11 Essential Lessons I Learned While Lost in Life // My Final Testimony in Oregon

August 16, 2015


This last Sunday in Oregon: I’ve replayed it over and over in my head for 5 years. This is a moment and a day I honestly thought would never occur. As much as I daydreamed about leaving Oregon and moving on, I really thought that would never be a reality for me. I delivered my last talk in the Eugene YSA ward (congregation) this morning, was released from my callings, and wrapped up my time here.
Five years is a long time to spend in one ward as a young single adult. I am filled with mixed emotions: moving away has been my dream for five years and I am so excited to take on Salt Lake City...but I will miss this ward and these people terribly.
After I gave my talk, some asked to see a transcript of it to read later. I've summarized the majority of my talk (i.e., left out all of my rambling and lame jokes) below:
1. Jump in & bloom where you’re planted.


I moved back to Eugene in 2010, promising myself that I wouldn’t be here long. I didn’t apply for grad programs here or apply to certain jobs that had a year or more contract because I said “I’m not going to be here beyond a year.” 

And I told myself that EVERY year as 5 years quickly ticked by. I missed so many opportunities by not just jumping in where I was. You never know how long you’ll be in a certain area or time in your life. Take full advantage of every opportunity. 


2. There are certain blessings and experiences only service can provide.

The one way where I did JUMP in was in my church service. The first 18 months in Eugene was rough: I had moved back in with my abusive stepfather, I was rejected from the few jobs I’d mustered the courage to apply to, I was severely depressed and suicidal, and I felt like I was broken or not spiritual enough because I couldn’t get answers to prayers. So I used church service as an escape. I attended every activity, served in 5 callings simultaneously, and spent every other moment teaching with the missionaries. I used the church to escape my home and then by spending all of my time serving, I didn’t have to think about jobs or futures or rejection. (I will address the whole escaping thing in a minute.)

I have had such wonderful experiences serving in this ward over the last 5 years. My callings have tested my limits and pushed me outside of my comfort zone, especially as the Institute President over the past year. I especially loved serving as a ward missionary--I’ve seen phenomenal people overcome huge odds and temptations in order to follow Jesus Christ. Some of my greatest friends were made through missionary work--had I not jumped in and served, my life would be less bright without these stellar people. The people I’ve met through missionary work have astounded me with their strength and provided me with sacred moments of friendship, love, and a greater testimony of Jesus Christ.


3. Your sins don’t define you...or anyone else.

You are not your sin. I don’t care if you struggle to pay tithing, have an addiction, have had sex before, or just struggle to be kind each day. We all are alike unto God. We all struggle with something. You are a child of God and have divine worth, regardless of your previous choices. If you slip up, congrats! You’re human! Just start again and keep trying. As long as you keep trying to follow Christ, Satan cannot keep you. Keep Christ in your sight. Do whatever you need to do to repent and KEEP TRYING!

4. Your doubts don’t define you...or anyone else. 

You are not your doubts. I would bet most of us have had our doubts about the gospel and restoration at some point. You are not a bad person for doubting, know that. It is hard to live the gospel in the last days. You are not alone. Keep studying and never cease to pray! Again, always keep Christ in sight. He lives! Above all else, He should be the foundation of your testimony.

5. The Lord loves you, regardless of sins or doubts--THIS IS SO IMPORTANT. 

This is from Chieko Okazaki, former 1st counselor in the RS Presidency: "I want to tell you an important fact. The Savior knows about your messy room. He’s not shocked. He’s not even surprised. He doesn’t think you’re a spiritual slug. He’s waiting for the time when you’re ready to open the door to that room and start stuffing things into a garbage sack. In fact, he’ll hold the sack for you and make a few suggestions and laugh with you over some of the things you’ve been carefully preserving in that messy museum. He has confidence in you. He trusts you.... He’s not going to blame you, accuse you, or scold you. He’s going to help you."

The Lord loves you and will prompt, guide and then wait for you to follow Him. He’s not going to angrily tap His toe and scoff at how long it is taking you to be like Him. I have to be reminded of this almost daily. When I make a mistake, I often spiral out. I refuse to believe God loves me or even cares about me. I feel like I’m not worthy of any kind of blessing from Him and I’ve screwed everything up. I’m incredibly hard on myself because I have this skewed idea that our Heavenly Father is the overbearing, authoritative father who withholds love and demands perfection. I am so wrong about this! I have taken my bad experiences with abusive earthly fathers and grandfathers and projected that onto my perfect Father. This view has been a huge block in my relationship with God and something I work on everyday...so I figure it needs to be said. God loves you, regardless of your mistakes. He is perfectly compassionate and full of grace. He is not shocked by your messy room and will help you clean it up as soon as you’re ready.


