Many years ago I made the decision to live my life by the Spirit. I know not all the answers will be given to us and we need to figure out a lot on our own, but I always try to remain worthy of the Spirit so I will be ready to receive guidance and direction when it is available. This has been a wonderful decision and it has greatly enhanced the quality of my life. But the thing is, when you prove to God that He can trust you, He'll begin to ask you to do more things that require YOU to trust HIM. And that can be a major test of your faith.
Over the last several months God had asked me to do some really scary things, like remaining at my part-time job even though I have bills to pay and putting unimaginable amounts of time and effort into projects that I'm not even sure will ever succeed. It's scary. I honestly don't know how I'm going to make it--except on faith, which, as I mentioned before, I'm struggling with.
The day I received those promptings and I began this current course, I felt that it was right - so much so that I immediately quit my nearly $1000/week job to go back to working part-time for the Church. And every time I've felt afraid and desperately pleaded to God for guidance, His response has been the same: "Just trust me. I know what I'm doing. Follow my direction with exactness, and when the time is right, I will show you the way."
But last night as I opened my evening prayer, the first thing I said was this: "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't terrified of what you're asking me to do. I'm honestly afraid that the sea will not part and I'll end up underwater."
Even though I felt it was right, even though I have had countless witnesses telling me it will be okay, I still have this overwhelming fear. Satan knows that good things are in store for me if I continue on this path, and so he is doing everything he can to get me to quit. He almost succeed a couple times. But despite my fears, I've come too far to turn back now; I'm past the point of no return. I'm either going to end up a broke, miserable, failure, or an incredibly grateful (and humbled) man. The closer I get to God's deadline, the tighter I brace for impact, and the more I hope that it will be a smooth landing.
And it is that hope that I'm holding on to.
This morning I had the most incredible privilege of singing in the choir at a meeting at which Elder M. Russell Ballard presided and spoke (a miracle in and of itself, but a story for another time). After closing his remarks, the choir sang "Redeemer of Israel" - my favorite hymn. As we triumphantly came to the final verse, I openly wept. I just couldn't hold back what I was feeling.
"As children of Zion,
Good tidings for us.
The tokens already appear.
Fear not, and be just,
For the kingdom is ours.
The hour of redemption is near."
Even though I have fears. Even though I have doubts. Even though I am sometimes utterly terrified of what lies ahead, I know that God loves me. I don't know HOW He loves me, but I know that He does. And that is ultimately what gets me through to another day.
"Life is tough, but so are you."
That's the theme of this book, and when Elise Hahl asked me to write a review, I got excited! I've been going through some difficult times in my life and I knew I'd learn a lot from reading it.
So what did I think?
At first I was disappointed (but bear with me, this isn't a negative review!) I was disappointed because I realized that my life was nothing like that of the authors (there are 8 of them). I thought to myself, I've never gone through what they went through. My trials weren't even remotely close to theirs. How was this book supposed to help me with my own unique struggles? I've never moved to another country, I've never played on a football team, my mother has never been to prison, I've never had to deal with paralysis, I've never been rejected by my family. How could I relate to these stories?
And then I realized something.
I've never had to leave my home and travel 8 years in the wilderness while my brothers tried to kill me, and yet I still love and learn from the stories of Nephi. I've never been the only member of the church in my entire city, and yet I love and and learn from the story of Abish. And when the story of Joseph in Egypt was told twice in this book, I realized that I don't have to have these same experiences as they did to learn from them. So do you know what I did? I read the book again. Just sat down and read it all the way through. This time I asked Heavenly Father to help me learn things from these experiences that would help me get through my own. And that's exactly what he did.
I recommend this book to everyone, because there's something in it for everyone. Though we may not have the same trials, we do all have trials, and these eight authors guide us through them in a fun and engaging way. I had heard of some of the authors, such as Al Carraway and Hank Smith, but most of them were new to me. It was fun to get to know them! They are all people who decided to put God first, even when it was hard (or maybe because it was hard). I learned so much from them.
If I were to sum up the message of this book it would be this: trust God, do everything you can to succeed, and never, ever give up.
You can purchase "You've Got This!" here:
When you feel sad, read the Book of Mormon.
When you feel angry, read the Book of Mormon.
When you feel frustrated, read the Book of Mormon.
When you feel lost, read the Book of Mormon.
When you feel hopeless, read the Book of Mormon.
The Book of Mormon holds the answer to all of life's problems. Read it.
