How eating popcorn could kill you, or make you wish you were dead.

I love popcorn. I do. It’s been my favorite snack since I was a little. I’ve raised my children with this little love affair as well. Every movie night is celebrated with a great big bowl of this buttery yumminess.

Lately, I’ve been using it as my nightly snack. My son Julian will pop me a big bow full of it and I’ll eat it over a few days time. Last night was Ethan’s Halloween Orchestra Concert, so I made dinner early. By the time it was over I was starving and I was on the hunt. After rummaging through our pantry, I went upstairs defeated – resounded to going to bed hungry. As I entered my room…complete joy flooded my memory!!! I remembered I still had a half a bowl of popcorn!

Wait…did my kids get to it? Is it already gone? I was panicked, hoping the kids had not sniffed out my treats like the bloodhounds they typically are when any kind of goodness lurks within the walls of my room. Just as I was about to give up, I noticed the bowl on the floor behind my office chair and jumped for joy! “Woo hoo!!!” I cried out. Craig was already in bed and laughing he said, “What’s got you so happy?”

“The kids didn’t eat my popcorn!!! Now I’m about to get in my bed, snuggle up to my honey, and watch a movie til I fall asleep!” The lights were all out and I climbed into bed about to snarf down my bestie snack with a vengeance. Then…the thought came to me- I better go wash my hands first. I can’t stand putting things in my mouth with the thought of dirty hands. I set the bowl on the counter and went to the bathroom while I was at it, cause ain’t nobody got time to  interrupt a deep sleep because of a full bladder.

Ok….Handled my business, check. Washed my hands, check.

I grabbed my bowl of yumminess off the counter and went to shut the lights off. Just as I was flipping the switch, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. Double take….was something moving in my bowl? So I turned the light back on for better inspection. I leaned my head into the bowl and again had to adjust my eyes….what is thaaaaaat?

Is that a WORM? Oh my gosh, YES!!! I continued to scan the bowl and there lied a second, but smaller worm!!! I refused to look for anymore at this point… but I can tell you from my observation,  they were the happiest worms I have ever seen. They were practically dancing all over the place as they mounted the various kernels of popped heaven clouds. Soooooo GROSS!

Now a word of warning, I’m not typically a cussing type person – however I reserve the right to belt out profanities in times of extreme fear, extreme pain or creepy crawlies in my food.

I screamed out, “Craig!!!!!! There are worms in my damn popcorn! Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! Ewe ewe ewe ewe ewe ewe ewe ewe ewe!!!!!!!!”

Craig, “the hero” comes hopping in to save the day… (he’s only got one leg) and is like,

“Whoa…those are huge!”

Grabbing his arms I was like…. “I KNOW….!!! I almost ate them! I almost ate these nasty things! What if I wouldn’t have stopped to wash my hands?

What if I would have just jumped into bed in the dark and started chowing down?!

WHAT if I picked up a kernel with a worm on it and it touched me?

Or I put it in my mouth and squished it?

Oh my gosh Craig! I could have died!

Where did these worms come from?!

I bet they hatched in the bowl! Ewe! Wait?!

I’ve been eating that BOWL for two days!

WHAT IF I ALREADY ATE SOME?

What if they are alive inside of me?

What if I ate some kernels that’s had worm eggs in them and now they’ve are hatching inside me while we speak?

What if they crawl up my throat with all of their disgusting little succor feet and come out of my nose or mouth? I almost died Craig! I almost diiiiiiieeeeeeed!”

Craig laughing at my ridiculousness (that’s a daily affair for him) tried to convince me that they must have gotten in there somehow. That they didn’t hatch. Blah blah blah.

“There’s no way dear, that one worm was HUGE. He couldn’t have gotten that big in a day.” he says.

“Craig, of course they can! They’ve been eating my popcorn!”

Sorry, I just couldn’t take his word for it. So I took to the internet. Low and behold, worms and popcorn are a thing. Even found pictures of my worms. They are the ones in the photo below. 🙁 And for your viewing pleasure I have included a video on youtube of little larvae that hatched inside a movie theatre popcorn bin. That’s what these worms look like before they fill up on popcorn. 50 shades of nasty.

The tiny worm on the left was the size of one of the worms. The second worm was the size of the one of the  far right. I want to cry right now.

I spent the entire night paranoid….thinking of how many worms I had ingested over the course of my popcorn loving life. I’m probably infested and they are swarming through my intestines as we speak.

Craig thinks the acids in my stomach would probably kill them, but I’m not convinced. I mean if they have survived pesticides, harvest, treatment and packaging facilities, transport, storage, sale and cooking at high temperatures in oil….then what are my little ole stomach acids gonna do? Nothing. I’ve probably been pooping worms my whole life. How can I even move forward after this?

This morning, all I could think about is how I can get rid of my critters.

Some ideas are as follows….(warning! DON’T try these at home – this is dangerous crazy talk)

1.Drink the equivilent of worm drano – hopefully clean all the “pipes”.

2. Drink through a firehose. Maybe the sheer force and velocity would blow them all out the back side. But then I’d probably need a colostomy bag for the rest of my life from all the damage.

3. Colonics (poop shoot irrigation) to lure them out nicely. That’s a lot of trauma for them and for me.

4. Taking deworming/parasite pills and swearing a blood oath to not to look in the toilet after doing my business until I know the coast is clear. Maybe a life time. If I so much as see a worm in the toilet….

