Sunday, October 23, 2011

What Doesn't Kill Us Makes Us Stronger

About a month ago, I was asked by my neighbor to be a guest speaker in one of her classes that she teaches at a downtown Jr. High. She wanted me to talk about my book and how I decided to become an author.  I accepted the invitation but made sure she new I wasn't a "real" author. Let's face it, I'm no Stephanie Meyers and I wanted to make sure she realized that I wasn't anything special. She still really wanted me to come so we set a date.

I was under the impression that there was going to be another speaker that day so I didn't have a ton prepared. The night before I ran into my neighbor at Home Depot where she told me that I was the only speaker planned for that day. I had the whole time! Yikes!

As we discussed in my last post, I am a talker. But I still didn't know how I was going to take up a whole 50 minutes just talking about my tiny little book. My neighbor had explained that most of the kids in her class are kids who are what you might call "at risk".  Most come from broken homes where parents are lucky if they have a high school diploma. She really wants to motivate them to stay in school and have the goal now to go to college.

Now at this point I am going to stop this part of my story and move on to the back story...this is when I might get a little "too real".

I come from a pretty dysfunctional background. It looks a little something like this...

- born to teenage mom
- bio-dad (whom I like to refer to as Sperm Donor) takes off when I'm a baby never to return, leaving my mom pregnant with a toddler and a baby.
- raised by a mean, abusive step dad
- watched that marriage disintegrate
- got married too young to a guy that had serious issues
- divorced by age 21

Who wouldn't be screwed up coming from that! (And that was the short version) Thankfully my mom was strong and chose to rise above the tragedies that plagued her own life. At the age of eighteen she found the gospel of Jesus Christ and joined the LDS Church. She did her best to raise her children according to his teachings.

I was blessed that those teachings stuck with me and helped me rise above the trials that came into my life. I was blessed to find Aric and we have created a wonderful life together. But our "happily ever after" has had some rough patches. Infertility, adoption, my mother in law's cancer...those have given us some pretty dark times. Our faith and love has gotten us through those times but boy do I have some scars.

So every now and then (like maybe once a year) I get frustrated about where I came from. I see people in my life who seem to have had it so easy. They grow up in a family that is intact. They grow up, go to college, meet a great person and get married. They decide to start a family and ta da! They have how ever many babies they want, when they want them. Not that they haven't had their struggles but when I compare them to what I have gone through it seems like I was dealt a way more crappy hand.

I found myself really feeling bad and mad. I was distancing myself from God because I was mad at him for giving me such a hard life. I just couldn't understand why he would make my path so thorny and give someone else such an easy one. I was jealous of my friends. I just couldn't shake the self pity feelings. I finally started to pray about it. I asked for some specific things and I just wasn't feeling heard. About eight weeks went by and I was getting really worried that I wasn't going to be able to shake it. That is when my neighbor had asked me to speak in her class.

Back to the other part of this story...

So as I sat there thinking about what to share with this classroom full of at risk teenagers my mind started racing. I totally felt the spirit guide my thoughts. My great grandma came to my mind, how she left everything in Honduras to come to the United States to provide a better life for her only son and his family. She sacrificed so much. Her life was hard. My grandparents lives were hard. My mom's life was hard. But every generation got a little better. Everything they did was to ensure that my life (and the lives of their other children) was better than theirs. And though my life was challenging it has brought me to this moment. This moment where I am married to a great guy. I am a mom with three beautiful children, who are growing up in a loving home. They have parents who are committed to each other and God. My children are growing up with the life I always wanted. I made the choice to rise above my circumstances. And ultimately that is why I wrote my book.

My book was not written for the world, it was written for my cousin. I wrote it for her, in hopes that she would learn from my mistakes and keep her on a life path that would allow her to look back with little or no regrets. That she too, would learn how to rise above what ever difficult times she would be faced with.

That is why I wrote the book. That is why I became an author.

I nailed my presentation. I showed them pictures of my family. I showed them pictures of me at their age, through high school, college days and now. I talked to them about my book but mostly I told them about me. They had lots of questions and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with them. The time flew by.

