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 … Continue reading

The Mormon Controversy: And why it’s hurting more than feminists

The headlines are everywhere. You seriously can’t miss it, even if you deliberately set out to NOT find it. It’s a Mormon feminist controversy that’s triggering debates, memes, articles, furiously-written status updates, and doubts. It all started with a movement … Continue reading

You’re trying way too hard to get to Heaven

My life—as of late—has done a complete 180. As I write this there’s a million other to-do’s on my mind, one of which includes the pile of laundry sneering at me from across the room. Oh and I can’t forget … Continue reading

The personal search for happiness: And why there’s no such thing

I’ve learned a lot about myself this past week. A whole lot.

And today, on this sunday morning where my house is still asleep and restless thoughts dance through my mind, I decided to rise early before church and get to writing this.

First off, I learned I don’t do traffic well *Anxiety central*. Secondly, I learned that coconut milk isn’t as good as it sounds *Tried it. Hated it*. Most importantly–there’s no such thing as my personal search for happiness. Let me explain.

This last Tuesday was my first day of training for my new job. And if you’ve been following my blog, you know without a doubt that I was nervous just short of the point of breaking out in hives. But on the long way there *hence my strong dislike of traffic* I prayed and I decided I’d do my best and do everything in my power to do well. I decided that I was going to go above and beyond and prove that I know what I’m doing. This training was about improving and creating ME. Help me to do well, I found myself praying, and grant me happiness with that confidence.

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I arrived early at the training center and found a room filled with desks that made a half-circle. I found my name, cracked open the manual underneath it, and watched as one by one, a stream of new hires made their way in, each face reflecting my own nerves. Finally there was around twenty of us– new ties, ironed skirts, sweaty hands and all. And all I could remember at the back of my mind is during my interview when the manager told me that not everyone in the training group will make it. There are exams, assignments, verbal tests, and on-the-floor demonstrations that have to be mastered to a tee. It won’t be me who fails, I thought. It has to be one of them.

But then training took an odd turn. Instead of diving into the material, talking about the responsibilities, or taking us to individual work areas, the trainers divvied us up into groups and for the first handful of days we were taken back to elementary school in a sense. We had to come up with a team poster and cheer, we competed against other teams for poker chips that’d add up to a prize at the end of training, we went out to lunch and chatted about our lives and we played Catchphrase and team-building exercises that had us laughing so hard that each of us could swear by the end of it we’d found our best friends.

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Without even being asked we started to form a study group to help those in our group who were having a tough time with the material, and we all started to find more joy watching our teammates earn those poker chips than when our own selves did. By the end of the week during an on-the-floor test I wasn’t even nervous for my time up to bat. I was more nervous for one of my teammates who was struggling with a portion of it.

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And it happened without me even realizing it, I think. My original attitude of, “I’ve got this. I’m not going to be the one who fails” quickly turned into, “I want these people to succeed. I care about them.”

And I wasn’t alone. Our CEO must have known what this kind of training meant.

“The trick to being successful,” he told us, “is to surround yourself with good people, treat them well, and help them all to succeed. That’s the trick.”

My training grounds weren’t peculiar.

In a way that crowded room now filled with team posters, remnants of laughter, and fallen poker chips hidden under chairs was exactly what all of our lives are on a daily basis anyway. In life we can easily find where we’re supposed to sit or be, dive into what we need to know, ignore those beside us, and focus on getting it all right so we can succeed. But then there’s the other way. That’s the way that leads to friendship. That’s the way that leads to the focus on things outside of your personal bubble. That’s the way that leads to happiness.

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It’s not a revolutionary idea or breaking news to share *there’s my newsy side coming through* but it’s something we often forget I think. It’s something I forget every now and then since rising above and over-achieving has always been at the forefront of my mind.

The idea stems back to when Christ sat with a loaf of bread and a few fish amongst throngs of people. He was hungry–so he could have eaten. But he didn’t. In John 6 he demonstrates to us the power of thinking outside of ourselves when he multiplies the food and therefore gets even more satisfaction when everyone is well fed.

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We need to multiply our loaves of bread more.

