The thing we’ll regret from the legalization of same-sex marriage

Same-sex marriage is legalized–and I know we have all read 537 articles telling us so.

This blog will make it 538.

In all honesty, as soon as I heard the news I told myself under my breath, “I’m not writing about this one.”

Most of my readers, my friends, my family–even my co-workers– know how I feel about same-sex marriage just by the church I attend and the social views I have and express when asked or here on my blog. I really didn’t have anything new to say in regards to my opinion on the matter. But now I do–and it’s something that bothers me more than the legalization of same-sex marriage.

It’s the hate.

hate

There is a divide in our nation–and we caused it. There is pro-gay marriage and anti-gay marriage. Liberal and conservative. “#lovewins” or “#traditionalmarriage”. Black or white. There is barely a middle anymore where all of us grays mingle, agreeing to disagree with kindness and compassion and a willingness to be in the presence of those completely different than us. I miss that gray area. And I think we eventually all will.

I can’t scroll down my Facebook wall without seeing half of my friends list filtered with rainbows over their profile pictures, loudly exclaiming which side they’re on, drawing attention to the profiles of those who stand on the other side of the ravine. Little by little we claim our groups, hoist our flags, and draw the curtains on the “other side”. Little by little we become members of a certain community rather than individuals of different colors, faiths, ethnicities, orientations, and backgrounds who inhabit a country built on the beauty of differences. We seek so ferociously to “unite” and “accept”, all the while dividing and shunning. And I’m so incredibly sick of seeing that happen. Are you?

Years down the road I hope we aren’t so far gone that we don’t regret this period of complete unkindness toward our own brothers and sisters. I hope that pictures like this make us sick.

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And I hope that our flag and war heroes mean more than this to us.

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And that this kind of anti-gay bullying will simply be in the pages of an old history book.

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And that churches can preach what they feel is right and ban what they feel is wrong.

And that bloggers like me and artists and writers and politicians and ministers and you and I can hold opinions and vote for what we feel is right and still make friends with those who cast a different vote.

And as soon as I push publish on this blog I realize the repercussions of it. I’ve sifted through the e-mails and comments before, knowing full well that along with those who seek understanding and love even amongst disagreement, there will be even more at times who seek to harm and destroy and rip apart all for the sake of hopefully “being right” or “being heard”.

You know what I believe.

But if you are gay– I love you. You can be my friend. You can be someone I laugh with and work with and go to for advice.

I am devout in my faith–and I hope you love me back.

Because THAT is humanity.

Jesus washing feet of man wearing jeans

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently published a letter boldly saying, “The gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us to love and treat all people with kindness and civility—even when we disagree. We affirm that those who avail themselves of laws or court rulings authorizing same‐sex marriage should not be treated disrespectfully…The Church insists on its leaders’ and members’ right to express and advocate religious convictions on marriage, family, and morality free from retaliation or retribution. The Church is also entitled to maintain its standards of moral conduct and good standing for members.”

Kindness and civility shouldn’t be too much to ask, but it often is. There are no winners when a comment thread takes a nasty turn or when churches are persecuted or a gay teen commits suicide because of homophobes by his locker. Hate never breeds victory.

Just last night there were some news reports about how the star during Jesus’ birth was once again visible in the sky after 2000-something years. My sister and husband and I actually saw it while driving home last night. “What do you think it means?” my husband asked. Some people may have answered, “That God is pissed at what’s going on right now!” or “That He’s celebrating marriage equality!”. But my answer was kind of simple. I think He’s just reminding us that He’s there.

birth star

No matter what.

Genesis 20:13 blatantly speaks to us. “And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, that I said unto her, ‘This is thy kindness which thou shalt shew unto me; at every place whither we shall come, say of me, He is my brother’.”

My brother. My sister. That’s who you are. That’s who I am to you.

I hope that one day we regret the repercussions of this movement and I feel that someday we will. Because I’ve always regretted the times when I hurt someone’s feelings or worded things wrongly or pushed someone further away from the Savior rather than closer to him. But I’ve never regretted being honest or understanding.

And I’ve never regretted being kind.

Additional Reading:

Here’s a link to a beautiful blog that I recommend reading: I’m Gay, And I Oppose Same-Sex Marriage

Why I’m not applauding Bruce Jenner

I’ve been told I can be pretty liberal for a Christian. My husband often pokes fun at how passionate I get over issues that don’t even involve me, especially issues that many Christians stand against, (like giving service to gay couples at bakeries), and he will shake his head and smile at how loudly opinionated I get.

