“I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind: I am like a broken vessel.”

-Psalm 31:12

 

“God, are you about done with me yet? I can’t take it anymore!”

Sitting on the floor of my bedroom in my PJs in the late afternoon on a warm Saturday in June of 2020, I leaned back heavily on my red chair like it was a lifeline. All day I had been sitting there trying to find some kind of strength to get up, get dressed, eat something, or act like a responsible adult. All I could do was think about how much I hated myself and my life. How could my life be this pathetic at 50 years old? Who even is Charlotte Abigail Briar? I felt lost and confused at my current emptiness. After all, I had been through and how hard I had tried to make it a good life for myself and my children I should be in a better situation. 

 

Journal Entry: “How long do I have to be patient? How many heartaches, pain, struggles, setbacks… How can I be surrounded by family and still feel lonely?”

 

My personal life… well, that was a total mess. There were so many things going wrong, but the biggest thing that troubled me was that for the third time, I was once again single, after another temple marriage ended in divorce.

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we believe that if a couple is married in the temple, they are sealed not just until death but for time and all eternity. Growing up, I thought that a temple marriage had some kind of magical power that would keep a marriage together and solid. If you are sealed in the temple for time and all eternity, you will be happy. Period. That’s what I thought my entire life growing up. I found that to be absolutely not true! Just being sealed in the temple was not enough.

Financially I was skint. I was glad my car was paid for because we could soon be homeless. I felt guilty calling myself an entrepreneur and had started sending out my resume. 

I felt like a complete failure. I had been abused, used, lied to, manipulated, and simply couldn’t find anyone worth dating. My self-esteem was in the toilet, and it had been flushed!

My youngest, Kate and Tara, teenage daughters who still lived with me, were not at home that day. I was sobbing right out loud. It was one of those deep, gut-wrenching sobs that you feel way down in your bones. It may or may not have been possible that the people who lived on either side of the townhome where I lived could hear my cries. I really didn’t care. Sitting with my head in my hands for the longest time, I ugly cried. I could feel every part of me, inside and out, screaming in physical, emotional, and spiritual pain. I had no idea how to manage a future alone and financially broken. How did I get myself into this situation?

Fear and anger had taken over my heart for the last few months, well, years, actually. Every time someone said to me, “God won’t give you more than you can handle” I felt like punching them in the face! Seriously!

How dare they? What did they know about being tested beyond what a person can handle? Obviously, they hadn’t had the trials I had. Indeed, they didn’t have them one right after the other with no reprieve in between. How could they say that I’m not being given more than I can handle? I barely had time to recover from each trial before the next one came. I was burned out. Tired! EXHAUSTED! 

 

Journal Entry: “I know what God wants and expects of me, but I don’t feel strong enough, worthy enough, or capable of doing it. Yet, He still, even in my weakness, continues to bless me.”

 

Truly God had blessed me. I knew that He had a plan for me, but knowing that didn’t make my trials easier. Eventually, these trials would help me become more than I was and it would help me serve the purpose God had given me. I knew that. But, most of the time that knowledge fed my anger and strengthened my fear instead of giving me peace.

There were times when I had a trial and wondered why it had happened, then I would hear a voice say, “This is for your experience.” That made me want to scream even louder! I’m done!

The divine assignment I thought God had given me felt like a slap in the face. I tried to keep myself from shouting back, “I don’t want the assignment you’re giving me! I don’t want the blessings! Take it all back and just let me live my life in peace… just for a little while! Give me a break! If I don’t deserve a break now, when will the tides turn? When will I finally be strong enough to fulfill my purpose? When/how will I graduate from this learning phase? Will it come in this lifetime or in the hereafter? If in the hereafter, please take me now!”

I was tired of the refiner’s fire! I felt like Jonah when he jumped into the whale to avoid God. God had shown me my purpose, and I didn’t want it because it was too big. Too hard. It required me to put myself out there to be painfully criticized and at the same time to save and support those I was to serve. I was afraid of the purpose God had shown me, and I was running from it. That’s probably how I had gotten to this point in my life where giving up seemed like a viable option. I had been running for some time. Frantically running. It felt like I was being chased by something terrifying. When we run haphazardly we often make stupid mistakes and rush into things we shouldn’t. We don’t take time to slow down and listen…. I was no exception. 

Doing things the hard way is the way I learn best, and it seems I have a lot of lessons to learn! I’m just stubborn that way. Forgive me as I pause here and apologize to my children, many of whom inherited this lovely trait from me. I’m so very sorry! Learning the hard way is soooo hard! Stop it! Learn the easy way from now on! 

Even though I knew I was a daughter of God and that he had a plan for me, I still felt I had been getting more than my fair share of trials, especially for the last 30 years. My entire life, no matter what I did, no matter how hard I tried to do what was right, stay close to my Savior and live the life He wanted me to, I was still failing. Where was this grace everyone spoke of? I certainly wasn’t feeling it.

