When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Andrea

Andrea was my boss at Weber State. She is one of the kindest people I have ever met. She has a gentle heart and is extremely understanding. I am so grateful she said yes to writing a post for me. She definitely has a strength and wisdom that will touch your heart and that I hope to have one day.

Andrea Lauritzen was raised in a small country town in southeastern Idaho. She has lived on both coasts, and in numerous areas of Utah. She has been a Licensed Massage Therapist and Therapeutic Bodyworker since 1995. She holds a BS in English Literature with a Child Development minor, and a BS in Family Studies, both from Weber State University. She is currently a graduate student at USU in the Master of Social Work program. She married at the age of 26 and, after a brief marriage and several miscarriages, divorced one and a half years later. She has been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints all her life. She has spent most of her life as single. She has attended young adult, mid-singles, and family wards. Her faith and reliance on the Gospel have kept her safe and strong during the darkest times of her life. She is over 50, and currently co-teaches a primary class. She has 21 nieces/nephews, and 12 great nieces/nephews (plus 2 on the way).  She is the “cool aunt” in her family and remembers, with a card, everyone’s birthdays. Andrea plans to start a private practice once she’s a Licensed Clinical Social Worker – focusing on children, trauma recovery and resiliency, and single-adult relationship enhancement. She is a published author, and presenter.

The SINGLE Purpose

Being single can be challenging, especially in a culture where families reign and marriage is the expected goal. How does one address this challenge and still maintain a testimony of the Gospel and continue to see themselves as valuable, loveable, worthy, wanted, and so forth?

For me, this struggle lasted many years. Add to that a brief abusive marriage and divorce. Sadly, the stigma of singlehood, especially of being divorced, makes many within the church uncomfortable. A few home teachers even refused to visit because of my status. Nonetheless, I’ve appreciated a multitude of exceptional home teachers throughout my single experience. I often felt I did not fit in the Gospel because I had not met the “required” marital and family expectations. This is the ideal. Yet, God has never indicated that one is accepted or loved less who has not yet obtained the ideal.

As I grew older, I found it more difficult to find my place. I didn’t fit in the singles crowd, or the family group, or the young marrieds. Where did I fit? The truth is, I fit exactly where God wanted me to be. I fit everywhere because I am human; and as a human I can connect with others on a level beyond one’s status. We are all unique, with our own set of core beliefs, standards of living, values, ideals, goals, adversities, challenges, hopes, and tragedies. These are part of life. They come with the body. As we come and embrace the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and live its teachings fully, God can use us for good wherever we are, and in whatever life stage we find ourselves.

God has a plan for each of us; and sometimes that plan includes being single for a time. When I began attending the mid-singles ward, I received a priesthood blessing. In this blessing, I was told that I had “been given this singleness for a purpose.” What?! I’d been given this? It has a purpose? For many years I did not understand this concept. Some years later, however, God gave me insight into what this purpose was. I had spent those years in jobs that allowed me to serve and guide others in various capacities. I’d gained further education, fulfilled church callings, made close and lasting friendships, worked on healing and improving myself, and had continued to live my life to the best of my ability.

One day, as I was talking with a co-worker, I had the strong impression that I had “chosen” the life I lived. Yes, before I came to earth I made a choice to give up having 3 or 4 kids of my own because I could help more of Heavenly Father’s children doing exactly what I was doing now.  I wouldn’t or couldn’t have done these things if I was married with children of my own. I finally understood the purpose of my singleness. God sees all things from beginning to end. His plan is about more than simply our earthly accomplishments, our own needs to “keep up with the Joneses” or do what everyone else is doing along the same timeline. God has a unique and perfect timeline for each of us that places us in the lives of those we can learn from, bless, associate with, teach, heal, comfort, and lift. We are all in this together. He wants all His children to return home to him. We can’t manage this life alone. We need one another in numerous ways, at difficult times, and in everything we do. So, sometimes that means we need to wait a little while longer than we’d like to for the blessings we desire. It’s not forever (even if at times if feels that way). It’s just a short delay; and in the process many others have the opportunity, through our service and sacrifice, to also receive those blessings. What has someone postponed, or given up for now, so that you can be blessed?

