What my life has taught me is that it’s not your past that matters, but your future. That is where you should find your hope. That is where you should put your energy. Because you can make it great.


Finding light, even in the darkest of times
One burning question

I sat with my mom in the living room of my grandma’s house, the morning sun pouring through the windows.

We were best friends.

I was 11, and we had gone through tough times together: abusive husbands, poverty, homelessness, despair, and more moves than I can remember. And even though we hadn’t been able to afford to keep my older sister, we had stuck together.

We were inseparable.

That’s when she told me she was leaving.
And in that moment, my entire world stopped moving. My heart stopped beating. In fact, nothing existed except one burning question… What had I done wrong?

This is my story.

What had I done wrong?

Note: This was hard to write. It was was painful to excavate and reconnect with these emotions, I worry about offending, and I fret about accuracy (I know my few memories are fallible). But it’s worth it if I can provide strength and perspective to someone who might need it. Because mostly this is a story about how we all have a choice. We can succumb to circumstance, or we can rise above it. It’s a story about finding light, even in the darkest of times.

A sacrifice

In 1974, I was born into a small family in Utah. I had a single older sister, and we lived a simple life in a small house, in an inconspicuous town in Utah.

When I was two, my dad developed schizophrenia. It would set my life on a path I could have never imagined.

He began hearing voices. He thought they were the voices of Biblical prophets. They told him he would be next, and he would heal the world of its suffering and wickedness. They started teaching him and giving him instructions. This greatly concerned my mom, and for good cause.

Before long, he received an ultimatum. To prove his faith and worthiness, he was required to make a sacrifice: me.

My mom saved me.

After a physical fight, we got out of the house and went on the run. We moved every couple of years, always to small towns throughout Utah and Montana. It meant I would never really develop friends or roots. And we lived light, because we were very, very poor. But I still had my mom, and that was all I needed.

My mom saved me

Changing sheets

When I was about four, my mom remarried. We moved into a tiny upstairs apartment, cramped and poor, but still together.

I was excited to have a new father. I was hopeful that we would be friends, that he would accept me. But he was an alcoholic, a “severe” drunk. In fact, I remember setting up traps… hangers dangling from string tied from doorknob to doorknob (I slept in the hallway). When either door opened, the string would sag, and the hangers would clink together to wake me up when he came in. That allowed me enough time to get out of the way, or at least be awake, if he was drunk and felt like hitting. He was not my friend.

Soon that marriage failed, and my mom, sister and I moved to a small town where my mom got a job as a hotel maid. They allowed us to live in one of the rooms as part of her pay. During the day I would go around with her, making beds and cleaning rooms. I still remember how she taught me to fold the sheet corners over the mattress.

We had next to nothing. But in truth, I didn’t mind. I got to be with my mom all day, every day.

I was with my mom all day, every day

Hiding in a pipe

When I was about six or seven, she gave marriage a third try. I was childishly optimistic about this father. The first time my mom brought him home, he acted really interested in the matchbox cars I was playing with on the hotel floor. “How cool would it be if I had a father to play with?” I thought.

We left the hotel and moved to a little trailer house in a remote Utah town, and that’s when my mom took me to my first day of school.
I soon realized I was inferior, unaccepted. I was the poor kid. I smelled and my clothes were worn. I was new in town so I didn’t know anybody, and it wasn’t cool to hang out with me. It was cool to bully me. So I got a lot of that.

I wasn’t very smart. I remember my teacher telling my mom I couldn’t come to class until I knew my alphabet. This was a dilemma, because I couldn’t be home alone, and there was no money for a sitter. So my grandma came over to teach me. I remember feeling the pressure. I had one day to learn the alphabet. I remember my grandma pulling my hair in frustration—probably the only way to get me to learn. But it worked; I did it.

But school was a harsh place. At recess I would hide in a huge cement pipe by the playground to avoid getting beat up. It was dark and safe in there, and I could watch the kids play until the bell rang. I would imagine being among them.

I often remember the long walk home from school with my sister, usually telling her through tearful eyes about my troubles. But my mom was always there when I got home, and she would make me feel better. She began teaching me karate to defend myself. I remember practice in front of her in the living room, watching and working for her validation. She was a black belt, which was so cool. You didn’t mess with my mom, and I felt safe with her.

My mom was always there when I got home

The hunger games

When I was about nine, my stepdad got a new job on an oil rig in Montana. The move to another remote town didn’t bother me. Montana was full of forests. To a kid who played almost entirely alone, with such an active imagination, it was totally awesome. The forest was my playground. It was full of mystery and intrigue. I spent every possible hour by myself, wandering the woods, using my imagination. Escaping. Especially if my new dad was home.

He was often drunk, and usually angry. He was no longer interested in my cars or the sticks I brought home to show him. In fact, I was mostly in his way. He’d become easily frustrated with my childish energy, and would reach out and smack me on the head with his fist. I hated that. It hurt, of course, but it was more demeaning than hurtful. And I was getting old enough to notice the difference. Pain went away faster than humiliation. But I was tough; not even he could break my spirit.
Money was very scarce. At one point we lived in a tent. I remember my mom coming home one day with a quarter of a box of Bisquick. We sat around the fire to make pancakes! But the smell overcame us, and we just ate the batter with our hands. It tasted so good.

Eventually my mom tired of the constant meanness and abuse. When I was 10, we left and moved into a tiny camper trailer parked in the woods across town.

We didn’t have running water, electricity, or heat, and almost no food. I would catch fresh crawdads at the lake to boil them. We ate a lot of millet (seed). I learned to shoot a squirrel out of a tree with a little wooden bow and arrow I had received one Christmas (Katniss Everdeen would have been pleased). And I had one good meal every day because I got free lunch at school.

Most importantly, I had my mom. That was what I really cared about. She remained my constant.

