My Faith Crisis and How the Universe Stepped In

While I was prepping this post, I was surprised that more people weren’t willing to discuss religion. I heard from a few of you and I understand where you come from. I see both sides of it, but like I’ve told a friend, for reasons I won’t discuss here once you have seen what the LDS people/Mormons are warned against viewing (and I’m not talking about pornography), you can never go back to the Faith. This is where I find myself these days.

I’m just here to share with you my experience. I have no ill will for the church or its members and have the utmost respect for many of my friends who count themselves as firm believers. I am what you call a Post-Mormon. I was not ex-communicated, I wrote the the church headquarters and had my records officially removed. I have no regrets of leaving and my husband and I have even discussed moving back to Utah.

The Structure

Honestly, I miss the structure. Being LDS encouraged me to do what I needed to do everyday (read my scriptures, have individual and family prayers, and to teach my children to live the Gospel). My religion dictated where I needed to be on certain days and who I was to spend that time with. I’m sure some of the names have changed, but the activities remain the same. I am glad to hear that for the my devout friends that church is now only two hours long instead of the three hour block, I was accustomed to.

My days were filled with Family Home Evenings, Ministering (Visiting Teaching), Temple Nights, Enrichment Activities (Relief Society) and/or attending Young Women’s (Youth activities) as a leader. If I had a calling, I was busy fulfilling that calling. Preparing to give a well researched lesson filled references from past general auhorities or prophets, hoping my lesson would touch the hearts and minds of those participating in that class.

Living in an underpopulated LDS metropolis like Citrus County (tongue in cheek) members of the ward carry more than one calling. On the West Coast, I had one. Here I had three. If I wasn’t willing to accept the calling, I was told, “But don’t you want to follow the will of the Lord? And you know Sister Sant, the Lord never gives you more than you can handle.”

I accepted the callings, this was in 2012. Little did I know 2013 would bring more trials, literally and figuratively. I thought I was strong, but like all things our mental strengths are tested. We climb our metaphorical Mt. Everest time and time again.

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Summer of 1996

I was leaving the only thing I thought I believed in since I bore my testimony on the beach at the “Res” (reservoir) in Delta, Utah during a youth activity for Hinckley 1st Ward. The sun was setting against the water. Brother Larson was leading the testimony meeting. I was 16 at the time. The feelings were there. I choked back my tears. I remember that evening clearly. We had all gone to middle school together and were in high school all attending Seminary. I felt a closeness to the teenagers I had grown up with like I had never experienced.

I bore my testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I had a testimony of the Book of Mormon and of Heavenly Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. So this was what it was like to really feel the Holy Spirit. I felt an all encompassing love that evening, from the seen and the unseen.

Imperfect Me

I’m not going to say I was the perfect LDS girl, but I came pretty damn close when I was married to my first husband. I didn’t swear, drink coffee, alcohol or black tea or smoke.

I was very much into nutrition and wouldn’t dare give my children fast food. Heaven forbid they allow that garbage to enter their delicate systems. Lauryn and Lexi were 11 and 12 years old before I decided that we would no longer attend church.

Coincidentally, since my soon to be ex husband was no longer around and spending his days in a
Federal Prison Camp, I had to get a job and my children had to attend public school. Up until that point, I had homeschooled them from Kindergarten to Fifth grade. My girls had lived a sheltered life for sure. They attended gymnastics twice a week and went to all church functions, but they didn’t know what it was like to attend public school.

I didn’t allow them to watch Sponge Bob because I felt it was like bubble gum for the brain. They played educational games on the computer and watched shows that were church appropriate and not anything morally degrading.

When I ran ,I listened to ungodly music. Mainstream pop music (edited) was my act of rebellion. My husband hated it, but music and running was non-negotiable. I did my best to pick races held on Saturdays and only listened to my music through my headphones or in the car when my kids were not in it.

Life After the Church

When I left the church aka The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a couple people told me that it was a brave thing I was doing. Brave? I was scared shitless. Terrified. It felt like I was slipping out into the great unknown. I asked my former sister-in-law how she had felt after leaving the church, she said it took a couple of years to not feel guilty for leaving.

I suppose what I expected was hellfire and brimstone to cloud my life path. Or maybe God believed I deserved nothing but misery because of the choices I made in choosing to take my children from the only religion they ever knew.

While I wasn’t officially off church records, I was on my way to living a life of a non-Mormon.

