Sunday, July 6, 2014

Hello, God.

For all my life, I grew up hearing the word God. Both used for the good and for the bad. I grew up learning about Him, learning about prayer, His plan and His son Jesus Christ. I grew up in a home where as little kids we would pray as a family and where my parents spoke of Him often. I grew up in a state and area where God, especially religion, is talked about openly and frequently. But, I don't remember as a kid praying to God personally that much and especially as a teenager, I don't remember saying personal prayers at all. Then when I got to High School I began to distance myself from God and started to question who He is and wondered if He even existed?

The distance between me and God all started when I was in High School when I found out I had developed a fractured lower spine and a very rare back disease that kept me from playing and trying out for the two sports I loved most; basketball and football. I became so upset, I started to distant myself from God and the very thought of Him. I became very mad at Him and I blamed Him for my injury and I would shake my fists at the Heavens and questioned Him: 'Why me? Why did you do this to me?What did I do wrong? You know this was my dream, how could you do this to me?' Me questioning God and being upset with Him went on for years and I began to not even believe in God at all. As that distance grew, I made many mistakes that taught me a lot of lessons, but ultimately it was leaving me feeling alone.

Long story short, when I was 19 years old I had God back in my life.  It happened at a very pivotal moment into my life. He and His son Jesus Christ came and rescued me from my dark, lonely, and depressing state that I was in. He saved me. For the first time in my life that I can remember, God became the centered piece of my life. With what I went through and the changes I made and the things I overcame, I thought I finally knew God. I wanted to start doing what He wanted me to do. I changed my whole life around, a full 360! I stopped questioning and being upset with Him and started to pray about what I should do with my life. God answered my prayers and told me to serve a mission, something I was very much opposed to my whole life. But, I decided to go and was called to serve in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

For two years, seven days a week, from 10am to 9pm all I did was talk to people about God, His plan, and His son Jesus Christ. In that two years, I taught and talked to over a thousand people about God, that He is our loving Heavenly Father. I taught them from my heart because I knew what it was like to not have Him in my life. Rejected at least about 8 out of 10 times, people just didn't want to hear. I was cussed out, mocked, shoved, hit, and some things probably not good to tell, but a lot of people did accept us and our message. Many people I met believed in God or believed in something which is great, but we were offering something to people to bring them closer to God than ever before.

For the past few years I felt I had a great relationship with God and finally had a pretty good idea of who He is. But, it wasn't until my wife got pregnant, and mainly it wasn't until my wife was in labor that I really started to understand who God really is. Seeing my beautiful baby be born I have a better idea who God is then I have ever before.

My beautiful and lovely wife was in labor for 42 hours! I wish no woman has to ever be in labor for that long. It's pretty much insane. My wife is my hero now. I felt so helpless being in the delivery room with my wife. Seeing her go through so much pain, literally to hell and back to bring our baby into this world. I couldn't do anything, except talk or rub her back. I hated seeing her in so much pain that brought her to tears. I prayed for 42 hours straight, not all verbally but in my heart and mind. Praying for my wife's health and pain, our baby Gracie, the doctors, praying that our baby would hurry up and get out! When I saw my beautiful girl come out at 12:58 pm on June 18th, 2014, I wept. I didn't just cry or shed a tear, I put my head on my wife's shoulder and I seriously wept my eyes out. It was seriously the most beautiful and coolest thing I have ever seen or experienced. Labor is insane and out of this world, but I saw God work that day. Ever since then God has constantly been on my mind. I know Him more than I have ever before because of that experience. Having a baby is God's plan for us, I'm humbled that He trusts me to be Gracie's father. God trusts two imperfect people to be the parents of one of His perfect and innocent children.

My life has changed these past 3 weeks since Gracie arrived. My wife and I saw God's hand that day when she was born; she brought more God into my life. Seeing my baby be born, I don't believe in God anymore. I know God. He is real. I know He exists. I know He loves all of us. I know He is my Heavenly Father. It's not a belief, it's a knowledge. I wouldn't trade that in for anything.