We go through life thinking our troubles are so great that we only have enough time for those problems, and no one else’s . We go through life thinking our financial burdens are so heavy that no way would we have time to alleviate someone else’s. We go through life thinking that the search for happiness is a personal one and helping others is just a bonus. In reality they go hand in hand and finding happiness has always been a group activity.

Careers can teach so many things. Luckily for me, my job started with a game of Catchphrase, fifty-five poker chips, and a lunch talking to someone who lost her dad the day after I lost mine.

Luckily for me, I didn’t find happiness here alone.

And I choose to keep it that way.

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The difficult side of joy

I’ve come to realize that I’m very indecisive. So indecisive in fact that I could barely decide if I was. But just this week I decided. I’m indecisive. And I decided something else– It was keeping me from joy.

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I didn’t want to write this post at first because 1) I didn’t think anyone else had this problem. And 2) It seemed like too simple of a concept. But it wasn’t until a conversation I had with one of my best friends the other night that it occurred to me that maybe I’m not alone in thinking there’s one side to joy. I think many of us forget that one side of joy is more rewarding than the other–because we can choose it.

I told my friend a couple nights ago that I’ve officially decided to make changes–to take leaps of faith–and decide to dictate my life and choose to be happy instead of letting life just happen the way it wants. “Well…isn’t that the point?” my friend said.

And it is. But sometimes we don’t get the point until later on in life. Some people never get it.

See, I’ve always been a positive person. Not many people see me without a smile *unless it’s 4 in the morning– because I am NOT a morning person*. I always laugh off problems and I’m a master at sweeping things under the rug and only lifting the rug to inspect the mess when no one else is around and I’m free to sulk on my own and fester in worry. I have a knack for tending to other people’s problems before my own and this very blog post will come as a surprise to nearly 95 percent of my friends. BUT alas–it is true. I sometimes forget that joy is two-sided. And that it can indeed be difficult to choose it.

The first side of joy, I’ve come to find, is the joy that happens to you.

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It’s the birth of a baby. That promotion you’ve been crossing your fingers for. It’s the day where everything is going right, the sun is out, it’s a friday, and the paycheck was good. It’s the moment when you get a phone call from your best friend or you buy your wedding dress and take a look in the mirror. THAT side of joy happens to you without any effort. And it’s our favorite kind. If you deny that–well, I’m pretty sure you’re either lying or you’re just a saint.

Then–there’s the other side of joy. The joy we choose.

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This is the side of joy, I’ve come to find, that can be difficult. It’s difficult simply because it doesn’t exist unless you decide to create it. This is the kind of joy that comes after a year of agonizing through a job you hate and finally deciding to quit and take a leap of faith that another job offer across the country will be better for you. This is the kind of joy that happens after you lost the person you love the most and all you want to do is watch Netflix in bed–but you decide to put on your shoes and go visit someone who’s sick. This is the kind of joy that happens when NOTHING is going right about the day, the paycheck is small, it’s a Monday, the car broke down, the baby won’t stop crying–and you decide to just BE happy anyway, laugh, and take note that the roses in the front lawn have just started blooming. This is the kind of joy that happens when you break free from an oppressive relationship–scared to be alone–but deciding it’s time to make a change. This is the difficult side of joy, and not just for indecisive folks like me.

It’s difficult to choose joy I think, because as humans we have that famous catchphrase that “Life happens” or “You-know-what happens” *Curse word not included*. And in turn, we let it happen–and we become these objects that are just acted upon over and over and over, tumbling and bruising and drifting. We easily fall into a sense of security with just letting the day pan out the way it may and reacting to everything simply because we’re not letting anything react to us.

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I don’t know about you–but I decided I’m not an object. 

I decided I need to–And YOU need to– start deciding more frequently that life is too precious to live under the authority of paychecks, commitments, fear of change, insecurity, opinions of others, or the whims of chance.

We weren’t created to be acted upon.

In 2nd Nephi 2:25 it clearly says: “Men are that they might have joy”. I’ve heard that scripture a lot. But I never realized until recently the big fat “MIGHT” in the sentence. It doesn’t say we will have joy. It doesn’t say we are given joy. It says we might have it.

But the stipulation is us.

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We’ll have joy if we decide we’re worth it. We’ll have it if we aren’t afraid of change. We’ll have it once we simply decide that it’s what we were created for after all. We’ll have it once we put effort into the gospel and time into those we love. We’ll have it once we realize that we write our own story and can choose what becomes the conflict and when the page can just simply turn without a second thought.

