This year my church released, Come Follow Me, a new study guide or resource for learning the gospel. Each week, as I read and study, I have been struck by how much of the New Testament holds little gems of hope and healing for survivors. For example...Are there times in your life when you have felt the Savior clear the way on your behalf? Is there something keeping you from healing? Is there something you would like cleared out of the way? Have you asked for help?
“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”
Not long ago I found myself crying alone on a bridge. As there are many bridges in Seaside, that isn’t as odd as it sounds. I still haven’t decided if I was crying because I was heartbroken, betrayed by my own people, or just plain furious. You see, writers make a grand joke of rejection. We are experts at querying agents and publishers and being told our stories are, “Not what we are looking for,” or “you don’t have a large enough following,” or even, “your work needs more work.” But this rejection was personal.
I was told by an editor that my work contained characters who were members of my religion, and no one buys books with characters of my religion. They just don’t sell. And so, they’d voted and wouldn’t take any more novels that weren’t secular or contained characters who were members of my church.
In a knee jerk reaction, I offered to obliterate my religion from my story and thankfully they declined. You see, they said, my followers already know what church I belong too, and it was too late to go back in the closet. So, I countered, I read Anne Frank’s Diary, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and would have read 7 years in Tibet, except Brad Pitt starred in the Move, so I watched it 2 or 3 times. People read novels with religions in them. But, apparently, they don’t sell.
So, channeling Brene Brown, and in the spirit of authenticity and vulnerability, I am perhaps one of the few members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to be rejected by an unnamed publisher for writing about characters that belong to the aforementioned church.
Most authors would just counter, oh well! That’s rejection number 666. Then they would either take out their religion or keep submitting. But, not the very successful authors and members of my critique group. Sometime in the evening, wearing pajamas and reading our work to each other over Google Hangouts and chatting over Facebook Messenger, I confessed – rejected because some of my characters went to The Church.
Immediately, I got the best advice of my life, “Wait by the gate.”
I replied, “Wait by the gate?”
The reply was a quote from a song.
“They came to a place which was named, Gethsemane
And Jesus saith unto his disciples, sit ye here while I pray…”
In those few lines, I experienced greatness. You see, these lines came from a fellow author who also writes about characters in The Church who navigate the challenges of life, are regularly misunderstood for their beliefs, and yet cling to them. She waits by the gate, true to her beliefs, authentic, honest, hilarious, and a true friend. We write about what we know.
I decided to join her and wait by the gate. I will be true to my beliefs, to who I am and I will keep the strange little bishop who interferes with the love interest in my book and the funny lady who has never had a cup of coffee, but… well you’ll just have to read the book.
I don’t know what you believe in, but I hope whatever gate you choose to camp out at, you are faithful to it. I hope you are brave, honest and honorable about who you are and what you believe. If you write a book, I will read it.
As for me and my friend? We will be waiting by our gate, with laptops, good books, good friends, family, laughter, and tears of joy. Because it isn’t about how many books we sell (Okay, we keep score and compete a little) as much as it is telling a great story. Not the greatest story ever told, yet. But then, you’ll just have to read the book.
I was never a Mormon. Mormon was an ancient prophet in the Book of Mormon* who has been dead for many years. To top it off, someone once bought a handwritten manuscript of Mormon’s abridgment for 35 million dollars!** Trust me… I have not come close to making that kind of money as an author and no one wants to buy my messy original word doc for ten cents.
I have always been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Recently our Prophet announced we were no longer to be called or call ourselves, “Mormon,” or “LDS.” This was major news to the world. We were being “rebranded.”
This was not major news to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I had been hearing this for years! Here is a little history behind the shortened or slang term or name, “Mormon.”
In the early history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, according to Deseret News *** and everything I have been taught, “The church has had a complicated relationship with the term Mormon since its restoration in 1830. Church leaders long chafed at antagonists calling them Mormons and, early on, Mormonites, but in recent decades they have been more accepting of the nickname.”
Let me tell you what I think this means. In early history, there was an Extermination Order allowing people to legally kill “Mormons.” Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints were burned out of their homes, run out into the snow and driven across state lines, massacred, and generally misunderstood. “Mormon” was a slang term used in derision that we adopted ourselves and used.