What blessings have you thrown away through your anger, resentment, doubt, hurt, or withdrawal from Gospel living and church participation because life has not gone as you expected? Whose life is not being blessed because you’re not where you’re supposed to be? Never give up the most precious blessings that come with the Gospel of Jesus Christ because of some perceived (or real) offense from another; or from God’s perceived lack of blessings in your lives. There is more to our life experience than that, so much more.

For me, the idea that I had chosen my course seemed to make all the difference in my attitude regarding my circumstances. There was nothing wrong with me. I wasn’t broken, unworthy, unwanted, damaged, or undesirable. I was being saved for a greater purpose, and for more marvelous blessings than I could imagine at that moment. WOW!! I was valuable?! God had a special plan for me as a single, middle-aged, divorced, and childless woman?! I had a grand purpose, and a marvelous life ahead of me.

Life was often still hard. I faced continuous challenges including physical and mental health issues, work stresses, financial struggles, and all the other mortal experiences we must go through as human beings in a fallen world. I still desired greatly, to the point of physical aches in my soul, to be a wife and a mother. Yet, I trusted in God and in His plan for me; and I remained steadfast in my testimony of God’s love for me, in the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and in His Gospel. I remained worthy to partake of the blessings of the temple, which strengthened me against hard time. I learned not to beat myself up each time I made a mistake. God knew we’d make mistakes. He built that into the Plan of Salvation. That’s why He provided a Savior – to pay for our sins and sufferings (those we bring upon ourselves, and those brought upon us through the poor choices of others).  This, God continued to prepare me for a greater purpose which I could not even fathom at that time.

A couple of years after this epiphany, I decided it was time to let go of all the items in, what I had called for years, my hopeless shed. I’d been collecting items for a marriage and children for 30 years. That year I provided Christmas to roughly 22 children. These items weren’t serving any purpose packed in plastic containers. Some were even becoming obsolete. That year, I received a multitude of confirmations regarding how God sees the whole picture; and plans far in advance for His purposes to be manifest. I learned that God can turn all our sorrows into joy, if we let him. My hopeless shed because a joyful HopeFULL shed that witnessed to God’s love for ALL His children.

At this point in my life, as a 50+ year old single woman, I will never give birth to a child. There is a part of me that still aches for the loss of that opportunity and all that goes with it. However, I know that through following God’s plan, I can “mother” many children, bless many mothers, and touch many lives for good through God’s grace and insight. I am grateful for my life, for those things I’ve given up for now and for those blessings I’ve received instead.

There are still times when I am impatient in my wanting; and where I struggle to understand the meanings of certain situations. I’m human. I’m normal. I’m a work in progress, just as all of us are. Know that God has a marvelous plan for each of us. Our life, just as it is now, has a purpose. If you are not sure what your purpose is . . . ASK, and keep asking and watch the answers unfold into a beautiful tapestry of your life. God does not give us full-disclosure all at once. It likely would not make sense, or may be overwhelming. He gives us line upon line, as we are ready, and as the space is prepared for these things to occur. Be patient. God’s timing IS perfect; even if life seems unsure, chaotic, or hopeless at the moment. This too shall pass.

Don’t lose hope, at least not forever. Stay true to your covenants, as this is what will carry you through the doubts, fears, trials, heartaches, and challenges of life as you become all that God knows you have the potential to be. It’s a process; a long, and often painful journey toward Godhood. You can do it, yet, not alone. We all need God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and others along the way. Look back on your life – your singlehood – and make a list of all the blessings you’ve received that would not have come under different circumstances. These may include a friend, a skill, knowledge, testimony; opportunities in relationships, education or career; learning, service, insight, and so forth. These are the compensating blessings for your adversities and sacrifices. Now think carefully about the blessings you have provided to others during this time? I’m sure these are numerous. Make another list so you can recognize God’s hand in your life and in the lives of others.

