Discovering the Bright Life

For the past few months, the thought of starting a blog has tiptoed into my mind time and time again. Week after week, I have come up with excuses why I need to wait. I need to wait until my life is more interesting, I need to wait until I come up with a good name for the blog, I need to wait until I actually have cool things to write about, and the list goes on and on! But, I cannot deny the promptings I have been receiving any longer.  So today is the day I will begin writing about my life.

Most people, even those I know very well, don’t know many personal details about me and how I became the person I am today. As nervous as I am to disclose a (semi) short but detailed version of my life thus far, I anticipate many of you will be able to relate to it in one way or another which is my goal. When we can relate to one another, we see each other with different eyes. Compassion and understanding comes through discovering the commonalities we all share. So here it goes.

I was born and raised in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I was always quite shy throughout all of middle school and high school.  Being one of the only Mormon’s at school, I always felt embarrassed, which only made my shy nature more intense. In 7th grade, we learned about my religion in a social studies class and it was humiliating for me. The teacher went on and on about things he was completely uneducated about, laughing and making a joke of the entire religion. Honestly, I hate to be dramatic, but that was a huge turning point in my life. Instead of standing up for what I believed in, since I was already very self-conscious and shy, I slumped in my chair and decided from that point on, I would never let anyone know I was Mormon. And for the people who already knew, I would pretend like I hated the faith. But it was more than just that. I decided I would never let anyone know who I really was. Instead, I would become a replica of the people I thought were “cool,” because then I would never get made fun of and I could just blend in.

Middle school came and went, without much ado. As high school rolled around, I found myself in what may have been considered the “popular group.” The group that excluded people, did crazy things, and always got their way. Because of my shy nature, I never felt fully comfortable within this group, but I wasn’t yet brave enough to forge my own path. I was a follower by every definition of the word, and follow is exactly what I did in my teen years. I did just what I needed to do to be considered fun and cool, even though inside I was dying because it wasn’t me. I subconsciously knew I was doing things that were completely out of my nature, but my underdeveloped brain was only interested in instant gratification.

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As my high school senior year rolled around, my classmates began to pick the colleges that they were going to attend after graduation. I had my heart set on Arizona State University, surprisingly enough. How did I even come up with that?! I knew it was considered a party school, a school for the cool kids that I was desperately trying to escape. But I was still trying to prove myself, still trying to prove that I was someone I’m not, so that was the school I was sure I would attend.

I did, thankfully, have enough brainpower to know that you can’t apply to just one school. So, mostly just to please my parents, I applied to Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. I don’t even think I told any of my friends that I applied there because that was something that would embarrass me. But I figured it wouldn’t hurt to just apply.

I toured both schools, felt infinitely more comfortable at BYU than at ASU, and to make a long story short, I chose BYU. Or rather, there was something in me that just knew I needed to go to BYU even though I had been fighting it for so long. So I said my goodbyes, packed up my bags, and drove 16 hours to the next chapter of my life, quickly brushing aside the woes of high school.

I was greeted by five friendly faces, the girls of Harris Hall #64. We had a lot of fun that first year, my roommates and I. We all had moved to Provo from different areas of the United States and had no friends yet, so we instantly bonded to one another. Our freshman year, we did everything together. I am forever grateful for those five girls. I still keep in contact with them today. I headed home for a short summer, and then drove back to Provo for my sophomore year. It was very similar to freshman year, but with five different roommates and different fun adventures. 

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My junior year of college proved to be one of the hardest years of my life. This was the year where I learned a tough lesson. Just moving yourself to a new location doesn’t actually change who you are. Temporarily, my life may have seemed really good. But I had not yet put in the work to see any lasting changes and I had not yet confronted problems I had been masking. While I glided through my first two years of college, thinking that I had become the good girl I was always destined to be, the loneliness that plagued me my third year quickly reminded me that my heart needed healing. 

I once again, like my first two years of college, began the school year in a new apartment with new roommates. However, this year I only had two roommates and both of them were gone most of the time. This was also the year I decided I wanted to go on a strict diet and get really fit, which in and of itself was very isolating for me. I spent my days going to class, counting calories, and working out. I seriously had little to no human interaction, besides the few hours I was on campus at school. After class and workouts, I would come home and stay in my room, doing homework or watching Netflix.

Despite a foot injury (due to too much working out and too little food) I managed to get in really good shape. I was getting really good grades in school, also. If you were to look at my life from an outside perspective, it actually would have looked rather perfect. Unfortunately, it was far from that. I was avoiding going to church because singles wards gave me serious anxiety. I had basically no friends. I was super depressed and I couldn’t figure out what I needed to do to escape the slump.

