March 18, 2014

After four days of dead stillness in my email inbox, the moment has come when I must admit what is hard to admit: I likely won’t be interning with church magazines in the fall. Yesterday was the last scheduled day when they would contact the new interns, and in exactly eleven minutes from this moment, that day will be eight hours over.

Golly. I thought I was okay about this, but as I’m writing I’m realizing that I’m not quite okay. I’m hurting a little . . . okay, maybe a lot. Because I wanted that job. A lot. 

Sometimes life is like that. We get worked up on expectations and dreams and good things, and they don’t always happen for us. We become angry, lash out at God and demand to know why these things happen and why we aren’t progressing like we feel we should be and why we, in Hugh B. Brown fashion, are being pruned instead of being allowed to go and do as we wish. 

I was growing and going along so well, we say. Why did you cut me down? 

I ask that question a lot, but yesterday and today, it didn’t come. Today, instead, I remembered something. 

I remembered the first real time I felt that the Lord had cut me down. It was the first time I was furious with my Heavenly Father, because I simply could not understand. I was eighteen when every plan I had, every moment I planned changed drastically.

I wanted to get out of Cache Valley the moment I graduated from high school. It was hard for me to grow up here, because I often felt left out and lonely, even and sometimes especially in my own neighborhood. I was excruciatingly shy in elementary school, and as a result, I struggled to make friends. Come high school, I was struggling to keep them, overwhelmed by a deep sense that I was somehow broken and unwanted.

^This was me. I was weird. I’d like to say things have changed, but they haven’t, really. 

The last thing I wanted to do was to stay here. I needed to get out. 

Everything was planned out perfectly. I’d graduate from high school, get into BYU (my dream school at the time) with a scholarship, and I would there study and graduate with a degree in journalism. Senior year came, and that’s what happened: I was accepted into BYU, I was offered a scholarship, I graduated, and I signed up for beginning journalism classes with the excitement of a child at Christmas. This blog (or, I guess, my blogging in general) was born so I could keep my family updated about my adventures in Provo. I planned to start over, re-identify myself, and become a girl completely detached from her past. 

Then moving day arrived. 

I was sick. I get homesick, but this was frightening. The whole car ride down to BYU, I couldn’t stop fidgeting and crying and worrying. I felt like a baby and told myself to shut up and handle it like a woman. But I couldn’t. It was unmanageable and unbearable.  

New Student Orientation was a blur for me, marked by images of a barely nibbled on hamburger, my mother’s look of concern, and a sun setting in the west that seemed incredibly foreboding. That night, instead of returning to my dorm, I stayed with my mom and my aunt in Sandy. I was sick at the thought of leaving them, which I, again, mistakenly attributed to homesickness.  

It was a long night with no sleep and no physical pain, but a whole lot of emotional confusion. Come morning, after multiple prayers and discussions with my mom, aunt, and cousin, I decided I would stay up north and attend Utah State for a little while instead of BYU, as I had been accepted there, too. At the moment, that decision felt so right, and all of that foreboding I had felt disappeared. I packed up my things and left my dorm after not even spending a night there, because what I realized to be the Spirit was so adamant that I leave immediately. I felt free and amazing. 

It didn’t feel amazing, however, when I was standing outside in the rain alone after registering for USU classes, all of my friends completely distanced from me, all of my classes terrible generals I did not want to take. It was the first day of school and I was heartbroken. 

I hated USU. I never wanted to go there. For at least two or three months, I was so angry with God. I asked Him constantly, “Heavenly Father, how could you do this to me? I don’t want to be here. How could you take away the one thing I wanted so badly, the school I dreamed about for five years? How could you do this to me?” 

Sometimes I felt like He was ignoring me, like He didn’t want to answer. The first two months of school were dreadful, marked by pain and confusion and acute self-awareness. Within a week of starting school, I had transferred out of a class that was required for the journalism major, mainly because the professor was blatantly asking me to do things that conflicted with my standards. Imagine me, a girl who had mapped her life out, at a university I hated and with no idea of what I wanted to do anymore. I was a wreck with what I thought were no answers.