Being single is a blessing. Those who are single provide a unique perspective on Gospel living. We offer help to the lonely, discouraged, overwhelmed, distraught, aged, and the young. We can serve in capacities and places where others may not be able to. We can strengthen people at work, at church, in our fellowships and friendships; and be an example to struggling youth. We can take on the role of “cool aunt or uncle,” supportive sibling, caregiver to ailing parents, and more simply because we are single. Our marital status does not define us. It is not who we are. It does not mean God has forgotten us, or that there is something inherently wrong with us. It is simply the place where we are at this time, to learn what we need to learn or do what we need to do, to prepare us to go home to God.

Nevertheless, if you have experienced trauma, suffer from physical or mental health issues, struggle with social challenges, or experience other areas of conflict that inhibit your ability to connect with others and live life fully . . . seek help! There are many resources available to heal your wounds. Feel safe in accessing these resources from church leaders and by seeking guidance from God and listening to the Holy Spirit. If you have made choices that have led you away from full-fellowship in the Gospel it is not too late to come back.  God and our Savior, Jesus Christ, stand waiting with open arms and loving and forgiving hearts. The Savior understands, maybe better than we do, why we have strayed or made certain choices. He has already paid for our sins, our heartaches, and our pains.  Come to Him and let Him heal you.

Sometimes healing happens quickly. Yet, more often, it is a process. Our bodies are mortal and there is a manner of healing physically and mentally that may need time, energy, and focused attention.  Hang in there. Healing is also done line upon line, and layer upon layer, until we are made whole through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. This process can sometimes be painful and challenging, like the hurt that put it there.  Don’t despair! Work through the pain. It’s worth it when you get to the other side.  For there, it is easier to connect with God, and others. Sometimes our pain prevents us from clearly seeing the path we’re on, and the better plan God has prepared for us.

Don’t regret or waste your singleness. Discover what purpose it holds in your life, and in the lives of others. Keep asking. Keep taking steps into the darkness until you can see a glimmer of the glorious light ahead. Being single is not the end of the world. It’s just a step along the journey. Enjoy this step. Learn all you can from it. Serve with love, and live in gratitude. Gratitude, not simply being grateful, changes one’s perspective on life. We can see things from God’s perspective easier when we live in an attitude of gratitude. This time in our life, being single, has a meaningful purpose to God.  Whether you chose this, or it has been thrust upon you, God can bring joy and fulfillment out of the heartache of loneliness, waiting, and searching.

As I look back on my life, I can clearly see how each step along the way (especially the hard ones) have prepared me to fulfill my potential. I am currently in graduated school becoming a social worker. I recognize that all the challenging experiences of my life will serve me in having more understanding and compassion for a variety of individual circumstances. I can continue to bless for good the lives of more of God’s children. Being single was not a waste. It was not a product of my incapacity to find a husband. It was not because of some wrong I committed, or some damage that made me unwanted. It was the crucible I needed to forge to become the person God wanted me to be. It was the Gethsemane that provided me with empathy for others’ pain and suffering so I could more effectively succor them, as the Savior succors me. I am grateful for my singleness, for all I’ve learned and gained and suffered. I am grateful for those eternal friends who bless my life, which I would not have met any other way. I recognize now that the greatest gift of my adversity was me. God used my adversities to shape me, to lift and guide me, and to fashion me into the divine woman of God He knew I was. I am still a work in progress. I still struggle regularly. Yet I know to whom I can turn for strength, and where to put my trust, and who has the answers when I question. It is this relationship with my God, and my Savior, which keeps me safe and guides me through my darkest hours into their glorious light and hope and future.

If you feel far from deity, or from yourself, kneel and cry unto God for support. He is close, only waiting for us to seek Him out. He will not force Himself into our lives, as some people may. He wants to be invited . . . welcomed. Welcome Him in, and be “encircled eternally in the arms of His love” (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 1:15).

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Rosie

I have been following Q.Noor Temple Dresses on Instagram for a while and when I started this new series I remembered a post that Rosie wrote a few months prior, which she shares at the beginning of her story about dishes, and figured that even though she is a super busy business owner and do-gooder that I would ask her to write something for this blog. I am so grateful she said yes because I love what she has to say about being single.

