Endings are the saddest part: But they often don’t exist

I bet everyone can agree that there’s always beauty in beginnings.

Driving to the hospital to meet my newborn nephew the other day, getting the keys to that first apartment or the brand new cherry-red car on my 16th birthday. Putting a veil on and carefully tying the back of a brand new wedding dress, accepting that much-prayed-for job offer, the first day on a brand new campus that’d be home to my lifelong memories. Beginnings always carry a sweet smelling perfume of a memory to me. But endings? No. Normally, *unless it’s a boring movie or a canker sore* endings are the stuff that tragedy is made up of.

At least it seems like it.

Recently I got the news that my sister-in-law’s best friend Logann was diagnosed with cancer for a second time. But this time, it’s in its final stages. My sister-in-law had cancer too and died just two years ago. Logann’s sister, Lauren, reached out to me with pictures and memories, and before long I was scrolling through her facebook page, blinking back tears and reading statuses that hint at worsening symptoms. I don’t know Logann much, but I know how it feels to face an ending.

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I carefully clicked through the photos of the young faces of the kids she’ll soon leave behind. The ending for their family is coming, just as it had for Natalie, who didn’t even make it to that last trip to DisneyLand with her kids. Just as it had for my Dad who hadn’t even had the time to acquire wrinkles. Just as it had for countless faces and names from my readers who share pictures and stories throughout my inbox–people who share the general ache of having been through an ending of some sort.

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For some, it’s the ending that comes with seeing a child move across the country with a new husband and a U-Haul. For some, it’s the loss of a career or a divorce that leaves empty drawers, empty halls, and an empty heart. For some, it’s the ending that comes with a severed friendship or a miscarriage that leaves you with empty arms and a few loose ultrasound pictures to prove that a child ever even existed.

Time can seem like a relentless, cruel train that moves fast and uninterrupted. Time stops for no one and quickly reminds us that every day we’re dying or nearing an end of something. Some of us just know when that time will be, others of us have no idea.

It all just ends in an ending, we think.. And the only beauty we can possibly hope for is that there will be a beginning soon after.

But what if we decided to find the beauty before that eventual beginning? Is it possible? Well, today–I learned it is.

Today was General Conference in my church. General Conference is a time when leaders of my church come together to talk about a wide variety of things that they’ve prayed about or felt inspiration to teach. No matter where you are in the world you can listen in by internet or television or broadcasts in meetinghouses. One talk in particular today reached me in a way that made me wonder if Heaven itself wrote that message just for Kayla. But of course not–we all needed to hear it.

The talk was by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf. He spoke about gratitude throughout the pains of life, understanding in all things, and before ending his talk he simply stated,”There seems to be something inside of us that resists endings. Why is this? Because we’re made out of the stuff of eternity. Endings are not our destiny.”

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Endings don’t sit well with us because there’s often no such thing. We feel the need to keep existing–to keep connected with those we love and to always have another sunrise. We often forget, I learned today, that we’re not dying every day. We’re just continuing.

And if we believe in eternity, then that means we believe that nothing–not even death–can be considered an end.

As children of the creator of a universe dotted with galaxies and stars and life still undiscovered that goes on and on and never hits a wall, we also follow the pattern of creation. We don’t end either.

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Sometimes it’s hard to see simply because we don’t comprehend the magnitude of it, just as we can’t wrap our minds around the nonexistent walls of universe that stretch on forever. But every now and then, like those words that hit me today, the spirit will whisper a reminder.

Lauren sent me a note recently tagged along with the photos of her and her sweet sister that states she’s grateful for time that she has left with Logann–the gift that reminds her this isn’t where it ends. It’s simply a pause. She said Logann spends her days talking about eternity with the kids–a concept that is almost impossible to understand now, but something that will be the only comfort someday and the only truth.

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There’s a beauty in knowing that we’re more constant than the sun–that our eternal value is more dependable than the tides. There’s a beauty in being reminded that what we call endings are nothing more than a flicker of pause in a seamless fabric of eternity–the same fabric that makes up an ever-stretching universe. The same fabric made from our Father’s hands.