Hey guys, it's been a while since I posted on this blog. These last few months have been some of the most trying, as well as the most educational months of my life. I learned so much from the trials I faced and so I'd like to share with you some words of wisdom.
You are the master of your own life. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
As you can tell from my last post ("Broken"), life hit me pretty hard. When people ask me what I've been doing lately, I tell them I've been hibernating, because truthfully, that's the best description I can think of. Most of my recent trials have involved relationships with people. I've was betrayed by family members, cheated by friends, and at times I've even felt abandoned by God.
When I was younger, I discovered that when a room or a drawer or a backpack is so messy that it becomes unmanageable, it's often easier to just remove everything and only put back what's important rather than trying to sort through the mess. So that's what I did with my life.
The time I spent alone with basically no responsibilities, deadlines, or expectations was immensely satisfying. It gave me time to focus on myself. With no pressure to worry about other people's lives, I was able to turn inward and focus all my energy my own. I was able to seriously contemplate who I was, who I wanted to become, and what I needed to do to get there.
Four months later I'm finally back on my feet. I know who I am and I'm okay with it. I know who I want to be and I'm excited for the journey that will take me there. I'm finally starting to put things back together the way I feel like they're supposed to be, but rest assured, I'm only putting back what's important.
So my advice to you is this: don't let the distractions of the world stop you from becoming your very best self. As important as serving and helping other people is, you can't spread yourself out too thin. Take time to focus on who you are. Do things that you enjoy. Don't be afraid to make yourself happy. You are the master of your own life; don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
WHY IS LIFE SO FREAKING HARD??? Why does it have to be so confusing??? Why does it have to hurt so much??? I'M GOING TO SCREAM!!! I just want things to work out! I just want to be happy! IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK????
I'm so freaking tired of being let down. Sometimes it doesn't seem worth it. Why do I even try? I spend years putting my whole heart and soul into something only to have it fizzle out and die. WHAT'S THE POINT??? Why do my dreams always go up in flames??? WHY CAN'T I SUCCEED???
That's it. I'm done. I'm done trying. I can't handle the headache. It's just too much.
I'm going to simplify my life and remove anything that is not necessary for survival. If I don't I'm afraid that I might literally lose my mind.
Today I saw the most heart-wrenching scene I have ever seen in my life: a sister missionary from France, holding back tears and staring longingly up at the French flag on Temple Square. Dear Sister, my heart goes out to you! My eyes were wet the moment I saw your face. Never in my life have I seen such anguish! I can't imagine what you are feeling, 5,000 miles from home! I know you are trying to be strong, but I can see the pain you feel in your eyes! Oh, dear Sister, don't be afraid to cry! God Himself is shedding tears over the tragedy that has befallen your country. You are not alone! Let the tears flow, dear Sister, for we will be here to catch them! May God speak peace to your heart, and may God take care of your country!
One of the hardest things you will ever have to do is accept God's will when everything inside of you wants the opposite. It's difficult when you try for months to make something happen and then God tells you no; that it's time to stop; that it's time to move on. It feels like my soul has been ripped from inside of me and I'm left empty; wandering without a purpose. I know that God is real and I know that he wants the best for me, but it's so freaking hard to accept! How do you move on? How do you start over? I really really really don't want to do this!....Please don't make me do it!......please......
.....ok.....I'll do it.....
I have spent years trying to forget most of the things I am about to write. I'm going to tell you about the most miserable time in my life. My experiences during this time are the single worst memories I have. The only reason I am doing this is because I feel like there is someone out there that needs to hear it. There is someone out there that needs to know how I overcame the hardest trial of my life. This story does have a happy ending, but I went through hell to get there.
So here we go.
This is me in 2004:
I was a scrawny kid just out of elementary school, headed into junior high; scared, but also excited; pretty much your average 7th grader.
I remember my first day at Elk Ridge Middle School. It took me so long to get my locker open that I was late to my first period. Once again I was your typical seventh grader sprinting through the halls with a map of the school trying to find his class. I remember that I was especially excited for this one: Tech Lab. I'd always been good at building things and now I got to do it in school! I was beyond excited. By the end of the class I was ready to take on the world. These were going to be the best years of my life, I just knew it!
But I was wrong. What happened next troubled me greatly.
For reasons unknown, every one of my friends left me. Not only would they not talk to me, but they began to tease and bully me. These were friends that I had known since kindergarten, friends that had come to my birthday parties, friends that had been there through every one of my childhood adventures. And now they were gone.
I've always been a nerdy, clumsy, somewhat introverted person. I never had any interest in sports, but give me a computer and I'd be sucked in for hours. That's just who I was and I never thought anything of it...until that day in 7th grade.