I’m still deciding on the most effective form of treatment, but there is one thing I know for sure.

Popcorn – it’s over. We’re through. We had a good run, but you’ve crossed a line- and sometimes there’s just NO. WAY. BACK. This is the ultimate betrayal. It’s time we part ways.

Team Moms and Room Moms –  this is no longer funny. It’s traumatic and PTSD inducing.

Oh and hey God- when you were up there’s creating worlds and such, I know it’s alot. I also know that when Adam and Eve ate the apple, you had no choice but to give us thorns and weeds. And then of course, now we all have to work by the sweat of our brow –  I get it. I really do. It all just kinda makes sense, ya know?

But doing this to our popcorn? Now that’s just rude. I’m not being disrespectful God, but this has to be for your own amusement. I know you’re laughing at me. I’m sure you get bored up there with all the problems and the whining, and the evil doers…..but why you gotta do me like this? Sigh.

Love,

Dawn

PS.  Wash your hands before you eat!  Good Hygene literally saved my life! Happy Halloween. Don’t eat this if someone tries to serve it to you. You could be getting more than you asked for.

if you liked this post….read the one next for a good laugh!

Breakfast in Bed

 

 

 

 

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A call for sisterhood. The number one problem of women isn’t men, it’s women.

Throughout my life, my past and current career, I have spoken to literally hundreds of thousands of women. Women from all walks of life, the richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor. Highly educated women, and women who could’ve been killed for having learned to read. Women at the top of the corporate ladder and women who scrub toilets for a living. (I’ve been both of those) Women who are mothers and those who aren’t. Religious women from all sects, and women of no faith at all. Every shade, size and background represented.

It’s a cherished space I get to share with women, as they confide in me their deepest wounds. I’m in awe of all that they’ve come through. I haven’t met a woman yet who doesn’t have some battle scars. These warrior women have become my heroes and sisters in arms. It’s been a privilege to wipe thousands of tears as they share their stories with me. It’s through those tears I’ve found that some of the most constant sources of a woman’s pain, has come at the hands of each other. I’m here to tell you ladies, the number one problem of women isn’t men, it’s women. That may come as a shock with all of the marches and women’s initiatives constantly flashed before our eyes in the media. I’m here to talk about what happens when we go home.

First, I think it’s important to acknowledge the fact that there is still a lot of room for improvement in the advancement of women in this world. Men undoubtedly hold a lot of keys to that. However, that’s a conversation for another day. Today is about holding ourselves accountable. If the advancement of women is what we truly seek, then it’s time we turn that pointer finger around to our own chest and acknowledge the role we play in stunting our growth.

Somewhere in recent years, we’ve gotten off track. Are we crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s of high achievement? Sure. Women continue to knock down every door that lays before them. At no other time in history have we shared more power or been more represented as women. It’s beautiful, really. Give me an instance where so much of this world is isn’t tempered on the attitudes of women- I think you’ll find there’s few. Other than in cases of abuse or severe oppression, we can count on women to set the priorities, the standards, the examples and most importantly – we set the mood in most arena’s. There’s a lot to be proud of.

However, when it comes to the treatment of each other, a lot of us have gone back to the school yard. We’ve lost the soul of what it means to be a woman. What happened to unity, loyalty, nurturing, mentorship, friendship and love? Some women do those things incredibly well, but not enough of us to stop the bleeding. Ladies, we have forgotten our roots. It’s time to retrace our steps and correct our footing. This is a beckon to higher ground.

Whether it be in at work, school, religious communities or neighborhoods, women express a deep struggle with unity. If you look at the history of women, the key to any substantial advancement was unity. Women laced arms as they fought for the right to vote, to own their own wages and property, and for the power to choose their own destiny. We are the benefactors of centuries of sacrifice. I think it’s time we ask ourselves, how are we honoring their legacy?

In recent years, unity is something that eludes us as women. Even feminism has not been the great unifier that we hoped it would be. I think it’s actually brought to light how divided we are within the ranks of women. Feminism used to be about standing together for equal rights. Now it’s about how worthy you are to wear the uterus. What happened to us?

Women of the past didn’t have the luxury of division amongst them. We do. We now hold the power they fought hard for, and it’s a power we don’t always use for good.  I think social media has left us all feeling that we are forced to compete with each other in every arena. Now that are lives are on constant broadcast for all to see, too often we find ourselves in the judgement seat of our sisters. Where there is a lack of unity, there is always suffering. We’re all paying that price today.

The Price of Success – One of the biggest surprises in talking to women is what can only be described as “success scars.” You give me a successful woman and I’ll give you a woman that’s got an identity crisis. It’s true. Being successful is a navigation nightmare for a woman. In order to protect the confidences that women have entrusted me with, I’ll share some of my experiences that reflect the sentiment of what I hear every day from legions of women.

Understand that it’s a little daunting to share this. From my own experience – I can say that the more I knocked down the personal barriers in my life that lead to achievement, the harder it is to thrive within my own tribe – women. Now, I love working with women, I do – but it comes at a cost. I’ve learned to stomach that cost, and I’ve got the ulcers to prove it.

In order for you to truly appreciate the struggle – Picture the movie “The Pursuit of Happyness” except insert me for Will Smith. That was my life twentyish years ago. Yes, it was that desperate and worse. Shame kept me from telling anyone how hard it was just to survive every day.