On this particular day, I was in the deepest darkest place I had ever been in. Reaching the bottom, or under the bottom, as I felt at that time, I was done! I had nothing left! This was my breaking day! I felt more than broken. My heart and soul were shattered!

 

Journal Entry: “Bad day. Need light to survive. The tunnel seems too black and long.”

 

So, I looked up to the ceiling from the floor of the townhome I was renting, imagining Heavenly Father there. With an angry, broken heart, I screamed, “Are you about done with me yet? I can’t take it anymore! You’ve given me more than I can handle! I’m done!”

As I cried tears I didn’t know I had left, somehow a feeling of warmth and strength started to fill my soul. Totally exhausted, I laid down on the floor in a puddle, trying to gain control of my breathing and regain the ability to reason.

When I eventually stopped crying, I pulled myself up and picked up my computer to do what I had set out to do hours earlier. Delete all of my dating accounts and move on with my life…. alone. Kate and Tara would both be moving out within three years and I would genuinely be alone. I was determined to be all alone for the next 50 years of my life, no matter how lonely it would be.

I don’t know what I expected to happen, but I certainly didn’t expect everything that happened over the next 6 months. Little did I know that my life was finally going to start to make sense, and my prayers, through my childish screams, would eventually begin to be answered. Blessings were coming that I had never had the voice, or even the desire, to express for fear they would never come true.

 So many times, I had hit what I thought was the very bottom, and this was no different. Little did I know, as painful as it would be, my life was about to change course. I was about to leave the darkness of my comfort zone, such as it was, behind for a new life in the light. 

 

* * * * * * * * * * 

 

Comfort zones are like ruts in the road. Once you’re in one, it’s hard to get out. It’s also easy to fall back into one if you ever do get out. And it can be painful! Some comfort zones can be as damaging as a deep rut in the road. Even if it’s a good one, staying in a comfort zone can be detrimental because it can prevent growth. Indeed, the bad ones need to be left behind as quickly as possible. 

My comfort zone for the 30 years before my breaking day had been like living in the middle of a terrible storm with no lighthouse in sight. Actually, a better description would be like a deep, dark dungeon with not even a spark of light where the prison doors were all locked. It seemed like the prison doors didn’t even have keyholes. Or even keys to go in them; much less being able to find them in the darkness. Frequently when I would go through a trial, I felt like I was in a Get Smart movie where prison doors were slamming one right after the other behind me and in front of me. 

 

Journal Entry: “I keep praying things will work out. I’m sure they will. I just wish I knew when and how. I feel like I’m going to explode half the time. The other half of the time, I am exploding and frantic on the inside…. maybe on the outside too…. Heavenly Father says He won’t give us more than we can bear. I know that to be true. Sometimes we are pushed so hard it feels like we can’t. Knowing that He won’t give us more helps me realize that I can survive this too.”

 

I’ve always had faith. But I also needed hope and a desire for something different for faith to work. Overwhelming fear had taken over many years before crushing my need for anything except survival; leaving me feeling hopeless. My thought process, I know now, had become illogical due to changes in my brain from trauma. 

My life proves that what Dallin H. Oaks said is true. He says,

 

Desires dictate our priorities, priorities shape our choices, and choices determine our actions. The desires we act on determine our changing, our achieving, and our becoming.

 

There were things that I desired on my breaking day that kept me from giving up on my survival efforts. Starting with my desire to have a relationship with my Heavenly Father and teach my children the gospel. Other desires included keeping food on the table for the children, never being homeless, keeping my family together even without a husband/father in the home, protecting my children, keeping them in school, working with them so they could have a better life than mine, attempting to show them strength even while feeling only weakness, and mostly the desire not to give in to the blackness. 

These desires and priorities were essential and necessary. However, I was lacking things that could have made all the difference. I was “in the weeds,” as they say. Or “I couldn’t see the forest through the trees.” I was only looking at my trials and everything that I did not have. I couldn’t see what I did have right in front of me. This is a place many of us find ourselves in, especially if we are alone or have gone through difficult trials or abuse. 

Years ago, I had a flash of what I thought was my future. However extraordinary this future looked to me, it also terrified me. I found myself running from it for a long time. It felt too big and too hard to reach from where I was starting. It would require more effort than I thought I had. Putting myself out there for criticism, the world would see some of my most private moments and those of my family as well. It could hurt some people that I loved, including my children; even though they encouraged me to do it. It also meant that I had many more difficult days ahead. 

In this flash of what I thought could be my future, I saw my family intact and happy. Well.… at least my children and me. We were surrounded by the love of our Savior and of each other. It also showed me helping single women, women who have been abused, and others to find their way through sharing my experiences. The women’s faces showed their gratitude and the inspiration they felt through my experiences. They had hope and a real desire for something better. There was a complete understanding of fulfillment in me that I had served the divine purpose God had given me. 