My next two years of college came and went. (I spent five years getting my undergrad, super senior anyone?!) I made a lot of friends when I started the dietetics program because it was a small program and I now had all of my classes with the same 36 students. I spent more time hanging out with friends and getting out of the house. I got back to my more normal human eating and exercising habits. Despite life getting a little better, I still had a huge void in my life, and I had yet to figure out exactly what it was. As you may have noticed, my life has had a constant pattern of ups and downs, but thus far, the downs seemed to really outweigh the ups.

After graduating from BYU in 2015, I was one of very few students in my class who wasn’t planning on actually utilizing my dietetics degree that I had just spent so much time to acquire. Instead, something was pulling me to move to Arizona and work for a wilderness therapy company called Anasazi Foundation. It entailed backpacking through Tonto National Forest with teenagers and adults who needed some time to figure things out. It was a life changing experience for me. While I was the one guiding and directing the participants in the program, I myself was actually constantly being guided, directed, and changed by the Creator. The five months I spent in Arizona were the five hardest but most life changing months of my life. I will further expound on this experience in future blog posts, but I will just leave it at that for now. (By the way, the name of my blog “Bright Blue Stone” is my Anasazi trail name, if you were wondering how I came up with that.)

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While I didn’t find all the answers I was seeking while backpacking through the wilderness, I did know that at the conclusion of my time in Arizona I needed to move back to my hometown of Sioux Falls. I didn’t have any job prospects there, any friends there, or really any huge reason to move there. I just knew it was what was right.

Three short months after moving back home, I met a man named Gabe. Our meeting was very random. We met in a restaurant downtown. I must have caught his eye, because he approached me and struck up a conversation. We quickly discovered that we had a common interest: camping and being in the outdoors. So, after only having known each other for a couple hours at most, we decided a week later we would spend New Year’s together camping in the snow. We hardly got any sleep due to the freezing temperatures, but we were happy as could be because we were together.

We quickly fell in love. At the time, Gabe lived about 1.5 hours away from where I lived, but that didn’t stop us from spending all of our free time together. We were constantly commuting back and forth after work just to see each other for a short amount of time. At the time I met Gabe, I wasn’t exactly living my life right. So while this was a very positive time in my life, I still felt unsure of myself. I was going to church, but I hadn’t devoted myself to the Creator like I needed to. I was doing the dance, but I wasn’t hearing the music. (learn more about this here). As it became more and more evident to me that I had met my future husband, I knew that I needed to turn my life over to God, and the man I was going to marry needed to do the same. I always knew, deep inside of me, that I wanted a marriage centered in Christ, because I knew that was the only way a marriage would ever work.

I invited Gabe to church, and much to my surprise, he began coming with me regularly. Not only was he changing his life, but I was changing mine as well. In a way, we went through the conversion process together, even though I had become a member of the Latter Day Saint (LDS) church years ago. We mutually turned our lives over to God. I was overjoyed when Gabe made the decision to be baptized into the LDS church. (Shout out to the amazing Elder Jeppson and Elder Campbell for being the greatest missionaries and friends to Gabe ever!)

Shortly after our conversion, and just five months after we met, Gabe popped the question and we were engaged! (At the end of May he was supposed to move to Africa with the Peace Corps but decided to forgo that life plan and marry me instead.) This probably seems way too fast if you are reading this through worldly eyes. I’ve heard comments like, “There is no way you know each other well enough to get engaged so fast!”  or “Why rush into marriage?” and the list goes on and on. But for us, it was right. We knew not too long after we met that we were meant to be married to each other, so why not get the ball rollin’?!

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This is when my life got really good. Now, don’t be fooled into thinking that my life got good because I met a good guy and got engaged and now I’m not lonely anymore. The only reason I met that good guy and the only reason it worked out for us to get engaged and later married is because we both chose to devote our lives to something bigger than us. We chose to become a family with God at the center. Life didn’t instantly become better when I met Gabe, because I still wasn’t living my life right. Life didn’t become better until I was converted to the Gospel.

And now, seriously, my life is so good. I’ve finally pinpointed the reason why I was feeling so depressed through high school and college, and that reason was the lack of God in my life. It’s ironic that the thing I was most ashamed of during my teenage years has proven to be the thing that brings me infinite happiness today. Now I start out every morning by praying and reading my scriptures. If you think that’s silly and won’t help you at all, I challenge you to give it a try and see what happens. I not only just attend church every Sunday, but I embrace the lifestyle of the Gospel. I avoid things that make me depressed, like alcohol and laziness. I spend hours every week doing volunteer work within my church. I go to bed early, so that I can rise in the early morning and do good things with my days. Oh, I also have the cutest little puppy, so that doesn’t hurt either.