I took off my temple garments, I had worn since I was 19. I imagined only bad things happening from here on out. When I had my first cup of coffee, that I drank black. Since then I have come to appreciate my French press, a good flavored creamer with a little bit of sugar. Lightening did not strike me.

After the Ragnar Relay in 2014 that took place from Key Biscayne to Key West, I got drunk with my boyfriend sharing a couple of fishbowls. I didn’t know my tolerance level, but quickly found out that evening. It didn’t and still doesn’t take much to feel tipsy.

That same night, I had the Ragnar logo affixed to my arm permanently. I realized now that there are far worse things I could have tattooed to my arm that night, I’m glad it was what it was. When I arrived home, my kids were shocked. Lexi said, “Mom?! You got a tattoo?!”

“Yes, I did. One day I’ll explain what happened.”

Mind you, this was coming from a mother who once wouldn’t let her children put on fake tattoos, because the mere appearance of it would make them want to get one later. I did not tell them about the fishbowls, they would have thought I was drinking water from fishbowls with fish still in them. I was in my mid-thirties experiencing what 20 year olds were doing.

While I struggled with leaving the church behind, I would look into the mirror staring into my eyes, searching into the deep recesses of my soul. Saying to myself, “Des, what are you doing? You can’t leave the church. What will happen to your eternal family? How will you be able to see your children again once you pass through the veil of death?”

Honestly, the one question that looped through my head had come from another runner. “Excommunication? Why would your church abandon your husband during this time? Isn’t this the time when he needs God the most?

That was a good question. Why would Heavenly Father do that during a time of need? All blessings revoked? These thoughts made my head spin. None of it made sense, until I reconciled it within myself. It wasn’t finding justification for my “rebellion” it was a realization.

Like I said in a previous post, the last time I would set foot in the church besides one other time, I was asked by one of the counselors in the bishophric, requesting that I meet with the bishop. He wished to talk to me.

I went to this impromptu meeting. The bishop was all smiles, until he looked down at his legal pad and adjusted his pen just right before looking up at me.

“Sister Sant, you might want to consider running less and taking the time to be with your children.”

My world had flipped upside down. A couple months prior, at the insistence of my future ex husband and father of my three daughters, he strongly suggested I remain at a dead end receptionist job making $8.50 an hour working eight hours a day, five days a week, while the church took care of the remainder of mine and the needs of my children. I refused because our ward members were suffering more than my own family. We would get through it. Somehow.

I quit the receptionist job and decided to sell skirts through a brand new company called LulaRoe. I would later substitute teach for Citrus County Schools and eventually found a soul sucking job working full time with a title search company. We made it. I survived. Somehow. And it had nothing to do with God.

2021

My best friend since high school recently said, “You cannot deny those feelings you had as a member of the church.

“You’re right. I can’t.”

She wished me the best on my faith journey and we talked about other things. I am incredibly grateful for friends like her. Thankfully, I have been blessed to have many friends that still love me as I am.

The best way I can explain those feelings of the Spirit match those I have heard on a podcast I listen to off and on. It has been a great help during this time. If you’re interested, let me know. I am more than happy to share with you what I have learned.

It’s a Vibe

There is no doubt that there is higher power, but I no longer believe that it belongs to one Supreme Being. I believe that we are all interconnected in this vast universe, so much so that I can feel those vibrations through my entirety. The vibrations you give off are as real as the air you breathe, be it positive or negative that is exactly what you’ll attract.

I have seen it in my own life without attending a church or paying a tithe. I belonged to a non-denominational where I met wonderful people, but I couldn’t reconcile some things. I hope this resonates with you in some way as you grow and flourish in this life. I’m sorry if you think less of me because I no longer share your faith, but just know I am still the same Desiree at my core. In fact, I feel more like Desiree 2.0. I am more comfortable with myself than I have ever been. I suppose that comes with age and life experience.

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As always, thanks for taking the time to read my post, and I hope to “see” you again. If you are interested, please don’t hesitate to “Buy Me Coffee.” Your donations help this mama out more than you know.

Atacama Extreme 100: Part Two

At pre-race check-in, the race director did a short slide show and showed us the unassuming dune. I thought, “I totally got this. I’ve ran 50k on the beach. I’ll be just fine.” Have you ever found yourself saying that last sentence?

Those are some gloating words. Sometimes we come into a race overconfident. Sometimes we come in overconfident because we are trying to hide how scared we are. Mind over matter, right?