We didn’t have running water, electricity, or heat

There is no free lunch

Because we had no running water, in the summer I would occasionally shower under a hose attached to a neighbors house, but in the winter, I just never showered. As an 11-year-old, that meant I usually smelled. That made it hard to be accepted, and I was constantly ridiculed by my peers, including (and especially) my teacher.

She had built a little four-walled cubicle at the back of the class to isolate me. When I walked in, I would go sit alone at my desk and close the cubical walls behind me. If I didn’t, she would. That way my odor wouldn’t disrupt the other students, the “more important” ones. My teacher couldn’t keep me from coming into the classroom, but at least she could minimize my impact. She exercised control the best way she knew how. I could only listen to what was going on outside my fortress walls. I would let my imagination make up the difference. I didn’t learn much.

One day when I walked in, she made an open comment about how intolerable I was and how much I smelled. It was the public shame that did it. The embarrassment that rushed through me as the whole class looked at me and laughed. In a rush of haste and a lack of logic, I hit her.

Perhaps that was just what she was hoping for, and she marched me right down to the principle’s office to suspend me. I remember sitting in that chair across from the principle, who seemed sympathetic, listening to my teacher argue compelling me to suspend me. I knew what that would mean. No more lunch.

It was the public shame that did it

Atomic Fireball

I remember walking out of the school building that day. Everyone else was in class. My mom wasn’t home to come get me, and we didn’t have a phone at home to call her anyway. I walked out of the doors and stood alone in the parking lot. I remember turning around and feeling the aloneness and isolation, and thinking “what am I going to do?”

I didn’t tell my mom. I didn’t want to disappoint her or put additional pressure on her to find a way to feed me. We already had given up my sister because she couldn’t afford both of us. I was worried about what would happen to me if she found out.

So instead, I hung out in the woods during school. I remember hiding in the woods outside the playground, peering through the trees, watching the kids play at recess, and imagining being there.

One time I even snuck onto the playground to play with them. But my teacher saw me and kicked me out.

At lunchtime, I would steal food from workers at a nearby construction site or sometimes from the general store. After school I would be waiting in the woods outside the school. As the kids came pouring out of the building, I would quickly go from one to the other, asking if I could go to their house and play, hoping to get in on some after-school snacks. I undoubtedly came across as an obnoxious mooch, but I had to be resourceful.

I remember finding a dime on the street while walking home from pretending to be at school. I brought it home with pride, imagining the possibilities. Sensing my excitement, my mom told me I could walk down to the store and buy whatever I wanted. I remember standing in that store, weighing my options, imagining the experience of consuming each option. I ultimately decided on an Atomic Fireball, because I figured that of all the options, that would last the longest. As excited as I was about this rare treat, I exercised a surprising amount of self-control, carried it all the way home, carefully unwrapped it, and then smashed it with a rock. As excited as I was, I desperately wanted to share it with my mom. I recall carefully carrying the small fragments inside, sitting on the floor with my mom, and dividing them into equal shares. I wanted to give back.

We had to give up my sister

The night she didn’t come home

My sister had gone to live with my grandma. So now it was just my mom and me. But these were not the normal happy times together. She was very stressed. All we had was our little trailer, but we had no food, water, or electricity to keep us warm at night. We were constantly and uncomfortably hungry, so she started traveling.

She was an entertainer, and would drive her old, beat-up truck to neighboring towns to drum up gigs in bars, hotels, or wherever they’d let her play. They were usually far away, which meant she’d often be gone for a night or two, leaving me all alone.

But this “alone” was different. Being alone while playing in the woods was one thing. Being alone during school time was one thing. In fact, I was alone a lot, and it usually didn’t bother me, because I knew that in truth I wasn’t alone. I knew that at the end of the day, I would come home, and my mom would be there. She was always there.

But this “alone” was different, because I would come home from a day alone and would still be alone. This “alone” was different because it was a dark, cold, small trailer, with thin walls. At night, huddled under as many blankets and coverings as I could find, I would sit with an empty stomach and listen to the sounds outside, trying to be brave. This “alone” felt different; it felt more… alone.

Hope got me through. And as long as those nights were, eventually, she would always come home when she said she would.

Until one night, she didn’t.

Several nights had gone by and she hadn’t returned. She was long overdue, and I was worried. It’s times like these that your mind tends to do mean things to you. I began to wonder if she was ever coming home. I began to wonder why she wasn’t coming home. I struggled to remember if I had perhaps done something that would cause her to not want to come home. Was this my fault?

I remember my final night in that wretched trailer. I wrapped myself in a blanket, more for its emotional impact than warmth. I stared out the tiny window into the darkness, crying softly, wishing, as if by the power of sheer belief, she would come home.

I had finally given up, fatigue defeating hope, and had just fallen asleep when light suddenly poured through the window. I could hear the crunch of tires on gravel just outside. Flooded with fresh hope, I sat bolt upright in bed and looked out the small window.

It wasn’t her truck.

But I kept watching as the truck came to a stop outside the trailer. Nobody was getting out. It was as though she was steeling herself for what she had to do. After what seemed like forever, she slowly climbed out of the passenger side. There was a brace around her neck. She had been in a severe car accident and had been in the hospital, with no way to come home or call. But even if she could, I don’t know if she would have.

The accident had changed her.

Not yet knowing any of this, I ran outside in excitement to embrace her. But she was without affection.

I remember staring out the window, crying, waiting for her headlights

Pack your things

She came into the trailer with some guy she’d managed to talk into giving her a ride, and told me to pack. “We’re leaving tonight,” she said.

It was weird.

We didn’t talk much, and I had no idea what the rush was. But packing didn’t take long. We threw our meager belongings into three black garbage bags and tossed them unceremoniously into the back of the truck. Without any further ado, we left our little trailer in Montana, never to return. We drove through the night to my grandma’s house in Utah, arriving very late.

It was the next morning that she told me.

The next morning she told me

I’m leaving

You know how there are certain events in your life that are of such a critical nature that the rest of your life hangs in the balance? They’re like hinge-moments, in which time seems to slow down and you remember them with clarity.