I realize that there are situations where it can be hard to choose joy. Chemical imbalances, mental illnesses, PTSD–and a multitude of other problems and ailments can change or alter the way one thinks or responds. And I’m thankful that there’s help for those kind of situations. I’m not minimizing the pain and frustration that come with that. But with the proper help or medication, there comes a point where you regain the ability to choose again.

We were all given that ability as soon as we came into existence.

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We come into contact with so many decisions every day. What to wear, what to cook for dinner, what to do first on a busy to-do list at work, what time to show up at the meeting, what to say to that sour-faced cashier. And we do it–even easily most of the time. But we often skip out on the choice to have joy. And that’s the most important choice of all today.

So, why not make the choice? As my friend would say–Isn’t that the point?

Giving up on the quest to be extraordinary: And how it will change your life

My dad was an ordinary man.

He rose at dawn to go work at an ordinary job, tossing his lunch pail in the back of a maybe less-than-ordinary pick-up truck that lacked a solid floor on the passenger side. 

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He was quiet and attentive to conversations already begun–and he could pass through a room quickly without gaining much notice. He had a daily routine of reading the paper at half past six and watching every Seahawks game in his chair–it was only interrupted by play time with us kids–an ordinary hobby for many dads.

When I was a child I remember feeling sorry for my Dad. He mentioned he used to want to be a doctor before he decided it wasn’t for him. And in his youth he didn’t make much of a stir in his hometown newspaper or in sports–he just spent afternoons at the river’s edge with a fishing line and a can of worms. Ordinary things, really. 

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But me? I didn’t want ordinary. Not at all! I wanted to be extraordinary. I paraded around in dancing dresses, hosted backyard carnivals in the summer, auditioned for every school play, and dreamt of the day I’d see my name on a hardback book. I wanted to leave a positive legacy behind. I wanted to be ANYTHING but ordinary. And I loved my Dad so much–I used to cry that he could never be an important doctor.

And that mindset followed me well into my life. It wasn’t a mindset of pride or self-love. It was the desire to change lives and be known for something good–something special. But that desire, I’ve come to learn, is the desire of so many others who leave nothing behind except for a granite stone, piles of money, and bylines that quickly get shoved into archives. The desire to be great, if that desire is a sole purpose, will completely cloud over what really makes you someone to remember. But the desire to just live life fully and completely with love for people being your main purpose–THAT desire and THAT quest can change your life forever.

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As for my father with his “ordinary” life–I’ve come to understand the beauty of such ordinary things now, and the importance.

Since his passing, I’ve began to take notice of things he left behind. Ordinary things. Sifting through his things after his passing, I noticed old notebooks filled with notes from church sermons and past General Conferences–notes that he took to heart and lived. Notes he never shared.

My mother found stacks of receipts from his monthly tithing slips–tithing that she never knew he paid when she stopped going to church for a short time and he would sit alone in the pew every sunday.

Friends–from the job that everyone said he was “stuck in” for years and years–have filtered through the front door and across our social media pages, telling stories of a man with quiet faith, great love for those around him, and kindness. Always kindness. Even my father’s insurance agent from five years back called with tears in his voice, just to tell us that he’ll always remember Dad and the way he was so patient.

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Ordinary watches and worn-out wallets–thin from years of use–are now our flecks of gold. Yellowed photographs of summers at the river and tanned arms against a lawnmower are now precious heirlooms.

The ordinary, simple things that I once thought were like “every other dad”. But now, to me, are extraordinary. And he never tried to be.

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I think it’s easy, since we live in a world dedicated to proving how “special” we are or how “unique” we are, to measure ourselves at the end of the day by how many awards line our desk or how many nods of approval we get for special projects at work. But putting all of our efforts into that kind of journey distracts from the truly extraordinary. We shouldn’t give up on success within the world and careers we hold, of course–but we should also remember where true success lies.

Like being the mom that finger paints with her toddlers and doesn’t care that some hair dipped into the blue. Like being the friend that sits at the lunch table with the bullied kid in complete silence, just offering a presence. Like being the dad that works a 9 to 5 at a completely ordinary office and always makes sure to make every single ballet performance. Like being the artist that paints, that writes, that sings, that creates–just to make life more relatable, or more beautiful, for at least one person.