I’m reminded now of a scripture that has become one of my favorites. It’s one that I wish I would have seen four years ago when I was so hurt and confused, but it means so much more now. It reads:

“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, blessed art thou for what thou hast done; for thou hast inquired of me, and behold, as often as thou hast inquired thou hast received instruction of my Spirit. If it had not been so, thou wouldst not have come to this place where thou art at this time.” 

D&C 6:14 

I thought I had stopped being directed when I showed up like an abandoned kitten at Utah State that first day. For some reason, I felt like the Lord was trying to make my life hard for no reason. I was blinded by hurt feelings, and like the little currant bush of Elder Brown’s time, cried out in pain because I had been severely cut.

So I thought nothing of that moment when I saw the LDS Institute and recognized the name from some emails I’d gotten over the summer and wandered in for warmth. I thought nothing of that instant when I browsed around, curious, and found a computer with a list of teachers, one being my favorite seminary teacher in high school. I thought nothing of that second when I signed up for his class, those days when we were in his class talking about Laman and Lemuel and how, because they couldn’t see the Promised Land, they were bitter and angry.

I was Laman and Lemuel! I was angry because I had a plan and now I had nothing, and I couldn’t see the Lord’s will for me. I wanted to go back to the place that I thought would be my home. I didn’t want to be in this wilderness. I was both of them, and once I realized that, I was humbled. I started trying to change.

Things, like a puzzle, came together in that class. I heard about an opening social for freshmen in that class. I stopped by for just an hour at that activity because I felt I should, and there I met a good friend from high school. She coerced me into signing up to be on an Institute committee, which, at the time, was the last thing I wanted to do. But that little enrollment committee changed me, and the subsequent three years of my stay at Utah State have changed me.

My most pivotal moment was choosing to walk into the Institute that first day. I like to think that that was the reason why the Lord told me to leave BYU when I did. Not only did I feel comfort and peace there at a time when I was so confused, but I got involved. In that Institute building, I figured out what I wanted my major to be, I learned that I need to attend the temple more, I realized how I do not serve as much as I should, and I learned to love and be vulnerable. I am an entirely different person than I was when I graduated from high school and, I know, an entirely different person than I would have been had I went to BYU. I blame that on the Institute. Entirely. (:

At BYU, I wanted to re-identify myself. At USU, I learned to love and celebrate my identity and become someone stronger. I have grown up here. Not only that, but I have become someone great here. I could have never predicted that that would happen on my own, and I wouldn’t change anything for the world.

^Here’s me today. Still weird. I promise. 

In my short life, I have come to learn that answers don’t rest in a lineal line where we stand at point A and see them at point B. Answers, in my experience, always lie around corners, only reachable when we choose to move towards them with faith that they are there.

Sometimes our dreams and the things we want don’t happen for us. We get dropped on an unfamiliar and unwanted road, let’s say. We tend to blame that on the Lord, and we misunderstand who He is by claiming that He wants to hurt us. Why didn’t I get that job, pass that test, get asked on a second date, or get into the school I wanted? We ask Heavenly Father. I was doing so well, and you had to cut me down and move me here. How could you do that to me?
Well, He does it because He loves us. That’s always what motivates the Lord. And He, unlike us, can see around every bend. That’s why we must trust Him.

UPDATE: while writing this blog post, I checked my email. Guess who’s way behind in contacting all of the interns? Church Magazines HR. (: I never saw that coming!

Whatever happens with this job, I will be okay. I remember the time when the Lord directed me, and I know He sees more than I can. That knowledge is more precious to me than everything I own.

Don’t be discouraged! Don’t beat yourself up because your life isn’t going how you thought it would. Reach out to the Lord and He will direct you, _even when you can’t see yourself moving. _Sometimes He’ll take you on horrendous detours that seem to stretch on forever and go nowhere. You just keep on moving, and you’ll get somewhere. He’ll help you get there.

Don’t ask, “How could you do this to me?” Ask, “What would you have me do?”

Pretty soon, without realizing it, you’ll be beautiful and strong and exactly where you were meant to be all along.

UPDATED UPDATE: Yeah, I didn’t get the job. But that just means new adventures await me.

LDS Feminism: My Take
If You Hate Obama, You’re Doing Christianity Wrong
Five Things a 100-Mile Bike Ride Taught Me About Maintaining My Standards