"To choose the path is to choose the destination. But sometimes it seems the path is under our feet even before we know we’re walking. That’s how it was for me, at least. I was 17, on the verge of my 18th birthday. I had my whole life ahead of me until one cold December night when that all changed. I was a senior in high school on the road to see my brother Alexander in a play. My car broke down and three men stopped to help me. Or at least I thought they stopped to help me. I quickly learned that they meant to do me harm. These men raped me, and in just a few minutes my life was turned upside down.
My plan was to get married in the temple to my sweetheart for time and all eternity. I wanted to have five children and to be a mom. That’s what you do when you’re Mormon and you grow up in Utah. The events of the following years were not on the path that I had originally chosen; the path that I was raised to choose. Yet somehow here I was...this broken, angry young girl and at the top of my list of hatred was my Heavenly Father. I had done what I was supposed to do. I grew up in the church in a good family. I had been taught well and I had chosen well. I did everything that my parents and Heavenly Father had asked me to do. I was entitled to a happy life, because I had earned it-- or so I thought.
The next ten years were a blur of angry, bad choices. Although I had been the victim of a terrible event, it was still my responsibility to pick up the pieces and move on. It was up to me to choose happiness. It was up to me to forgive those that had hurt me and taken away from me the things that I held so dear. I had been robbed of my childhood dream of falling in love with my prince charming and spending our lives together. Instead I was dealing with a hatred for men. I went from believing that the world was safe to knowing that there was real danger in the world. Anger isn’t a great place to dwell, but at the time, it was all I had. I felt isolated and alone and I was waiting for my Heavenly Father to make it right. And amidst all of that anger, I missed all the people and blessings that He was sending to help me.
My family had since moved to California and I had stayed in Utah. I was completely inactive in the church and living with a man much older than I was, and we were planning marriage. Then the call came that my youngest brother was going on an LDS church mission and my second youngest brother had just returned home from his LDS church mission. I was invited to come to their combined homecoming/farewell. My dad was the Bishop at the time and the entire family would be there. I flew out for the event. All my family was going to the temple--my mom and dad and four brothers. I was the only one that could not go inside the temple. Instead I sat outside and watched my nieces and nephews that were babies at the time. It was on this day that something inside of me changed and it put in motion a change in my life.
I went back to Utah and things started to unfold. I decided to come back to the church. I wanted what my family had and I wanted to be a part of it again. I left the man I was living with and moved home to California to be with my family. I took the steps of repentance and was able to go through the temple. I had been forgiven and as it says in the scriptures “though my sins were as scarlet, they became white as snow”.
If only it were that easy to feel worthy again. In my head, I felt unworthy of the kind of man that could take me to the temple because of my past. It would be nice to say that I lived happily ever after and got the husband and the five children that I dreamed of, but I have learned that the work of the Lord can be slow and it is based on his time not ours.
I have also learned that there is no force in the world that is able to alter anything from its course greater than love. Whatever the question, love is the answer. With an angry heart, it’s hard to find and accept love.
I was married a few years later and this helped me to become who I am today and to let go of the anger. The biggest blessing of this marriage was my beautiful daughter Brianna Nicole Barnes, born on January 29th, 2000. I had never known that a love like the one I felt for my daughter was possible. When she was three, her father and I divorced. We remain good friends and I’m grateful for what that marriage taught me. But more than anything, I’m grateful for this amazing, strong, girl that I am blessed to be the mother of.
When I was raped, I became a victim. I lost my ability to make a choice and to speak up for myself. Sadly, once I became a victim, it was easy to remain a victim. The day I was raped, I lost my voice. I was filled with shame and had to learn to feel good about myself again, to accept myself, and to ask others for what I wanted and needed in life. At some point I had to reclaim my voice.
My Heavenly Father knew that because of my feelings of unworthiness, I needed something outside of myself that I could stand up for. My Heavenly Father knew that helping me to learn to stand up for my daughter Bri, would also help me to learn to stand up for myself. There are still days when I don’t feel worthy because of my past, but I know and have always known what this beautiful little girl needed and it is easy for me to stand up for her, to speak for her, to teach her, and in doing so it has taught me. I know that she deserves the best and in doing it for her, it has been given back to me. It has given me the voice that I lost that day and the ability to feel worthy of my Heavenly Father's love, to ask for the things I need in life and in a man, and to stand up for truth and righteousness even when I stand alone at times. I know that together Brianna and I are a family and the two of us are enough and we are blessed richly by a loving Heavenly Father.
We live a charmed life in Huntington Beach California. A life I once dreamed of, but later thought would never be possible. I experience the peace, love, and blessings that have come from a loving Heavenly Father. I have seen his hand so many times in Brianna's life and my life. I have been blessed to be able to stay at home with my daughter, even as a single mother.
My life didn’t come all wrapped up in the fairy tale that I had hoped for as a child. It has been a sometimes long, and often difficult road. I’ve learned a lot about the dangers of expectations and entitlement and how harmful those two things can be. Heavenly Father’s plan is simple: it is the great plan of happiness not the great plan of entitlement and expectations. To choose the path is to choose the destination, and I choose the great plan of happiness. Heavenly Father has an eternal perspective that isn’t filtered through the things of the world. Heavenly Father is patient and long suffering and always there even when we choose to turn our backs on him. Heavenly Father loves us with the kind of love that only a Father knows.
And in the end, that is all that matters."
to get in touch with nicole, contact her here.