When my friends left me I began to question who I was. They were quickly becoming the "cool kids" and I was left behind. I tried fitting in, but I just couldn't. I was nerdy, clumsy, and introverted, and it was beyond my ability to do so. It wasn't long before I was officially given the title of "loner," and that was when my self-esteem took a plunge into the mud. I didn't fit in. I wasn't cool. I couldn't throw a football or hit a baseball. I didn't know how to dance and had never been to a real party. No one wanted to be around me. I began to view my strengths as negative things. I felt absolutely worthless.
The bullying continued throughout middle school and into high school. I was constantly being told that I was weird and that I wasn't cool. My lack of social skills made me an easy target because I couldn't defend myself. I just took it. I soaked it in. I believed it. I wanted it to stop, I wanted to change, but I couldn't. I did my best to stay strong but it eventually broke me.
By the time high school came I had no hope. I hated school, I hated life, and above all I hated myself. I hated who I was. Life just wasn't worth it anymore and I stopped trying. Right when grades really started to count, I failed every class. Right when I was old enough to start dating, I didn't dare talk to girls. And right when I should have began preparing to serve a mission for my church, I stopped believing in God.
When I felt that I couldn't go any lower, I began to lie to make myself seem better than I was. I began to steal to make people think I had more than I did. I rebelled against everything I had been taught because it obviously wasn't working. My life was dark and full of hate. I was miserable and there was no cure. I was alone and there was no one who cared. 11th grade started and I resolved that this was the year that I would kill myself. I just couldn't take it anymore.
But this is the part when the hero enters the story.
Junior year, 2008:
Day one of 11th grade, seventh period biology. I walked in, took my seat in the corner furthest from everyone else, put my head down and sank into my own misery. Not a minute later I heard someone sit down next to me. I didn't bother to look up to see who it was, they were probably doing it on a dare; that was one of the many ways people mocked me and I was used to it by now. To my surprise, the person said, "Hi, what's your name?" I looked up to see a girl smiling at me. Not only did she seem happy, but she was glowing. No joke. She was actually glowing. Confused, I told her my name, to which she replied, "Hi Jordan, I'm Kelsi. Is it okay if I sit here?" Still confused, I agreed.
To my even greater surprise, she sat next to me the next day, and the next, and every day after that. She talked to me like I was a human being. She asked me real questions and listened when I responded. I had never met her before that first day, but she treated me like her best friend. And every day she continued to glow.
Kelsi Richardson probably has no idea that she literally saved my life that year; I never told her all that I was going through, nor that I was planning on killing myself. I don't know if she even remembers any of this. I haven't seen her since high school. She'll probably find out through this post exactly what her kindness did for me.
Change is not easy, and very rarely is it immediate. Mine sure wasn't. Kelsi's kindness gave me hope. She showed me that I wasn't worthless. 11th grade was a tough year, but it gave me the confidence I needed to begin rebuilding my life.
Senior year, 2009-2010:
My senior year was the first time in five years that I was actually happy. I wasn't one of the "cool kids," but I was finding more confidence every day. I started to get more involved and was even the president of the school's German Club.
With my newfound confidence I tried hard to fit in. By the end of my senior year I was literally able to change my personality to fit in with just about any of the major social groups, from the jocks, to the nerds, to the emo rockers. Now that might sound like the happy ending, but it's not. High school ended and my group-hopping skills were rendered useless. Once again I didn't know who I was.
A year passed and I was finally ready to serve a full-time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I didn't have strong faith in God, but I had the confidence to try.
Those two years changed my life 100%. Once again, it was not immediate nor was it easy, but it was definitely worth it. On my mission I developed real social skills. Not only was I able to talk to my friends, but I was able to talk to complete strangers. As my faith in God increased, so did my ability to look beyond myself. For the first time in my life I was able to sacrifice my own desires and focus on the needs of others. It really is true, the saying that when you lose yourself in the service of others, you find yourself. I learned that I was special and unique. I have talents that I can use in many ways. For the first time in my life I actually believed in myself. I'm still nerdy, clumsy, and somewhat introverted. I still don't know how to dance and I've completely given up on an athletic career. But that's okay. That's who I am. And that's all that matters.
It's been a year since I returned from my mission and I have learned so much in that time. I tried living my life like people expected me to, but I just wasn't happy. I am a person that likes to break molds and disprove stereotypes. I don't like to just "go with the flow." I'd much rather forge my own path and do things that no one has ever done. That is who I am and that is what makes me happy.