Rosemary Card grew up in Utah and New York. At the age of 16, she left Salt Lake City to model internationally with Elite Model Management after being scouted on the set of High School Musical. Rosie worked in NYC, Milan, Singapore, and Tokyo before retiring from the industry shortly after she turned 18.

Since 2007, She has been speaking to youth groups and Relief Societies about her experiences as a high fashion model and the importance of education and service in the journey of self-acceptance. Rosie has made guest appearances on many podcasts and NPR.

She graduated from BYU with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and served a mission in the faraway magical land of Mesa, Arizona. After college, she worked for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints producing and shooting videos internationally. She worked on various projects including the “I’m a Mormon” campaign, The Bible Videos, My Plan, and Elder Nelson’s 90th Birthday.

She launched Q.NOOR, a line of LDS temple dresses designed to help women feel more at home in the House of the Lord late 2015. Q.NOOR has been featured in many publications including The Desert News, The Friend Magazine, The Daily Mail, The New York Times, and the Card family scrapbook.

She lives in Salt Lake City with her Goldendoodle, Ted, and is a proud pioneer of the stay-at-home-YSA lifestyle. She loves watching dog videos on the internet, Arby’s, serving refugee families in her community, and is currently mastering “Oh Susanna” on the harmonica.

Eight years ago I was walking on BYU campus and listening to a talk by a sister leader…and I can’t remember her name so…sorry. She related a memory of when she purchased her first home and cried her eyes out while she unpacked her dishes. She was crushed because she felt like she was supposed to be buying that home with a husband. They were supposed to be unpacking those dishes together. And someone else was supposed to have bought those dang dishes off a wedding registry.

When I heard that, I had a distinct feeling that one day I would buy my own home ….and dishes. For a moment I felt disappointed that my life may not turn out like those lists I made in YW, but then I felt total peace. I promised myself then and there that when the day came that I buy my own home and dishes, I wouldn’t be crushed and I wouldn’t cry.

A couple of months ago, after years of saving, I bought my own home and dishes AND I cried. Not because I feel like something has gone wrong with “the plan,” but because I can’t believe how perfectly it has all come together.

My life as a stay-at-home YSA dog mom business owner is what God has chosen to help me become like Christ. It has its ups and downs. Freedom and bad dates. Excitement and disappointment. Today I feel truly grateful for it all.

I am not living my Plan B life. I am living the life God intended for me all along. Marriage is one of the many tools God uses to help us become like His Son, Jesus Christ. But it is not the only tool and it is not the tool He uses for everyone. Single members of the Church are not in a progression holding pattern. We are just progressing differently than married members.

Believe it or not, I am 28 years old, single as h*ck, and happy as can be. I have great friends who fill my love cup to the brim. I have a job that stretches me and pushes me in ways I could have never have imagined. My singleness allows me to serve in the Church and in my community in ways I couldn’t if I was married and it fills my heart with satisfaction. First dates, break-ups and everything in between teach me about people, communication, trust, forgiveness, and so much more. I am becoming like Christ. Sure, I have hard days like anyone else, but there is not a gaping hole in my life. The only time I cry myself to sleep is when I watch YouTube montages of veterans returning to their dogs after deployment.

I worry that we set single members of the Church up for failure when we teach that marriage is the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to become like Christ. Regardless of what some people in my life may think, I don’t have control over when I get married. I do have control over how I feel about it. Are there lonely nights? Yes. But I’m willing to guess there are lonely nights for married people, too. Can it be discouraging to watch my friends having and raising kids? Yes. But I’m guessing it can be discouraging for my stay-at-home mom friends to watch their single friends traveling and doing big things at work.

When we divide ourselves into different teams we immediately start playing the comparison game. In the comparison game, there are no winners. Everyone walks away feeling sad and discouraged because that’s what happens when you’re ungrateful for the life you have been given. Wouldn’t it be nice it was could stop bickering over who has it harder/easier or who is happier/sadder? Wouldn’t it be better if we all started just seeing each other as brothers and sisters working to get home? I sure think so.

