The Girl Who Stole the Gumball

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“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” Ether 12:27

I’m a child, seven years old, walking through the grocery store with my cousin Erin. My aunt is pushing the grocery cart, considering the price of each item before she places it in the basket. My older cousin Nichole is hanging alongside the cart.

At that age, I hated the grocery store. With the exception of the candy bars that adorned the checkout line, there was nothing there for me. I wasn’t even a huge candy bar fan, but that was the closest thing to a prize that I could imagine a grocery store having.

That was until Erin and I discovered the Brach’s candy island in the middle of the produce section. I don’t even know if these exist anymore, I haven’t seen one in ages, so I’ll explain what they are for those of you from younger generations.

Brach Candy Island is a group of plastic bins filled with different types of candies. These aren’t any old regular candies either, they’re the cool candies. Soft caramels with strips of butter rum, raspberry, or orange flavoring in the middle, red round fireballs, and, my favorite, a cherry flavored, blazing red, hard candy that, if you sucked on it for long enough, turned into delicious bright pink bubble gum.

Each piece of candy was like five cents, but you could also buy them by the pound. At this particular time in my life, when I am seven years old at the grocery store with my cousin, I had never heard of those hard, red candies that turn into gum. This particular day is where my cousin Erin tells me what they are.

“See these?”, she points to the barrel of glorious red spheres. I did see them. “There’s gum inside!” she marveled.

“Where at?”, I asked, my eyes wide. From the outside, the candies looked just like the red fireballs, which I knew were NOT my friend.

“In the middle, once you get past the cherry stuff. It turns into gum!”

I know I wasn’t super old at the time, but you’d think I would have heard of something cooler than that by then. As far as I was concerned, I hadn’t. This was it. Hard candy with gum on the inside. Never mind that they’re essentially Blow Pop suckers without the sticks, but I couldn’t have cared less about suckers. This was about hard candy that melted into gum, and I wanted one.

“Want one?” Erin asked, smiling. It’s like she read my mind. “Let’s take one.”

“They cost five cents,” I said. “We don’t have any cents.” I was too naive to understand what she was suggesting. Not only that, I was a wuss. I was too scared to take what wasn’t mine. I had always been taught that stealing was wrong. I also knew that at any given moment, Santa Claus could be watching, and I did not want to upset Santa Claus.

I imagined a small elf sitting on Brach’s Candy Island, dangling his tiny legs over the edge of the bin, watching for kids who steal, and then evaporating to the North Pole to tell Santa. I also thought about the primary song, “I’m Trying to be Like Jesus”, which was part of the after school playlist that I would sing alone in my bedroom, a performance for my stuffed animals. Other songs on that playlist were “Castle on a Cloud” from Les Mis, and Madonna’s “Like A Prayer”. I was a weird kid.

“Come on! No one’s looking. They won’t even know. Just hurry and take one and put it in your mouth!”

I thought to myself. Imagined the elf telling Santa, and Santa shaking his head in disbelief. I heard the lyrics of the primary song. I was trying to be like Jesus. I wanted to be. But taking this gumball definitely wasn’t “following in his way”, as the song goes. On the other hand, it was just a gumball. Five cents. Big whoop! Plus there was the added bonus of my cousin thinking that I was cool because we stole together. As a kid, I was pretty desperate to seem cool. We each reached in and took one gumball and quickly shoved it in our mouths.

Turns out that we weren’t as sneaky as we thought, and Nichole had seen the whole thing. She waited until we were in the parking lot to tell her mom what we had done. Erin remained stone-cold and denied it, while I leaked like a sieve. Literally. I was bawling. I was well aware that any coolness my cousin thought I possessed was gone, but the thought of getting arrested had superseded my fear of being a loser.

My aunt made us go in and talk to the manager of the store. He played his role a little too well. I’m sure he was just trying to scare us and save us from a life of crime, but he threatened to call the cops which was a little over-dramatic, in my opinion.

