I've mostly always liked me. Pretty much, anyway. Especially once I moved to college, my confidence started to build and I began to appreciate my strengths and even some of my weaknesses. I'd always known God loves me. It hadn't ever been hard to see or understand. I went on a mission because He asked me to even though it was the hardest thing I'd ever done and I felt pretty great about that. On my mission, I messed up all the time, but I knew it was ok because I was doing my best to serve the Lord. I loved Him and wanted Him to know it and I knew He was making everything right. Knowing I was a child of God, knowing my potential, and accepting that I had a Savior who would seal the deal- things were pretty great and when it was time to go home, I had plans to apply everything I'd learned and be perfect at them all for the rest of my life. Missionaries have a pretty thick rose-colored lens ;)
When I got home from my mission, though, things started to get a little bit hazy. I'd spent so long in such a spiritually saturated lifestyle that being thrown back into the world, with adult stresses and new responsibilities and new distractions, that also happened to be all about me instead of all about helping others, was really unfamiliar and I got lost. I didn't realize it was happening exactly, I felt a little shell-shocked, but I figured it was just because I was in the middle of a big transition and expected I'd adjust out of my stereotypical 'awkward return missionary' phase pretty quickly.
I moved to Provo to work for the spring/summer and things only got worse. I still couldn't really pinpoint why, though, so I started to get really annoyed. Why can I not feel the spirit? Why am I not happy like I usually am? Why do I feel like I miss me? Why do I not love reading the Book of Mormon anymore? Why do I feel so far removed from Heavenly Father when I just got done spending SO much time with Him?
After a couple of weeks, it started to sink in that because I didn't feel as close to the spirit, I was also feeling guilty for not being perfect. Guilty for not reading my scriptures enough or for 'reading' them instead of 'studying' them. Guilty for saying a 20 second prayer before bed because I was too tired for more. Guilty for being afraid to open my mouth when someone looked like they were having a hard time. Guilty for not being committed enough to my calling, for not making the time to keep up with all of the people I love, for not being to church 10 minutes early and for not staying after to socialize. Guilty for doing or not doing so many of the things that missionary me had promised myself I would never slip up on again. It was frustrating and uncomfortable and completely unproductive.
So instead of remembering what I'd taught so many people on my mission- that we have a Savior who suffered and died to conquer our imperfection with His love- I chose the opposite. I gave up and gave myself permission to not feel bad about it anymore. I stopped reading my scriptures. I stopped praying. I left church after Sacrament Meeting. And I didn't care. I figured it wouldn't matter. "Everyone gets to this point eventually. This is just where I figure out what I really believe", I thought. But what I didn't realize was that, while I was dinking around, 'figuring out' what I already knew, things were changing in ways that I never would've thought they would. Or would've wanted them to...
I started to get more cynical and apathetic. When something difficult happened, I chose anger because it was easier than feeling sad. I stopped crying. I was confused about everything. People weren't as happy to be around me anymore. I didn't get as many opportunities to help my family or friends with their struggles because I was always talking about mine. And more than anything, I didn't understand how Kelli Eddington, the person I'd, for the most part, always been so proud to be, could have gotten to this point. I was embarrassed and lonely and unhappy.
Ok, pause for a second. When I moved into my Provo singles ward, I was called to be on the service committee. I wasn't thrilled at the idea of getting a calling considering my situation- I felt sort of hypocritical pretending everything was ok when it wasn't, especially with the added pressure of magnifying a calling. People would be counting on me and I wasn't sure I'd be able to follow through. We decided to go to a care facility nearby to spend time with the residents there for our first activity and, remember this was cynical, grumpy me, so mostly I was just kind of ready to get it over with. The morning came, I tried hard to be positive, spend the hour there and get on with the day. We got there and they were playing Bingo. "I can sit and play Bingo. No big deal."
BUT GUESS WHAT. IT CHANGED MY LIFE, PEOPLE. How crazy does that sound? Not the Bingo part (although, I DID win a few rounds...). The part where we talked and laughed with so many amazing people, who we never would've met otherwise and I felt Heavenly Father's love for the first time in a long time. I felt like me again :D (Not even gradually either, it was like BAM. Kelli's back.) I watched the residents' faces light up, felt my own do the same, and all of a sudden, I remembered what I'd known all along. The joy comes when you accept His love and let it reflect through you. I was sitting around waiting for spiritual experiences and picking flowers apart, saying "He loves me, He loves me not" when I already knew that He does. I just needed to stand up and do something about it. Anything, really. It's just that, Jesus showed His love for us in His miraculous way, while also reflecting Heavenly Father's love for us. It only makes sense that when we do the same thing for everyone else, we'll be so filled up with His love for us, our love for Him, our love for everyone else, and our love for ourselves that we just won't be able to hardly stand it. Love begets love begets love begets love. Ugh, that's so cool.
Also, guess what comes with feeling His love? Perspective. NOT feeling guilt for being imperfect. Desire to read His word. Desire to talk with Him about how you feel about your life and where He can help you take it. More confidence in your ability to do hard things, including looking outside yourself even when you're afraid, or too busy, or not in the mood. More trust that He can and will do anything for you. More trust that He can and will turn you into gold and make you shine.
I hope you know, this was MY experience. I know it's not the same for everyone. Well, for ANYONE actually, we're all so unique. I hope it was clear that all of these pressures I described were put on me by me and no one else. I hope everyone knows how much my mission changed my life for the better. So much so, in fact, that I'm sure that's why Satan tried to so hard to push me around when I got home.
But I also hope that by sharing my experience, you start to look at yourself with new eyes. With His eyes. Satan likes to be sneaky and he's pretty good at it, too. But falling into his trap doesn't make you a bad person. It just means you're a normal human person, which is definitely something to be proud of. Heavenly Father doesn't send just anyone down here to be one of those, ya know. Just the ones who tell Him they're ready to learn how to be more than that.
So hi, I'm Kelli Eddington. I love my Heavenly Father and Savior. I know they love me. I'm happy. I'm so happy. :) And I'm so excited for a life directed by Them. I'm going to make lots of mistakes. It's going to be hard sometimes. But this depth of peace that I feel is here for good because no matter what happens, I know how the story ends. Jesus wins, and since I'm on His side, I do too :)