However, I have speculated, as others have, that it created confusion around whether or not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints were Christians. We are.
Here are a few facts about me and some of my friends who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. We are not perfect. We are human. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I go to church in an effort to become more Christlike and grow. At church, I have been taught we can all return to live with our Heavenly Father, and I know from many church meetings, that we want everyone to be together as one big happy family again. We are taught to love everyone, no exceptions, unconditionally. We only ask the same in return. Love us as we are and let us work towards the next life as we choose. If you have questions just ask, and I will find someone who knows more than I do to answer them.
I personally don’t need rebranding. I do need people to stop calling me “Mormon.” He is a dead but respected prophet. I also need people to ask me questions, instead of guessing what I believe or telling me what they think I believe.
In all honesty, not much has changed in history, except we have stepped into the light, stopped hiding, and want you to know we hold firm to our belief in the Savior. I want my friends, co-workers, and neighbors to know I was never a Mormon, but I was always a Christian and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
“Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? …For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little… ”
Isaiah 28: 9-10
My Grandmother, my father, my aunts, my uncles, my cousins, and I all walked on this wall along the sea, and now my children’s children walk the same wall. Each one of us learned to walk the wall holding a grown-up’s hand until we all insisted on letting go. Step by step, starting with our first baby steps we learned and grew.
Seaside summer evenings were often spent walking as a family to the ice-cream shop. Twenty or more of us strung out along the promenade or Prom on the beach laughing, chasing children, holding our lover’s hands, pushing baby strollers, or watching our parents, aunts, and uncles smile and talk.
We learned about more than how to balance on a cement wall by the sea. We learned trusted loved ones had rules because they cared about us. We learned through quiet conversations on the mile-long walk to town for ice-cream. We learned by watching the grown-ups hold hands and treat each other with respect. The journey was so much more than a walk on the wall. We were building little people and a large family.
Life is a lot like our walks by the sea. It looks like you are doing dishes, going on a diet, teaching your children how to plant a garden, but you are actually doing something much deeper and wider, you are building love, trust, identity, connection, and a family.
A month ago, I committed to making some health changes. I was going on a cleanse. It absolutely made me giggle. For the first time in my life, I joined a group, bought some shakes, and began a sugar fast. All the laughter covered my terror. Remember, I am the girl on the prom wall. All our major childhood accomplishments were followed by dessert or sweet reward, and family gatherings always had food.
I set a goal. One month without refined sugar, caffeine (Diet coke which always led to needing Hot Tamales and a bucket of popcorn), as well as a TON of other foods like corn, honey, potatoes, and soy that I wouldn’t eat.
A few days ago, I finished the month! I was changed. Did I look different? Was I thinner and prettier? No. Was I changed? Absolutely. But the change was on the inside. I felt healthier. I had gained the strength that comes from setting out to accomplish something, anything, and finishing it. The sense of self-worth that comes from seeing something through, especially when it is difficult. I had endured with honor.
Just like the walk on the Prom, it looked simple, fun and easy but the results I hope will be much deeper than improved health today. Years down the road, I hope I look back and find I am grateful for the things I chose to change, the lessons I learned along the way, and the blessing of inner strength that comes from striving to be just a tiny bit better each day.
Every step we take is a choice. Even when we try to take random road trips through life, we are making a choice. But when we choose a direction and take one small step after another toward our goal we just might find we reach not only reach our destination, we have changed along the way.
Special thanks to Hilary and the group at Designing Health. I may stumble and I may fall, but I have a new network of friends headed the same direction. See you all at the Salad Bar!
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
If you have a pulse, it is highly likely that you have experienced challenges, loss, and even trauma at some point between the day you left the womb and now. If you haven’t there is a high likelihood that you are in a coma.
Howard W. Hunter, an international religious leader once explained, “There must be opposition in all things,” but why? Why, when most of us work diligently to do good things do we encounter barriers and how can they possibly be for our own good?