From the beginning stages of my career, women were hard on me. One thing I had to learn quick, was that women have a really hard time making room for each other professionally. Especially the seasoned women. Regardless of how hard and long I worked, there was little I could do to earn their respect. I think they felt my ambition to change my circumstances got in their way. Both metaphorically and physically – I hadn’t eaten for a long time. I was hungry and I longed to be fed. That insatiable hunger drove me to high achievement. Yet that achievement offended the women in my life. How do you reconcile that, when you need both? I was so young. I had no family other than a tiny little boy who was counting on me. Their acceptance and mentorship would have meant the world to me. I wasn’t there to offend them. I was there to save me, to save us. It was my deep seeded fear of failure that propelled me forward, but my humility never left. That’s the thing about having good doses of abuse, neglect and homelessness – rock bottom and I became good friends. Honestly, I don’t know which offended them more – my advancement, or the “kill em with kindness” I exhibited during the process – which also made me weak in their eyes.

I loved my career. I cherished my patients. It was truly the most beautiful work. 13 years later, a lot had changed in my life. I left to stay home with my babies. They needed me more than my career did. It was also time to support my husband’s career. His had taken a back seat to mine for the whole of our whole marriage. As I write these words, I can’t help but smile – for that was criticized too.

Fast forward to my current career.

Speaking, writing, loving people. It’s seriously the best job ever. I love this work. I think it’s important to share this piece because it’s so reflect of the stories I constantly hear from women. No matter what their station in life – here in lies the struggle. We’ve zipped up the straight jacket of expectation so high, that none of us can hardly breathe. Entering a room full of women is hard, no matter who you are or what you do.

Whenever I walk into a room full of women who know my background and story, it’s intimidating. People knowing your “junk” isn’t easy. As I greet women, I am always received with one of two attitudes – admiration or indifference – with a hint of resentment.

My heart is constantly conflicted with my stature – so do I shrink or do I rise?

Do I SHRINK? – The indifference or resentment I experience is what I like to call, “How dare you rise” syndrome. Where we see someone’s success and not only do we refuse to acknowledge it, but we are mean to each other because of it. You don’t know how many times I’ve endured being ignored or snubbed by women. Church is the worst. Some people have been really, really unkind. (I’m using my church words) It’s become a door that gives me anxiety to have to walk through each week. Physically my stature doesn’t change, but I’m pretty sure I drop ten inches every time I enter the building. Anyway, the whole attitude reeks of “Other people may think you are something special, but let me tell you – I don’t. You are nothing to me. In fact, I refuse to even acknowledge you.” I can spot that from a mile away. Each time it’s like a dagger to my soul. Do you honestly think that we as women, and as people- ever outgrow the need for love and acceptance? If you think we can “success” our way to immunity in this arena you are kidding yourself. We always need our sisters, and we always need their love. We will always need that sense of community. Honestly, these are the women I spend a lot of time loving really hard. I want them to know I’m in their corner. I’m not about me, I’m about US. I’m paving the way for you, and I know you are doing the same for me. We all have sacred gifts to give and I honor yours as well.

Do I RISE? – As any women can attest that  when it comes to admiration, “love” hurts. Admiration normally means being put on a pedestal that we never asked to be on. Whether for how far we’ve come, current success, or the pressure for consistent performance, it’s stressful. It feels like you have to constantly keep announcing… “And for my next act…world peace.” Admiration is something that is always short lived, because the second we show an ounce of flaw- we come crashing down off that pedestal that we never asked to be on. In my own experience, people are devastated by my weakness- and I’m not allowed any wiggle room to be a human being. I hope you never know what it’s like to have your friendship, your intimacy and your association with others be contingent on your perfection. It means never really having a friend that you can be yourself or be honest with. I can’t say that it’s lonely at the top, because I don’t feel I’m anywhere near the summit. However, I can attest that it’s awfully lonely in the middle. The nausea of expectation and fear of your world getting even smaller can make you scared to keep climbing. Some women get off the ladder because of this very thing. It’s what’s described as “The loneliness of leadership”. I shudder to think of all the gifts this world has lost at the hands of success scars.

The Cost of “Failure”: I think the only thing worse than paying the price of success, is the cost of “failure” in the eyes of our peers. I hate even using that word, cause it’s so far from the truth. When a woman chooses a life that makes her happy, some times we women feel it is our duty to be critical of her choices. If she chooses to stay home and raise children – she’s “wasted her potential.” If a woman chooses less than a master’s degree, then she’s treated like she lacks the aptitude to have an opinion on any political issue or social construct. If she never marries, we can’t help but wonder, “What’s wrong with her?” If she chooses not to, or finds that she can’t have children- she must be selfish. If she is thin and beautiful, it’s cause for resentment. If she’s plain or plump – she’s either looked past or considered undisciplined. Sigh.

You know, I’ve always resented the 1-10 scale some men use to “rate” women. Placing a number on a woman based on physical attributes is repulsive. Maybe my years have jaded me, but at least a man’s scale is binary. We know where we stand with him.

A women’s judgement is completely suggestive, mostly based off how she’s feeling about herself today. This is EXHAUSTING. Seriously, think about it! With how critical we are of each other, I can’t help but wonder – what in the world would it take for a woman to get a 10?