To all those who feel rejected by God, or abandoned, alone or feel like you've just missed to many chances in your life. I say just turn around. It's us that turn our backs on God way too soon. God is LOVE. The very definition of love is God. All the time there are things that suck in life that could make us question whats going on? Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has said: "God is in your corner. Everything will work out for our Good." God gives us bad and hard times so we can know what good feels like and that we can know what God's love feels like. He will never leave us. He will not leave you. He is our Father. He is yours and mine. He has changed my life again and again. He can change yours. You can know Him.  I love my Heavenly Father and now fully aware how all of this came to be.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Being married to the 'Tattooed Mormon'

Oh, the words of advice we were given from people before we were married. They would say marriage is tough. Marriage is hard. Marriage is a battle. Marriage isn't easy. Are you sure your ready? You're life is over. No more fun and games. Others would say that it was the best time of your life. A new adventure. A new beginning. True happiness.We've all heard them right? I think being married to my wife has been the best thing that has ever happened to me.

A lot of people know my wife as the 'Tattooed Mormon'. Though, I must say I very much dislike that nickname for my wife. I have never been a big fan of the name 'Tattooed Mormon' and she knows that. When we were engaged people at her speaking events, and even people I know would tell me 'How does it feel to marry a celebrity?' Or 'how do you do it? How do you look past the tattoos she has, knowing that people will stare?' Some would even applaud me on marrying her, because of her past and how her past is so visual. I mean really? Serious? Hearing that use to bother me. Not once have I ever noticed or even cared that she has tattoos, I just don't see them when I look her. Sure, I know they are there, but its not something I have ever cared about. When we were writing on my mission or when we were dating I would tell people about her, it was: "She is a blonde hair, blue eyed girl, with a killer testimony and personality." Not ever was it: "Oh, I'm dating this girl with tattoos, with blonde hair and blue eyes." Because, to me who cares if she has tattoos. It's not a big deal. That was part of her past, before she even became a member of the Church.

I don't think she should be defined or known by some as the 'Tattooed Mormon'. Sure she has tattoo's and to some her past shows, but why should that define her? She is just like anyone in this Church. The greatest part of this Gospel is that people can change. She is a wonderful example of that! Boy, is she ever! She has shared with me how hard it was for her in Utah with people judging her for her tattoos, not giving her a chance. Pasts scare some people. But, I love that about her.

I have a past that I'm not proud of, a past that took me years to overcome and years to cope with. I know very well now I have been forgiven and lots of blessings have come. I was always worried about who I would marry, because I thought who I used to be would be a road block for some girls. I always wanted to marry someone who knows me, and accepts me, and has a story of her own. I found her. I feel as though, it's hard sometimes to let people change. Or doubting that they even can. This Church and Jesus Christ is about accepting anyone and everyone. No matter what they look like, no matter what they have done or where they have been. Christ is the master of change. He gives anyone who comes unto Him a new heart and a new mind. He is beautiful. He makes everyone beautiful, if they just trust in him and believe they can change.

Let pasts go. Allow people to show you that they can change, grow, and become better. My wife was called out for how she looked on her first day in Utah because she was tattooed and holding a church book. That guy told her how foolish she looked. That's messed up. When my wife and I meet people, a lot of the time I will notice their eyes just starring at her tattoos. To me she is not the 'Tattood Mormon' nor will she ever be in my eyes.

Marriage for us, I can firmly say, has not been hard one bit. Sure there have been life difficulties, but we get over them. I love her more and more everyday. I love her more than the day I married her. I find her even more attractive then when we first met. I fall in love with her everyday. Even to this day when I look in her deep blue eyes, I know why I married her. I married her not for her looks, sure that's a bonus, but I married her for WHO she is. I love who she is, where she came from and what it took for her to get where she is today. I married way above myself. She keeps me corrected. She keeps me on the right course. Marriage should never be tough. Never marry because of looks and looks only. Marry someone who you are attracted to in every way, especially spiritually. Spiritual attraction is most important, that's what makes those hard things easier. Marry someone who has the same end goal in mind.