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Jessica C

I asked my sweet friend, Aumberly, if she knew of or had encountered anyone who would be willing to write for this new series through her @trekthruconference Instagram account. She told me about her dear mission companion, Jessica, who she thought would be willing to write about being single. I am always so relieved when these kind souls say yes because sometimes I feel a little awkward asking them to write about something that may be hard or that you don’t want to be known for (i.e. the girl who got divorced, or came home early from her mission, or is “still” single). But Jessica’s story opened my eyes and touched my heart. I hope it will do the same for others.

Jessica’s nieces and nephew call her Jessie, her siblings call her KaKa, and her cousin calls her Jessa. She loves the Lawrence Welk show, wishes life were a musical, and believes that blowing bubbles makes any day better.  She has a box of kinetic sand on her desk at work, is an audiobook junkie and road trip enthusiast, and she could eat avocados for every meal! She grew up in Utah/Florida/Idaho, graduated from Utah State University, served in the Arizona Mesa Mission and Temple Visitors’ Center, and just started her Masters.

All the Single Ladies

Once, while introducing our family at a family reunion, my mother said of me: “This is Jessica, she’s still single.”  And that is exactly why I was asked to write this post- yup, I’m still single. Please don’t ask me, “Why aren’t you married?!” I have no idea how to begin to answer that. But, I am working on it and I do say yes to all blind dates. My philosophy: it will either be a good date or a good story. I have a few too many in the “good story” column and not enough in the “good date” column.

My life certainly hasn’t turned out the way I planned.

Welcome to the club, right?  Whose life has gone as planned?

Mortality, it’s a blast.

And sometimes it hurts.

All I have ever wanted to be when I “grew up” is a wife and mom.  No hesitation. None. Ever. It’s still what I want to be when I grow up. (30 isn’t grown up yet, right?!)

In choosing a major in college I felt prompted to choose something that would give me a way to strengthen home and family (My view: I was never going to make it through college single, and was going to be a stay-at-home mom, btw.  I never really wanted a career outside of the home.).  Looking back, I can see the Lord guiding me to something that would help fill a piece of that aching hole in my heart to be a wife and a mother that would go unfulfilled for a time.  After 4 years of working in Early Intervention and getting to spend time in peoples’ homes with their families (which I loved), I felt the need to do something new.  Towards the end of my mission, I had been invited to take the preservice class for seminary teachers when I got home.  It hadn’t been the right thing at the time I got home, but I ended up taking it later, student teaching, and somehow getting hired.  I knew it was something I wanted to do when I couldn’t get a line from the objective statement out of my head, or my heart:  “Our efforts assist parents in their responsibility to strengthen their families.”

While having this purpose in my career has helped, it doesn’t fill the entire hole.  I cry.  I weep.  I sit in the bottom of a dark shower in the fetal position.  And I spend some good time on my knees communing with Heaven. I also laugh, and love, and have adventures. I grow. I change. I get to take naps whenever I want and spend my money how I want. I learn to rely on my Savior. And really, that’s what mortality is all about.

I remember Elder Bednar talking about advice given by President Eyring to college students whose lives weren’t going as planned- single, divorced, infertility, etc. He said something along the lines of “I don’t know all the answers. But, I do know that whatever happens to us in mortality is calculated to prepare us to live in families for eternity.” While, yes I already knew that, the way he said it hit my heart. That has been a game changer for me. I’ve had to cling to that eternal and beautiful truth in my some of my single’s life experiences. I’ll share a few of those with you.