In the words of Elizabeth Bennet, “I never saw such a woman. Surely she would be a fearsome thing to behold.” (if you don’t know Jane Austin, I’m judging you. 😉

Sisters, here’s the take away. In all my conversations with women combined with my own experiences – it’s safe to say that we’re all struggling to feel welcome in our tribe. We are living in a mode where we are scared to make room for each other. We can be very critical and unkind. We need to mentor more than we manipulate, support more than we sabotage, and help more than we hurt. I think our ancestors would be sad to see that the shackles they shed, have become the shackles we put on each other. We are the key to our own oppression, so let’s liberate ourselves. Their sacrifice means that we get to define what “opportunity” means for us, as women. Whether that means staying home to raise your family, or being a lawyer, or cleaning toilets to feed your babies… it’s all warrior work. So use your powers for good. Help a sister out. Give each other room to breathe. This life is ROUGH, and we’re all taking turns being in the fetal position. The only thing women will ever get from me is a high five celebrating that we’re all upright today. Let us lift each other with love and loyalty.

All My Love,

Dawn

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Dear Missionary….It’s your call

My son Andrew (Drew) is due to receive his mission call literally any day now. He’s been checking the mail several times a day, hoping for that much anticipated white envelope. I remember going through the same anticipation with Anthony. I was a ball of nerves! Yesterday he checked the mail like four times, even though he knew the answer wasn’t going to change. Not today friend, not today. It’s killing us!

In the past few years, social media has let us share beautiful moments with those that wouldn’t otherwise get to be a part of watching a mission call being opened. Mission call parties are becoming a fairly common occurrence. With these developments, have come some unintended consequences.

This season of our lives always strikes up a lot of comrade with members all over the world. Get missionary parents in a room and proudly, it’s all we talk about. Mom’s are the worst. 🙂 This makes me privy to a lot of stories and experiences, some hilarious, some informational, and some very eye opening.

I share the following story with the permission:

After much self reflection and prayer, my friend’s daughter made the amazing and heart wrenching decision to serve a mission. Several appointments, interviews and hours spent on the computer later, she clicked “SUBMIT”. Everything in her life was about to change. How, when and where it would change, all depended on that “Great White Envelope”. Everyone was on high alert, just waiting for the word on when it arrived.

After several trips to the mailbox that week, it finally came!!! She was beside herself with joy. Blissful calls went out to friends and family. She wanted all the people that mean the most to her to come and witness her big day! She couldn’t wait to share this moment with them.

With her cherished ones gathered around her, she read the following words,

“Dear Sister ______, You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – You are assigned to labor in the Charlotte, North Carolina Mission.”

Tears went down her face. She was thrilled. She knew when she read those words it was where God wanted her to be. When you watch the video, she was completely joyful. She looked like she won the lottery. Everything about it felt good, it felt right. Her parents were through the moon.

As her friends came up to hug her, she anticipated congratulatory remarks, and a lot were. However, a lot of what she heard was the following:

“Awww, Are you ok?”
“Are you disappointed?”
“Are you so sad?”
“Do you still want to go?”
“Are you still going to serve?”
“Awww, I was hoping you’d go somewhere cool.”

By the end of the night, something that had been a very joyful and sacred moment for her in the beginning – turned into a three hour sob session, where her pillow was drenched in tears. Not tears of her own disappointment, but the disappointment of others. She was made to feel that her offering to the Lord just didn’t measure up. It took a little time for her to block out their words out of her mind and become centered in her own feelings again.

All I can say to that story is, First – Not cool. Second – Completely inaccurate way of thinking.

When my friend told me this story, she shared it with me to somewhat protect us when Drew opens his mission call. She didn’t want what happened to her daughter, to happen to Drew. Her word of warning made me rethink sharing this beautiful moment with others, because their reactions may be less than ideal.  I’m grateful that she was honest with me, because she confirmed a trend I had been noticing and what other parents had also shared with me.

I have a million people on my social media feeds. I get the honor of watching a lot of mission call openings.  If it is a foreign call, its met with cheers and loud screams of exhilaration. If it’s state side – I hate to even say this – but a lot of times its an awkward pause, followed by a few sharing a little “Woo hoo” condolence cheer. Now to be fair, there are some families and friends that ROCK being excited no matter what – so I need to put that out there too.

It merits the discussion though. The thing about culture – we use it to create beautiful traditions or we can use it to do unintended harm.

In an effort to course correct, I’ve taken some time to poll a ton of missionaries. Both in person and online.  Some were recently returned and some seasoned vets. Here is what I found: (and my commentary to these findings, lol)

1. Most Missionaries to varying degrees feel pressure to get a “good call” when opening that envelope. The excitement/acceptance of their peers and family is crucial. That weighs heavily in their own personal joy of the experience. This was less of an issue for older returned missionaries, but has become more prevalent because of social media.

2. “You’re not a real missionary.” – Missionaries expressed that getting called to the states has varying stigmas associated with it.

East and West Coast Missions being more desirable or more culturally accepted, especially when a foreign language was attached with it. Hence the “I was called to the California, Riverside Mission – Spanish Speaking” responses, in hopes that it validated their call more in the eyes of some.  State side Missionaries want it to be acknowledged that they can have just as foreign of an experience. Some may never speak English their whole mission, or even teach American whites at all.

The most stigma associated (and therefore highest experienced anxiety) were calls to Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada. Missionaries who served there say that often times they get the, “You’re not a real missionary” speech. Due to the high concentration of members, some view their mission is/must have been a cake walk. That the members line up all of their friends in front of the font and after taking a dip, have baptism dance offs. Missionaries serving in those states are pampered with dinners and gifts. To this I say – Lol! Are you for real? I am a ward missionary. Our missionaries work their tails off. They may get more meals than some other places in the world, but then those missionaries get more of something else.