6. TEMPLE TEMPLE TEMPLE

Go! Serving in the temple has been a sublime privilege. I can't talk enough about the peace that is contained in those walls. When I arrive at the temple, I feel like I've come home. I never want to leave. If you have a recommend, use it as much as you can. If you can't attend the temple yet, keep trying and make that your goal. 

7. Date your best friend. Throw your list of “things” out the window.

Since this is a YSA ward, I should make a quick shoutout to marriage and dating, right?? I’m not getting married soon, but, having dated an amazing guy for over a year, I feel like I’ve gleaned a few insights. Date your best friend. Take whatever list you have with qualities like “already done with school” or “blue eyes” or "has to be older than me" or whatever arbitrary silly thing and throw it away. I had a list once. I thought everything I needed to know about a guy was on his resume. When I started dating Zach (who is younger than me and it's awesome), I realized there were far more important things: 
Can I share every piece of my soul/ my deepest fears with him without being judged? 
Can we be silly together (for us, that’s singing at the top of our lungs in the car, having dance parties, talking in british accents, and nerding out to Harry Potter)? 
Does this person work hard? 
Do they make you want to be a better person? 
Do they help you come closer to Jesus Christ? 

These things are far more important. Zach and I are incredibly imperfect. But I have marveled how together, we don’t fall apart or make each other worse. Together, our imperfections are slowly chipped away. We are stronger together and feel more confident going out into the world to chase our dreams.

8. Don’t hide: "Doubt not, fear not."

I briefly mentioned how during the last 5 years I’ve been in hiding from the real world. I’ve thrown myself into callings, service, activities, helping my sister plan and execute her wedding, and best of all, helping my mother finally free us from my abusive step-father. I don’t want anyone to think that these things are bad--serving in the church is one of my favorite things to do, my sister had a beautiful wedding, and I would’ve gladly given up many years to help get us free from the clutches of abuse. All of those things have been huge blessings and miracles in my life over the last 5 years. But, I’m talking about balance. I was using all of these great things as the ultimate excuse about why I didn’t have to deal with myself: I just didn’t have time, other people needed me, and I didn’t want to be “selfish”. All very noble, but really just cowardly.

9. The Lord WANTS to help you! (But we often stand in His way)

I have prayed many nights asking for things that I was unwilling to do my part to achieve. I desperately wanted a fantastic career, marriage, etc., but I was too terrified to just put myself out there. Just apply to 70 million jobs and see what comes back. Just go talk to the cute boy even though I’m more awkward than a middle schooler in pleather pants (I was once a middle schooler in pleather pants). 
I asked the Lord for help OFTEN. And I never got the help. He wasn’t going to apply for jobs for me. He wasn’t going to make me put myself out there. He nudged me and waited for me to be ready. He helped free me from my shackles and muster the courage to face rejection and go forward with faith.

10. There are great blessings to be had, no matter where you are.

I spent much of the last 5 years feeling like I had completely messed up my life. I didn’t get a fabulous job right out of college, I was hiding in Oregon...every day I seemed to dig a bigger and bigger hole. I thought my future was irredeemable. Here’s the thing: The Lord knew exactly what I was going to choose, no matter how I was prompted. So if you feel like you picked poorly and have thus invalidated any blessings, you’re wrong. The Lord knew what you would choose and has great things in store wherever you are.

I could’ve plucked up courage and left Oregon earlier. But that wasn’t part of my journey. I had to heal from my childhood abuse and learn to trust God and have faith in a way I’d never been asked to before. That had to happen in Oregon. And by staying as long as I have, I met this tall blonde kid sitting behind me who has helped me understand that I’m not unlovable, that I do have a future. He’s been the example for me to trust in God. He’s the one who had the scheme to go off to Utah. His example allowed me the space to listen to God and finally get what I’ve wanted. 2013 Elyse thought she’d messed everything up being here. 2015 Elyse understands she was just in a holding pattern until this was set up.