At that time I wanted to kiss his feet. I was saved from jail all because the store manager let us off with a warning! I breathed a huge sigh of relief and vowed to never steal again, and I didn’t. But I would quickly learn that life wasn’t as simple as it was that day. Some mistakes couldn’t be erased by groveling to a power-hungry store manager.

I was hard on myself that day, much harder than my cousin had been on herself, and that’s not meant to be critical of her, it’s meant to be critical of myself.

Always With Me

My whole life I have been way too hard on myself. I’ve had invasive thoughts in my mind telling me that I am not worthy of anything good for as far back as I can remember, for one reason or another. The older I got, the more serious my mistakes seemed. I think that’s because I thought that I should know better. I did know better, but it was hard to be perfect.

I stopped worrying about Santa’s elves because someone shattered that illusion for me in the back seat of my parent’s Oldsmobile at the ripe age of twelve. TWELVE. (Yes, I believed very seriously in Santa Claus until I was twelve.)

Instead, I started imagining Jesus and Heavenly Father as they are in the painting from the Sacred Grove when they appear to Joseph Smith. Rather than smiling down at me, they were shaking their heads in disappointment.

I lived many years of my life, conflicted between these two ideas: one, that I was a good person, and Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ loved me unconditionally, and two, that I was a bad person who didn’t deserve their love. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I finally understood that only one of those things was true. The other had been an awful lie that I had sold myself on.

I am a weak person when it comes to certain things, and I struggle a lot. I wrestle with right and wrong often. There were many things that I was taught were evil when I was growing up, only to learn as an adult that they’re not. I thought that because I enjoyed certain things, I must also be evil.

I read my scriptures and prayed diligently as a teenager, but in my twenties, I really deepened my relationship with my Savior when I started thinking of him differently. He wasn’t the figure above me shaking his head because I saw a rated R movie or said a swear word. He was the person beside me, on the ground with me, holding me while I cried.

He was there with me through everything. Every heartbreak, bad grade, scraped bumper. Every time I opened my mouth when I should have kept it shut. Every time I took a gumball that I hadn’t paid for. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

Why wasn’t He disappointed in me when I made so many mistakes? Not all of them were accidental, some had been on purpose! How then, am I worthy of His friendship and love?

The answer is, I’m not worthy of it. None of us are. But that’s what mercy is. That’s how grace works. It’s being imperfect and still being worthy of certain blessings because Jesus Christ makes up what we lack.

And because Heavenly Father knows us, and he loves us all the way. He doesn’t put restrictions and limits on that love. Sometimes I think about everything that has happened to me in my life, all the good and all the bad. Every mistake, every celebration.

Jesus with Mary and Martha

Finally Entering the Temple

My two very best friends are my mom and my husband. I hold nothing back when it comes to them, they know so much about me. Even then, they don’t know everything. Then I think about my best friend Sam, and what she knows. And another one of my best friends, Sandee, and all the things she knows. Or all the things my other best friend Chanel knows.

Each of these girls was close to me at different times in my life, and they know a lot (probably too much, sorry girls!) All of these people know so much, and they still love me. They’re still around.

Heavenly Father and Jesus know more than all of these people, and their love is still available to me. They’re still here to listen, and bear my burdens with me. To forgive me and encourage me.

Despite the fact that I’ve screwed up big time, that I make mistakes every day, and even despite the fact that I’ve been very angry at them. I’ve ignored them and then demanded to know where they are when I need them. I’ve asked a lot of them. But they’re still here. They see it all, and they wait for me. They wait for me to say I’m sorry, to ask forgiveness, to ask for help, to say thank you. How is that so? It completely blows my mind, and I don’t always understand it, to be honest.

At times it can be hard to feel the Savior’s presence in our lives. There have been plenty of times where I’ve yelled to an empty room, “Where are you? I don’t feel you at all.”

I don’t always know why this is. I can’t say for sure why there are times in our lives when we are asked to keep moving forward by ourselves. I can only say that the darkest times when I have been most alone are the times where I learned the most about myself.