The second most culturally “less desired” was a call to the Midwest. (Whaaaaaaaaat?!) I’m from Iowa dudes! Nebraska and Missouri are practically my close cousins. Craig served his mission in St. Louis! The Midwest ROCKS. It took an army of missionaries being called to the Nebraska, Omaha Mission to get me in that font. A years worth of people investing in me, one by one. Miracles happened, generations were changed. And now…look at that circle as it continues to grow, it’s crazy beautiful! And none of that happened abroad in some remote tropical location. It happened right in the middle of nowhere, Iowa. I am so grateful that my missionaries didn’t turn their nose up at their call, because of the expectations of others. I wouldn’t be here writing this blog post.

Some other Funny (and sad!) Utah Mission Call Misconceptions

– One Elder got called serve on temple square for part of his mission. He reported that he kept having to explain to people throughout his time there that he wasn’t slow or special needs. That he really got called there while being completely normal. Wait, Whaaaat? Elders aren’t special needs because they work on temple square. That’s disrespectful to anyone who is special needs and to anyone who isn’t. The work is the work, no matter who’s doing it, or what they are doing. 

– Only pretty Sisters get called to Temple Square, or any visitor center around the world for that matter.

Let’s just call this “debunked.” First, I haven’t ever met an ugly person. Not once in my life. Second, my friends daughter is gorgeous – (seriously, I don’t think I have seen a more beautiful human being on the planet.) She didn’t get a call to the visitors center, she got called to the Philippians and served the poorest of the poor. She tracted in the literal jungle. She would write home about living in a shack next to a pig slaughter house, and how she would hear the screams of the pig all day and night. Her sleeping conditions consisted of a foam pad on the floor, each night further mastering the skill of staying just awake enough to chuck huge spiders against the wall on instinct. Her testimony floored me. She had immeasurable depth and beauty, none of which had anything to do with her face. Sister Missionaries are warriors too – so much more than a pretty face. Please tell me we can give them a little more credit than being Barbies at the Church Visitor Centers. That’s laughable. The ones that get called to Temple Square and Visitor Centers throughout the world work just as hard as anyone else.

Here is the heart of the lesson friends,

Every time an 18-26 year decides to go on a mission, we know that at minimum almost two decades have been put into this moment in time, at huge sacrifice to both the missionary and the parents. On a daily basis, parents step away from the world and choose the harder road to raise their children in righteousness. As a mother of eight, I can attest that this is no small feat.

By the time most children are raised up in the gospel of Jesus Christ, he or she has attended:

988 Sunday Services
624 Weekly Activities
720 days of Seminary Attendance (for some kids that’s at 6am every morning)
12 Spiritual Summer Camps (that’s if they don’t go to EFY in addition to the normal ward or stake level camps)

At minimum, they have given hundreds if not thousands of hours of community service throughout their association with the church and held numerous leadership positions.

Young men and women have had ecclesiastical interviews every few months throughout their teenage years. Interviews that hold them accountable to gospel standards. Sometimes a great deal of repentance has been required to get back on track.

They’ve had countless leaders invest in them. A minimum of 120 people serving them per year since 18 months of age. Including bishops, counselors, primary leaders, youth leaders, seminary leaders, stake leaders, various teachers, etc.

The missionary has sacrificed greatly just to be worthy to go. They will sacrifice everything, when they go – Family, friends, school, work, holidays, and all the comforts of home. For the missionary and their family, that separation is brutal.
They are trading being loved, nurtured and celebrated at home for grueling 15 hour days of rejection, culture shock, loneliness and some days – complete despair. There are beautiful moments too of course, but lets be honest – it’s mostly hard. Like everything worth doing is.

Wanna know how many people are actually willing to give up a year or two of their lives to be a missionary? {to our church standard}

Current world population –  7.5 Billion*
Current Missionaries Serving – 70,946*

That means that in the world, at any given moment – there less than
one-ten thousandth of a percent of people are willing to do this work. (.00000945946 to be exact)

So I guess what I am saying is this…STOP MINIMIZING THEIR SACRIFICE. Sometimes – within in the culture of the church, we are so flippant about missions. We don’t give credit where credit is due. Like a mission is just something kids do, no biggie. I’m sorry, but this is HUGE! Maybe it’s because I am a convert, but I don’t understand this mentality. I know we should “beware of pride” and all that, but I think we take that a little too far. I think we are being aware of the wrong pride. We should be thrilled and verbally praising to our children who are in every sense WARRIORS. They fought their to be worthy to go and do the hardest things that can be asked of an 18-26 year old. That is a pretty impressive resume in my book. These kids are a pretty big deal, no matter where they serve (or in some cases, how long they serve, or if they serve in this way -but that’s a whole other box we will open on a different day.) The pride we should be aware of in our culture, is always feeling the need to put one thing above another. Like mission calls, or church calls, or people. If you have a spring in your step cause you are proud of yourself or your kid for doing a beautiful thing – that’s just as it should be. However if you feel your nose or arrogance rise when sharing your mission or your children’s mission, then there is some growth that needs to take place. There is no better than or less than. The pride should be in the WORK. Not the place.

We shouldn’t be saying anything to diminish what any of these missionaries have worked so hard to achieve. We need to stop making comments and jokes about certain places being horrible to get called to. I’m sorry, but are those souls living in the Intermountain West less in the sight of God? No, they aren’t.