11. TRUST IN GOD

This is the most important principle of my story. On Wednesday, I had a really positive job interview and knew I would have a job offer. However, I was not interested in the job. I had a bad gut feeling during the interview and it required a 10 month contract. I was still waiting to hear back from positions I was more interested in, and was afraid of being locked in for 10 months. On Thursday, I labored over a seemingly impossible decision: 1. Take this job because it was income security as I moved to Utah, BUT I would be locked in for 10 months, I might hate it and something better could come along. OR 2. Pass on the job and take the chance something better was out there, BUT possibly end up with nothing at all. 

I felt like I wasn’t worthy of anything better than this offer and that I had to take it, but my bad gut feelings wouldn’t go away. I spent the majority of Thursday crying and counseling with Zach, my mother, and the Lord (and eating donuts). I asked the Lord to help me feel peace about a decision. I was told “It won’t be the end of the world if you pass on this job.” The Lord was asking me to trust Him a little farther and walk into the darkness. On Friday morning, I declined the job, absolutely terrified, but I felt peace. Within two hours, I was called for two interviews for jobs I didn’t think I even had a chance with. One of the jobs I didn’t even apply for--a company had my resume from a part time position and offered me an interview next week for a full time, salaried job. I’ve been in shock ever since. I still don’t have a job, but this experience confirmed my faith and trust that the Lord has my back and everything will work out. He has increased my self-confidence an hundred-fold and I feel so much hope for the future. I have a much better understanding of my worth. I’m scared and nervous to move to a new place on such short notice, but I trust my God.

~

Five years ago, I had no idea I’d still be in Oregon. Last year, I had no idea if I’d ever leave Oregon...or have a future worth living for. I am so grateful for the experiences I’ve had in this ward and for the beautiful friends I’ve met. I’m thankful for all of our caring leaders who have been my adoptive parents for the last 5 years. They labor so much for our benefit and I have been blessed by their selfless service. I can’t believe I’m entering a chapter where the Eugene YSA ward won’t be a daily part of my life. I have loved this ward and the people who have passed through this building immensely. I am so impressed by your testimonies and strength. It has been a privilege to worship with you, serve with you, know and love you. For me, this is sacred ground. My spirit animal Leslie Knope from Parks and Rec sums up how I’ve felt over the last 5 years: “If I seem too passionate, it’s because I care. If I come on strong, it’s because I feel strongly. And if I push too hard, it’s because things aren’t moving fast enough. This is my home. You are my family.”


Over the last 5 years I’ve had my fair share of goofy event announcements and probably shared my testimony from this stand no less than 40 times. It is bittersweet to know this is the last time. But if only one testimony of mine gets recorded in Heaven, I hope it’s this one. God is so good. He wants the absolute best for you. Trust Him. It’s hard to keep up faith, but it’s worth it. If you feel lost or hopeless, hold onto my story. I was lost for 5 years and finally the pieces have come together beautifully. If you’re struggling under depression and anxiety, keep trying. Fight the good fight because life will get brighter. Jesus Christ lives. He wants to help you. The gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth. This knowledge has saved my life. Joining this church has been the single best decision I’ve ever made. This is THE Church of Jesus Christ. Even when life has been rough, this is always true. 

And for the last time, I testify of these things in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, Amen.



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4 thoughts

  1. Elyse, I love everything about this post! I am so happy that you commented on my fb post and that I came across your blog. Your story is so similar to mine! From your journey with God, to throwing your "list" away and meeting an awesome guy who's younger than you! I even had a similar experience when I was looking for jobs ( I discuss all of these things on my blog as well). I love all of the positivity and reassurance you have in this post. God will ALWAYS work it out for us. All we have to do is be faithful and trust in him. Thanks so much for this reminder! I have bookmarked your blog and I'll definitely be back for more.

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    1. Aw thank you Lauren! I'm glad we crossed paths too - I love your blog! Yes, God has our back! Things might not come when we want them, but He has the best timing for us!

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  2. Thank you for sharing your story. It's a beautiful testimony of His faithfulness. My own faith took a major beating, when life required me to move to the other side of the world and started over from scratch two years ago. I was thrown into deep depression for a whole year. I still don't know what His plan is, but I can say that it is well with my soul now. I believe He is the God who gives and takes away and He has a plan to prosper us, not harm us.

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    1. I'm so glad you're in a better place now! He definitely has a plan to help us and bless us!

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