I have several gay friends who I absolutely love, atheist friends I have fun having conversations with, and co-workers I’d die for despite their very opposite line of beliefs. I don’t protest in the streets against civil rights, I don’t gawk at tattoos and piercings or judge those who drink wine at work functions. I believe in women’s rights in the workplace and respect for all races. I believe that everyone has the right to worship however, even if those religions contradict with mine. Liberal? Fine. I like to call it human.

And because that’s who I am, some will expect me to applaud Bruce–or Caitlyn–Jenner.

Consider me on the other side of the fence with this one.

Vanity Fair just published this magazine, with Bruce Jenner completely dolled up and feminized now, announcing that he’s a woman named Caitlyn, and that he’s always felt it within himself to become a woman.

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Bloggers, journalists, and the whole of social media has already been blood thirsty over this subject. I’m kind of late to the party, I know. I’m sure that as soon as that picture hit the shelves there were thousands of writers and commentators and Jane Doe’s salivating at the chance to shoot down the first Conservative that sauntered into the opinion party with a line of thinking sure to ruffle some feathers. Because in this day and age, don’t you DARE call something wrong if that something makes someone out there HAPPY. Because happy is the name of the game nowadays, no matter what.

Just do what makes you happy….right?

Now I’m not dismissing the fact that we should love–always. We should be tolerant and kind and understanding of pain or difference in beliefs. There’s no excuse to not love every single person who graces this earth.

But here’s the question we come to. Where do we draw the line?

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When does our obligation to be politically correct and tolerant cross the boundaries into celebration of wickedness or the absurd turning away from what’s moral and right? When do we lose our right to freedom of religion or morality simply because those who don’t have religion get offended or call us bigots and bully us into silence? Where do we draw the line?

Like I said, I have friends from all backgrounds and belief systems and my favorite part about each of them is how much they respect my beliefs and my ways of stating what I think without hurting them in the process. But unfortunately not everyone in today’s world is like that. We are nervous to offend. Scared to hurt. Absolutely terrified to be a bigot, or to be intolerant, or heartless. I live in a world where “I’m a Christian” or “I’m Mormon” or “I’m conservative” pretty much sounds like, “I’m a gun-toting, ignorant hypocrite who hates anyone who doesn’t go to church on Sundays.” Sorry if that sounds harsh, but it’s truer than you think.

John Boehner

We are slowly transforming and changing as a society. Our entertainment industry cheers for those who step outside of traditional values, heralding those who change their genders or advocate for the freedom to do “whatever one chooses to do” as “heroes”. Because we’re told that those kinds of people are “real” and “honest” and “brave”. And the rest of us, who feel that the things Bruce Jenner is going through might be a need for intervention or help or might simply just be wrong–we’re just bigots, or religious nuts, or pigs or…shall I go on?

It’s a real illness in our world. But we won’t heal it, simply because too many people feel that there’s nothing to heal. As long as everyone is happy–even superficially happy–what’s the need to butt in?

WASHINGTON - APRIL 25:  Pro-choice activists shout slogans as they take part in the March For Women's Lives April 25, 2004 in Washington, DC. Hundreds of thousands of activist demonstrated for abortion rights and opposition to the Bush Administration's policies on reproductive health issues.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Jesus himself butt into the lives of others, calling people out when they walked a crooked path, yet breaking bread with them at the same time and reminding them of His Father’s love. Jesus himself cared so much about those around him that he couldn’t bear to be silent. He loved his friends too much to just accept things as they are or to hide His light from them.

We need to love like that.

jesus turning tables

I refuse to applaud for anything and everything because that’s not being true to what is right.

Those who have a crisis of identity or a crisis of self image needs more than public approval. I refuse to applaud for those who have lost sight of who they truly are, much like an anorexic sees a falsely overweight reflection. I refuse to clap my hands when my rights are smothered to appease the feelings of those who have lost their way all for self-gratification in the here and now. I’d rather advocate for help to those who need it. I’d rather urge people to look out for those who might need prayer or guidance or assurance in their self worth. I’d rather see certain things as a terrible trial of this life and love and understand those who literally have the burden of that on their shoulders until they die. And if that makes me a bigot, then consider me the most heartfelt, well-meaning, honest bigot you’ve ever known.