When we look at it that way–at least for me–it’s not just the beginnings that seem beautiful. It’s the continuing.

Click here to donate to Logann and her sweet family.

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The gift of a prophet: And why we’ll always need him

Right before General Conference started this weekend I recounted to my husband my first General Conference experience when I was 19. I told him about how I had notebook paper neatly folded in half to take notes–quotes on the left side and feelings on the right–and how my heart pounded in excitement to hear the prophet for the first time. *A bit over the top maybe, but it was awesome*

I love looking back and remembering how that felt–hearing him speak and give me direction for the first time.

All my life I had gone without knowing who he was or what a prophet was even needed for. And then, just like that, I suddenly knew I would always need him.

Over the five years I’ve been a member the excitement and fire has died down a little as I prepare for General Conference–yes, I still love that time of year when I can hear guidance from the pulpit–but of course, with time, I have gotten used to being under the direction of a living prophet. It’s just become a natural part of my life.

But then, this happened.

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A young boy ran up to the front of the conference center, and the prophet leaned down to take him by the hand.

And suddenly, I remembered it all. The excitement, the awestruck wonder–the amazing gratitude that filled my heart as I quickly jotted down notes. I remembered how blessed we really are to have a living prophet in this day and age–a man who is just as much a prophet as Adam, or Moses or Abinadi or all the others who went about God’s work and spoke truth. And just as much as this sweet little boy needs him who ran up to grab his hand, I need him. You need him. We all need him simply because in this broken world where we are overwhelmed with the noise and booming voices of those pointing us toward different paths, we need the voice of the Master–the voice we recognize as the tour guide down the right path.

I saved that picture of the boy as soon as I found it drifting around my newsfeed on social media, saving it as a reminder to myself that we will always need a prophet’s voice, and reminding myself to be more like that child. To trust and follow the spirit and elbow my way through crowds and doubt and opposition just to get to where I know truth and light is.

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Conference finally ended *It always seems to go by way too fast* and I found myself enjoying different blog posts and updates from members of the church who took away something from conference that aids them in their lives. And then, I stumbled across this. Now, I’m not trying to accuse the author or the New York Times of anything and a lot of what the author said in the article is true and well-written. I’m just going to relay how I became slightly saddened at how this article has circulated around the walls of friends and family and complete strangers who (in many cases that I’ve read) are suddenly questioning the authority and validity of our prophets and are suddenly crying out for reform. This article, along with some other things I’ve read, says it was told that the “church” makes mistakes. When in reality, President Uchtdorf and other apostles in the past have said that “people” make mistakes but the church and it’s doctrine is always true. But never ever was it mentioned that revelation, guidance, or inspiration is just told to us off the cuff and eventually may go down as error. His talk wasn’t a PR move to cover dirty tracks. On the contrary, it was said that although everyone is human, prayer, supplication of the Lord, and inspiration from the Lord goes into the preparation of the words given to the church.

Many of the quotes this weekend have been taken out of context.

“The prophet will never lead us astray” is something we hear a lot and it’s often misconstrued as meaning the prophet is a perfect divine being who can do no wrong. But that isn’t correct, as we’re all well aware. The reason the prophet won’t lead us astray isn’t because he’s infallible– it’s because the Lord won’t let him.

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This twist of some General Conference words this weekend have not only sparked articles, but has somehow given ammunition to movements within our own church, such as the Reform Mormonism movement. As I’ve delved into reading about these different organizations and writings it saddens me that suddenly the consensus is either that we don’t need a prophet OR that the prophet is just a really great teacher, but changing the church and seeking “pure truth” is a personal battle and one we don’t need a prophet for. It’s saddening. And it’s been a personal battle for me to see active, great members decide that the world’s loud, politically correct, “love means not having rules” voice is more worthwhile to listen to. Because it isn’t. And it never will be, even though I realize that saying that isn’t going to be popular.