Right.

Keep talking about it and just be about it already.

Have you ever ran on the the beach? If you have, you know that the footing is incredibly uneven.

The terrain in Atacama varies, there’s hard clay, crunchy dirt where your feet sink into the ground like you’re in snow, volcanic sand and the kind of sand I mentioned in my question.

Uphill at a 45-degree angle is a hell of a lot worse than your every day run on the beach. There are no foot holds and nothing to grab onto. It took me a quite a bit of doing to get up the sand dune. For every four steps I took, I only progressed two steps forward. It didn’t feel like I was making any headway. I wasted an incredible amount of energy going about it wrong. At first I tried walking straight up, but it was tiring and it felt like I was hardly moving. Then I watched as two other women ahead of me walked up sideways. You can see my sideways footprints behind me in the picture below.

It proved to be a success and I managed to finally make it up to the top of the mountain. It wasn’t that bad.

Reaching the top of the mountain.

I followed the orange flag markers until they vanished.

I retraced my steps and looked for the flags. Where were the flags?

The sun was rising high above me and it started to get warm. It was getting warmer and the time was slipping away. I only had sips of water left in my hydration pack. Those damn patatas fritas had dried out my mouth and my phone had lost its signal when I reached the top.

I needed to get off this damn mountain and I wasn’t about to go down the way I came up. I had lost so much time already.

The flags disappeared halfway through the mountain. Thankfully, the top was relatively flat with sporadic giant-sized stalagmite looking rocks (like the one pictured below).

By this time, I was on my third try of retracing my steps. On one particular rock, I found myself staring up at a man and his goat. He was wearing a Peruvian poncho and was waving at me. Naturally, I waved back. At last, maybe he could lead me off the mountain. I got closer to the rock and the man and his goat disappeared.

I realized I was in serious trouble.

I was hallucinating.

I thought about the things in my pack. A whistle. Who would hear me? A mirror. I didn’t know the first thing about making a fire, unless I had the aid of Google. A compass. Sometimes it would say my North was my South and vice versa. I didn’t have a map from point A to B, which would have been the one thing I should have carried. Instead, my life was dependent on finding those small orange flags.

The only thing I wanted more than anything was to end this “adventure” and see my children again. Before I left, I told my second daughter, “You know where my life insurance policy is?”

She laughed it off and said, “Mom, why would I need that?”

“Just in case. You never know,” I replied.

I didn’t want that to be my last words. I was not ready for my time to end.

On the fourth retrace, I kept walking forward. The other side was a steep drop off. Was I supposed to go this way?

You have got to be fking kidding me right now. I continued to cuss the race director out in my head. This was nuts. Then again, I was the one who chose to do this. I had signed the waiver with confidence. I had enough races under my belt to finish this desert run. My mind reverted back to the movie Lion King. Simba says, “Danger? I walk on the wild side. I laugh in the face of danger. Hahahaha.”

Yeah, it turns out that I don’t like adventures that may cause death.

I turned around and tilted my head where I saw the last flag. Since the sun was directly over them, it somehow hid them from view, but when I looked at them in a different angle, the flags started to appear…and they led me towards the steep drop off. Again, no footholds.

I was going to die, but at least I wasn’t going to die there.

I made it off the mountain, practically scooting and sliding on the rocks and sand all the way down.

Lesson Learned

You can be prepared with every tool imaginable, but in the end everything can go wrong. Take a deep breath and follow your intuition. You’ll make it off your metaphorical mountain, but it may not be the way you imagined it. It never is.

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Thank you for taking the time out of your day to read my post. If you like what you read, please like and follow. Hope to “see” you soon!

Today is a Good Day

I’m not having an Ice Cube kind of day, but you know what I’m getting at. I apologize if you have already read this on FB, but for those of you who are not my “friends,” here I have some lovely news I had to share. I woke up with a low-grade fever that somehow broke, probably because as I was writing this, my two little ones were crawling up and down my my chair and fighting over juice drinks and those hair ties made out of telephone coil.

This was an exceptionally hard essay to write, but I needed to tell it. It couldn’t go left unsaid.

Only one of my daughters has heard it from my lips. She is the most mature out of all of them (too grown for her own good sometimes). I speak so highly of her, that it moves me to tears as I write this.