As for me….I’m more of the “LOOK ERRRRYBODY! MY KID LOVES HIM/HER SOME JESUS!” kind of Mom. Not that I am arrogantly boastful, cause no one wants to hear that.  However, I do think it is important for our children to hear that we are proud of them. That we are thrilled at their choices and sacrifices. Acknowledgement of how far they’ve come in a world that teaches dramatically different values is vital. Come on, this is amazing!!!! It’s so beautiful and I can hardly talk about how proud I am of ALL of our kids without tears!

One thing that is incredible to note, every single missionary I have talked LOVED THEIR MISSION! Even if they felt some cultural pressure in the beginning, it didn’t take long before they knew it was where exactly where the Lord needed them.

So I say this to you missionaries – BE DANG PROUD!
Your contribution is irreplaceable. The work is just as sacred no matter where you go. You WILL have a foreign experience, no matter what. It will be different than how you grew up, what you have witnessed, etc. God’s gonna use your good heart for his sacred work. You’ve worked so hard to be here, and I am SO PROUD OF YOU. Shout your call out proudly. You’ve earned it.

BOTTOM LINE – You are called where YOU PROMISED. I believe that a long time ago, we all made promises. Promises to find each other. To help each other. To save each other. Jesus Christ is the only one that can atone for our sins, but if we are to truly live a Christ like life – saving each other to the degree of our capability is a vital part of our own earthly ministry. Sometimes saving each other is just a matter of showing up. Of loving and serving even the ones that aren’t ready for the truth. Love is the most vital thing you can give another human being. Do that and watch it change everything about yourself.

So I say ROCK ON CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS! Go where you promised! Love the ones your with! Be thrilled you have this beautiful chance to leave the world for two years and do only God’s work. It is the only time in your life you’ll get this chance, to this degree. Man…..I love you!

P.S. You can bet your bottom dollar that I’m gonna be screaming just as loud for Ogden, Utah as I would be for Scotland! Hurrah for Israel!

 

Atonement

The Atonement – It’s not your gift to give.

Before I joined the church twenty years ago, I would compare my life to a room with no windows. It lacked warmth and light. It was cold and hard, with very little room to breathe. Every once in a while, I could hear that there was more beyond the walls that trapped me, but I didn’t know how to find my way out.

I spent a lot of time in various other faiths, but I still couldn’t see my way clear.  Finding the gospel of Jesus Christ was like breathing air for the first time. The dark cloud that had loomed over me for the first 18 years of my life had suddenly lifted and I finally got to see the sun. I felt its warmth and light. Although I had found many faiths that had brought me much joy, this one was the game changer. Faith is something that looks and feels different to everyone, but for me…I had finally found the God that I wanted to believe in. The God that would let me love my family in this life and in the next one. The God that would give me a million chances to come back to him, even in death. The God that would want me to be with him forever, to whatever degree that I decided. The God that would send his son to save me, even from myself.

I was smitten. I fell so hard and so fast for this gospel. I couldn’t get enough of it. The bar had been set in my mind. I spent time with the missionaries as much as I could. I wanted to do everything they were doing. I read my scriptures several times a day, I was praying morning and night. I was serving and loving those around me. I loved everything about this gospel, and I craved more.

I had been a member of the church for less than two months when I decided with my bishop that I would move to Utah. I wanted to be with my people. I wanted to marry in my faith. I wanted the fairytale, and Christ’s atonement assured me that it was possible. I was changing every single thing about myself. I wanted to be the best for God that I could be.

I worked, saved and slaved for the money that I needed to move. I left everything I knew and loved to start a new life. I knew it would be hard, but I didn’t care. I had done hard my whole life. This time hard came with a new equation–it would eventually bear the fruit of a beautiful life.

When I drove through Parley’s canyon in May of 1995, it was late.  Out of nowhere, the darkness opened up, and I saw the entire Salt Lake Valley as is glistened through the night.  It was in awe of this beautiful place. I felt the Spirit so strong, like I had finally found my place in the world.  I was scared and excited about the life the I had chosen. I knew that if I was willing to do the work, the good Lord would bless me.

I couldn’t wait to go to church. I was on cloud nine, with a spring in my step. These are my people!! After living my whole life without any people, I was pretty excited that “my people” were everywhere I looked. This was AWESOME. I loved this church so much! Watching a small group of missionaries change the world one person at a time was so inspiring. Now I was in the Mormon Mecca!!! I couldn’t wait to see all good that could be done by a whole valley full of people. To get to be a part of that meant everything to me. After several months of church attendance and participation in all things “Mormon”, it started to feel a bit off.  It all looked the same, and sounded the same, but somehow, it didn’t feel the same. I wasn’t making the progress that I wanted to in being welcome in the lives of “my people”.   I chalked it up to me being new, and that it was going take some time to form new bonds. I could be patient, because these were the best people ever and they were worth the wait. So I waited. And waited. And waited.

Twenty years ago, this church was a lot different. The gospel was exactly the same, but the church culture could be a very unforgiving place. It still can be. People weren’t as open about sin and transgression. No one knew how to navigate that space successfully. There were a kind of unwritten rules back then. Part of those rules were that if you did sin, please keep it to yourself. Do the best you can to blend in and do what we do. There seemed to be a kind of undercurrent that if someone admitted anything out loud, a sin epidemic would break out. It was if to say that…..“we” don’t want to catch what “you” have.