Many years ago I faced a challenge in a lifetime illness. At age 12, I was diagnosed with an inherited autoimmune disease, likely triggered by stress. The doctor explained that a simple daily medication would help me get through life. What he didn’t explain was the disease would cause weight gain, loss of energy, depression, hair loss, problems with my skin and nails. Those may not be big things to you, but to a young woman, they were massive. All I knew was that I struggled with symptoms no one else had. I didn’t understand why.
Later in life, the additional stress of being a survivor and a move back to my beloved coast triggered a downward spiral in my health. I began my wrestling match with a myriad of symptoms, which included gaining 40 pounds in a very few months while eating fewer and fewer calories and exercising more and more.
I began my wrestle. I had an invisible challenge like so many of us do. I recently became friends with a group of wonderful woman. We support each other’s effort to write and publish. As time passed we began to talk more honestly. Then one day, one of us confessed our lives weren’t perfect. We realized none of our lives were perfect, but they were also perfectly beautiful.
Guess what? No one has a perfect life. Some of us have serious struggles but spend our days caring for others, often with a smile on our face. If you think you are the only person who struggles with diet, addiction, or other invisible challenges you are not alone.
Sherry Dew, in her book, “Worth the Wrestle,” put it best when she said:
“Are you willing to engage in the wrestle? In an ongoing spiritual wrestle? If we want to grow spiritually, the Lord expects us to ask questions and seek answers.
We live in a sound-bite world where “tweets,” “likes,” “posts,” and “shares” have become the way we keep informed and share ideas. We are accustomed to expecting instant answers. But the most compelling questions in our lives rarely have quick, easy, Google answers. That is because receiving revelation and gaining knowledge, particularly divine knowledge, takes time.
It takes a wrestle.”
Nothing is ever a straight path. My life so far has been a series of hills with hidden valleys containing some pretty hefty challenges. The difference is, I know now, I am not alone. I am entitled to drop to my knees and get the answers I would never have come to on my own. And in my wrestle with survivorship, health, healing, family, love, finances, jobs, and the weeds in my garden I will be building muscle, spiritual and personal muscles.
I am not done wrestling and I don’t ever expect to be done. What I am done doing, is looking for an easy answer. I hope to continue to build my spiritual and physical muscles daily. The face you see in the video above is a full fifty or more pounds lighter, and healthier than before the struggle began. I wouldn’t trade the journey, the knowledge, my new friends, or my time on my knees for anything, even sugar and diet coke. I hope I can keep it up! But if I fail, I will wrestle some more.
Just remember, my answers will not be your answers. I am an author and feel compelled to write my feelings, what I learn, and ideas. The direction you choose and the mountains you climb are all yours. The good news is, you don’t have to go it alone.
So when all else fails, drop to your knees and wrestle.
Look around our world and see how God feels about perfection. There are no two mountains in the world that are exactly the same. There isn’t a wave that washes onto the sand that is the same as another. Every human has his own face, hair, skin, heart, height, weight, and singularly individual soul. Every mother knows her child’s unique cry. This is His work and His glory and He is perfect.
As humans, we seek the rare, the unique, the unusual and call it treasure. One of a kind is desirable. Art which is symmetrical, balanced, perfect, with one red flower in the center or one tree in the middle of the painting is called static or in my opinion baren, without joy, bland, and boring. The most beautiful models in the world have something unique about their face, large lips, large eyes, or an odd nose.
Olympic athletes recently tried to make perfect time, perfect movements, and perfect scores. All worthy goals. The entire world held their breath as ice-skaters reached for perfection, ached when they fell, celebrated when they succeeded. Perfection is a worthy direction, but failure doesn’t mean we are lost.
In a recent talk by my favorite LDS speaker Jeffrey R. Holland titled, “Be Ye Therefore Perfect – Eventually,” he reminded us all that, “If we persevere, then somewhere in the eternities our refinement will be finished and complete.” He admonishes us to seek steady and healthy self-improvement without the self-loathing, eating disorders, general misery, and toxic perfectionism.
But what is perfection?
Today my grandson, seven-year-old Elliott gained a new scar on his forehead and a trip to the emergency room. His mother sent a group text and his uncle drove two hours to help, his father came home, his Nana made dinner, and his family all over the world sent love and looked at his new imperfection. In my world, the love that was shown Elliott was perfect.