This should have been like that, but it wasn’t.

I only have vague memories of it. I assume this morning, like so many moments before it, became the victim of selective memory. It hurt too much. And as an 11-year-old, with such a well-exercised imagination from so much time alone, I think I just chose to imagine that it never happened.

Here’s what I do remember.

I remember sitting on a chair in the living room, and the sun was coming in through the window. I remember that because I always loved how the sun poured through a window. I would spend hours lying in it, like a basking lizard, napping or imagining. And the happiness of the sunlight sharply contrasted with what happened next.

She told me she was leaving.

I was going to stay with my sister at my grandmas house. I don’t remember anything else. I don’t think I processed much after the “I’m leaving” part. My brain fixated on this one incomprehensible point.

I had never not had my mom.

At least not for any real length of time. She had always been there. Fathers had come and gone; at 11 I’d already been through three of them, and good riddance. But not my mom. She was my constant. She was my world, my base, my strength and comfort. She was… mom.

I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, imagine a world without her. I vaguely remember trying to be tough. I didn’t want to make this difficult for her. I owed her everything.

Later, I stood at the window and watched as she drove away. I had done this countless times before, always knowing that she’d come back.

So I did what I always did. I held on to that one thing that was deepest inside of me. The one thing that always kept me going. Hope.

“She’ll come back,” I told myself. “She’s my mom. She’ll come back; I just know she will.”

And in the meantime, I had my grandma. I have always loved my grandma; she seemed like a second mom to me. And I was now reunited with my sister. She was a rockstar in my eyes. So solid. A blessed being.

But this comfort, small as it was, was not to last.

‘She’ll come back,’ I told myself. ‘I know she will.’

Not wanted

It didn’t take long before I started overhearing uncomfortable conversations between my grandma and grandpa—about how he didn’t want to have to be a parent again, about how I needed a real father in my life.

I remember wondering if he knew just how many times I’d been disappointed by my fathers, how many times I’d opened myself up to them and been hurt. How many times I had clung to hope—hope that “this one” would be different: kind, gentle, loving, accepting… a friend. As much as I had clung to hope in life and found strength in its light—like some internal well that gave life to the spirit in dark times—the hope for a father was something I had long since given up on.

All I wanted was to stay with my grandma and my sister. And here I was listening to my grandpa trying to take that away from me.

His arguments were compelling, and soon my grandma relented. She told me we were going on a little trip to Idaho to visit my uncle and his family.

I hardly knew them. We’d met only a couple of times before, both undesirable memories: once at a family Christmas gathering, where he’d heard me use incorrect English and would not let me leave until I figured out the correct way to say it; and again during another family Christmas where he and my mom had been in a huge fight. I realize now these are unfair memories from a limited perspective; but as an 11-year-old, you don’t have much to work from.

We packed my stuff (a single garbage bag), put it in the car, and drove six hours to Idaho. I didn’t find out the truth until we got there.

All I wanted was to stay with my grandma

Losing everything

We arrived at my uncle’s house, where my six cousins greeted me warmly. They lived in Idaho, on the top of a hill at the end of a long, dirt road, way outside of town.

“You’re going to live with them,” she said.

We had stepped outside. She had something to tell me. I remember walking over to her car, away from the house. “You need a father in your life,” she said, “and your grandpa can’t be that for you.”

Here it was again. The promise of a father.

Like that had worked out so well! And now it was at the expense of everything I wanted, everything I held dear, everything familiar. It was not a good start for a relationship I would forever struggle to build.

I stood there in stunned silence. I remember looking around me, as if for the first time. It felt strangely similar to the day I walked out of the school—alone, suspended.

I tried to imagine this as my new house, to be optimistic about my surroundings, but I couldn’t. This was so foreign. I was an alien here.

That day, and the days that followed, my new family worked hard to make me feel welcome and make it easier. And I felt my cousins truly accepted me, which is beyond my comprehension. But it did little to ease the blow.

When it was time for my grandma to leave, I stood in the front, at the top of the hill, and watched, again, as someone I loved drove away from me.

Somehow, this was the moment that hurt the most. I reprocessed it again and again in the days that followed, trying to make sense of it.

I felt deeply and utterly alone, and it hurt. I felt a great, pressing weight in my chest—like someone was stomping on my heart, mocking my pain. I had felt pain like this in the past, a sharpness that takes your breath away, but this was somehow different. This was more than just another time you rolled with the punches life gave you. I had learned that lesson well. But I couldn’t roll with this punch.

It hurt so bad. And then it hurt some more. And it just wouldn’t stop hurting.

This felt like life was kicking me when I was down, stomping on my face while I writhed on the ground. It felt filled with fury and rage, like it couldn’t get enough, like life was bent on breaking me. It felt deliberate.

I wasn’t raised religious. We had never really gone to church; my mom was poisoned against it since the experience with my first dad. But I remember for the first time wondering why God was doing this to me. Was there even a God? If so, did he hate me too? And if so, why? What had I done?

I stood and watched as she drove away

What’s wrong with me?

My new family was very generous. There was a warm house. There was food on the table. There was security, brothers and sisters to play with, and lots of little comforts like toilet paper. I’m telling you, you likely don’t appreciate your toilet paper enough. And there was electricity, heat, cooked meals, running water, structure, and a real bed with sheets and blankets. There were so many wonderful things I had to be grateful for.

I noticed none of them.

As much as I had gained, I felt like I had lost everything.

My mom was gone. My grandma was gone. My sister was gone. Everything was gone.

I hardly knew this family. How could they ever love me? I was clearly defective. Why else would literally nobody keep me?

Here I was, thrust upon them like an surprise visitor that would never leave, a troubled child that they now had to feed, clothe, discipline and care for. How would they ever accept me? I was eating their food. This was a terribly awkward time. I felt like an unwanted child, not out of lack of effort on their part—I just couldn’t help it.