I’m called to love Bruce Jenner. But I’m not called to give a standing ovation to whatever he chooses to do.

Of course we have the duty to love. But love is much greater than standing idly by or not expressing an opinion in fear of being called unkind or hypocritical.

Love has a light.

And for as long as I’m breathing I’ll believe it also has a voice.

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.

with grandbabies

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.

members at church

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?

joseph

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?”

mom and ash

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.

far from God

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.

twirling skirt

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.

Photo on 12-19-14 at 8

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:

jesus

“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.

with woman

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.

in gethsemane

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.

Divorce is an option

I don’t think I’ll ever forget her eyes.

Or the way her face changed when she told me, matter-of-factly, that it was done. Her husband left her and he wasn’t coming back.

The last two—three?—weeks have been circled around this very decision. We’ve all been impacted—losing sleep and losing our minds. He was our close friend too. It was a complete betrayal that left us all shocked and hurt.

He came home one day, packed a bag, and said the “D” word that means all the things that our worst fears and nightmares are made out of. He walked past their wedding album, grabbed a shirt she had bought him on vacation a couple months before, and that was that.

And it was nearly midnight when I got the call and came to—not pick up the pieces—but sit with her in the mess of pieces he left behind. There was no explanation. Now, three weeks later, there still isn’t. But it doesn’t matter because he’s gone.

abandoned

I watched her go from helpless to sad to angry to sad again to strong to weak all in the matter of hours and days. But there was no other choice. I helped her pack. I helped her cut up credit cards. I distracted her with Slurpees and potato chips and episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. I stayed up with her until she fell asleep and then I cried myself to sleep because I hadn’t had a chance to yet.

I watched her make the decision to get out of bed each day and the decision to quit her job and move out of state and the decision to start over. I watched her confront her mom and dad with eyes full of tears and I carried her hope chest into a waiting car, my arms carrying the weight of memories. I watched her wrestle with feelings of self doubt and grief and pain and anger with Heavenly Father. I watched her question whether she was pretty enough. Strong enough. Good enough. She never thought she’d be “that” girl.

But who does?

“Divorce isn’t an option,” she said to me a million times, once when I was half asleep one night. “Doesn’t he know that?”

And that’s when I realized: It is.

Of course divorce is an option. When we forget that, we judge incorrectly. We have a stigma within our churches and even within society that says, “Divorce isn’t an option” and instead of it being meant as, “Divorce shouldn’t ever be the first option and it shouldn’t be the convenient escape route” it casts a bad light on those who are left, who have to leave because of abuse or addiction, or for those who found themselves oppressed or abandoned in some other way.

We were sent to this earth with options. We have an option to get married—and we have the option to leave it, too. We have the option to abuse and hate and live for ourselves–and we have the option to choose God. Do we always choose the right options? No. Watching my friend curl up on the ground, watching her withdraw her paycheck and cancel her phone and leave her life behind for good to start all over—I know for a fact it wasn’t the right option he chose. But he made that decision. And she shouldn’t be left with the red letter A on her forehead. Because out of the terrible choices of others will always come remarkable blessings anyway.

woman with christ

The simple truth found in Isaiah 41:10 speaks plainly: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, yes, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” 

No matter which choices we make–no matter what choices those around us make–we are in the palm of his hand. We are his children. Divorced, abused, heartbroken, lost, angry or abandoned–we’re his children. And we’ll make it.

I’m not writing this because I take marriage lightly or because I am an advocate for slipping the ring on and off without a second thought. I’m writing this because I watched someone I love break apart into a million pieces as soon as the door shut one Friday night—and I watched her keep breathing.

If divorce wasn’t an option—if we didn’t have the choice to move on from a terrible abuser or rise above the ashes of insecurity and self-hatred; if we didn’t have the agency to not only make a horrendous choice, but a choice to move forward with strength and choose well, then what kind of life would this be? And how would it ever lead to eternal life?

She is already branded. Stigmatized. Walking around with “young and divorced” as a banner isn’t a light load to lift. And especially within the church and Christianity and our own little social circles she will continue to be…all because “divorce isn’t an option”.

“He has his agency,” I remember telling her one night, staring toward an empty wall. “And he chose.”

And now she has to choose.

I’m inspired by her. Before we said our goodbyes she smiled and she said she knew she’d be okay. And I know she cried after she got in the car. Just like I did. But she moved her feet and kept going. She decided it wasn’t the end. That was her choice.

