Sunday, June 29, 2014

I am that women

I am her...who rants and screams and curses at this religion of mine.

I am she who shakes her fists at God and Yells "Answer ME!"

I am the one who throws her temple recommend at her Bishop. "take it...I don't want it."

I am the women who approaches Bishops, a Stake Patriarch, Stake Presidents, a director of Leadership Development for the Church, a Mission President....and asks them hard questions.  "Why?  How? Tell me more. Am I alone?"

I am that women who questions my faith.

I am her that has given up.

I am the one that struggles.

I am that women who questions.

I am she who puts one foot in front of the other.

I am the one who makes the choice to stay.

I am her that falls time & time again.

And when I fall....it is them.... who catch me.

They are the ones who say

"I don't know"

"How can I help?"

"Can I offer a suggestion?"

"Well...this is the gospel according to me, so take it with a grain of salt, but I offer it up to see if it will help."

"I'm sorry."

"I truly care for you."

They are the ones that pray for me, and pray with me.

They are the ones that look me in the eye.

They are the ones who put their arms around me & squeeze... like I am their scared sister.

I am that women who is lucky.

For I am surrounded by those who love me. Who pull me out of the mud. They let me yell & question, and rant, and rage. They do not punish me for my questions.

Through all the struggle...they surround me. Safe.

I am that women that holds them.... to me.

I am the one who can NOT do it alone. Who does not WANT to do it alone.

They are men.

I am the women who holds the power of the Priesthood.

I hold these men close to my heart.  I am told, that will make me weak.  I am told that makes me less.  I am told I could do better.

How could I do better?  Not only am I covered by the hands of my sisters, with their tears, kindness, friendship & understanding.....but I am covered by the hands of those men.  My brothers who struggle just like me.  Who want to help. Who care.

I am that women who stands at the edge.

And in each of my hands, rest the hands of those who hold me grounded. One hand is the women's, the other...the mans. I pull and fight, but their hands hold fast.  I don't want them to let go. These men and women allow me to struggle...but they don't let go.  These men and women work together to save me from the edge.

I am that women who holds the power of the Priesthood.  And to those men who bless my life with that Priesthood, you are kind, you are good, and you are loved. Don't let anyone tell you, you are less. Don't let anyone tell you I don't need you.

I am that women who needs the Priesthood, and I am the lucky one that is surrounded by it.








Saturday, December 7, 2013

Brian says Hi

Say hello to my brother Brian.



 You meet him back in this post. Pretty messed up fellow.  A man I loved, then hated, then loved again. Brian was 15 when I was born & at 15 he started down the path of drug use.

I was 15 years old when Mom died.  He staggered out of his hole to visit us & to say goodbye to mom. 

 After abusing drugs for 15 years, he died...alone, penniless, with just the clothes on his back, a duffle bag 

& a picture of me....his only sibling.

I joined my church & started the search for my brother who died & was buried quickly without a care by his "father".  We never saw his grave & we never cared enough to remember his death date.  We only cared that he died after we buried Mom.

All my searches came up empty.  I was told I would have to wait to baptize my brother after 101 years after his birth date.  I ended up thinking that was just fine.  One day he would be baptized, but not now.

Recently my son visited our Church's family history center.  He told the story of Brian to the professionals.  They had heard my story years ago, but this time....Sister Salt Lake decided to pull her weight & get this boy baptized.  

My son EZ pulled me towards the history center & said Sister Salt Lake wanted to ask me more questions about Brian.

I sat infront of the computer screen & up popped my family history.  I was asked

Are you the only one Brian has left?  I assured them I was.  His mother was dead.  His father had been a raging drunk all his life & I had no idea where he was.  It was just me...his sister...and a lost, probably dead father. 

I watched as Sister Salt Lake typed away at the key board.  She turned to me & said "You have permission to baptize him."

Wait....what?  What about the 101 year rule?!

"They don't call me Sister Salt Lake for nothing!  It's my call....you are his only surviving relative, so he's in your care now."

It was a surreal moment to be handed his temple approval slip.  I didn't know whether to he happy (Yeah!  It's over!  All these years!)  or really pissed off (Wait...all these years of searching & now rules are throw out the door?! )

The look on my sons excited face sealed the deal.  He was pumped!

Today I took that slip of paper & drove 3 hours to the Temple.  The night before I gave Ethan a picture of Brian & reminded him that this man lived.  He was once living with me, annoying me, playing with me & begging me for forgiveness.  He slipped the picture of Brian into his book.  I slipped a picture of Brian into my purse...and off we went.