And in times like these, your brain is not nice to you. I was plagued with troubling questions. Why did nobody want me? Was it my fault? Was I doing something to drive these people away? If so, what? What was wrong with me? Would my mom ever come get me? How could I go to yet another school? How could I start over yet again?

I felt overwhelmed by the sheer immensity of how much had been taken from me. When things had been taken from me before, my mom was always there. But this time, nothing was there. I had no one to cling to; I had nothing that was familiar. I was lost.

That was when my ticks started. The mental and emotional strain had caused me to develop Tourette syndrome. I would twitch, or shake, or bend my neck oddly until my muscles would ache from the strain of it. I would sometimes go into the bathroom, overcome by the need to twist and contort my head. I would stand there in front of the mirror, watching myself literally turn in circles, unable to stop, and realize that I was broken.

It was another thing people would make fun of, and it would be with me forever.

I was lost… I was broken

Unexpected delivery

For months, I would spend most nights lying in my bed until my brothers were asleep. I would then turn over and sob into my pillow, begging for God to bring me back my mom.

These were my first prayers. And they were desperate. “Please, please, please, please, bring back my mom… if you’re there, please hear me, bring back my mom.”

But he didn’t.

Instead, something else happened. Looking around me and feeling entirely alone, it was only then that I realized I wasn’t. It was only after everything had been stripped from me that my eyes could see what was there all along.

It was then that I came to know God. It happened over time, but it was very real. I felt his love, I felt his warmth, I felt his comfort, I felt his presence. It was transformative.

And instead of bringing back my mom, which is what I asked for, indeed, all I cared about, he gave me something greater. He gave me strength. He showed me how to forgive. He showed me how to endure. He showed me I was greater than the circumstances of my life.

We all are.

He showed me that the purpose of life was not comfort, but strength and progress, which only come from opposition. And the greater the opposition you overcome, the greater the strength you develop.

It wasn’t easy; in fact, it took several years. But during this time, and with God’s help, I realized that I had a choice. We all do. I realized I could either choose to be consumed by sadness, or fear, or anger, or depression, and be captive their despair, or I could rise above it all.

I realized that while I didn’t get to choose what life did to me, I did get to choose how I would perceive it. I realized I could choose to let go of my past, and in doing so, I could embrace a new future. So that’s what I did.

I realized I had a choice

A greater hope

It was then that I made the tough decision. It was the decision to stop hoping my mom would return for me.

It was holding me back. And it wasn’t fair to my new mom, who in her angelic way was trying so hard to fill that role. By focusing so much on that vain hope, I wasn’t letting her.
I realized that the past tends to cling to us like a leech, siphoning the energy we could otherwise use to move forward, kept alive by things seemingly as innocent as our hopexAQ or our refusal to let go.

I realized I was clinging to the past, and it was preventing me from focusing on the future, a much greater hope. So I chose to hope for the future. I chose to let go.

And that was when I was tested.

No sooner had I let go, then one Sunday morning the phone rang, and my Dad came into my room and handed it to me. “It’s for you.”

It was my mom. She wanted me to come back. She was ready for me, she said. But that’s a story I’ll save for later.

I had chosen my path; I had found solidarity. I was moving forward.

I chose to hope for the future

Engineering my life

When I was 18, I wanted to give back, so I volunteered two years of my life to go serve a mission for my church. I was sent to Sydney, Australia, where I learned Mandarin Chinese. I spent two fully-dedicated years not working, going to school, or doing anything but teaching these beautiful people from mainland China about God. I was able to share my experience of how he had changed my life and show them how he could change theirs, too.

It was an amazing, inexplicable experience—to be lost in a greater cause.

When I came back to the United States, I studied psychology at the University of Utah. I married the most beautiful woman in the world, a girl from Utah that I actually met in Australia.

Now we have seven amazing children. Yep, seven. They are the most happy, intelligent, sarcastic, funny, delightful humans you will ever meet. We are best friends. They fill my life with joy and give it meaning and purpose. We have a home where light and truth prevails. Each morning I wake them up with a long, warm hug and a kiss, and dance with my baby in our living room. It’s heaven. They will have what I didn’t.

I made a career for myself in business: inventing, designing, and managing software products, and later heading up product and product marketing groups and business units. My various experiences have culminated in founding Life Engineering.

Seven children who fill my life with joy

Life Engineering

Over the last 20-plus years, I’ve invested nearly every available hour studying engineering, science, and physics; management, product, and marketing methodologies; and especially the psychology of change, from a biological to a behavioral level.

What I’ve discovered is that the principles in these fields and disciplines have equal application to life.

I discovered that true principles are almost universally applicable. That every physical law has its spiritual or emotional shadow. That principles from disparate disciplines, when extracted and applied to life, can provide powerful insight and perspective.

I’ve spent the last 20 years synthesizing that information, building a system and methodology for life, and am now publishing it to the world.

It’s a movement called Life Engineering, founded on the premise that you have more control over your life than you know—that success and change rest upon a common foundation of scientific and engineering principles. When properly applied, those principles give you control over your future.

I’ve codified this into an ecosystem—a framework for living that teaches you how to escape the gravitational pull of your past and create a future of your own design.

I’ve come to understand that you have strength within you. Strength to overcome, strength to endure, strength to succeed. Sometimes all you need is a little help.

That’s what Life Engineering is all about. After all, what my life has taught me is that it is not your past that matters, but your future. That is where you should find your hope. And you should make it great.

You have strength to overcome, to endure, to succeed

Are you ready

To move forward in life?

After more than 20 years of research across dozens of disciplines, industries, and scientific fields, I’ve synthesized it all into the programs at Life Engineering. For the first time ever, the best principles and practices from a vast array of fields and disciplines have been brought together into a single, comprehensive ecosystem designed to help you do one thing: Find and fulfill your mission, so you can move forward in life.

Still want more?