This hasn’t proved to be a successful model. Not talking about sin doesn’t make it go away. It just makes the recovery lonely, sad and extremely difficult.

So picture me, two decades ago. A recent convert, yet still a young single mother in the church. Surrounded by a culture that was in love with the appearance of “all that was good” in the world. The optics for my own situation weren’t great to say the least. As the months and then years went on one thing became very clear, and it was that “I” wasn’t really one of “them”. This was typical in every religion I had been in. Where the “sinners” and the “saints” were constantly at odds with one another. It’s funny how you can go to any given religion and find the humans there screwing it up. The human factor is always the common denominator and great equalizer.  I am sure there are so many times that God looks down at all the things that are done in His name, shakes His head and says, “How could they get this so wrong?! Don’t you dare put my name on that!” Poor guy. I’m glad he sent His son to die for us before he watched what we would do with his work. He may have changed his mind.

I would liken my experience as a convert in the church to being a poor person looking into the Macy’s store window at Christmas time.  Sure I can go in, but there’s nothing in there that I can afford, and I’m too poor for anyone to be willing to wait on me. I constantly felt like I was the hired help at the country club. I could see all of these beautiful people with amazing lives, but I was never going to be offered a full membership. I was never going to be seen as worthy of this gift that I had been given. It was a very quick education after I took my blinders off. No matter how much I demanded of myself to see only the good in “my people”, so many of them refused to see the good in me.

People saw my “visible sin” and either treated me with pity or judgment. On the surface people were nice, but I it was rough breaking through the 2 attitudes.

Either “Awww… you poor thing, you’ve ruined your life.”  or

“You know you aren’t living right, don’t you?”

I didn’t need pity or judgement. I needed a friend. I was doing all of the things I was taught by the missionaries to do, but it wasn’t enough. It got to a point that with every introduction with church folks, I was name dropping the word “convert”, hoping that people would see that my mistakes had happened before I joined the church. That somehow knowing this fact would make my past transgressions acceptable in their eyes.

What hurt me the most, was that what some deemed as a “mistake” was actually a child. People confused the two all of the time, and it offended my heart.  My doing things in the wrong order, that was the sin.

My child is NOT nor has ever been, a mistake. He was NOT my badge of shame. He was the beauty that had come from the darkness. A tiny person, who gave me the motivation to do for him what I hadn’t been able to do for myself. I loved Anthony, even when I didn’t love me, and that love got me through a lot of rock bottoms. My love for him, kept me in the gospel. I didn’t stay in the church because of the members, I stayed in spite of them. I stayed because that’s where God was. I stayed because that’s where Jesus saved me every week. I stayed for Anthony. I wanted him to have the gift of the gospel, no matter how hard it was for me to be there sometimes. I cried a lot of Sundays.

So, I spent the first 17 years of my life in the church learning to love and accept people that wouldn’t love and accept me. It was rough. It was lonely. Any time I tried to bring my perspective or experience into a lesson, let’s just say it was frowned upon. It was about thirteen years ago, that I stopped sharing completely.

I will never forget it. It is burned in my mind forever. I was serving in the Young Women’s program. I was so thrilled to work with the youth, and I wanted them to know that I would be there for them. One of the leaders took the liberty of making sure they knew about my past.

She asked me, “So, how old is Anthony?” Familiar with this series of questions, I responded with his age. She then asked how long I had been married. I watched her do the math in her head, as I have so many others. 3..2…1. “AH HA! I knew you weren’t married when you had Anthony!” The girls looked at me, I looked at them. I gave the “I’m a convert” speech.
Walk of shame, again.

A few months into my calling, the lesson for that particular Sunday was a lesson about chastity. I was sitting with the Laurels. I listened for a good portion of the lesson. My heart was beating so fast, like God wanted me to say something. I kept dismissing the feeling, but I couldn’t any longer. I was scared, but I got brave enough to raise my hand and participate in the lesson. This was too important. There was too much at risk.

I started to speak, “Your chastity is like a rose, and that rose is a beautiful gift meant for one person. If you give that gift away prematurely…petals are lost. With that loss, our soul weeps. Outside the bonds of marriage, we aren’t emotionally ready for the connection that is meant to bring. Yes, we can be made whole through the atonement, it allows for healing and repentance to take place. However, I promise that you don’t want the regret that comes when the person that gift was meant for shows up in your life. Protect your rose. It’s sacred.”

Tears went down my face, wanting them to understand how important this lesson really was. These girls were smart. They knew I spoke from experience. Was it better to let them think, “What’s the big deal, she turned out just fine!” or for me to testify of the truthfulness of God’s order? That the plan is there to prevent pain and suffering. After the lesson, word spread quickly that I had broken the “code.” Flocks of women went to my bishop, asking for my release. I was pulled aside by the Young Women’s President, whom was one of the first people in the church I felt like was kind of a friend to me. She very bluntly told me, “Be careful what you say to the girls. We want them to be able to look up to you.”  Those words shot through my heart like an arrow. I felt so ashamed. I went home, sobbed and vowed to never open my mouth again.

Shortly after this happened, I wrote this in my journal on a day that was particularly hard –

January 10th, 2002

Sometimes, on Fast Sundays,  I picture myself walking up to the podium and just flat out saying, “Hey, brothers and sisters. My life’s been hell. I had no parents. The ones that were supposed to love me didn’t. I was homeless for almost 4 of my teenage years. I have been abused. I have been neglected. Yes, there a couple of things I did in the wrong order before I found the gospel.

