He truly does qualify who He calls. Who? The Lord, of course! And, well, it’s story time.
After tragedy after tragedy after tragedy in my life, I finally made a move that I had no clue would alter my entire existence. Of my minimal amount of morals I could have fit in a tiny little silicone capsule, the one that broke me down enough was getting brutally beaten by a man I expected to feel loved by. With only $70 and a job at Pizza Hut, I took the first step in the right direction that would bless me with a line upon line literal transformation. One thing led to another, and for the first time in years I had stepped foot into a church building – one of the many that dot the earth – a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I didn’t belong…or so I felt. I probably smelled of cigarettes and day old beer, had unwashed, unkempt hair, a grungy hoodie over a faded black dress, skater shoes, and tired eyes. I was there for one reason and one reason only: to obey the rules of the home I had just began living in. But! The Spirit was just too strong to resist and I needed back in! One long walk up to the residing priesthood holder of the ward (the bishop) changed my future forever. That was in 2010.
I had an ugly past and no one besides the bishop and my family needed to know about it. I can remember back to when I told someone else about most of it for my first time, because it was that big of deal to me. Well, I just felt like it needed to be shared, but I was still so scared. Even one of my ecclesiastical authorities literally told me to “shut the door” meaning, tuck it all away and don’t tell a soul. We must all remember how direly important it is that we cling to the Iron Rod so as to ensure our hearts are open to the Holy Spirit. For, sometimes men can tell us one thing, and God another. We must understand the difference and heed the right voice. Anyway, I would share my story here and there, but thought for sure the receiver would forever think of me differently, in a negative way of course. And then I just decided to “shut the door.”
Marriage to a man with a past he didn’t share completely with me made me feel just fine. I had the comforts of life, and someone in a similar boat as me. Together we could keep quiet about what we allowed ourselves to feel ashamed about, and talk about anything else. Well, deep down inside I knew that was not right for me. I needed to share my story! But how? When? Finally the Lord told me when it was time. It took my husband being out of the picture for that to happen, but that is okay. He works in truly marvelous ways that we can only understand when we honestly desire with ever fiber of who we are to know that which He knows. How great is His wisdom and glory!
“Start a YouTube channel” was what I first heard from Him as I prayed for direction. That was actually before I moved up to Utah over a year ago. I remember crying, with a heart so full of joy, with my Mama Goates in the hallway one day as I let her know that the Lord had told me to finally share all of my stories! I was thrilled! But, I didn’t fully understand why. Why was I so happy about it? My Spirit knew, but my mind had to catch up.
Moving, and trying to heal slowed me down…way down. I was in a foreign place, with no one I knew save a small handful. I was in a state notorious for many families, and many members of the church. Who was I? I was a Mormon, yes, but I was also a tattooed, ex-prostitute, ex-drug addict, mother-of-a-brand-new-baby-whose-father-just-went-to-prison-for-a-murder-he-committed-in-cold-blood-for-money Mormon. How on earth could I do what the Lord wanted me to here? Yes, He brought me to Utah, but I didn’t know how to fulfill whatever it was I was supposed to. I was a mess. Then, I realized I had to buckle down and do something or I was going to lose it.
Praying for understanding, guidance, and direction gave me the grandest perspective of our world I never could have before imagined! Too bad I had to be brought so low before I could have such a big heart! But, oh well. What happened happened, and I was ready to obey. But, not before I prayed so fervently for the strength and courage to do that which He asked.
After many recorded and deleted videos, I started writing instead. It is so nice how the Lord knows exactly what we need. My actions in obeying what He told me to do first (“start a YouTube channel”) brought my life great blessings. When He told me to write down my stories, I was comfortable enough to do what needed to be done. How great is His wisdom and glory! But, what kind of world was I getting into?
After having reactivated my Facebook and Instagram not even a year before I started blogging I had to catch up quickly. I did my research merely by searching appropriately related hashtags, looking at specific successful people’s accounts, anything I could do in the social media world to see what worked well. That only got so far, but the grace of God was making up quite largely all that I lacked.
The more I tried, the less good I felt about what I was doing. The more I allowed Him to take over, the quicker I got to be in far better places than I even imagined.
I am on the Lord’s errand because I heeded His call! Yes, we are counseled to seek His blessing when we have made a specific decision or plan, but what about offering to Him one of the biggest, most rewarding sacrifices we possibly can? Our own self-will. Our agency. The greatest gift we have been given. What then? Can we trust Him enough to lead us into meadows of gold and pastures of plenty? Can we trust Him to take us by the hand and show us more beauty than we have ever before beheld? The answer is a big, loud, confident YES!! And it is all so worth it! We are called when we have a desire to be called! When we truly, and humbly desire to do what He wants us to do, He provides a way for us to accomplish the exact task He has asked of us. But that makes sense, right? I mean, if you desire to be an Eagle Scout, it isn’t impossible, you just find the right people and circumstances to help you out along your way and it happens! After a few years, some determination, and correct action, it happens. It is no mystery that God will always qualify us. We just have to ask.
Six years ago I spoke with my bishop, and brokenheartedly told him everything that he and my Father might help me come back. Four years ago I tried incredibly hard to serve a mission, while being told by a man to “close the door.” Three years ago I fell in love all over again. I fell in love with a man I had known for eternities, a man I loved before he was a man. We married and I was complacent with my life. I had the comforts we all enjoy, and I was “comfortable.” Eighteen months ago it all fell apart. My life, my world, my comprehension all turned upside down. Eighteen months ago the Lord said “Start a YouTube channel” to which I rightfully interpreted as “Start recording videos about your stories.” Eighteen months ago I recorded the first one, right before I was about to go visit my orange jumpsuit-wearing husband with our brand new baby daughter. Fifteen months ago I moved to Utah. Fifteen months ago I felt so utterly alone, angry, lost, and wanted it all to go away… Fifteen months ago I thought I was ready to go… Fifteen months ago the Lord saved my life yet another time. Six months ago I started a blog. Six months ago I changed my life…again. I knew this blog would change my life. I didn’t know how, but the Lord did, and He blessed my Spirit with a tiny amount of that understanding to help me continue forward.
What is my mission? Depending on how you look at it, it has either taken me years, or months to figure it out, but a whole lot of experiences. Who knew my mission would be so incredibly simple. The Lord has been qualifying me from the first answer He gave to my prayers for guidance and direction. I have stories, and I am meant to share them with the world. That is my mission. Pure and simple. Maybe it wasn’t easy at the beginning, but through all the strength and courage He has blessed me with over these last few years/last few months, I am ready. I am qualified. I am an instrument. Pure and simple… Pure and simple.
I’m ready. Bring it on!
~ Tiana Swank ~
PS I may not post on the blog for a couple weeks. Instead I will update and complete it!