Discover the light within

This is a greatly abbreviated version, but the whole story is captured in my upcoming book. With my personal life as a narrative foundation, I’ll show you that the power, strength, and capacity to overcome is within you. I’ll help you discover who you are and renew your hope and passion for life. I’ll teach you how to find light, even in the darkest of times.
To be notified when Discover the Light Within is available, use the form below.

85 Responses

  1. I just had to tell you how much this story touched me. The pictures of your family are so beautiful they make my heart hurt. You look so happy.
    What happened to your “prophet” dad?

  2. I am so happy, I have been greatly blessed, and because of my past, it makes my current blessings all the more sweet.
    My biological father showed up on my doorstep a few years back. I opened the door and there he was, I recognized him because he looked so much like me. That and his first words to me were “I’m your dad” (an interesting introduction).
    Well it turns out he has Schitzophrenia, and struggles with many voices that tell him different things. He later begain sending me articles and emails about how he was again ready to be the prophet, and how the Lord was about to call him.
    Those took a dark turn when they started to say that before the world was ready for his reign as a prophet, he had to fulfill his role as the grim reaper. Shortly afterward his communication stopped. I believe he’s getting treatment somewhere.
    Like I’ve said in many of my posts. We’ve each been required to struggle with our own crosses. He has his own, and it’s not my place to begrudge him, or harbor any ill-will towards him because of my past.
    I feel profound regret that his life is as painful as it is. And so I have no resentment, only empathy. His burdens are great enough without having to feel any of that from me.
    Thanks for replying, and please invite others to read the story as well. I’ve long felt that one of the reasons I was meant to experience it all, was so that I could share the story with others. Not in a “poor me” sort of way, but to offer encouragement and hope, and as a personal illustration of the affect the hand of the Lord can have in ones life.

  3. My dad e-mailed your blog address to me 2day. Your stories are great. Your blog will be another one that I visit daily! Your wife and children are so lucky to have you! Thanks for sharing your life with me.

  4. Your past has moved me to tears and despite all that, you’ve survived strongly and like as it is said, God above is always compassionate and omni-caring and He watches over you all the time though at that time of your life, you might not have known it.
    You’ve proven that in life that it’s not the bad past that breaks you but rather has challenged you in ways that you’ve championed on to greater heights in every way.

  5. Thank you for your comments, and I’m so glad you’ve found inspiration in the story. I’ve been truly blessed, and enjoy sharing it. Please feel free to do the same, and invite others to come read it as well.
    I hope to see you again.


  6. I like your photos. I think you have a really nice family. Its so amazing when you can survive to pass your childhood. Not everyone can do that. Keep fight! I hope one day, I can do the same thing :)

  7. Thank you for sharing this great story of how you have overcome the adversity in your life up to this point. I too feel that we have the potential to soar to great heights, only being limited by our own fears. When we have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ we believe that all things are possible. Acting upon that belief, our faith begins to grow and soon becomes absolute knowledge. Your family is beautiful, a complete picture of what we, as children of God, were sent here to this world to do, become Eternal Families. Peace!

  8. You know what, this is one of the most inspiring posts I have read in many days. At the beginning of this post, I was appalled at what it is and can be for a single mother in the US. I wandered what kind of effect it might have on your mind. But as I progressed, I found that it was one of the most inspiring tales, real life stories I have read and it shook my belief that early childhood traumas affect the mind permanently. I suppose the coming into the Uncles family changed everything for you.
    God’s great! I had a similar history, but my Mom did not have many partners. I grew up with my maternal family from birth onwards but at 12 years, I came to live with my aunt and uncle who had no kids. It changed my life and changed the way I would think about men in general. Suddenly reading your account, I realise, how lucky I have been too…..thank you!

  9. I was brought up in Utah and now live in the UK and was sorley missing the mormon scene…deseret news guided me over here and after I’ve read this I need you to know that you made my day. I miss people who talk/inspire like you.

  10. What wonderful comments!
    In the Doghouse (you’re not really, are you? ;-) what a good summary. “Soar to great heights”, lifted on the currents of our faith in the Lord – what a wonderful image.
    Samasti, you and I indeed have much in common. I’d love to hear your story in more detail should you wish to share it ([email protected]). I do believe our lives are guided directly by the hands of God, so as tough as it must have been, it will be a blessing to you. Of course, it’s easier to see that looking back, and much harder when you’re in the throes of adversity.
    Ari, I’m so glad you’ve found my blog enjoyable. I hope you’ll all return, and share this blog with others.
    Peace to you all.

  11. I just got around to exploring your site a little more. No wonder I enjoy your blog so much! I have given up most of them because they are so negative and are not uplifting at all. I have to limit my computer time or I wouldn’t get anything done. I always feel better after visiting your blog, so it will stay.
    It’s great to learn more about you. I admire you tremendously for becoming the person you are in spite of your beginnings. I’m sure the Lord watched over you carefully to provide the environment you needed to become the person He needed. You have wisdom far beyond your years.
    I look forward to future posts!

    From Rusty, Thank you very much, I’m so glad to hear you say that, it fuels me to continue, knowing that someone appreciates it and finds upliftment. I hope I won’t let you down!

  12. What an amazing story, wow! Your title Can Mormons swim make me click on your link. I am a Mormon and thought…what the heck, though I normally do not click on anything I think may be anti-mormon.

    From Rusty, well I’m glad you came. I hope to see you again!

  13. Powerful story and thanks for sharing it. God heals broken lives and put pieces together to create something beautiful. He is the only one who can broken lives as whole.

  14. hey there,
    what an awesome and inspiring story. I have recently started my teaching career, working in a tough inner city school. I have met characters much like yourself as a young man and hope that I have in some way been able to help them in their lives. Your story has given me hope that it is possible to help another! Thank you!
    p.s. I served in Germany

  15. I just decided to read this again. It’s amazing what you have overcome. No wonder you are willing to sacrifice your time, expertise and a lot more to do this. I’m sure I speak for many others, too, when I say if there’s ever anything I can do to help, just ask!

