done my time and served my sentence of confusion and wondering where the pieces fit. It was that day that I had my first realization that the missionaries seem to glow…for lack of a better term. It was that day that I realized how exciting the stories are in the Book of Mormon. And better yet–how they speak truth. It was that day–in mid summer–that I heard the first hymns I’d ever hear and my eyes filled with tears at “Lord I would follow thee”.

And I often go back to that day to remind myself that THAT is who I chose to be. A Latter-day Saint.

Not a Mormon.

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I know the terms are interchangeable, and I often use the term Mormon, just like you probably do. There’s no harm in that and I’m not splitting hairs. But for the purpose of my story I would venture to say that those two terms mean totally separate things. From being in the church only 5 years, I already would bet my life on it.

It’s so easy to get caught up in being Mormon. Even for me. And that’s because we all start as Latter-day Saints and then get plunged into a culture that demands so much. Pinterest-inspired Relief Society invites, canning activities, the details behind missionary preparation *and God forbid, any hesitancy to go*, The Princess Bride, John Bytheway, short engagements, Stake dances, *and my personal favorite* “So when are you going to have a baby?” after a month of marriage.

I’m not saying all of the culture is bad, because it isn’t. But when you are more immersed in the culture than in the foundation of the church itself–the very reason I stepped into the baptismal font and cried at “Lord I would follow thee”–that’s when you become Mormons instead. That’s when you become a member of a club rather than a disciple of a master.

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And that bothers me.

It bothers me because I still retrace my steps five summers ago into the chapel for the first time and I still remember opening the Book of Mormon and seeing Alma at the top of the page for the first time. I still remember how it felt to learn about forever families— and to not just vainly repeat, “Families are forever” or nail a pretty sign that says the same thing above a door frame. I remember how it felt to really let the message sink in and to cry into my hands when I realized, without a doubt, I’d see my uncle again who died just a month before I learned about the church.

I remember how it felt to say for the first time, “This church is true” and to not be able to go on with what I had to say because it overwhelmed me how true the statement was–and how it changed my life. It wasn’t repetition. I didn’t say it to fill time or to keep up with the standard. My heart just knew it.

missionaries

It bothers me that so many of us have forgotten who we really are because we’ve exchanged it all for a lifestyle made out of old habits. There are those who stray from the culture–the women who work two jobs outside of the home and the single dad; the young man who decides to wait a couple years to serve a mission; the young woman who celebrates 30 years old without a ring on her finger; the couple who can’t have kids; the wonderful stay-at-home mom who is so over-exerted she sees a psychologist every week; the kid with autism who doesn’t fit in. There are thousands–maybe millions–of Latter-day Saints who are forced out of a gospel they fit into because a culture whispers to them that they do not.

And that has to stop. We need to regain footing of who we are and the beautiful gift we’ve been given.

bom reading

When I chose to be a Latter-day Saint I chose that “I would follow, thee”. I chose that I’d spend my whole life telling people about the book that changed my life in a week.  I decided that I’d dress modestly not because everyone is forced to out of tradition, but because I represent Him. Five years ago I learned that the prophets from long ago told the truth and their sacrifices made way for me to find out about the good news–and I can’t forget that. It was my decision to leave it all behind–old beliefs, friends who no longer wanted to associate with me, comfortable familiar church buildings, and songs I learned as a toddler–for an unfamiliar gospel that I somehow KNEW was true. And nothing convinced me of it other than Him. Not culture, not tradition, not anything else.

temple switzerland

Our culture has lots of good, don’t get me wrong. And if we remember why we do some of the things we do the spirit will come back to it. But don’t let it make you forget. Don’t let it deter a soul who has just heard “Lord I would follow thee” and doesn’t know yet that families are forever.

Choose to be a disciple. Choose to be a saint.

Everything else is meaningless.

It isn’t a sin to get mad at God

Here I sit in the early morning light and my whole house is still asleep except for me.

There is a decorative pumpkin already on the coffee table and a candle that smells like cinnamon. And every now and then a chill creeps in through the open window and reminds me that it’s that time of year again. Fall. And then winter. And the holidays.

And it makes it hard to write.

I love the holiday season–making ornaments in school out of macaroni and drinking cider at pumpkin patches and eating too much cranberry sauce and decorating the tree to Bing Crosby. But then last fall happened, and no matter what Dad had said, it still changed everything. This time last year Dad was coming home from the hospital. He decided to quit chemotherapy. He decided its ok to go home and die. And I decided that the changing leaves would never look the same.

hospital bed with dad

And it’s maddening.