Sure my wife has tattoos and a lot of people stare, and some know her as the Tattooed Mormon, and others know who my wife truly is. I love my wife and her courage to open her mouth to prove that people can change. I have. She has. We all can change. Don't let your appearance, your past, or whatever stop you from changing. Let people show you they can change, you never know what their potential is. Tattoos should never define someone. Pasts should never define someone. Christ died for our transgressions. If he forgets about them and doesn't notice us for what we have done, let us forget and forgive.

Friday, April 4, 2014

"You don't know"

As young person you're constantly thinking about the future and what the future holds for you. At least that's how I am. I am always thinking about whats going to be my career? What will be the ways I will provide? What should I study in school? Where are my wife and I going to live? Now, its what will my kids be like? I think about these things constantly, and at times I do not like the uncertainty of it. I guess I am a worry-wart when it comes to life and the future I am very impatient. I want everything yesterday. I had an experience a few months ago about these thoughts in President Henry B. Eyring's office. I'd like to share it:

My wife Al has a assistant at work who is President Eyring's granddaughter. So, with that President Eyring told her that He wanted to meet Al and I. Could we deny? No.Way. We were excited and I was pretty nervous, I thought he would look into my soul and shake his head at me. But, it was a wonderful opportunity to meet a Apostle of the Lord. We met with him for two hours.

When we first walked in he sat us down and looked at us and said: "Ben, tell me your life story." I thought my fears of him piercing my soul would be correct. But, upon telling him, he told me something that ever since has changed my perspective on the future. He was asking me about my schooling and what I'm going to school for. I told him I was going to school and taken some business classes, to get a feel for what I really want to do with my life. He looked at me and smiled: "You don't know what your going do. You don't know." I was like huh? a little confused here. He touched on that and said: "No one knows what their going to do with their life. You just don't know what will come and where Heavenly Father will take you and how he will use you." I was blown away. He mentioned how important it is to stay patient and stay close to the Lord throughout your life and pay close attention to opportunities that arise.

How much I needed to hear that! I get so lost in the thought of the future and worrying what is going to happen and worrying about what I'm going to do. It just gets flat out exhausting. It really starts to affect your daily life. I have come to find out through President Eyring that its not for us to worry about what is going to happen. In Ecclesiastes 3:1 "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven" It's not for us to worry about it. Everything has its own time and season. It's important to live in the now and to plan for the now, it's good to have future plans but, we shouldn't let those future plans come in the way of what we are to do now. Right now, I'm in the school season with studying and I'm in the married season. The season where I will have my career will come and I have my trust in that.

I have not a clue what the future holds. President Eyring was right. I am keeping my eyes open and my heart open to the opportunities that come my way. To often people miss opportunities that come, because we get so focused on one sole plan that we miss things, myself included. I think that one of the definitions of success is the ability to make choices and to act on the unknown. I firmly believe Heavenly Father is the director of our lives, he gives us our agency to choose. He is always throwing opportunities our way, sometimes we miss them, we don't see them or we are just flat out afraid to do anything about the. As Christ said "Fear not" and as President Eyring said as long as we live the Gospel, stay close to the Lord, and be patient we will be led to know what we are to do.

We are not meant to fail in this life. Heavenly Father rejoices in our successes. He just asks of us to remember him. Follow His Son. For it's beautiful. The Gospel in it's simplicity is beautiful. Little does President Henry B. Eyring know how much that has meant to me, when he looked me in the eyes and said: "Ben, you don't know..." It was a door that opened for me in life, and I'm trying to apply it in my life and not worry what the future holds. For I know it will be beautiful and excellent as long as I'm faithful. I hope one day to tell President Eyring how much it helped me. Like they say Heavenly Father usually meets our needs through someone else.

I wanted to share this experience for anyone who is like me. Don't worry about the future. Don't let it get you down. Seek the Lord and remain in patience for doors will be opened and paths will be shown. I'm starting to see that. I'm started to see that the Lord is Captain of my ship. Just let go and Let God and remember "You don't know".