    From Rusty: You’re so kind. Just spread the word, as I know you do. Thanks for your kind remarks.

  16. I read the whole post about yourself… and the time I was wondering if things were going to get better….
    Wow… what a powerful testimony. Amazing! Reading your story, I could see the work of God in your life even as a young boy.
    Life was difficult. But thanked God, we have our Almighty Father.
    Beautiful pictures of your family. God is so good.
    Greetings from the Philippines

  17. My childhood experience in Asia was as dejected as yours … As a result of that, I have become less of a person I wish to be … Your words – “Past is past. Dwelling upon it only results in an ever inhibiting cycle of self-imposed limitations, as we convince ourselves that we are stuck within it, but we’re not. Life is what we make of it” will be my daily mantra …

  18. Your from-rags-to-riches kind of story almost made me cry. I can see how blessed you are just by looking at your beautiful family. I’m an LDS and I’m not shy to admit that there are questions about the Church that have been bothering me. Luckily, I found your blog while browsing at wordpress and the title “Sister Hinckley’s Challenge” caught my attention. I’ve found answers to most of those questions here. The Faith Fitness is very inspiring and encouraging. The visitors’ comments helped as well. Kudos to you and them :)

  19. Okay, tears in my eyes now. You have a beautiful family and a way with words, and a heart for loving your kids well. Amazingly difficult background. I am going to pray for you every night. I really want to win you over now, to the truth. You are so close, it seems to me.

  20. You’re too kind. But yes, I have been so greatly blessed. So much so that often I can hardly even believe it myself. My life has been led by god, and my most sincere hope is that I can show my gratitude by deeply loving my family foremost, but everyone as well, and by dedicating as much as possible of myself to teaching the gospel.
    But please do pray for me. I constantly seek the truth, for truth gives me power and perspective to perservere.
    Your heart is good, and we need more like that today.

  21. I am so glad God has blessed you as he has. It is sweet you call my heart good, but the only good in me is from the indwelling Holy Spirit. I still have the flesh as well and it is a constant battle. Online, I continually battle my own arrogance. If I dare to think I am not prideful, someone always brings it out in me. =)
    I have been re-reading a book I bought 13 years ago on Mormonism because I am rusty. All night I was thinking, “I am rusty,” and it made me smile since your name is Rusty as well.
    I will try to post something today or very soon in my blog about the differnces between Mormonism and Christianity.

  22. I found your blog when I followed a link that someone had found MY blog from. My husband is Polish and is in the process of making a website/blog with information about the Church in his language, as there is VERY little accurate info available in Polish. He’s taken a look at yours and it’s great.
    Rusty, your story has changed me, I think. It totally makes me look back and remember those kind of kids in school that everyone avoided. I’m crying. I don’t know what to say. I am just really grateful for your sake that you were blessed to find a new life and that you have chosen to spend such a good portion of it sharing the things that are most important to you in this way. I’ll be coming back and looking through your archives.
    Thank you.

  23. So touching Rusty!
    That’s the most impressive “About me” I’ve ever read !
    I love the 3 photos
    – what a happy family!
    “It is not our past that matters. No, our future is determined by far more substantial things than memories. It’s our perspective on life, our perseverance, our will to succeed, our attitude, and most importantly, our ability to hope and to trust in God. These are the things that shape our future. Past is past. Dwelling upon it only results in an ever inhibiting cycle of self-imposed limitations, as we convince ourselves that we are stuck within it, but we’re not. Life is what we make of it.”
    Thank you so much for sharing these excellent thoughts!
    Take care Rusty!

  24. I just wanted to thank you for your insightful blog. I stumbledupon it and I’m so glad I did. I was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints this past May and ever since I’ve had so many questions and inquiries about the gospel that I’ve been afraid to ask local churchmembers. Your posts have provided much insight and I’m so grateful for it. Thank you.

  25. Marguerite,
    Congratulations on your baptism. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Rusty’s great at answering, but I’m sure your local leaders would be happy to help you, too. Speaking from experience, it’s important to go to your Bishop or Branch President when you have questions. That’s part of their responsibility.

  26. Marguerite,
    I’m so glad you found my blog, and that it was at least somewhat helpful. Please don’t hesitate to ask any questions here. We’re happy to discuss all manner of topics!
    Also, as you’re a stumbleupon user, please make sure to “thumbs up” your favorite posts, that’s the surest and most effective way to help others find this blog as well!
    It’s nice to have you, and we’ll all hope to hear from you again.

  27. Hey, Rusty,
    Hasn’t your wife given birth yet? You should add an updated photo so we can see all 6 kids. They are all sure gorgeous kids–except one not so much.

  28. sorry, everybody, it was a joke. I didn’t mean it to be such a conversation stopper. Rusty and I are friends and happen to share the same mother-in-law–she has been known to say similar things. But when I’d ask her privately who the ugly one is, she wouldn’t say, but would assure me that it wasn’t me.

  29. LOL, yeah, I laughed when I read that, but didn’t consider that it might raise an eyebrow or two! Margaret, I think your assumption is correct. She keeps us on our toes. Besides, Ryan, as my brother-in-law, can get away with pretty much anything with me. We’re soulmates, except when we play tennis on Thursday nights, and then we can be bitter, bitter enemies! LOL.

  30. Thanks to you, Rusty, for your story. I am so happy you have been able to purify your family line for your children and grandchildren.