So the other night I announced to my husband with teary eyes, “It’s been a year, Matt. And sometimes I am still just SO mad at God.”

It’s not that I have trouble believing in him. I’ve never really had that kind of trouble. And besides, how can you be mad at someone who isn’t there? No, the trouble I had with Him was figuring out why sometimes it feels like He turns his back. Like He’ll take away the best you have, He’ll let you scramble to make ends meet, He’ll watch as you pray for something that simply never comes. He’ll be silent when you demand answers. And like a child at her parent’s closed door, I weep. I stomp my foot. And then, “I hate you!” and storm off. 

fall time

You might wince at reading that. And it’s ok. There are many people who believe you shouldn’t EVER be mad at God, let alone hate Him. And part of me envies those people. Part of me wonders if I’ll ever get to that point where trials don’t make me shake a fist at the sky. And part of me wants to tell those people it’s ok. It’s ok to get mad at God.

So since Fall is making its entrance I’ve been thinking a lot about all of that this week. And it wasn’t until someone asked me a simple question that I’ve come to grips with something. The other day someone at work randomly asked me, “Kayla, you being a literature person, what do you think is one of the greatest love stories ever written?”

So I pondered *because I’m a literature geek* and thought through the hundreds of romances I’ve read so far. I thought about the plot lines so many of them follow–There’s a protagonist and by some event that protagonist falls in love. But the person the protagonist falls for is challenging. Sometimes forbidden or unreachable or unaware. The obstacles arise, including fights or misunderstandings or hurt along the way. But then the end always comes and somehow love wins out. No matter how it wins, it seems to. And the thing that makes it romantic? The protagonist always believed it would.

And it hit me.

I know the greatest love story ever written.

It all began with a protagonist who created light out of darkness and who formed love with his very hands. That protagonist loved so deeply that he let his great loves leave his presence and wander–for years–far away. Some of them decided they didn’t love him anymore. Some hated him. Some simply forgot. And there were others. Others who loved him. Who believed they’d be back with him. Others who had so much faith until the winds picked up and they blamed him for knocking them down. But the protagonist loved. Always loved. He even watched his own son die a horrible death to save the wanderers from a horrible fate. He wept and tore the skies open when his great loves were the hands to kill. Years would go by and he’d watch his great loves make up stories and theologies as to who he was. He sometimes waited to be talked to for a very long time. But he always waited and he always loved. Because out of every love story, He is the protagonist that loved the most. He’s the one who knew the end of the story and understood when those he loved hated him and asked “Why me?” He cried with them and laughed with them and he sat behind a closed door, his hand gently pressed against it, as his own child screamed “I hate you!”, yelling much too loudly to hear anything he had to say.

But He always loved.

jesus2

My heart gave out a little when I thought this all over the other day, and I still think about it now as another chill sweeps into the living room and makes my sleeping bunnies rustle in their cages.

God is part of the greatest love story ever written–and so are we. He has a deep compassion for us that we so rarely have for Him. It’s amazing, really.

It’s going to be natural to be the characters that wander. It’s in our description. It’s in the plot.

He’s going to understand when we struggle–because that’s what this world offers–and He’s even going to get it when we blame that struggle on Him. But He loves us through it all and keeps giving us new moments, new days, new opportunities to come back to Him and to find joy.

He understands that when we’re angry at him, we’re caught up in moments where we forget how much He loves us. And how He’s on our team.

mad at god

Dieter F. Uchtdorf has said, “Since the beginning of time, love has been the source of both the highest bliss and the heaviest burdens. At the heart of misery from the days of Adam until today, you will find the love of wrong things. And at the heart of joy, you will find the love of good things. And the greatest of all good things is God.”

The pages turn and I enter in to a new Fall. Some enter in to new lives after a big move or new, overwhelming schedules after a baby. Some are waking up to a new day without limbs or a new week without a job. One by one the pages turn and if we let it, we forget who’s turning the pages. We get angry at who does. And we forget that:

“God does not need us to love Him. But oh, how we need to love God! For what we love determines what we seek. What we seek determines what we think and do. What we think and do determines who we are—and who we will become.”

It isn’t a sin to get mad at God. It isn’t evil to stumble and wonder why. Look at Job. And Jonah. And Jesus himself, who thought for a brief moment that God had turned His back. But we must rise from it. We have to remember.

jonah

It takes faith to remember that as we scream and cry at the closed door there is a Father on the other side, forehead pressed against the door, eyes wet.

And He just waits.

Because only we can open it again.