Experiencing those things made me a better and stronger person. I don’t know if I could be who I am today, or if I could ever be who Heavenly Father knows I can be, without those lonely experiences.

I stayed away from getting my temple endowments for years because there was a voice inside my head that told me that I wasn’t worthy of those blessings. For over a decade I settled for walking around the outside of the temple because I thought I wasn’t good enough to go inside. There was always something that I thought made me unworthy of the blessings of the temple.

When I finally went through the temple for the first time, at 29 years old, I was blessed with the overwhelming feeling that I was worthy to be there. I belonged there. I thought back on all of those years where I told myself I was too bad to go, and I realized that those thoughts and feelings of unworthiness never once came from Heavenly Father or Jesus Christ.

I mourned all the years I lost by listening to the wrong voice. I wonder sometimes how different my life would have been if I had realized that earlier on in my life. Sometimes Satan’s voice will be louder than that of our Heavenly Father’s. That doesn’t mean we are bad people, it means Satan is working harder on us than usual. It happens. We need to learn to recognize which thoughts come from Heavenly Father and which come from Satan.

Satan will often try to humiliate and shame you. Over and over in my mind, I heard the words “You aren’t good enough for the temple. You don’t deserve a good husband. No one will ever love you in that way, and it’s all your fault.” Those feelings of shame that I allowed myself to feel came to me because I let myself believe the lies that Satan told me.

Magic Eye Pictures

Sometimes there are things in our lives that we need to resolve. Sometimes there are some mistakes that we need to ask forgiveness for. If there is something in your life that you need to resolve, you will not feel unworthy of God’s love. Those feelings are what keep people away from repentance, and they don’t come from the right place.

All Heavenly Father and Jesus ever want from us is for us to come home to them. Why would they ever discourage us from doing what we need to do to get there? The repentance process is available to all of us, whether on a small or large scale. Even the worst of us can be forgiven. As imperfect humans, we are all undeserving of His love and grace, and yet it is available to all. What a waste it would be to let it go unused.

When was the last time you knew the Savior was aware of you? If I tried, I could find little things every day to prove that He knows me and is aware of me. They don’t always have to be grand gestures.

Those of us looking for grand gestures so often miss the little reminders or the quiet whispers. It’s like those Magic Eye pictures. Do people even do those anymore? It’s a picture with a bunch of tiny squiggles that just looks like a bunch of nothing but if you look between the squiggles, and not at the painting as a whole, then you get to see something cool like a dolphin or a castle.

I could never get them to work because I could never stop looking at the picture as a whole. So it’s kinda like that only on a bigger level because the love from our Savior is so much better than any dumb secret dolphin picture (this coming from the girl who never actually got to see that dumb secret dolphin).

I like to imagine what the Savior knows about me that I don’t know about myself. It’s a fun thing to think about. I think of all that I’ve accomplished in my life, or any of the amazing things I’ve gotten to do, the places I’ve seen, the people I know.

As a kid or even as a teenager, I never could have imagined all of this for myself. I never would have thought I deserved any of it. But Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ know exactly what I deserve, and they know what I am capable of.

Maybe I’m not capable or deserving of certain things now that I will have in the future. That’s part of why having a strong relationship with our Savior is so important for us. Without it, it’s so much easier to get caught up in the politics of our religion, or the people within it. It’s easier to be offended by others and their ignorance. When we don’t have a strong bond with our Savior, it makes the connection to our Heavenly Father so much harder to maintain.

I’m so grateful that it is available to me, the girl who isn’t perfect. The girl who makes mistakes. The girl who has been hurt, but also who has hurt others. The girl who stole the gumball.

Gabrielle is a Blossom’s relationship expert , makeup artist, selfie queen who lives with her husband/best friend in Arizona, though she desperately wishes she lived in Disneyland. She looks like an adult, but still sleeps with the TV on. She believes in living a balanced life which is why she has salad for lunch and pizza for dinner. Her one regret in life is that she cannot pull off adult overalls.