I battled with myself a little during the day.  My faith lacks.  I will forever question everything.  But I remembered the dream I had of Brian all those years ago...the same dream my husband had of Brian in white, asking forgiveness & saying he was happy. Besides....this baptism is just an offer.  If Brian wants it or not...whatever.  It's his choice.  If this church isn't true...whatever....we are remembering our dead & offering a hopeful gesture.

Today I mumble to Brian when got out of bed & again as I ate & again as I drove & again as I stood in the Temple,

Let yourself be known.  Just let me feel you if this is ok.  Maybe you are not there or maybe you don't care.  Just throw me a bone.  I'm tired of chasing you.  I hope you are happy.  Just know

 I remember you.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Where am I?

A friend asked me

"Hey you....what's with your blog?  When are you going to write again?  Dance puppet dance!"

Let me explain something here for you.

It is very hard for me to write.  To write a post usually takes me around 2 hours on average.  Yeah....I know....right?!  I can't not start writing then walk away & finish it later.  It's something I have to finish...or I end up lying awake at night thinking.

Trust me....for someone who can't turn off the voices...the last thing I need is to be thinking about a stupid blog when I should be drooling on my pillow! 

It's been alllllmost a year since the last post & a few groupies have asked me

Well?!  Where are you now with your beliefs?!  Tell ME!

So here is goes......



My name is Jen Jen

I was willing baptized at 19 years old into the church knowing full well I had no testimony or knew even half of the history of the church.

I am now 40.

21 year later, I still do not have the answers.

I also believe YOU don't have the answers.  You struggle in your own little hell, just like me. Maybe your struggles are with faith, sadness, guilt, lack of understanding, anger, depression  & exhaustion.  And just like me....

     You question,
     You avoid,
     You go on.

I go on. I stay in this church because I have to. I stay because I choose to stay.

I stay because I CHOOSE to believe in this magical, mysterious God.  I CHOOSE to believe in Jesus Christ.  I choose to drag my sorry butt out of bed each Sunday because I have children that need stability.   

Onward and Upward I like to say.  Most days...those words come out in a long sigh.  

Some days I tip toe forward, scared of losing my religion completely.  I force my feet to walk on hot coals, doing my best not to stand up & scream during a church lesson "This is pure donkey POO! I'm outa here! Peace out!"

Days like those....Days of Abandonment, the only thing that anchors me is my family & my husband that opens my cage that I am flinging myself against & allows me to roam like an angry, hungry tiger looking for anything to sink my teeth into.  I grab my religion in my beastly teeth & shake it violently back and forth like it was a helpless animal.  Days like that, I destroy my religion.  I tear into it's flesh & snap it's bones.  I shred it to pieces.  

I saunter away, tired but satisfied at destroying the thing that give me so much grief.

"Why the heck would you stay with a religion that grieves you, angers you & most of the time torks you off?!"

  Good question?  I will answer your question...with a question....cuz I'm deep like that yo!


Have you ever worked at something that annoyed you, stressed you & drove you out of your mind?

Job?
Marriage?
Child rearing?
Parenting your parents?
Exercising?
Crafting?
Schooling?

We all have had to do things to better ourselves.  Now when I was in school, I hated it.  Some days I was a jerk because of the stress.  But I knew I had to stick with it.  I knew it was somehow good for me to stretch my mind.  It was good to struggle. I knew enough to know, that if I dropped out, I wouldn't be any happier.  It might of made my life easier for a bit.  But then the dust would settle and all that would be left would be a  wasted opportunity...and new stress...and new anger...and a new struggle.

Sometimes we have to do hard, annoying, maddening things to better ourselves.  Sometime we don't even know if we will be actually better off if we do these things.  But we press forward with a hope that at the end, we will gather up all these difficult things into our glass jar of life and mix all the experiences up to form a beautiful kaleidoscope of colors.  

I used to fear that I would never gain a testimony of my religion.

Now....meh....so what?  All the years of stressing over this...and for what?  How has that made me better?  It hasn't.  It just made me angrier & more inpatient!

I used to have anger at my God.  I did everything right.  For years I willing did what I was told, read, prayed, worked & hoped. All these things and yet, God never saw fit to take away my doubt or fear that all this was a lie.  I felt like the kid that wasn't picked for the baseball team.  Watching everyone else be high five'd & welcomed into that little club while I sat there scratching my head agonizing over where I went wrong & how to fix it.

Now, I'm 40 and I can say...whatever.  I have accepted I will probably always question God & the heavens.  It's just who I am at the moment.  I will still do my best to stand strong for my family.  I will press forward, onward & upward....and one day hope to join that elusive team and get my high 5.