In telling this story I purposely left out many of the details, mainly because it would take too long to write, but I will to discuss them with anyone that needs to hear them. As I said before, the reason I am writing this is because I felt like someone needed to hear it, and so to that person I say this:
You are amazing. You are loved. And you are worth it.
You can be whatever you want to be, but in your journey of self discovery don't forget to be yourself. You have talents and strengths that people may tell you are small, but I tell you that they are amazing, and I believe in you.
Now one final thing:
On my mission I met a woman that had been beaten down by an unfair and miserable life. She was weak and had very little hope. We did everything we could to serve her. We listened to her, we prayed for her, we showed her that she wasn't worthless. One day she told us that when we came she could literally see a light around us. It was what kept her going. My thoughts turned back to that day in biology class when I saw that very same light, and how it kept me going. I realized that it was the light of Jesus Christ, shining through someone who had taken time to serve someone else.
It is my hope that you will find your place in this world, but when it comes right down to it don't be afraid to just be you.
Because you are amazing. You are loved. And you are worth it.
I wrote this poem two weeks before the end of my mission. It is my witness of the reality of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
"Whom Shall I Send?"
My head was high, my smile proud
My heart was hard, my laughter loud.
I loved myself, and me alone
My brother lacked, I had a throne.
I saw him lonely, with a frown
To build me up, I tore him down.
I laughed and mocked his lonely stare
The pain I caused I did not care.
The praise of man, my only goal
Caused me to lie, destroyed my soul.
To change my ways, I had no thought
In my own eyes I had a lot.
I spent my life on useless things
I gave my all to worldly dreams.
Then came the day when all was lost
With nothing left I felt the cost.
The pain was great, my soul was racked
I lost my strength, my body slacked.
I fell upon my knees to pray
"Dear God" I said "take me away.
I see my sin, I cannot bear
To stand beneath thy piercing stare.
I never knew such dreadful pain
But this I know: I am to blame.
Take me now and seal my fate
I can't be saved, it is too late."
Then in my mind I saw a tree
With olive leaves, Gethsemane.
I saw a man on bended knee
His head hung low, I heard His plea:
"Thy will be done, not mine" He said
And then He fell, His body bled.
From every pour how great the pain!
I heard His voice, He called my name.
I looked and saw another tree
Up on a hill called Calvary.
I saw Him there up through the fog
The Son of Man, the Son of God.
The King of Kings, a crown of thorns
With nothing more was He adorned.
I looked at Him, He looked at me
And then to God, I heard His plea:
"It is now done, I've paid the cost
That this poor soul will not be lost.
I've done the work thou gavest me
Now take my spirit back to thee."
His head hung down and then He died
With nail-marked hands and wounded side.
Back on my knees I changed my plea:
"How could this all have been for me?
I am not worthy of thy love
Thou art so great, the God above."
And then the voice I heard before:
"I came to earth among the poor.
The broken heart I came to mend
I am He whom God did send.
To show the world He loved it so
I told my Father 'I will go.'"
"Oh Lord my God I know it's true
You really lived and suffered too.
But if the price was really paid
And if you suffered on that day
Why must I still feel such pain?
What victory does my suffering gain?"
Another voice came in reply
My Heavenly Father told me why.
He said "My son, I called you here
To feed my sheep and have no fear.
You had to know what Christ went through
I have a work for you to do.
But pride had filled your foolish heart
And you could not fulfill your part.
Your head was high, your smile proud
Your heart was hard, your laughter loud.
You loved yourself and you alone
Your brother lacked, you had a throne.
You saw him lonely, with a frown
To build yourself, you tore him down.
You laughed and mocked his lonely stare
The pain you caused you did not care.
The praise of man, your only goal
Caused you to lie, destroyed your soul.
To change your ways you had no thought
In your own eyes you had a lot.
You spent your life on useless things
You wasted all on worldly dreams.
You are my servant and my son
There is a battle to be won.
I have some sheep for you to find
They lost their way, got left behind.
They need to know what Christ went through
And so to find them I sent you.
I need your might, your mind, your strength
I need a heart that has been changed.
So one last time I'll ask again
To these lost sheep, whom shall I send?"
"Oh Lord, my God, I love thee so
To find thy sheep, I will go.
I give thee all, my very will
I am so small, I know that still.
But now I know what Christ went through
For Him, O Lord, I'll go and do."
My name is Jordan Michael Anderson. My life's mission is to do as much good as possible.