It didn't hit me until I was driving home, when a voice came into my mind and hit my heart like a ton of bricks...

"This is why I gave you the struggles. This is why it was so hard. So you can go and do what you just did. This is who I need you to be, and you are who you are because of what you've overcome."

The dark, ugly feelings that I had been feeling for all those weeks literally poured out of me through the tears. It was such a clear revelation. It was what I had been praying for and waiting for. I knew my answer had come. What I didn't realize was how much I just wanted to know that Heavenly Father was aware of me. I'm so dang needy that even though He has shown me his love over and over, sometimes I just need it spelled out for me and in this moment he totally delivered.

The other interesting thing that happened was how much compassion I instantly felt for everyone around me. It's like I was so blinded by my feelings of self pity that I could not see the needs of those around me. I felt so guilty for being so self absorbed. Of course everyone has faced their own battles. No one's life is free from trials and pain. There are people with way harder lives and challenges. I just let Satan get into my heart and mess with my head. There are many ways to destroy a person's soul, attacking their self worth is the first step.

I am so grateful for this experience. I learned so much from it, which is why I wanted it documented. It may be a little too personal. In fact I've waited a few weeks to write about it. I thought about writing it in my real journal but I feel compelled to put it out here, maybe someone else needs to hear this too.


Shirley said...

Thank you! Someone else definitely needs to hear this......ME!!! I can honestly say I really NEEDED to read these words TODAY!!! THANK YOU....LOVE YOU Jessica!!!

Lauren in GA said...

This was in no way too personal. It was amazing to read.

I am grateful for your example of prayer. When you were feeling overwhelmed and like you weren't going to be able to shake the feelings of anger you turned to the Lord in prayer.

I am glad you posted this. I needed to read it. Thank you for your example.

Nurse Graham said...

I have tears in my eyes as I read this. It was wonderful. Thank you for sharing. People at-risk need to hear the don't have to let your circumstances define who you are. Yes, the situations we face and the challenges, trials, abuse, whatever it may be definitely impact us. But we make the choice on whether or not we let those scars heal or if we continually pick at them at let them bleed over and over. I know it is tricky to share messages about God in a public school setting, but I hope that you were able to share a little so that those kids know it was with God's grace and intentional effort on your part to create a better life that put you in the place you are today.

Again, awesome.

Kathleen said...

I really appreciated this post. You are a wonderful and strong person! It takes a strong person to rise above their trials instead of using them as excuses! And because you are so strong, you are setting a great example for your children! Be proud of that :)

Christie said...

Totally teary right now. This is just what I needed today. Thank you for sharing.

♥Shally said...

You are amazing. :)

Someday, I hope to meet you in person...

kthom said...

Your honesty is admired and appreciated! Aren't people's backgrounds fascinating? We are all so different which is the beauty of life. With a little honesty and compassion we can help ourselves and others deal with their struggles. I bet you could hear a pin drop in that room. What a cool experience! Nicely done.

Melissa-Mc said...

I admire people who can come from hard circumstances and not let it hold them back. You are doing a great job as a mom, wife, friend and example.

Rachel said...

I cried reading this post Jess. You are amazing and it is because what you have been through. This life is a refining fire and some people just have more obvious fires that they have to go through. I'm so happy I know you. When I was going through a lot of crap over the last several months I got a blessing that said almost the same thing, that I was going to be able to bless other's lives by sharing what I had been through and how it strengthened me. He really does love us so much and I need those obvious direct reminders of that too. Thanks for sharing this amazing story!

Rochelleht said...

You are so awesome. That was beautiful and you ARE an author. That was so lovely and full of the spirit. Thank you for having the courage to share it. Sometimes it's not all about us and those are the times that we find the greatest satisfaction. LOVE you!

Jean McKendrick said...

What a neat experience, and I agree, you have gone through trials for a reason. You have so much love, compassion, friendship and advice to give. Without going through what you did you wouldn't be who you are. You are wonderful, a light to the world.