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Life doesn’t have to be hard and depressing. Sure, there will always be hard things in life, and those hard things may bring spouts of sadness. I still have a long list of things in my life that are challenging, but because I now focus on things that are so much bigger than my problems, life is no longer overwhelming.  Life only becomes overwhelmingly hard when we are doing things to ourselves that make our lives harder. I spent the majority of the past ten years living in the darkness of the world. Oh how thankful I am that I have found my way into the light. There is so much light to be found if you will only let it in. And, excuse this cheesy last line, but you too can start living a happy life if you will simply allow the Creator into your world!

Love,

Bright Blue Stone

p.s. – Wanna know more about the quirky LDS (Mormon) church? Comment below!

15 Comment

  1. Craig Snyder says: Reply

    Wow Ellie. I know I just got to know you better than I had before this blog. Keep ’em coming. This was terrific!

  2. Kirsten Beyer says: Reply

    Wow, Ellie, I can’t tell you how much your words meant to me. Thank you for opening yourself up, and sharing your heart. ♡

  3. Nicholas H. says: Reply

    That was a truly wonderful read, well put and inspirational. As Craig said keep them coming! I sure would like to hear more about your adventure in Arizona.

  4. Jill Homer says: Reply

    Ellie I feel honored to be able to read your story. I saw you as a youth at church activities, there because you have amazing parents, but still searching for your own reasons. My heart is so touched by your journey and I’m so very happy for both you and Gabe. I’m so impressed you are recording your experiences because you will be able to refer back to them in challenging times to strengthen your commitments and others will be inspired by your testimony as well. We love living in Idaho but sure miss great people like your family!! 💛 Hugs to you sweet girl!

  5. Elaina Parker says: Reply

    Ellie this is wonderful I love it! I am so happy you listened to your heart ! This truely touched mine and I am so happy that you have founf things to brighten your life as well!

  6. Heidi Nye says: Reply

    I loved this so much! I felt the same way most of my life and you are right…sometimes we think people must have the perfect life, but we don’t know what they are going through inside! I feel like you will help so many people who are going through the same things! I can’t wait to read more!

  7. Sarah Young says: Reply

    That was lovely, nicely written and very motivating!

  8. Mary Larsen says: Reply

    God Bless you sweet Ellie for sharing your very personal heart 💗 The Gospel is the greatest joy no matter what we have to do to get there!!! We have very strong women in our family, of which you are one 😊 We can use our strength to make the world a better place 💓

  9. Joy Hawkes says: Reply

    Elli, truly inspiring! I love that you shared something so sacred and sweet to you. Your story will ignite a fire in others to seek the Savior and make Him the center of their lives. I felt the spirit as I read your enlightening words. Thank you. Merry Christmas!

  10. Kathy says: Reply

    Oh Ellie, I have no words! Thank you😘

  11. Deya says: Reply

    Ellie,
    I love this! Thank you for sharing the real you with us. ♥️

  12. Jaygan Eastman says: Reply

    Wow Ellie! That was amazing! You are an incredible writer! I LOVE your story! I’m grateful that I get to be your friend! Sure love ya!

  13. Lori Suhr says: Reply

    Elli, Thank you for your post and opening up. I have gone through some similar emotions and feelings regarding the church and have not always made the best choices because of those feelings. Even with people around you that love you, it really doesn’t get better until we do turn our life over to Heavenly Father, you stated that perfectly. You have really great parents that helped me through tough times in my life, they were awesome home teachers and really great examples of Christ like love! Your dad gave me a little statue of Christ and I still look at that and remember when he gave that to me and how dark of time that was for me, and that helps me remember where I was and where I am today and how much of a difference there is, the difference is that I made Christ and Heavenly father my center. Thank you for sharing, I am so happy for you and that you are happy! I look forward to reading more about your adventures.

  14. Jean Steele says: Reply

    I’m going to refer my “online” Seminary students to your blog…what a great inspiration.

  15. Malinda larson says: Reply

    Ellie! Thanks for sharing your story! So many people will be blessed by your experience! I love how the Creator allows us to create our own life stories. While he allows us to choose, he places key people, and experiences that keep reminding us of his unfailing love. As a youth leader when you were young, I didn’t know these things you shared, but I did know the Savior loved you, and he allowed me to feel that love for you too. As you continue to write may you feel that love ever increasing and help others feel it too! Great job never ignoring a prompting! Love ya!

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