I learned a lot from her. Divorce is an option.

But so is love. So is strength. So is understanding.

And I’m grateful for that.

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**Picture and story used with permission**

The truth about ‘changing the world’: And why you fit right in

It’s just one of those days.

One of those days where I open my eyes and it’s not that I just want to write, but I need to. There are days where my fingers just take off and I just pour my guts on to the keyboard and everything just seems to go quiet and hollow for a while. And then there are the days where it’s hard to write down exactly what my heart is thinking and feeling, and my fingers can’t keep up. But days like today–I almost feel like as I type you’re out there somewhere with a letter in your hand, reading my words as they scrawl across the page, so I’m trying to be meticulous about what I say and how I say it. Because it has to be right today.

Yesterday a close friend of mine told a story that I can’t stop thinking about. He was at work when he looked outside the big windows across from him and noticed a man pounding on the window of his car on the passenger side. The man looked around, paranoid that someone might be watching, and my friend looked away and pretended to not pay attention. The man pounded the window again and again, and this time my friend paced across the room, opened the door, and walked toward the man. His eyes were as big as dinner plates. “I just wanted the Pepsi and the change,” the man stammered. My friend looked into the window and sure enough, he had left his Pepsi and some coins in the center console. Without missing a beat my friend opened the door, grabbed the Pepsi and coins, and gave it to the man. When the man asked why he would do that my friend merely answered, “Why not?”

feet

I’m struck by this story, and not for the reason you might think. Of course I’m so grateful to have such Christlike friends who choose to do good every single day. But more importantly, I dwell on the man who saw those few coins and that beverage and wanted it SO BAD. It was everything to him to just have THAT. To my friend, it was something so little and insignificant, something he took for granted as he grabbed it on his way to work. But in that moment, without a moment of hesitation, my friend recognized that this man (although going about it the wrong way) needed it more than him. And who would guess that it wasn’t his car or his stereo equipment or anything jammed in the backseat. It was his soda.

And that’s when it struck me.

We have so much to give that we don’t even realize most of the time–and more importantly, we don’t realize the impact we have on so many when we decide to give it.

girl with kids

Sometimes I photograph clients, or write on my blog or complete little projects and actually convince myself that this is just something small. Something that will pass and fade and something that simply keeps me busy and optimistic. You probably think that too. I’m sure of it. You go through your day and it’s just that–YOUR day. And you just think that these moments belong to you and no, you could never change the world. It’s not that far-reaching.

But I refuse to believe that anymore.

I refuse to believe that in the fabric of eternity you paying for someone’s meal who stands behind you won’t have a ripple effect. I don’t believe that the blankets you crochet only serve to keep new babies warm. And I know without a doubt that what you say to the person struggling at work and that inspirational Facebook status you posted “just because” won’t vanish into thin air. I’m saying this because I know that sometimes it feels like you’ll just disappear someday. Or that in a way you already do or only effect a small group around you.

jesus helping

I’ve learned differently.

This morning, as soon as I opened my eyes I saw my phone blinking. A message from my best friend. She had sent an email with the short little message, “Kayla, if you ever think you’re not changing the world, think again!” The e-mail attachment was a blog that her mom had sent her, a blog that is kept by an inmate named Krissy Hansen who was wrongly put behind bars. I could paraphrase the excerpt of the blog, but I won’t or it wouldn’t be the same or quite as touching as Krissy’s. So here it is.

“My mail today was powerful.  Cards, typed letters, hand written notes, newspaper articles, and pictures.  Most from people I know, but a few from those I don’t.  I have read each of them enough times that if someone read me the first few words from each letter, I would know who it was from.  I have tried to set them all up in my locker, but there’s not room for all of them.  I shared some of the landscape pictures with some of the other girls.  Full color is so needed in here.  Why keep all this good stuff for myself?  I highlighted one of the church articles a friend sent in and gave it to another inmate.  She read it and asked if she could keep it to read again.  My friends on the outs have no idea what a strength they are to those in here.  I am thankful to be able to pass along the goodness.  