Until then

"Faith is not without worry or care, but faith is fear that has said a prayer"








Sunday, November 25, 2012

Truth be told

Many people think little O' Jen loves to confront.  Truth is...I hate it!  I hate it so bad that when I was in my 20's, I hated to return things to the store....even if the product was damaged before I even opened the box.  I had extreme anxiety over things like this.  I was so bad, my husband had to stage an intervention.  I had bought a curling iron.  I used it once...it sucked.  The words "Just return it to the store Honey"  sent me into a corner rocking & mumbling, covering my ears. So like a good husband that my man is....he drove me to Walgreen's, held my hand & MADE me return that stupid curling iron.  I remember wanting to vomit as I handed the cashier my iron...without a receipt!  (Oh sweet mercy...she's going to yell at me!)  And ya know what this lady said..."Ok.  Do you want cash or put it back on your card?"

So through the years my husband helped me overcome my social fears like no therapist could.  And soon I was a "return junkie."  Man, the sky would change color, I would return something!

But this new confrontation.....well.....I felt bad for the guy.  I wasn't returning a crappy curling iron...I was on the verge of returning my religion I bought all those years ago...without a receipt!

It's amazing how anger & frustration can make a person jump out of the safety of their own skin & ask the hard questions.  I got over talking with my Bishop.  Now....on to my next faze.....

Open my mouth & ask the question...

"Do you ever ask yourself...why am I here?"

My question to Brother High was bold & gutsy.  It was Christmas time.  Brother High & his family were viewing all the Nativities our church had set out for public display.  Right there in front of 509 baby Jesus's, I asked this great man....."Well...do you.?

This man stared at me, then eased himself closer to my face....leaning on his cane he said

"Every....damn....day."

I didn't know what hit me harder.  The fact that a very prominent, "righteous" member of our church used the word damn in front of 509 baby Jesus's...or the fact that he questioned!

Wait.......he ....questioned?!

My face must have registered shock.  Brother High laughed & put his hand on my shoulder "Sister, I swear there were times this church would kill me.  It's exhausting & draining.  It's hard work to be here at times. Sometimes I want to run away.  It would be so easy to"

But why do you stay?

"I stay because I want to. I stay for the gospel, not the church."

Brother High pats my shoulder & shuffles off. 

I stood a long time in the gym.  I couldn't move.  I stood anchored in the spot where Brother High had nailed my jaw to the ground.  Surly he was just joking.  Surly he was teasing.  Could a man like that...a man in his last years, who had served for decades in this church.  A man who lead & taught & held generations of a family together....surly he really didn't question.  Did he?

The encounter with Brother High gave me the fuel to throw caution to the wind.  Soon I became a question junkie.  I started questioning everyone.  No one was safe.  Heaven forbid I found you sacked out on the couch, avoiding class.  Or washing your hands in the bathroom.  I cornered & I pounced.  Asking over & over again the question that plagued me.  "Why do you stay?  How do you stay?  Do you question?"

The answers shocked me.  Everyone I asked...every...single...person told me

Yes, they question.
Yes, it's hard.
Yes, sometimes they want to run screaming.

After all these years in this church...after all the "Oh...I KNOW this church is true because the Holy Ghost testified to me that it was true.  And if you pray hard enough....." (cue the Mormon Tabernacle choir) 

Years of "Oh golly, this church saved my life!  Makes me a better person!  I never question because God answered my prayers!"

Years of not seeing the truth. Years of listening to only one side of a persons story.  Only hearing the pretty sales pitch of the church.

Years of feeling too embarrassed & alone....I finally hear the truth.

To live my religion is very hard.  Some things that have been taught to us...are hard to swallow.  We struggle to believe, to have faith, to have knowledge.  Everyone person I spoke to...must have felt I was struggling.  For everyone opened up to me in ways I never expected.

I found that these people, all at different stages of life & belief....wanted to believe.  Some, even without a shadow of a doubt KNEW the Gospel was true.  KNEW that Jesus Christ WAS the Savior.  But even for those hard line believers, THEY even had moments of questioning.  Moments of teetering.  Moments of..."what if?"

We are human. We are not Jesus Christ.  We will never be perfect in this life. We do not have all knowledge.  We all struggle.  Some of us stay in this church because we were born in this church.  Some stay because they marry into it.  Some stay because the Holy Ghost was so strong & fierce in their heart, they could never deny.  Some stay because they are lonely.  Some stay because they like to be challenged.  Some are rock hard in their belief & some are wishy washy.  Some members of this church are pure evil. Some members are too good to be here in this tarnished world.  Some are raging liberals & some are apron wearing conservatives.