I was desperately looking for love, and I hadn’t ever really felt it before. At 15, after being tossed aside by my family for my whole life, I just wanted to be wanted. What I experienced, wasn’t the love that God intended me to have. I know that now. Sometimes we aren’t born into families that give us a solid foundation, and we must seek it out on our own. I did. I’m here.

When I investigated this church all those years ago, I was taught about the Plan of Salvation. I was taught that I could be forgiven. I was taught that Christ could make me pure through the waters of baptism. I wanted that unspeakable gift. So I chose to be baptized.  As I exited that water on my baptism day, I remember the first words that were said to me by Elder Jensen. He said, “You are as pure as the day you were born.” I have cherished those words. It was the happiest day of my life. I was square with God. I could move on and do beautiful things. Everyone was so happy for me. I was happy for me. I was made anew.

What I wasn’t taught that day, but what I have painstakingly come to learn, is that there was a second forgiveness process that no one told me about. It’s been way more brutal. It’s the one where YOU forgive ME. Where you all finally stop making me feel those words spoken to me on my baptism day were a lie. I don’t feel pure. I feel stained with sin, because it’s all you see when you look at me. It seems no matter how cleanly I live my life, I will never be one of you. 

Each week, we sit in the same lessons. We pray to the same God. We are saved by the same Jesus. We eat the same living bread and water, but how are you cleansed and not I? The Atonement is not your gift to give, yet so often you hold it hostage from me.  Why? Why do you withhold my forgiveness from me? So long I have prayed for a forgiveness that shouldn’t be yours to own, yet I don’t know how to survive without it. Please… help me find my place with my people.”


Love,

Me”

During different seasons of my life, I come back to this one page. This one journal entry has been read time and time again. One day the words hit me like a ton of bricks.
The Atonement is not your gift to give.”  That is the day that I started to free myself from the shackles of this debt. That is when started to train myself to Believe Christ.

It was never their gift. It was HIS and HIS alone.

How could I have read this so many times and missed the most important words? I was suffering needlessly, feeling so unworthy of God’s love not because the atonement wasn’t real, it’s because so many people fail to recognize its power. They fail to believe what they preach. They fail to look at their brothers and sisters with charity and love. They fail to understand that the church is a school, and none of us are graduates. It’s a perpetual lesson. No calling or years of service puts you above the need for God or the need for the atonement. We are equals. Church culture can suffocate the purifying power of Christ’s sacrifice.

Sometimes, we conduct ourselves as if we are the guardians of atonement, and we deal out spiritual death and judgement. We just can’t go around saying… “Well, you made THIS mistake or you have THIS weakness, therefore, you are just not inner circle material.”  I have witnessed some withhold a calling because of worry how someone might look or fit the part. That’s a dangerous attitude. We let that way of thinking flourish, we are stunting the growth of our members, and by proxy stunting the growth of the gospel itself.

My friends, the Atonement is not your gift to give. It’s not my gift to give. We can not take the weaknesses of another and hold the atonement ransom. The only person that can give that gift is the man that died for it, Jesus Christ. We have no business judging our brothers and sisters as fit or unfit, for the atonement.

My key motivating factor for sharing part of my story in the movie, was to finally say out loud that LIFE IS MESSY! That we all fall short and that is ok. God doesn’t expect us to hide from him. Hiding sin is never going to be how we overcome it. When we show up to church, we must be able to take our sins with us and talk about them.  It is there we access help and forgiveness. One very beautiful thing about opening up and sharing, it is that you find so many struggle in the same way you do. I have found through literally thousands of conversations, so many feel the exact same way I describe above….unforgiven. I think of how many of us could be talking each Sunday, benefiting from the fellowship we have missed out on because we are afraid to be seen. As much as we can be hard on each other, I know God sees our potential.  He watches as each of us choose to get it right. So many of us do beautiful things to help our brother. I have witnessed those hearts open…and it such an incredible view.

I still go back to that journal entry I wrote so many years ago. It serves as my own reminder to FORGIVE and to LOVE. To stop being critical of my brothers and sisters, when I have so much work to do myself. To remind myself of how hard it is to show up to that building sometimes, longing for the acceptance and love we all so desperately need. I am NOT perfect at it, which is why I go back to those words so often. I never want to be the one that withholds that need to feel forgiven.

I know it’s not an easy process to become more open at church, but if we all get a little more brave as we go a long, it could be such a beautiful thing. May I gently suggest as you struggle to find your own voice, start with writing it down. You have no idea how much healing you can find when you put your words to paper. I figured out most my weakness and my power to overcome it, in the walls of my journal. I go back to it every time I need to find strength in a weak moment. I go back to it when I need to feel understood. Those words continue to strengthen and heal me.

I started this blog so I could tackle some of the deep rooted questions people write me routinely and answer them through what I like to call “love letters.” Through these letters, I share what I have learned about life. I share my experiences and how I got through things. I have always loved journaling. Mostly, I love having it there for my children, so that they can reflect on my words and stories when I am no longer hear to speak them. Just begin. My family enjoys apps like jrnl.com where they do all the work for you. There you can print book after book of your cherished word. Your words are a gift. Share them. It’s how you live on forever in the hearts of the people you love the most. Until next time friends…<3

Love,

Dawn

Atonement fb

 

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