Holland said of the Savior, “I testify that in this and every hour He is, with nail-scarred hands, extending to us that same grace, holding on to us and encouraging us, refusing to let us go until we are safely home in the embrace of Heavenly Parents. For such a perfect moment, I continue to strive, however clumsily. For such a perfect gift, I continue to give thanks, however inadequately. I do so in the very name of Perfection itself, of Him who has never been clumsy or inadequate but who loves all of us who are, even the Lord Jesus Christ….”
Storms roll into the Pacific Northwest Coast and change the beach, the trees, our world in minutes. I don’t know about you, but I love to watch a good storm. The power of the wind and water change rolling dunes to flat sand or new cliffs. Trees are tested, dead branches are torn from trunks, deep roots hold while others give way.
Today I ran the beach after the storm. Everything was wiped clean. Logs had been washed into the dunes and it was a new and different kind of beautiful.
Storms of all shapes and sizes roll through our lives, test our roots and strengthen us as we wrestle with the wind. Storms can change us in minutes. I think they can leave us a new kind of beautiful, molded by experience.
Isn’t it interesting that the creator of this world didn’t create manicured lawns with perfect white picket fences? He created majestic mountains, raging oceans, cascading waterfalls, frozen tundras, and storms. His creation is a work in progress. Storms still change it daily.
How many times have I stood looking in a mirror for an imperfection, a new wrinkle, a misplaced curl, signs of my storms? How many hours have I wasted angry at the storm?
Today, I worked on embracing all my imperfections as visible signs of the storms in my life. I believe in goals and choosing the direction of my journey, but I also believe in having compassion for myself.
I may have been broken by storms, shaped into someone new, changed forever, but I like what I have become. I am a testimony of endurance. One more day, I choose to lean into the wind and journey on.
What is your favorite way to serve at Christmas? How many secret Santa/Angel missions have you pulled off? This year our church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, invites you to do MORE! Learn more about the “Light Up The World Campaign” Here.
We had the gift of being near enough to Leavenworth Washington to finally stop and see the Christmas lights in the beautiful Bavarian town. I wondered why so many of us love the lights at Christmas. And then I remembered, Heavenly Father used light, a single star to announce the birth of his precious son.
This Christmas be the light. Light up the world the way the Savior did, with personal service to others. How will you light up the world? Please comment with ideas. I need them!
I will be donating a few of my signed personal copies of Safe House to Operation Underground Railroad for a Holiday Catalog giveaway. I am already donating a small portion of the proceeds from every single copy of Safe House sold to O.U.R. to end sex trafficking. Shop the Catalog and donate HERE.
Please! Send me ideas. Let’s light up this world!
Nominate your favorite #LightTheWorld participants to win good books!
Every year the LDS church encourages us to focus on Christ by lighting our world with good works. This year, authors at Cedar Fort and other presses would like to say thank you to those candles on the hill.
When you find a Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter post that lights your world (it does not need to be tagged as a #LightTheWorld post, but certain may be), please 1. Sharing the post or creating a public post highlighting your friend AND 2. Tagging the page Light The World with Books. You may also use the hashtag #LightTheWorldWithBooks. Both YOU, the nominator, and YOUR FRIEND, the nominee, will automatically be entered to win one of 48 books! For official rules and details on the prize books, visit nikkitrionfo.com.
*PLEASE NOTE: If the original post is private (as many on FB and especially IG are), to guarantee we at Light The World With Books see the post, you may also share the post on our Light the World with Books Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/LighttheWorldwithBooks/. A screenshot works; a share; a post that simply says who you are and who you nominated–any of that is fine. We don’t need to be technical; we just need to see you!
Official Rules on https://www.facebook.com/LighttheWorldwithBooks/
I will be working with my publisher to donate a portion of the profits from my book to Operation Underground Railroad.
I have had the privilege of meeting with hundreds of survivors of domestic and sexual abuse and listening to their stories. I hope to share my experience through fiction and motivate change through stories. Holiday Catalog HERE.
Remember! Opening a good book is like running towards the light! #lighttheworld #lighttheworldwithbooks