  • My first year of teaching seminary I struggled with frequent and intense migraines. I had always had migraines growing up, but this was something new! And something terrible. I missed so much work and was so stressed about missing work. All of the time in my darkroom, by myself, feeling like a failure at life, left me in a not-so-good place emotionally and mentally. My roommates were awesome gals. But they had their own lives to live. Not living near family, meant that I had little support. No one was really there to help me out, pick up my slack, or make sure I was ok. I wasn’t able to function well- I wasn’t eating well if at all, my room was a disaster area, and I had no social life. It was me, a Dr. Pepper, and my darkroom for far too much time. I remember thinking frequently that being single and on my own was making this trial a lot harder. How was I going to do this on my own?  This was not how my life was supposed to be. I wasn’t (and no one is) meant to be alone- it’s taught in the first couple of chapters in the Bible. It’s pretty basic, come on.
  • As an “older” single, I’ve gleefully watched so many friends fall in love, get married, start families.  As happy as I am for them, I’ll admit it’s hard being left behind. You make a great friend, only to have them move on- whether because of marriage, school or a job. And even though some still keep in touch and you see them occasionally, it just isn’t the same. This means though, that about every 6 months or so, you’re back to square one with meeting and making new friends. It’s exhausting! It’s terrifying having to be so vulnerable so often, with little to show. I’ve told my sister more than once, “I’m tired of making new friends.” There can be little stability in the single life.
  • Because of some things that happened on my mission, I’ve struggled with PTSD and Anxiety. This, like my migraines, has been a difficult thing to do on my own. As a single person, it has been difficult to build a support system, a safe place. My mom is an absolute angel and when things were particularly rough, she was driving down from Boise at least once a month to hang out with me and help me out. There were times when I just wanted to pack everything up and move home with my parents- how could I do this on my own?!
  • As a single member of a family ward (I kicked myself out of the YSA ward at 28), I’m in a different place in my life than many of the women in the ward. I don’t have kids that play with their kids. I don’t have a spouse that gets along with their spouse. So much of the social life in a family ward is connected with spouses and children. Play dates, group dates, family parties and dinners. While everyone has always been nice, it can be hard to find your place in a family ward as a single member. (If you have single people in your ward, invite them over for family dinner or FHE, invite them to sit with your family at church. At least for me, that would be awesome!)

While being single has been my story, and may continue to be for longer than I would choose, I’m ok and I have learned so much. My testimony of eternal families is etched deep into my heart. I know it is Heavenly Father’s plan for me, for all of us. The promises of the covenants made in the temple calm my soul. I am never more at peace or more trusting of my Heavenly Father than when I am participating in the ordinances of the temple. I’ve found healing and hope there. An eternal perspective changes everything. As President Nelson said, “My dear brothers and sisters, the joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.” (October 2016)

I have learned to take charge of my own life and happiness. I’ve had to learn to go to movies and restaurants by myself and to take solo vacations. I have found purpose in finding other ways to strengthen home and family:  work, volunteering, church callings in my family ward, being an aunt and a sister and a daughter and a friend. The aching hole will still be there, and I’m ok with that. Because that means I still desire to be a wife and a mother. My Heavenly Parents are very aware of that desire, they weep with me and comfort me, and cheer me on in what I am doing in my life.

Elder Christofferson:  “With confidence we testify that the Atonement of Jesus Christ has anticipated and, in the end, will compensate all deprivation and loss for those who turn to Him. No one is predestined to receive less than all that the Father has for His children.” (April 2015)

Elder Wirthlin:  “The Lord compensates the faithful for every loss. That which is taken away from those who love the Lord will be added unto them in His own way. While it may not come at the time we desire, the faithful will know that every tear today will eventually be returned a hundredfold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude.” (October 2008)

In summary, mortality is hard, for everyone. And it’s supposed to be. To quote HSM:  “We’re all in this together!” We are all members of the “I didn’t sign up for this” club or the “this isn’t what I wanted” club. And that’s exactly why we have a Savior.  He will make everything ok. This mortal life isn’t all there is. We have Heavenly Parents who love us and are involved in the details of our lives. One day, I will be a wife and a mother. And that will be a glorious day. And today is a glorious day, too.

Doctrine and Covenants 122:7-8 … know thou, my (daughter), that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.  The Son of Man hath descended below them all.  Art thou greater than he?

Doctrine and Covenants 123:17 Therefore, dearly beloved brethren (and sisters), let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.