2 years have passed since I told my Bishop to take my temple membership card & shred it.  2 years of wonderful "wondering" out in the shadows.  2 years of too tired for crying.  2 years of questioning.

2 years of asking all the right questions.

2 years and a new questions have emerged

"What have I learned & where do I go from here?"









Sunday, September 23, 2012

Why do you stay?

Tell my Bishop I have no testimony...check.
Drink coffee on Sunday...........check
Let go of all guilt....check
Life goes on.....check
Breath a sigh of relief....check.


Well

Now what?

So...I'm in the church, not of it?  Yeah, that sounded about right!

Let me tell you friends....I felt like a dog that had just been sprung from a bath.  I was running around, shaking my wet fur to & fro then rubbing my body all along the side of the couch.  Yeah baby!  Liberated!

Now that I was free from my church-ly cares....I felt more at ease to piss people off, say whatever the FUNK I wanted to say & basically....be .....me.

Listen people....I knew at that point the church had NO WAY made me bottle up my essence & shove it down the couch cushion.  That was all me...trying to live up to what I THOUGHT a good Christian girl should be.  Forming an illusion in my mind of what was a Godly women. 

This symbolic break from my religion was a way for me to breath.  To give up paranoia, pain, confusion & the desire to please everybody.

I was starting over.   Instead of being a scared, wondering 19 year old...I was now starting off as a thirty something women that shot 4 babies out of her vagina while yelling HELZ YEAH BABY!  Dude...I was an old, married, baby shoot'n women looking for the truth.  I was light years away from 19.

Being a lady of a certain age....I tempered the urge to snort Blow & steal crap.  No...I must go about finding truth in a mature thirty year old Lady way.

Ok YES...I did drink coffee...& break the Sabbath by buying a McDouble....but you have to admit.....it was high time I did something cray-cray ya know?  Let lose a little.  Be badddddd.

After my bought of hooligan-ish behavior...I eased myself back into the real world.  The world of "Let's Pretend I'm Mature."

So now my quest began.  My quest of...."Am I alone?  Am I crazy? Should I stay or go." had now officially begun.

And for my first act of truth seeking.....I asked a very prominent, "high ranking" church man... "High Priest".... a question. A question I always wanted to ask but was to scared in my past life to ask it in fears someone would find out I was struggling.

"So Brother High.....do you ever ask yourself......"What the hell am I doing here?  Why do I stay?""

How he....and the others that I asked that question responded, threw me for a loop & brought me back down to Earth.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Beer Blessings

There is a joke I like to say about blessings.

 "If you need some blessings....drink a beer."

In the church we are encouraged to live healthy lifestyles.  No alcohol, no wacky tabacky, no coffee, no black tea.  Everything in moderation.  We can't drink, but we sure as heck can eat!  We love our food!

Anywho.  People who live in religion tend to become very paranoid....or was that just me?

 If I forget to pray over my food everyone will have the back house trots!

  If I don't pay my tithing (10% Sucka!  It's in the bible so don't be all like..."What?  Girl, I never heard of that!") my husband will lose his job & I will have to eat raw wheat for breakfast!


 If I skip church 1 Sunday I will have a crap week...& the dog will die & my husband will lose his job & I'll get the back house trots!!!!!

If I drink a beer my house will be sucked up in a tornado!

But truth be told.....many people who have left a church, drank that beer...they seemed to be blessed.  Blessed with money, better jobs, boats, nice hair & bigger boobs.

So my joke was always....drink a beer!  Car broke down & you have no $$?  Drink a beer!  You lost your job?...drink a beer!  Kid needs braces...drink a beer!

For so many years I lived with paranoia.  It started around 10 years old when my Mom got cancer.  I felt, as a young child, that somehow I could control how my mother felt by my actions.  If I wore a certain ring she would end up in the hospital.  If I wore my heart earrings she would get better.  Superstitious child grew up to become a paranoid adult women......who joined a religion!  Geez...you want crazy thoughts....try being in my head for a day!  God & paranoia walk hand in hand down the street!

So when I decided to walk away, I had a twinge of paranoia. 

"What if God punishes me & kills my whole family?"

Then I remembered my joke....drink a beer, blessings will come.

So I left in the most non-leaving way a girl could leave & I did

Not
drink
a
beer.

Because that would be lame & immature!  But I still left.

And wouldn't you know it?  Nothing bad happened.  In fact, I became lighter & happier & those paranoid thoughts...gone!