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How beautiful the world is when we count the little moments that make up our memories, our goodness, our friendships, our faith. How beautiful it is to leave behind something much greater than anything tangible, even while losing ourselves in ordinary tasks.

How beautiful that is. And how extraordinary. 

The day I walked you home: A letter to my Dad

Writing, to me, is synonymous with healing.

I suppose that’s why I’m here–writing–just a day after you took your last breath, Dad.

People are telling me to go lay down. Or rest. Or watch a movie. But all I want to do is write about what it was like for me. For all of us, really. As my fingers tap the keys my eyes flicker to the bracelet I have on my wrist. It’s the one you wore ever since your diagnosis last November. “No one fights alone” it says. And my spirit can’t help but agree. No one fights alone. Or loves alone. Or struggles alone. Or dies alone.

We’re all walking each other home.

It was Thursday night when I got the call that I should come. “Dad doesn’t have much time,” my teary sister said. And I knew it in my heart, even before the call came in.

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But it took three days of sleeplessness, tears dripping from sore eyes, holding you up as you walked around in confusion, sponging water onto your lips, and prayers by your bedside before you took that last breath. And I realized–as soon as your labored breathing went silent and your Savior greeted you somewhere near the top of the Christmas tree, a spot I looked toward as soon as your blue eyes did, hoping I’d find him there too–that the walk is always worth it. Leaning near your still face and kissing your forehead, that’s what I said too. “It’s worth it”. Even though I want you to know my heart wasn’t feeling it, Dad. My heart screamed “Come back!” instead. Because I didn’t see Jesus near the top of the Christmas tree. My faith just had to rely on the fact he was there.

Now, digesting the memories–memories that haunt me in my dreams and awaken me from sleep with tears and a racing heart–I want you to know why I was honored to walk you home.

The walk home started on November of 1989…when I was born.

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I’d like to think we chose to walk together–that before we even came to earth we knew we’d be walking in unison along with some very special others–taking on the challenge, and the joys, of mortality.

During the walk home you taught me many things. You taught me how to play. And in turn, I think I taught you patience 😉

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The walk home entailed some discomforts–some trials that required me to cry in your arms or vent to you–or get so mad at you that I slammed my bedroom door. I tried to say sorry about that later on–you didn’t let me though.

During the walk home you showed me how to walk on my own at times and forge a new trail when others get to their own trail’s end. You showed me how to change oil. How to respect my body. How to be a good friend. How to listen more than I talk *although I still have problems with that*. How to put family first.

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During the walk, sometimes it rained. You showed me how to play in it.

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During the walk–you showed me to dance always *Even if you’re not very good at it* And to “Sing louder!” as you’d always say when you caught me humming to myself.

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There were a few times on the journey I didn’t feel I was good enough. But you pushed me to bring home the A’s. To aim high. To be everything I want to be simply by living as if I’m already there. Oh–and I love that you always bragged about every single goal we met. You loved when I’d write and you’d read my blog. You hung my first poem on your cubicle wall at work and kept it there ’til you died.

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During the walk you taught me what kind of man I should choose–simply by being that kind of man. And in turn you finally got the son you always wanted to have one day.

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You loved my mom–even when lighting struck and rain hit and rocks in the trail made you two stumble. And that’s the greatest gift to give to a daughter.

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During the walk you encouraged my sister’s restless, wandering heart. You taught her faith and courage–you nourished the light in her eyes into something much greater in her heart. She said it was all because of you, Dad.

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During the walk home you taught me not to fear the trailhead coming up–the part of the walk home that splits the trail in two. The part where we would separate for a time. You told me it would come–and it was okay. Because you knew that if we kept walking, the two trails would join as one again.

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During the end of the walk home I had to carry you. I held you like you held me when the dark scared me and I couldn’t sleep. I rubbed your back the way you’d rub mine when I’d sit on the floor in front on you or lay in your lap. I was strong simply because–well, so were you.