Having a husband I loved and who supported me standing next to me would have made the future much better. But, every time I looked, I didn’t see one. How could God expect me to create this future? Especially alone!? I didn’t feel worthy or strong enough, to say the least! How could my traumatic, broken life ever help anyone else? I figured it must have been my imagination.

However, the desire to help women never left my heart. Nor did the desire to have a relationship with a man who could be a partner and help carry the load. It felt utterly unreachable. My desire to survive affected my priorities, choices, and actions. Instead, my focus was on keeping my head above water and keeping my family safe. I couldn’t find a way to change and achieve the divine assignment to become what God wanted me to become.

 

Journal Entry: “I don’t remember what it’s like to sleep. I don’t know how long I can keep this up. Things are starting to fall apart. There is no one to catch me when I fall. I’m so tired! I don’t remember how to be anything else. I’ve lost control of everything.”

 

I heard a song on the radio once that said,

 

Impossible is not a word. It’s just an excuse for someone not to try.2

 

I wondered if William Scott or Scott A Krippaehne, who wrote the song, had ever been in a situation like mine? Driving down the dark road that night, frustration overwhelmed me as I looked at the darkest places of my life. While in the darkness, ‘impossible’ was what it felt like! At the time, I thought it was rude of someone to say such a thing. 

Looking closer to find a way to explain just how impossible everything had been, I was surprised to see that it wasn’t really impossible. What made me feel like it was impossible had first been my lack of HOPE. Secondly, I had to find a new way to look at my life and find the possible in my impossible situation. 

John H. Groberg once said,

 

There is always hope. No matter how dismal things appear, no matter how problem-prone we seem to be, there is always hope no matter what reversals and setbacks we suffer. Hope is the thing that keeps us going.3

 

He then goes on to say that defining hope can be difficult,

 

It’s like trying to define faith or love… As near as I can tell, hope is light. It is the light within us that pierces the darkness of doubt and discouragement and taps into the light (hope) of all creation – even the Savior.3 

 

Recently while learning about hope, I wondered why my past had a distinct lack of it. There are vast sections of my life where, at the moment, I felt that there was no hope or light to be found. Hindsight is 20/20, as they say, and in fact, this shows me that there was always light and hope. I think I had always thought that hope and light meant answers and solutions, of which I couldn’t see any. I expected that there would be some kind of miracle to scoop me out of my situation and put me in a different one, which had never happened. It meant that I would always be able to fix things and that someday there would be a total end to my misery and trials, which was a pipe dream. My understanding of hope had been totally wrong.

Hope was in my life when I played a game with my children, hugged them, called my parents or other family members, talked to a friend, took a shower, made my bed, saw the bright blue sky, felt my hands touching, my nose smelling, my legs walking…. Hope was all around me without me even recognizing it!

To help them through depression or negativity, I gave my children hope when I asked them to tell me one thing they are grateful for. Sometimes it took them a few minutes, but they could always find something, like being able to breathe or to look into my eyes and know I loved them. These little things will bring us hope and light every day. We just have to look for it. Sometimes it’s just a spark of hope. But, a spark can turn a mountain into a burning inferno!

There is at least one thing that will always bring us light and hope and a desire for something better. That is prayer! God is always there! I promise you! Even when screaming at him from the floor of a townhome in anger. Even then, He wants to hear from you. 

However much pain I felt on my breaking day, deep down.. very deep down… I knew He would hear me. I knew that He knew the answers that I couldn’t see. I had forgotten that I am a daughter of God and He is watching over me! 

 

Journal Entry: “Have I ever been content? Perfectly happy with myself and my life? I don’t remember a time… ever… where I thought I was completely, totally, happy, and content. Lame!”

 

He always answers our prayers… He just does it when it’s best for us and when we are ready. It’s not always when we want it. When our prayers are answered, we learn with certainty why God did things the way He did.

 

At those times when you wonder if there is any reason to hope, when you wonder if anyone cares – or if anyone should care – I invite you to ask God what He thinks of you – what He really thinks of you.4

 

I’m grateful for His timing and His love for helping me be the person I needed to be to receive His blessings, particularly on my breaking day. Through this book, God’s timing is shown to be perfect and precise. If it wasn’t for his timing, none of this would have happened.

I wanted to feel hope on my breaking day! I was tired of the darkness! Little did I know that by the end of the night hope would start with a phone call and a milkshake.

 

  1. Dallin H. Oaks Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Desire; April 2011 General Conference; https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2011/04/desire?lang=eng/
  2. http://www.kutless.com
  3. John H. Groberg of the Seventy; There is Always Hope; June 3, 1984; BYU Devotional; https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/john-h-groberg/there-is-always-hope/
  4. Kevin J Worthen, President of BYU University; The Process and Power of Hope; BYU Devotional; September 8, 2020; https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/kevin-j-worthen/process-power-hope/

 

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