Monday, September 23, 2013

Like a Litter of Puppies

Taking a short break from my homework to reflect on my Voices of Hope shoot this past weekend.

So a little more about why they decided to re-do my shoot. From the word of the producer himself (Kerry Harding) apparently I looked depressed in my original shoot, like my “dog had just died”. Talking about hope and the Atonement, but looking depressed, they decided to have me re-do the video.

Fair enough, I figured. Actually, I was pretty excited. When Ty first mentioned to me that they wanted me to re-shoot my video, I was relieved. I did my original shoot in November and it was fine. I felt like I was in a good place and I think I was, after I’d come out and had such good responses to it. However, in the months that followed I felt like I fell apart emotionally in many ways. After all the work it took to get myself back together (including going to my Journey Into Manhood weekend), I had actually been thinking that I wished I could re-do my video, having learned so much in the months following my shoot.

I got my wish! And this past Sunday was GREAT! I got to the house where we were filming and I was nervous! I don’t really get nervous. Well, that’s a lie. I get nervous, but it never hits until a few hours before. At the earliest, I get nervous earlier the day of a big event. I was too busy being excited to be nervous about my shoot. It wasn’t until I was about an hour and a half away from the shoot that the anxiety hit and I was looking through my notes, sure that I would forget to say something that I wanted to. I felt like I was cramming for a test, even though the “test” was on my life. What did I need to study for?

Shortly before the shoot, I got a blessing from Garrett, who came to support me. As the shoot before mine ended, we hung out with some of the people who had been in the room for that shoot (including Kerry, Ty, and some of the crew). Finally the camera was ready for my shoot. They got me wired up with a microphone and into the chair. As I got going, telling my story to Ty (he was my point-man, the person I talked to, in order to give me somewhere to look), it just came. Things that I had intended to say came easily, things that I had hadn’t planned to say came up, and other things I had planned to say felt unimportant.

I got to testify of the Atonement, the love of God, and the purpose of the trials in my life. At one point I think I started crying. I felt the Spirit testify of what I was doing. A lot of my story had to do more with my mission than with my SSA, but it was all told anyway. Afterwards, Kerry Harding, in contrast to what he’d said about my last shoot, said that this one seemed more like my dog “had had a litter of puppies” (for the record, I don’t have a dog, but I decided not to tell Kerry that).

I’m very excited for it to be released, but as it was just recorded, it’ll be a while. I don’t know how long, but in the meantime there are plenty of other videos already released for me to watch, re-watch, and draw strength from. As such, my next post will probably be another Voices of Hope post (since I haven’t done one in a while). Until then, whoever you are, reader, I want you to know that you are infinitely loved of God and no matter what you do that will never change.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Pre-Reshoot (Voices of Hope)

Voices of Hope essay. Done. Sent.

After several edits and revisions (thank you to my parents and my friends who proofed it for me). Now that that's done, I can prepare for my re-shoot this coming weekend (for anyone I didn't tell, they wanted to re-do my video after I did my essay).

I'm grateful for the opportunity I had to write that essay. Fifteen pages from my heart. It was an amazing experience to review my journey, from my earliest memories of same-sex attraction, through the struggles of addiction and shame, and to where I am now. I'm not perfect, but I am a lot better than I used to be. Even compared to when I did my original shoot, I'm better. I've grown. And generally speaking, I'm happier.

With Ty Mansfield after my original shoot
I look forward to being able to do my re-shoot for my Voices if Hope video. I'm grateful that I have this opportunity to re-do it, having learned and grown a lot since my original shoot in November. I've been through a lot, including my semester living in the FLSR (BYU's foreign language housing), my therapeutic work, and my time at and since JiM.

I know that my Redeemer lives. I have learned a lot about what it means to be redeemed and what the Atonement can do for me. I know that He is looking out for me. I am grateful for the community that I have found and the unity and brotherhood that I have found there. I never expected that I could have the friends that I do and I never expected that I could feel such distinct feelings if joy.

Even more now than when this started, I know that through the Atonement it (life, struggles, etc.) gets better.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Mercies in Disguise (Three Years Later)

Another reflection post? Yeah. What's the occasion today? Well, three years ago today, I was dropped off at the airport by President Brower, had my last conversation with Elder Call as a missionary, and flew home to be picked up by my parents in Alberta.

I remember being worried about going home, going back to Provo, calling a couple of my friends (with no warning that I was coming home), and being back at BYU as a 19-year-old RM. I remember fear. I remember relief. I remember sadness (though no tears came, but I wish they had). I remember vividly that day... The hardest day of my life.

It's been a long road coming to terms with what happened that day. For 11 months, I strived to get back into the mission field and for three months I got my wish in Calgary. In coming back from Calgary, I felt unfulfilled because of some negative experiences that happened there. However as I've grown, as time has passed, and as I have worked through my scars, I have seen how I have been changed and how each experience had taught me something and been for my good.

Many of my followers on this blog did not even know me when this blog started, nor do they likely even know why it started. Unlike many SSA/Gay Mormon blogs out there, this blog did not begin because of SSA. This blog began because of my mission, or rather because I didn't know if I'd be able to serve. After I came home from Toronto, this blog was about trying to go back. I guess because of that it makes sense as to why my blog stayed mostly dormant until last October when my readership exploded (currently my “coming out” post has over 1700 hits since October).

However, the purpose of this blog is still the same. The theme is still the same: "For a Wise Purpose". I thought I knew in January 2010 what that scripture meant. I thought I understood what it meant for all of my experiences to be for a purpose. Maybe I still don't understand. However, I understand a lot better than I did when I started this blog, when I left for Toronto, when I came home, and every experience that has happened since.

I recall a song (it was actually sung as a duet at the June North Star fireside by Ty Mansfield and Katharine Matis Adams) by Christian singer Laura Story that has helped teach me some if these principles recently. The song is called Blessings and I'd like to share part of it. "What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy? ... What if trials if this life, the rain, the storms, the hardest nights, are your mercies in disguise?" I don't want to go into the song too much, because I talk about it a lot in my Voices of Hope essay, but this song hit home. My greatest desire was to serve Him, but that was not in His plan for me. As a result, coming home became my greatest disappointment. However I have come to understand that my Father knew me better and knew what I needed. And I didn't need the mission field. My place was back here at BYU, my home.

Again, it has taken work, time, and tears for me to get to where I am that the loss of my mission doesn't feel so much like a loss. I feel more aligned to the will of the Lord, being a light and example where I am, instead if where I wish I could have been. Sometimes it's painful to know that of I knew what I knew now, I don't think I would have had to come home... And yet at the same time, would I have learned and grown the way I have had I not come home? No, I wouldn't have. I am the man I am now because the Lord knew me well enough and loves me enough that He hurt me and brought me home.

I know that it is through the Atonement of my Savior that I have been able to grow and I have been better than I once was.