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I’m sad, Dad. I miss you so bad that sometimes I can’t breathe. And when I do, it hurts my lungs. I miss you so bad that sometimes I hear your voice and jump to a start in the middle of the night. I miss you so much that I get angry that we already came to the fork in the road–sometimes I get mad at God. Sometimes I get mad at myself that I didn’t hold you a second longer the last time you hugged me.

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But then I remember, like I remember now. No one walks alone.

No, even though we came to that place in the walk where the trail splits in two–I still feel you guiding my feet. I still feel the same Savior that took you home and held me at the same time. I’m not alone.

I’m honored I was one of the people to share the walk with you, Dad.

You’re my hero.

And you will be until our trails meet up again somewhere on the horizon–and I’ll meet you there at home.

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He knows how it feels to be sixteen

Well, it’s happened.

I knew it would.

Ever since my little sister was born, her perfect little self bundled up in a pink striped blanket and a little hat the size of my 7-year-old hand too-big on her head, I knew it would happen. One day, she’d grow up.

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And since I’m 7 years her senior and get the–honor?–of going through things before she does, I knew that one day she’d get her heart broken. Or that a boy would be mean. Or that someone would make fun of her and it’d be up to me to tell her they’re wrong. I guess I was just in denial that it would happen any time soon *or ever, really* because I just couldn’t handle it.

But yesterday, it did.

It’s a long story so I won’t get into it all (also because that’s her business), but part of it I suppose is my fault. I’m protective of my sister *like too much, maybe* and I saw something going on that was hurting her, and my entire family, as a result. An unhealthy situation, you might say. And now my sister is left with a broken heart. And in her words, “the world is ending”.

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I remember that feeling. You probably do too. Or if you’re a teen–sixteen, seventeen, eighteen maybe–you probably know what that feels like right NOW. And if I’m correct, you feel like it’ll never get better. Life just…sucks. Right? And everyone can tell you that this isn’t your whole life, that time heals all wounds, that as you grow and learn and experience life, those wounds you’re experiencing now will feel like NOTHING ten years down the road. I mean, I tried to tell my sister that. But of course that didn’t work, because right now the world is ending. And how dare anyone say different?

I felt helpless watching my sister go through this yesterday because I love her more than life. But nothing could stop the tears. No one could convince her that she needs to keep herself safe and sometimes being hurt now saves you in the long run. And deep down, I knew nothing would work. After all, nothing worked for me at that age. I had to carry the illusion of the world ending–I had to cry into my teddy bear and write in my journal that I hate my parents. It’s just what happens while you’re growing up. But for us who look back on that time, we helplessly want to CONVINCE those teenagers that they’re wrong–it WILL get better, and it’s not that bad compared to what’s about to come later in life.

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And that’s when my former bishop came over to the house and talked to us and I brought up the subject. His response was simply, “How do you think Heavenly Father feels with US even, when he has a much bigger perspective?”

And right then and there, it hit me. Heavenly Father, our perfect and loving parent, has been through it all. He knows what it’s like to cry over a boy in junior high or feel the stab of rejection at prom. He knows how it feels to lose a job in your twenties or have a spouse cheat. He knows how it feels to lose a parent–or a child– or face a doctor when they tell you it’s cancer. He knows how it feels to get older or weaker or to start forgetting things. He knows how it feels to die. But more importantly–he understands the joy at the end–the growth through the journey– and the reason to all things, simply because he has the bigger picture.

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” -Jeremiah 29:11

And how many times, through scriptures, comfort by the spirit, and revelations does he try to convince us, just like I tried to convince my sister, that everything will work out for our good? And just like my sweet little sister, we fail to believe it. Because we haven’t ever faced something so hard.

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I still go through those times, of course–especially now, while laying beside my dad as his breathing is getting more labored every day, or dealing with financial struggles or hardships at work–where Heavenly Father whispers to me that I will overcome. That he knows my struggles and also knows I’ll conquer them. But like a sixteen year old again curled up in my bed, I sometimes simply can’t believe it.

But I have to trust.

There’s nothing I can say to make my sister feel better right now. Because life is a process you just have to experience for yourself and overcome each day. It’s a small, teeny oh-so-tiny tiny glimpse of what Heavenly Father feels for us and the sorrows he must feel when we shake our heads and say, “No Father, this isn’t fair. It won’t get better.”

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Because it will. And he knows that, just like I know my sister will get better.

