Thursday, January 31, 2013

Rule Breaker

So a little bit about me: I'm a rebel.

Oh yeah. You heard me. For starters, I'm a lefty. When all my friends were learning to write and color, they reached for those crayons with their right hands. I watched them and said, "No, forget that, I'm going to use the other hand." But guess what? Kindergarten rolled around, and it was time to get down with some serious scissor usage. Apparently I was the first lefty my tiny rural school had seen since 1957, because all of their lefty scissors had been purchased around that year. Read: those lefty scissors would not even cut air. So what did I do? I rejected that rusty box of lefty scissors and was all like, "Whatever, I'm using the righty scissors from now on." And I do still use righty scissors.

I'm such a rebel I became a Mormon. What? Not fitting within your "rebel" schema? Yeah, that's how much of a rebel I am.

I have a bachelor's degree in English and writing. Do you know what they drill into you in every writing class? They tell you to WRITE EVERY DAY! Well, not exactly. Usually they say it with more profanity than that. Writing professors love profanity. I also do not use profanity. Rebel.

So here I am on my honeymoon, writing on the beach. I'm pretty sure this journal was never seen again.
So, since every teacher I've ever had has told me to write every day, guess how often I write? I'll give you a hint, it's not every day. Not even close. Maybe there was a time when I used to write every day, out of necessity, just trying to get things done and handed in. But when that was all over and I was left to just write for me, I didn't quite know how to do it. And then I was married. (They told me not to get married in the middle of my graduate program. So I did. Rebel.) After Dave and I got married, I suddenly stopped writing. I stopped because I was happy.

For so long, writing was an escape for me. When I couldn't sleep, I would write, pouring stress and anxiety and anger and loneliness and confusion and anything else trapped inside me into poems, short stories, letters that were never sent, until I lay exhausted on the floor of my little college apartment. I don't want to say that getting married solved all my problems overnight, but it sure did make me happy. And I didn't know how to write from happy. At least, not without it sounding like the opening of The Sound of Music. I guess now I have to finally learn how to be a happy writer. I found this great list on Pinterest. If I had a studio or a room just for my writing, I would seriously paint this all over an entire wall:

My husband has been encouraging me to write for a long time now. He is wonderful beyond belief. He buys me books for Christmas. Swoon. Two years ago he bought me The Complete Works of Flannery O'Connor and the Writer's Market. I almost cried. A few weeks ago, he came home from work and set The Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market down on the kitchen table.

"We're going to write a children's book," he said, like he was telling me we were going to wash the dishes after dinner or something. Here's the thing about my husband: he is so not a rebel. If something is going on with someone in his family, they call him because they know he will give straight-up level-headed advice in the most loving way possible. So when he says we're going to write a children's book, or that I can be a real writer who, you know, writes stuff, I think I should believe him more. After all, if he were lying to me, that would make him a rebel, which he is not. He's my husband for a very wise reason.

So I guess I need to stop being a rebel, at least at this one thing in my life. I need to write. Do you know, this makes two days in a row for me? Could be the start of something big.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

True Happiness

Hello again, Friends!

We have taken quite the hiatus at Blessed Defeats. Maybe you noticed. Like, a year and a half long hiatus. Well, I can explain. But not here. I have stories to tell here. You can check out the new Living the Dream page if you want to read my completely inadequate excuses for neglecting my blog for a full 18 months. But now it’s time to share another conversion story with you.

The honor of the first post-hiatus story goes to my good friend, Avery Lemmon. There was a time when I thought I was just going to walk away from this whole blogging thing (again), but then there was always sweet Avery, Facebook stalking me and saying, “When are you going to start your blog up again?” So, as thanks for her motivation, I made her share her story. Ah, friendship.

Avery grew up agnostic. She was always interested in religion, but never found one that felt like a good fit. Little did she know that a simple conversation one day would eventually change all of that.
She was attending Portland State University, and the winter term had just begun. In fact, she remembers the exact day of the week: “Wednesday, January 7, 2010,” she says. She sat down next to Brian, a classmate of hers, and they began talking. After class, they went to lunch together. After lunch, they went to dinner. Seven months later, they were married.

Brian, as you may have already guessed, was a member of the LDS church. The weekend after they met, he took her to church with him. But on that first Sunday, Avery seriously doubted she had found herself a religion.

“I thought it was weird and creepy that everyone was so nice and happy,” she says, “I was sure that everyone was faking, because normal people aren’t that happy about anything.” But there were things about this new church that made sense to Avery. The doctrine relating to the Godhead, that God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are three separate personages united in purpose was particularly appealing. 

Another teaching that brought her comfort was, “people not being sent to Hell for not believing in God, but just being sent to the part of Heaven furthest from God instead. That made a lot of sense, because I never liked how certain religions would condemn non-believers to burn in fiery torment, even if they were good and kind people.”

And then, about four months after she had met Brian, Avery was at home, relaxing by herself. As she describes it, she suddenly felt like God was all around her, and she perceived the Holy Spirit prompting her to accept Jesus Christ into her heart.

“So I did,” says Avery. It’s hard to argue with the Holy Ghost. Wanting to be sure she made the right decision, she looked into different Christian churches and questioned her Christian friends about their faiths. But in the end, the one that made sense and felt right to her was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She prepared for baptism, and entered the waters in July of 2010, soon before she and Brian were married.

But as usual, there were bumps along the road to membership in the church, and Avery experienced opposition from friends and family. Most meant well, and were concerned that she had joined a cult, rather than following the example of Jesus Christ. Some had heard terrible rumors about the LDS church and passed these on to Avery. Her mother warned her that Brian would one day want to take other wives. It went so far, in fact, that many of her friends boycotted her wedding and even her baby shower a year later. It was all very frustrating for Avery.

“It mostly bothered me that they thought so little of my judgment and intelligence that I would fall for something that wasn’t true,” she says. Things gradually turned around, and today her friends and family can see the change that accepting Jesus Christ has wrought in Avery; not so much in her personality, but as she puts it, “they can see how much happier I am, and they’re happy that I’m happy.”

True happiness was something that eluded Avery for much of her life. She describes herself before her conversion as being angry, bitter, and self-destructive.

“I came from an abusive home,” she confides, “And I carried my anger and regrets and mistakes around with me like a festering wound in my heart. Becoming a member of the Church and learning about the Salvation and the redeeming power of Christ's sacrifice, along with the presence of the Holy Spirit, have helped me slowly but surely let go of those negative feelings, and to forgive those who have wronged me, and also to forgive myself for wrongs that I've done.”

Now a mother herself to an adorable little boy, Avery finds comfort in the companionship of the Holy Ghost and thanks Heavenly Father every day for her blessings. The Gospel of Jesus Christ has truly changed her perspective of the world. As she puts it: “Having the knowledge of Christ's sacrifices for me has seriously reduced my stress and…I've learned self-control and how to be happy because of the Gospel.”

Avery says that her testimony grows with each kind, loving, righteous member that she meets. Through their works, she can see the positive effects that faith has on their lives, and it serves as an affirmation to that the Church must be true, and that God is good.