We live in a time where good is called evil and evil is called good. We live in a time where it’s confusing how to vote or what stance to take when so many of us want to be kind and good and loving but certain mandates of the Lord are called intolerant or mean. We live in a time where it’s not popular to read books written thousands of years ago or to spend a whole weekend watching hours worth of talks by men and women whom most of us have never personally met. We live in a time where faith is synonymous with ignorance and declaring something as a sin before God is somehow declaring that we aren’t being Christlike. It’s a scary time.

And because of this, I thank God for a prophet.

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I thank God for little children who nudge their way down an aisle of a conference center to touch the hand of the person they know with all their heart counsels with the Savior. I’m so grateful we have personal revelation as well as revelation from God’s mouthpiece, just as it was thousands of years ago. It’s evidence of God’s unending love.

The world is changing and ideas are reforming and of course it’s okay to seek answers and go on that personal journey toward truth. I also realize that we sometimes are given revelation from the mouths of prophets that revolutionize how we’ve been doing things for a long time–such as missionary age. But we wouldn’t have been given that inspiration that has amped up mission efforts without the voice of a prophet, for example.

I’m personally glad that the majority has clear minds and hearts that wish to do good and seek truth and have personal inspiration in their daily lives.

But let us never forget that we need a prophet, friends.

And let us never forget what a gift it really is to say that.

Being a Mormon misfit: And why that’s totally OK

When I went to school in Idaho I loved a certain spot in the Rexburg temple in the waiting area of the baptistry. Each time I went there I sat right there–in that same spot– just because of a certain picture.

It was a painting of the Savior holding a little black sheep, right beside the pew in the back. I would stare at it and think about everything that it meant to me. Essentially, it seemed that I was actually the one in the Savior’s arms in that picture.

The misfit. 

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And if you’re reading this and you’re a misfit too–perfect. I’m glad there’s two of us. Or three. Or maybe even more than that. Either way, it’s good to know I’m not alone in the category of “Mormon misfits”. So welcome, friend.

How am I a misfit, you might ask? I simply don’t fit the conventional mold of what an LDS woman should be like, or I should say, what an LDS woman is often like.

I have a tattoo, to start. A huge one, actually, on my ribcage. I wasn’t always a member, and I have physical signs to show it–that also includes a scar on my bellybutton from a past piercing.

I work long hours while my husband goes to school and I have an “I want to be the CEO of every department” mentality *Well, I’m just a writer and not a CEO, but you get the point*

I can’t have kids right now. That doesn’t mean I don’t have the desire–it’s just the way my body works because of an ailment that can only be fixed with expensive treatments that we just can’t do right now. And it constantly hurts–like a bruise that just won’t go away because it keeps getting poked at.

I can’t sew. Like, at all. I can’t even hem a pair of pants. And during Relief Society craft nights I’m pretty darn useless. And I haven’t canned even one jar of peaches in my entire life.

I question pretty much everything. I’m not saying I’m a doubter–ok, sometimes I am, and that’s a downfall. But mainly what I’m saying is I’m the type of person who analyzes everything and tries to figure out why things are the way they are. I think that’s why I over-studied the history of the church and even went on a week-long church history tour where I spent over an hour staring out of the window that Joseph tumbled from. I just wanted to know and feel it for myself, not just hang on to the coattails of others.

I’ve never really fit in with Relief Society. I try–but it’s hard for me sometimes. I love the women, I do, and this isn’t me saying that I don’t. Actually, on the contrary–I find myself being overly critical of myself because I wish I could be more like them. They’re all so–perfect. At least in my mind, they are. They come in with their line of cute children on sundays like a mother duck and her ducklings, and they seem to know everyone and have time to make soup for all the sick members and cook for the missionaries every Tuesday night and do their visiting teaching every single month. Perfect Mormon women, in my eyes.