*Side Note: She is the kind of woman I wished I had grown up to be, confident, independent, organized, and full of love and just the right amount of life experience that she knows exactly what she wants and to never settle. Her voice also moves me to tears. I don’t hug her enough or tell her how much I love her everyday, but I hope this makes up for what I lack as a parent. I love you, daughter of mine. I am so proud of you. You were a happy little accident and a little slice of heaven.

As a mother, you can only teach your children from your own life experience and not make the same mistakes our own parents did. I do not claim to know it all. My kids know that I’m a fallible human, but I have enough experience to show them a thing or two. They also understand I will get on their case if they are not living up to their full potential. I have been blessed beyond measure.

I totally jumped off track, but again some things just need to be said.

In other news, my story has gone live and is officially published. Check out the link below. Thank you for taking the time to read it. And a special thank you to @herstryblg for taking an interest in my story.

Link: https://herstryblg.com/true/2021/11/16/not-me

The Choices We Make

We make choices everyday, some are more complex than others. Press snooze or get up? Eggs or a smoothie? Marry him or wait for the right one? 2 kids or more?

I can’t change the past, but I can choose to live better.

August 4, 2019

The obstetrician stopped me mid push when he noticed that the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck. He cut the cord. Why isn’t she crying? I searched my husband’s face for answers. He gripped my hand and looked on as the medical personnel worked on our baby.

It felt like time stood still laying in the hospital bed, waiting for a friendly face to provide us with the reassurance that everything was okay. No one was smiling. Minutes later we heard her first cry. Everyone in the room let out a sigh of relief. Brooklyn had arrived.

Brooklyn – August 2019

It’s hard to believe she is now two years old and the loudest. When she hears “No.” she’ll try harder to get her way. She tests the patience of everyone around her. I know her type of fighting spirit will serve her well when she’s older, but for right now we’re teaching her to reign in her tenacious ways. She is quite the little actress.

Brooklyn- October 2021

Brooklyn was four months old when we found out we were expecting another one. I was older than 35 which made this my second geriatric pregnancy. I cringe at the word geriatric, but it is what it is.

Kylie was born June 26, 2020. Zero complications. Thank the powers that be. Another healthy baby girl. My husband is outnumbered 7-1. He has more patience than me, either that or he’s better at ignoring the insignificant moments. I have come to believe that he sees the bigger picture much better than I give him credit for.

Kylie- June 2020

When Kylie hears the faint sounds of a melody her shoulders start to shift up and down and her hips begin to sway. She has an old soul that loves ABBA’s “Dancing Queen.” Her two other loves are her thumb and her purple blanket.

Kylie- October 2021

80, 42, 30, 19, 18,  8,  2, 1…

This isn’t a number sequence or a countdown. These are the ages of everyone in the house.

Parenting two children is a challenge, but combine that with a very opinionated mother-in-law and 3 step children is anything but easy. We face a myriad of challenges at home. Different personalities, moods and disagreements pop up everyday.

What’s a day without drama? It’s not a day.

Timeline

Raised Mormon since the age of 12, I bought in the ideal timeline. Go to college, marry a returned missionary in the temple, multiply and replenish (have children) and live happily ever after. During my sophomore year in college, I met my first husband through a mutual friend. Within two months we were engaged and the following July we were sealed (married) in the Salt Lake Temple. My mother said I was too young. What did my mother know about life in America? She knew more than I did, but you can’t tell that to a headstrong 19-year-old.

Experience

I should have listened to my mother.

I am the type of a person that learns from experience. If you tell me don’t, I’ll take your thoughts into consideration and depending on the thing, I will probably do it anyway.

I was taught by my parents that my outward appearance was the most important. I learned through Mormonism that our hearts were even more important. Through my doing, I have learned to judge less (I never said I was perfect). I have been humbled countless times. I don’t have a problem telling my kids I don’t know, but there are days when I wish I had all the answers. My parents didn’t have all the answers. They were just making the best choice they could make based on their collective experience.

In personal essay writing I spend a lot of time reflecting. It is wrought with pain, shame, guilt, and forgiveness. Once I learned how to forgive myself, I could let go of the past. On November 16, 2021, my essay titled Not Me will be published online. I’ll share the link once it goes live. In the essay, I made a choice I NEVER imagined I would experience.

I write about my life experiences to share the things I have learned in hopes that it could lift another up and out.

We have this one life to live. I hope you choose to let go and keep on keepin’ on.