I went to Bible Study tonight.  Individual girls talked a lot at the beginning.  And cried a lot.  And felt broken a lot.  A couple of them witnessed to each other their simple testimonies of what they know to be true of trials and how the Savior fits in.  There was a lull in the conversation.  The pastor said, “Keep going, you’re doing great!”  I realized we weren’t going to get to our Bible study of “Your Life in Christ,” but the conversation was much more meaningful and applicable.  There was an awkward silence and then one of the girls said, “All I know is that God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.”  It was the catch-all phrase that someone always says when someone is having a tough time.  The title of one of the articles I just received in the mail popped into my head.  I had a thought to bring it to Bible study, but I didn’t.  Now I know I should have.  It was titled God Will Give You More Than You Can Handle: I Guarantee It.”  

The other girls all shook their heads and agreed with the comment that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.  I silently objected, but didn’t think it was the right time to stand contrary with emotions so raw.  Then I felt that “Be Brave, Be Bold” feeling.  And there was still awkward silence.  
And more awkward silence.  
I felt like the pastor knew there was something waiting to be said and he was patient to let it happen.  Finally I spoke up.  “Actually, I think He does give us more than we can handle.  He doesn’t expect us to handle hard trials all by ourselves.”  I looked around the table, wondering what I was getting myself into – with the full attention of a room full of inmates, going contrary to what they all just agreed with, and a pastor from another church kicked back in his chair that seemed so comfortable with the situation – like he knew this was the way it was all supposed to play out from the beginning of his lesson.  

I shared with them the article I received today.  There’s not a verse of scripture that says He won’t give us more than we can handle.  The verse, I paraphrased, actually says “Those that are heavy laden, come to me.  I will give you rest.”  I explained what a yoke is between 2 cows – to help them share the load together – and how our Savior tells us to take his yoke upon us.  If we do it by ourselves, we will fail.  If we try to be strong and think that we can do this because God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, we will break.  I only know, because I would have broken a long time ago.  Like a single cow trying to pull the whole load by itself, it’s just not meant to happen.  Sometimes maybe He purposely gives us more than we can handle – not because He wants to break us, but because He wants us to turn to Him, to realize, and accept Christ’s help – “Take my yoke upon you,” he tells us.  

I felt like I should take a seat after I spilled my heart on the table for everyone to decide if they agreed, but I was already sitting.  So I waited.  The girl across from me was the first to agree.  Then a few others commented about how that makes a lot more sense.  Shortly after, the pastor thanked me and closed our Bible study with prayer and my heart stopped pounding so loud.  When we got back to the pod, 3 inmates asked to read my article.  It got passed around and ended up in the hands where it belonged all along – with a girl who needed the message the most that it carried.  I could tell she didn’t want to return it to me, so I offered it to her.  She acted like she just received a trip to Disneyland.  (Actually, if she can learn to apply the message, it’s better than a trip to Disneyland!)

I am thankful for the author of the article who was willing to relate her own heartache.  I am thankful for my good friend on the outs who read the article, felt the prompting to send it to me, and then most importantly – acted on it.  She was able to touch a roomful of inmates today that needed to know that Christ is real and He’s there and ready to take this long walk of recovery with them – that it is more than they can handle alone, but that He’s ready to take part of the load.  I am thankful for my own experiences in the past 3 years that relate that I haven’t done this alone.”

I’m not posting this to toot my own horn. Actually, on the contrary. I’m writing this because I believe in the power of change. I believe it takes one voice, one deed, one person, to do good. To change things. It takes you to stop cornering yourself in your little town or your little home or little church group and to remember that you don’t have to travel a great distance or write the greatest American novel or grace the covers of magazines to impact those who will never even meet you. It takes you to give of yourself every single day. You have the power to stretch and knit and change the fabric of the world.

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You don’t change the world. But you change people. And little by little, those people change the world.

I cried through that letter the same way I cried over my friend’s story about the Pepsi. What are we to give? And more importantly, what are we to change that we never knew even needed to be changed? An attitude, a heart, a desire, a purpose?

I don’t know if I’m accurately describing my heart right now, but I hope my words are doing their best. I think the perspective of “It’s just little ole me” is what keeps things the same. Because all it takes is little ole you after all.

That is enough to circle the world, even without your name attached to it, a hundred times over through people who were changed directly or indirectly. That is enough within the cells of a state prison or in the villages of Africa or the streets of New York or the banks of a lazy southern river.

You are always enough. I know it sounds cliche, and you’ve probably heard it before. But maybe one more time was all you needed to know it. So I might as well tell you again. It’s not about being known. It’s not about covering the planet with your name. The truth is, changing the world is just a fancy way of saying what it really is–changing people.

And the next time you think that you don’t, well,–I’ll echo my best friend–

Think again.

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.