Anyway, I could go on and on with my list of how I’m so different–but I’m not going to turn this into a trilogy of me. But if you’re a misfit I’m sure you have your own lengthy list and together we could make a seven-book series.

But lately it’s been heavy on my mind–this whole black sheep thing. Because sometimes you just don’t want to be.

And just this last weekend when I forced myself to go to the Relief Society broadcast (and even the food and mingle get-together beforehand which is very un-Kayla of me) the nagging feelings were very prominent.

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I sat down at a table that on one half had sister missionaries and on the other half had mothers. The sisters chatted about investigators, school before their missions, and how tight the waist bands on their skirts have gotten while out on their missions and being fed all these good dinners. They’re cute girls–but I couldn’t relate much. So I decided to tune into the women on the right side of me. One woman chatted about how she could barely take a shower today because of her colicky baby and one said she couldn’t either because of the puddle of Elmer’s glue her son left on the carpet and another lady busily talked about her last C-section and how she thinks she’ll be induced in this next delivery. With my freshly washed hair and newly painted nails and absolute absence of any glue-smearing child, I decided I didn’t really fit in at the table.

But then the broadcast started. I chose a pew where I didn’t really know anyone and to be honest…yeah, I started watching it with a stink of an attitude. But that changed when Sister Reeves (The 2nd counselor in the General Relief Society) started talking.

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Tears filled her eyes as she suddenly pinpointed the sister she wanted to talk to, out there somewhere in the world, who just doesn’t fit in to the cookie-cutter mold of an LDS woman or family. I felt like everyone had stepped out of the chapel as she spoke. She spoke about wounds you might carry that make you wonder where God is, and the things in your life that separates you from the norm. And then she told a beautiful story of the Provo tabernacle that was gutted with flames earlier this year. After the horrific event, members started questioning why the Lord allowed it to happen. But then, at the General Conference following the fire, President Monson announced that that gutted tabernacle would soon be revamped and dedicated as a new temple of the Lord. People couldn’t believe it. Mouths dropped. But it was true. And just like with us, she reminded, sometimes the Lord allows the fire so as to make us into a beautiful temple.

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And then President Monson spoke–and he too, spoke to the misfit. Maybe not everyone caught that–but I sure did. He spoke about how everyone is in a different situation. Everyone has different journeys. Everyone is entirely different and sometimes takes a walk through the thorns. But no one is alone, for the Savior has walked the EXACT path you have, and continues to walk it, even now, WITH you.

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With my face in my hands, I felt an overwhelming feeling of love wash over me. In that moment, I felt the arms of Heavenly Father literally wrap around my little misfit self and remind me that I’m EXACTLY who I should be and that being a member of the church doesn’t mean I’m supposed to carve myself into an ideal “LDS woman” image. It means that I can be just as I am–scars, questions, lack of sewing skills and all–and add to the rainbow of color that this gospel stands for.

You don’t have to fit in. We aren’t called to be the same. Yes, we all follow the same straight and narrow path and there are commandments we all need to abide by in the same way–but we can still be different.

I’ve always known it, I guess, deep inside. But often the culture makes you believe something that isn’t really even there. There seems to be a phantom ideal image that lurks in the minds of everyone and makes them believe they just don’t fit. But it isn’t true. Don’t buy into that thinking.

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After all, as a member of the Mormon church, aren’t we really supposed to be misfits anyway? We’re supposed to think a little differently and all see the world a little differently, all the while on the same path toward salvation. I think sometimes we forget that–and that’s why we expect so much from others and ourselves.

As President Monson so sweetly said, the Lord has a specific love for you. Unique, different, beautiful, misfit you.

So, fellow Mormon misfit, come along this journey with me, because we all belong here on this path.

Bring your dinners that you often burn to a crisp, bring your lack of love for skirts, bring along your battle scars and wear them as a badge of how far the Lord has brought you, and bring questions and different perspectives that no one has acknowledged before.

Come along this journey, black sheep, and find comfort in the arms of the Savior of the world–the original misfit himself.

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