Most nights I didn't pray.  I didn't pay tithing.  I skipped church now & then.  I drank a coffee....on THE SABBATH!  Of course once I drank that coffee I laughed at myself for being a follower, a poser, a joiner & plain silly.  Then I dumped the gross coffee mostly full in a garbage can & realised how much I liked Postum & Teeccino.  And dang it....I was gonna drink Postum instead of coffee because it was healthier & I liked it!  Flame away baby....I like POSTUM! (chilled & drenched in evaporated milk/ condensed milk over ice....heck....yeah!)

                                            Hello my darling!  Everything tastes better in a mason jar!




I drank the proverbial beer & I was still alive.  My family was still happy.  I had wicked awesome friends.  I still had some of the same day to day problems.  I still was angry at God.  I questioned the existence of Jesus Christ.  I still cared about church issues. I was still me, just without all the religious superstitions that strangled me.  I felt free to question, to doubt, to be angry, then to forget it & move on.

And yes, I was blessed too.  My husband got raises.  I got a job.  My kids were awesome.  I traveled & played more with the kids.  And my hair......looked pretty damn fine if I say so myself!



See....proof my hair didn't fall out during my wondering out in the wilderness of disbelief!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Take this religion & shove it

In my religion we have a Bishop.  A guy who is "called" to counsel the people in the church.  He doesn't get paid.  He doen't have professional training.  He's just a regulor Joe.

My Bishop happens to be my friend.

People go to the Bishop for counsel or confession or to be given recommends to go into the Temples.  Bishops stand as "judges in Israel."

I decide to be a big girl & go to my Bishop......& tell him all that was eating me up.  And let me just say....for a girl who hates to disappoint people...this little stint I was about to do made me sick.

I had to do it.  I had watched a few friends slink away form the church never to talk to their Bishop.  Never even give the guy a chance to help.  I didn't want that.  Sure...I wanted the easy way out.  But over time I found that I needed to leave my childish ways behide....& be an adult.  An adult who wasn't going to run from things anymore.  Big girl........ meet panties.

But man.....all I thought was RUNNNNNNNNNNN!

On that day 3 years ago, I walked in....& quit.  Threw my hands up & quit.

My husband knew what I was going to do & had always been supportive.  He had seen how I struggled all those years.  He knew I tried.  He knew I gave it my all.  He also knew he coundn't help me the way I needs help.

So in I walked.  The door closes behind me.  And I sat face to face with my friend....who happened to be a Bishop.

And I let it all out.

And my dear friend did a really good job being a Bishop with a slight hint of friend. 

We talked...well more like I ranted, he listend.

I laid out my demands.
1.  Help me.

That's it.  Help me.

I did have guidelines.
1. I would not take my kids out of the church.  This was my problem...not theirs.  Even though there were times I wanted to be selfish & take everyone with me.....I knew for their sakes I had to temper that desire.  If they had problems with thier religion as they got older....well then that would be their problem...and as parents, we would help them out at that time.  But in no way did I want to stress them out by removing them from the only religion they had ever known.

2.  I would turn down a big calling that was handed to me a few days ago & keep my old calling I had held for 5 years.  I would do my best to do my job.  Luckly it wasn't that hard.....I was like...the church activity cruise director. I threw parties for the church....sweet!
    This new calling they wanted to give me was actually the catalyst for my change.  I realised how deep the lie I lived if the Bishop thought I would be faithful enough for this calling.  Time to stop being fake & time to let the B-Man in on my charade. 

3. I would support my husband in his calling....oh yeah...did I mention my husband was a Bishopric counsler?  He was one of the Bishops right hand men.  Yeah...that was fun!  Having a husband who sat up on the stand every Sunday while his wife dwindled in unbelif......so fun....ya'll should try that!

My Bishop seemed to breath a sigh of relief that I wouldn't just up & leave....& that I wouldn't drag my kids through my emotional, sprirtual mess.  But I could also tell I had hurt him & freaked him out.  Here was another one of his friends trying to walk away.

A few weeks after my talk with my Bishop....my husband was released from his Bishopric calling that he had held for 4.5 years.  I'd like to think his time had come up to move on....but I knew it was because of me.  You can't have a Bishopric memeber who's wife is losing her religion.

So here I was.  A memeber in name but not my heart.  My Temple recommend willingly given up.  My husband out of a calling that killed me for the first few years.

I stood hugging my friend the Bishop as he told me he loved me.  I knew he did.  I also knew he was ready to take on this task I had placed befor him.....of helping me find a testimony of my church....or finding it false.

Walking out the door I felt relief & hope.  To celebrate I hung out with my friends and church ladies for a day.....

At the Temple.

But this time I had no recommend to go in.  I was now...on the outside.

And I had not felt that relieved or free in a long time.