I've never really thought of myself as a person with a story, or ever really thought about how I got to where I am today. But looking back, I’m amazed at how my Father in Heaven has played a key role in my life, without me even realizing.
I was born and raised in Orem, Utah, a town where everyone was primarily of the Mormon faith. Not surprisingly I was raised in the Mormon Church, and my friends were all members of my church as well. However it didn't really mean anything to me—it was just what everyone did. I was baptized but most of the time I skipped church. Cursing was a sport in my household, and I was good at it. Looking back now I did feel the spirit in my life at times, but I never understood enough of the gospel for my faith to grow.
My childhood was riddled with heartache, fear, and a lot of time left to my own devices. For all the love my parents had for me, I think they were too distracted by their own trials to really pay much attention to me. So I got away with pretty much anything. I was a liar, I stole from everyone, and I was even destructive. Really I did anything I could to get attention. Needless to say, I felt like nothing I did mattered. I felt like I was broken from the start. I was a high school dropout because I felt that no one cared if I applied myself. No one cared if I accomplished anything. No one cared if I went to class. In fact, no one seemed to care about me at all.
When I was 18 I had my first cigarette and first drink of alcohol, I smoked pot for the first time and tried ecstasy. Thankfully at that time I wasn't really all that into any of it, in fact, I hated all of it. So it was all just a onetime thing…at least then. I started dating a boy, the first boy I ever fell in love with. It was a whirlwind romance and left me shattered.
Between getting kicked out of my parents’ home for this relationship, and then being bounced around from sister to friend to sister’s house, I eventually decided that I had to run away. At this time there was no part of me that considered turning to God. In my mind I was completely and totally unworthy of Heavenly Father and Jesus' love. So I found an ad in the paper for nannies needed in the tri-state area and in 2 weeks I was on a plane (only the second plane ride I had ever taken). I remember walking down the terminal bawling my eyes out, crying so hard that people were looking at me funny. I realized this and stopped suddenly. I told myself that what I was doing was my own choice and no one was making me do this. That was the last time I cried for leaving home.
I ended up in Connecticut. I was a nanny of a wonderful 2 month old, I had a super cool boss, a car, a phone, my own living space, more money than I knew what to do with, and a void inside where the Holy Ghost should have been. I feel like he said "see ya later" long before I got on that plane. Not long after, my best friend joined me and the party began. I don't think I need to share many details for you to get the gist of the hole I dug myself into. I was moving rapidly down the path of least resistance, with no U-turn in sight. I had a “fake it till you make it” mentality that drove me further down the path of what I thought would lead to sure happiness. “Wickedness” could be happiness right? Everyone around me was happy, these people—my "friends"—were living proof…right?
I would occasionally pop my head into the local Mormon congregation in my area, and I met a couple other nannies in the area. Nothing ever really stuck with me though. I did have one amazing friend named Lucy. As hard as I tried to convince her I wasn't worth saving she just wouldn't let me go. She never gave up on me...ever.
I met my husband at a bar. Romantic, I know. We mostly just hung out, and it seemed like we just fit together. He knew I was a Mormon, even though my representation of one was pretty awful. He was fine with my religion, but honestly I don’t think he ever thought I would be an active member. After we were married I thought I had found happiness. But still some nights—most nights—I would come home from the bar where I had been drinking and smoking and feeling sorry for myself, and look in the mirror and hate myself. As much as I tried to ignore it, I felt inside that there was someone my soul was begging me to be. But I didn't know how to change.
The first thing I didn't do was pray. No, instead I would sneak into church for worship service, then sneak out as fast as I could, always making sure I had a cigarette or two to smoke on my way home. This probably went on for a good 2 years. I occasionally attempted to read the blurry lines of the scriptures, and probably memorized the first part of the Book of Mormon from all the times I started over in my inconsistency. I didn't realize it at the time, but I now recognize that even the little reading I did helped to make molehills out of some of the self-destructive mountains I had made.
It took me a very, very, very long time to get up the nerve to pray. It was one of the most humbling moments of my life. I was always afraid to ask for help because God works in such mysterious ways and I was afraid of what he might do to me. I wish I could remember the words I said in that first prayer. I’m sure they fell so far short of what I really wanted to say. But I don’t think that’s what really mattered. I think even if I were to have been speaking gibberish Heavenly Father would have known what I really meant to say. He is an amazing being.
After a while it got less difficult to read my scriptures and pray, and I was even going to church consistently; but it wasn't ever easy. I had to make a conscious decision every single time, and it took everything I had to get ready and go to church.
In telling all of this, I think it’s important to understand that I didn't have some grand epiphany. I didn't see rays of light shining on me from the heavens above.
There were no slaps in the face, no billboards with my name saying "Hey, God loves you!” And honestly, most days I still wonder how on earth Heavenly Father and Jesus could love me. I'm so insignificant, so… unimportant. But when I stop and count all of the many blessings that I have been given, I know that I am a beloved child of Heavenly Parents. Even if I don't fully understand it, I know it’s true.
I have learned that even though sometimes the constant battle to choose the right is exhausting--and sometimes I fail-- it is the trying that is important. Somehow the constant battle to choose the right grows my faith. I've learned that I want to live this way because I feel like myself when I am. It’s what brings me joy. Three years ago I never would have believed I could feel like this.
So, yes, my seed of faith is still probably just a little plant that hasn't fully bloomed. I’m sure it will take a lifetime of trials and triumphs, confusion and doubt, joy and sadness, and pain and happiness, to see what beautiful creation my seed of faith will produce. But if I could rewind the time and give myself some advice there's no question that I would say, "You may mess up, you might even backtrack and make mistakes, but what are you going to do after? Are you going to quit? No, you claw and scratch your way back to where you worked so hard to get, and stand just a little stronger. Read your scriptures, pray, and pray some more. Don’t ever stop praying. Ever."
Because in the end it will all be worth it.