He knows our pain and he knows the joys to come.

And he knows, girls *and guys*, exactly how it feels to be sixteen.

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.

blacksheep

At the banks of a river: A mission tale

I’m laying here in bed, laptop on my lap, watching the morning light make patterns on my black sheets through the blinds, and I can’t help but write today. My husband left hours before to go fishing–a pattern he’s picked up recently since the salmon run started and I’d dare say he’s addicted to it. *Fishing counseling coming right up* I don’t have a clear memory of him leaving–just a kiss on the forehead as he said he’s “Gone fishin'”. Just like a true fisherman would say 😉

But the fact that he’s out there fishing on a beautiful day like today, standing very still at the water’s edge with his line in the water, hoping for something just as big as the days before, puts this idea on my head that I can’t shake. He’d probably laugh if I told him what it’s reminded me of, but it’s true. He’s always been a fisherman, of sorts, to me.

Let me rewind the clocks a little bit to explain what I’m thinking.

About a year before I met Matt, I had a sudden desire to serve a mission. Yes, I was ambitious and adventurous and I wasn’t really the “I want to go to school and get married” type–though I have no qualms with people who are like that. It just wasn’t in my blood. I wanted to serve a mission purely because I wanted people to have exactly what I was given when I was baptized–a second chance. So I hurriedly did my mission papers, attended mission prep, and daydreamed about what it would be like to wear that tag and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. But that spiritual high turned into something else very quickly. As I began praying about serving a mission (and not just wanting to) I began to receive a different kind of answer. I got this feeling that I indeed had to serve a mission, just not this kind. It wasn’t a right step to take because I felt there was something else I had to do. 

Needless to say, I cried. A lot. I felt like a horrible person for feeling that I didn’t feel right about serving a proselyting mission. I had SO many amazing girlfriends who had served or were currently serving, and I was the biggest advocate for missionary work. So why didn’t I feel right about going? It deeply disturbed me but I couldn’t shake the feeling. So I went to my bishop within a week of struggling over it, and told him I felt I shouldn’t go. And that was that.

But the guilt sometimes still found me–until I found Matt a year later. And he taught me something about missions.

When I told Matt I hadn’t served a mission–he was the only one who’s ever looked at me with a dumbfounded look and said, “Yes you have.” He’s the only one who explained to me that a mission doesn’t have to include a name tag–sometimes God has a different mission in store. But always, no matter what mission it is, it always includes love. And it always includes patience.

When I see Matt fishing, I can’t help but think of his words. How patient he is. How persistent. How now, even years after returning home from Africa after serving for two years, he’s also a fisher of men. He knows his mission isn’t over, and he knows that mine isn’t either. Just like with fishing, you start small. You wait for hours, days, and sometimes years wondering if your testimony will ever make a difference, sometimes feeling downhearted when people you care about turn away and want nothing to do with the things that you hold so dear to your heart. You might see family struggle with uncertainty and trials–you might have a dear friend who loses faith. And it disheartens you when they turn their face. But as I was taught, you start small, just like with fishing. You sit on the banks and wait. And if something gives a tug and then turns to leave, you don’t cast your pole off in frustration and never come again. You just wait. And you keep casting your line.

littlekidsmallfish

How different this world would be if we all realized we’re on a mission. A mission to love–and therefore, a mission to save. Whether we’re the Relief Society President, or someone who enjoys sitting at the back and taking notes to share with her children later. Whether we’re a bishop or someone who just loves to help people out, moving their furniture as they move into the neighborhood, or bringing over soup when someone is sick. Whether we write poetry or stories or paint pictures or teach a Kindergarten class–we’re on a mission.

And with this knowledge, my guilt and the heaviness I had carried for so long has melted away.

I’m a missionary. You’re a missionary. It’s not an entitlement or a title of superiority–it’s an honor. A service.

We start small, a kind word or action at a time, one talent shared at a time, one testimony told at a time–until we realize we’ve helped to change a life through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Whether it started through friendship, comfort, words of advice, or a dish full of casserole.

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Because after all, it’s the man upstairs who does the fishing. We’re just the ones sitting on the banks for him, patiently helping to reel someone in from the swift current of life. Patient, still, and unhurried, eyes lost on deep waters.

Just like a true fisherman.