  31. Rusty- I was sitting here bored on my computer tonight- looking through blogs on the internet and thought, hmmm… I wonder whatever happened to Joel… she was my “Merry Miss” teacher for a little while in primary when I was 11. We moved to Stansbury Park shortly after- or maybe even during the time that she was my leader, but I never forgot you guys. I remember coming to your house once and playing night games and always thinking that you two were the cutest couple. I bet you wouldn’t believe how much I remember about what you guys taught me- even without you ever trying to. I looked up to both of you so much and wanted to have a marraige just like yours. Anyway… I moved, wrote letters to Joel for a little while and obviously lost touch- I remember the last letter I got from her had a picture of your first son. Which leads to tonight- I was so surprised first of all to find anything about you online, and second to see that you have 6 kids now! Wow! But… more importantly I was SO happy to see that you guys are still just as amazing as ever! And… to read about all you went through when you were younger makes it even better that you’ve ended up so great. It’s nice to know that the people that I looked up to so much when I was younger are still people that I want to be like today. I am sure that you have been and still are such awesome role models to so many people and I just wanted to thank you both for being amazing examples in my life- even after all these years. :) ~Tiffany Hanson Corbridge

  32. Rusty,
    I came across your site this morning during my scripture study. You provided great info! Thank you.
    Your story is amazing. It sounds all too familiar. My husband has a similar story. Mom with several men,(Abuse by them) being left at babysitters for months while sister is “safe” at grandmas, Dad living 2 blocks away and never visits, getting involved in drugs as a teenager and at age 16 taken away in a police car to Rehab. He was sent to “Foster Care” in an LDS home and his new life begins. Very sad, but he “clung” to the Lord and has grown into something great.
    One of his favorite quotes is the one about, “the greatest scientific discovery is that man can change.”
    This may seem odd to you but I was wondering if I could ask you a few personal questions? I think you could shed some light on a few things.
    You have a beautiful family, as well as testimony.
    Thanks for sharing.

  33. Rusty,
    Wow! I was searching images about the USS New York and came onto your site. I then noticed all the links to questions about mormons and such. My curiosity then got the better of me and I had to read who you were. I love you life story and the perspective that you have gained in your life. I am happy that you have the gospel in your life and that is has give you so much happiness and such a beautiful family.
    I am so grateful for the trials and experiences that I have had in my life. I know that even when I can’t see past the moment…I know that I can look back and see our Father’s hand always guiding me and helping me to become a stronger person. Thank you for sharing your story and your living testimony so that others may have perspective in their life and find the truth that can guide them to higher planes.
    Sarah Allred

  34. Dude… 4 months.. 4 looong months
    Waiting for the next post!
    Wasn’t Priesthood session of conference awesome?

  35. 4 months! Good heavens, am I a slacker or what!!!!
    But yes, conference was incredible. I don’t know if I was just in a particular stage of life where I really needed it, or what, but it did seem extraordinary.
    P.S. Hopefully I’m back now.

  36. I too have missed your posts, Rusty. I was just about to remove your from my list of blogs that I follow. Will you be starting up again? From one blogger to another I know it can be time consuming but you have something unique going here. Looking forward to more good stuff if you can get it going again. – Tim

  37. I am starting up again, in fact. I’m sorry I’ve been so absent… I’m glad you’ve been coming by, and thanks for the words of encouragement. They’re always helpful.

  38. I’m back too, Rusty! I just got called as ward mission leader and plan to get my ward involved in blogging, hopefully on this site. What else are they to do? 76 homes in our ward boundary–75 active member homes.
    More later,

  39. That’s great Ryan! Good timing too. I’m only a few days away from releasing my all new blog – it’ll still be here on WordPress (you’ll get to it the same way), but it’ll now be a self-hosted blog, which gives me far more control to do some really important things I’ve been wanting to do. Along with the change comes an all new redesign that will help expose important posts and (most of all) conversations from prior posts.
    Nice to see you again!

  40. elder ?! It’s you!!! My wife found wedding invitation you sent to me about 15 years ago, I googled and found you right away!
    Never thought our young handsome elder ? had such a tough childhood and the story moved me so much. Thank you so much for bring the true gospel to me and welcome back to Sydney Australia to visit us. If you permit, I will post your story to our chinese ward blog.
    Keep in touch!
    Chris Han

  41. Wow! What a happy family!
    I love children and I wish I could never grow up! I am 15 now. Even I wish I had never reached the age of puberty!
    But, age tells itself…

  42. Chris! How are you mate? How fantastic to “meet” you again here.
    I would totally love it if you would share with the Chinese ward. Pease especially invite anyone who used to know me to stop by. I’d be so delighted to become reacquainted with everyone!
    Thank you so much for commenting.
    Susan, actually, kids are totally awesome. Growing up is great too, actually, and somewhat inevitable, as a matter of fact. LOL.

  43. That’s true, growing up is great too. I can get more and more philosophy of life and form deeper and deeper thoughts over time.
    Thanks. :)
    Best wishes,

  44. Hello Rusty,
    I’ve thought about the topic for awhile. Yes, growing up is also great, especially when I say ‘Trust me, I’m experienced’ to my peers or children younger than me, I feel so wonderful. Adults have experienced a lot therefore they are calm and rational when facing challenges in life. That’s what I want to get and I’ve already got some.
    However, the world seems to care more about children, which means children may have more opportunities to achieve things (and this is one of the reasons why I started writing my sci-fi so early. I want to publish it badly. I’m not bragging that as long as my speculations have come true the whole human race will really be saved and lots of our puzzlements will come into light. I just follow Jules Verne’s tracks and meanwhile add my philosophic thoughts. :)). As you know, Lin Hao was a hero. But there were actually more heroes that saved more people than him, some of them even lost lives for their kind. But they were ignored, because they were older. It was caused by the world’s stereotype that it is more difficult for children to do things than for adults. But actually it’s not true. There is an old Chinese read ‘A new-born calf isn’t afraid of a tiger.’ And the reason why it is not afraid of tiger is that it doesn’t know the tiger will eat it. Children achieve their heroism in the same way.
    Yet I don’t mean to negate Lin Hao and other children’s heroism. But adults and children really should be regarded equally. For children, it is difficult to take action (because they are relatively weak) while for adults it is difficult to make up minds (because they know what’s the worst result might come to them). So actually it is the same difficult (or easy) for both adults and children to be heroes. Some Chinese people say that it was normal for an adult to rescue a person from the ruins. I don’t agree with that saying totally.
    In addition, children are the purest creatures in the world. For them, ignorance may be a good thing. They don’t know how complex the world is, they don’t know about sinister, and they don’t know to cheat, to take advantage of others or to deprive others’ opportunities to achieve their goals. They act up and out only out of true faith and love. They do everything truelly from their mind. That’s why kids are awesome! They do good things without thinking of something else, not like adults–some of them are kind to others because they find the others are worth taking advantage of, therefore they try to build upon a relationship with them.
    But as time goes by, everyone will grow out of purity. My peers always say that I’m too pure, and I am actually glad to hear that. However, comparing with smaller children, apparently I am more complicated. Therefore, I want to stay child forever, because I don’t want to grow out of purity.
    And children are the most potential and hopeful in the human beings, aren’t they? :)
    All the best,

