Earlier this week I was going through some drawers when I came across a journal from 2006. For those of you that know me, you know that I have kept a journal faithfully since I was 8 years old. The main reason I keep journals is because it allows me to work through the thoughts in my head, how I'm feeling, or see it on paper instead of in my chaotic brain. This journal was one that made my stomach turn. This was a year that I didn't remember too well. It was a year I would've liked to forget.
As I sat in my chair early that morning, I started to read through this journal of a girl that I don't know anymore. It felt so foreign that I couldn't believe it was me. The things I was doing at that time in my life don't even make sense to me anymore. It felt so far away, and that was the moment I realized how much I've changed. I realized that it's never too late to change your life, and become the person you've always wanted.
For those of you that don't know me, I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I was born into the church, but I left at the age of 14. From 14-24 I had nothing to do with the church. I never brought it up, I didn't tell people that I was part of the church, and I stopped hanging out with anyone who was active. I didn't want anything to do with it. I wasn't ready to live that lifestyle, and I didn't know if I ever would be.
During those years from age 14-24 I partied, I drank, I did wild and crazy things, and I thought I was happy. I thought I was having fun, and "experiencing life". I thought that this was what my life was going to be like forever. I never wanted to get married, I had no desire to ever be a mother, and I lived for the moment. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. That was exactly how I lived my life. I don't think this is a bad way to live your life (just FYI), I just didn't realize that it wasn't the way I wanted to live mine.
At 24 I started going back to church. My Dad was Bishop (the leader of our branch) of my singles ward, which was funny because he was Bishop when I stopped going to church too. I went to church every now and then but it wasn't consistent. I started going again because I had reached a point in my life where I realized something needed to change. I had just ended a serious relationship, I had been laid off, and I realized that the life I was living wasn't making me happy. I didn't know what would make me happy, but I knew this life wasn't it. The only thing I could think of was to try to give the church I was born into a chance. I had exhausted all of the other religions I was interested in, so why not?
Slowly I started to feel more comfortable at church. I still struggled with the other single adults that went because well, let's face it; they had never had any of the experiences I had. They really hadn't even come close to going through what I'd gone through. Most of them hadn't even questioned the truthfulness of the church in their life. How in the world would I relate to these people?
My 2nd month going back to church I got a new job as a manager of a boxing gym. On my first day of work I met the man that would soon become my husband. After knowing Dave for 2 months, and realizing he wasn't going to ask me out, I bit the bullet and asked him if I could take him out for his Birthday. He agreed, and our romance began.
After 3 months of dating each other I figured we were getting ready to make our relationship official and take it to the next level. I wanted him to call me his girlfriend. Who wouldn't want that?! One night I was snooping around his room while he was in the bathroom and I found a scrapbook of his. As I started to look through it, I realized it was a mission scrapbook. What?! Dave was a Mormon? How had we not talked about that? How did I not know that the boy I was dating was a Mormon? When he came back in the room I asked him about it. He told me about his mission, and said he hadn't brought it up because he didn't know if I was Mormon. That was a day that will go down in history as the day I started to change my life.
After a few more months of dating we realized we were falling for each other. We brought up getting married one day and Dave told me that he wouldn't get married anywhere but in an LDS Temple. I instantly got sick to my stomach. I 1. Never wanted to get married before now, and 2. Never wanted to get married in the temple. The thought never crossed my mind, and now I was being forced to face it. He told me that he understood if that's not what I wanted, but that's the only place he'd get married.
I was still going to church when Dave and I had the conversation about getting married in the temple. I went home from his house that night, and decided that I needed to decide if this church was for me. Was I willing to change completely from the girl I was to the girl I was sort of scared of, but deep down wanted to become? The truth is, I didn't think I was strong enough. I didn't think I was worthy of God's love for all the mistakes I'd made in my past. I didn't know if I could stop being the party girl Jill and become the "Mormon Housewife". It was time for me to pray and ask God to tell me what he wanted my life to look like.
I'll never forget what happened the following morning after Dave and I had this conversation. I was out for a run when I remembered a journal that I started when I was 14, only months before I left the church. I had a dream about a "Dave" at 14. He had blonde hair, blue eyes, drove a Jeep Grand Cherokee, and I met him at a gym (yes, all of these things were true about my Dave). Over 3 days I had 3 different dreams about this boy (no I'm not making this up and yes I have the journal to prove it). I wrote about each of these dreams at the age of 14, and then I said this in my journal: "Wouldn't it be cool if Dave were real, and I really got to marry this boy one day. I can dream." I ran home, and searched for this journal. I found it. As I sat there pouring over these dreams, I knew what my answer was. God had told me when I was 14. Dave was the man I was meant to be with.
This was the first time in my life that I sat down and read the Book of Mormon. I had to know what this church was about if I was going to be a member. I had to know that it was right for me before I ever said I would get married in the temple. I may not have been active for 10 years, but I knew enough to know that going through the temple was a major step, and if I was going to do it then I needed to be a ready for it.
A year after meeting Dave, we were going to church every Sunday together. I had stopped going out to clubs, stopped drinking, I started wearing modest clothing (which was a HUGE step for me), and I started to have a relationship with God. I started to believe that he loved me and cared for me. I still wasn't 100% on all the churches teachings, but I didn't need to be. I had read the Book of Mormon and I knew it was true for me. I knew that this was the church I wanted to belong to. It was the one that made me feel most complete. I know it's not for everyone, and I think that you should belong to whatever you feel is the best for your life, but this was best for me.
13 months of dating flew by, and Dave asked me to marry him. It was amazing. I couldn't believe the girl that I was when I met him, because I wasn't that girl anymore. I was still outgoing, accepting, loving, kind, fun, happy, and respectful, but I was different. I woke up each morning and talked to God. For the first time I felt love for him, and I knew he loved me too. I woke up knowing something I hadn't known for the last 10 years. I was a daughter of God. I was special. I was important. I was worthy of love.
Now does this mean that people who party aren't all those things? Of course not! I'm just saying that for me, I didn't know those things about myself until I came back to the church. The reason it took me coming back to the church is because that's when I put forth effort to have a relationship with God. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints gave me that relationship. It gave me the push I needed to start to become the woman that I not only wanted, but that God wanted me to be.
So many people that I speak with tell me how they feel like they've screwed up so bad that they can never change. I want to tell you all that, that's simply not true. Whether it's coming back to the Mormon church, or going to your church, or even just learning that you have a beautiful soul, with beautiful energy, and learning to love the person you are, You Can Change. It's never too late to become the person you want. You have NEVER sinned too much. You have never walked so far away that you can't turn around and walk back. I promise you, you can come back. You can decide today that you're not happy and want to make some changes. I'm here to tell you that you can. You can be the person you've always wanted, even if you're not sure what it takes to get there. It's never too late. I know, because I did it.
As I sit here at my computer with a picture of Dave and I on our wedding day (6 years ago next week) I'm touched by the simple fact that I know God loves me. I know I matter. I know I'm special to him. If you don't believe in God, know that you're special to so many. You're loved by so many. You matter to so many. If you don't believe me, just ask. I'll make sure you know that I love you, and that you're special to me. It's Never Too Late. You can always come back.