  45. Rusty,
    Hello, my friend! My mom emailed me this link. I guess you’re in her stake and gave a wonderful talk at stake conference. It was just really inspiring to read your story and to see you and your beautiful, beautiful family. I’m so happy for you! All of these good things couldn’t have happened to a kinder person. Best wishes to you! Michele

  46. Wow — you spend ~6 years growing up around each other, sharing the same halls and classes in school, and it turns out you never really knew them at all…
    You’ve got a beautiful family. I’m happy to see you’ve done so well for yourself and others along the way.

  47. Hey John!
    It’s amazing the things that happen in the lives of those around you that you just don’t have any idea about. I’m so glad you stopped by, and hope to see you around more!

  48. I wish more people would write blogs like this that are really fun to read. With all the fluff floating around on the net, it is rare to read a blog like this instead.

  49. Great blog post, very informative. I wonder why the other specialists of this sector don’t notice this. You must keep on your posting. I am confident, you have a large readers’ base already!

  50. Woah this blog is excellent i really like reading your posts. Keep up the great work! You already know, many individuals are searching round for this information, you can help them greatly.

  51. Estimado Rusty que linda historia de vida, linda familia y un gran esfuerzo para lograr lo que tiene hoy en día, pero tengo una duda una pregunta sobre algo muy importante que vivió: que pasó con su madre ha sabido de ella la buscó cuando usted creció? qué es de ella la pudo perdonar… es importante cerrar etapas con mucho respeto le hago estas preguntas porque tuve una mamá maravillosa y aunque hayan diferencias ella es su madre por siempre. Saludos desde Coyhaique Chile América de sur.

  52. What an inspiring story. I am definitely sharing this. There are many out there who can benefit from your experience and willingness to share. The Lord is truly with us and our lives are designed to teach us the things we each need to learn. I am hoping I can share this with my son, who is experiencing a real tough time in his life and needs to make choices to let light in to his life. It’s hard, I know. I cannot wait to read your book. Not only do I want to learn from you (even though I’m 60 . . . I need more “light and knowledge “) – I am curious, as a mom too, to know how your mom is doing now. I hope she was able to pull things together for herself, and that you have a relationship with her. As a mom, my heart breaks for what she must have been feeling through all of that experience. Thank you for all you have learned and are willing to share.

  53. So somehow when I started reading this my phone didn’t have all the pics displayed nor did I see the author’s name until the vey end. I barely know you (only from our little boys in school together and running into your cute wife every now and then). But when I got to the end with a huge lump in my throat and tears running down my cheeks I was in shock. Never in my wildest imagination would I have thought that you would have come from such adversity. I have admired you and your family for years. Gleemed many wonderful “Good Fatherly” examples as I watched from afar. I’ve only seen confidence, and joy, and how you give that to your children. You definitely are a strong big hearted human being to have risen from the pain, and make a difference for the next generation. I guess we never know what others have gone through in their past! Thanks for this beautiful story and the lessons I learned!

  54. Thanks for sharing your difficult childhood and how you over came it. You are a great example to all that are hurting and in need. Your friend Big Nerd

  55. Rusty, I am your cousin, my mother Kay was your father Craigs older sister. I’m sure you don’t remember but I used to babysit you before your parents were divorced. I have younger siblings who were your age and you played at our home a lot. I’m so in shock of what your life was like, after the divorce. I remember how it was for your when your dad got sick. Before that illness took hold of him. You were the light of his eyes. He was so proud of you and loved being your dad. Mental illness is such a curl illness, for everyone. Your mom was one of my favorite aunts, when I was 16 she was teaching me karate too. She was very good. She knew I like art so her and I took an oil painting class when I was 12. I painted a sunflower and your mom painted a mountain with a deer standing on it. We had a lot of fun in that class. I had heard you went to live with your uncle. But I had no idea past that. I knew your grandparents some they were good people. I’ve not found what your sister is doing? I would like to talk with her, if she you be interested. Grandma and Grandpa Henager were good people and had they know you and your family were suffering so, I have no doubt they would have come to your rescue. It was devastating for grandma when she lost contact of you and your mom for the rest of us to. We were a family that did things together. You were the playmate of my little brother Joey. We all missed you. If you ever want to know more about your Henager side of the family, I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have. I’m the oldest granddaughter and so I’m kind od the family historian. I have a million photos and stores about our grandparents. They were hard working kind people. You look a lot like grandpa. Rusty my mother Kay always tried to help your family, but lost touch of you when you moved to Montana. She was a kind and loving woman, sadly she passed away a few years ago. I wish she could have read your book. I’m so sorry you had such terrible curcomstances growing up. And I’m so grateful you survived and now have such a beautiful family. Congratulations on finding the light and choosing it.
    I would love to talk to you should you ever want to just chat or have questions you’d like answered. I was around when your dad got sick and I remember a lot of it both the good and bad.
    We’ve missed you and never stopped loving you.
    Jackie Carpenter
    [email protected]

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