Monday, June 24, 2013

Lessons From Bible Camp

Recently my kids went to a Bible day camp sponsored by a local church (not LDS).  They had a terrific time learning and singing and playing. I loved the theme they took from a popular song:  Jesus is my Super Hero.  (My kids haven't stopped singing that song since camp!)

On the final day they had a special guest visitor at camp-- one of the coolest super heroes ever: Batman came to share his story with the kids. 

Batman talked about his job as a hero-- catching the bad guys and putting them in jail.  Batman used the law to seek justice.  But the criminals would serve their time and never change  Batman would find them again back on the streets causing problems.  Justice wasn't enough to solve the problem.  The criminals needed mercy to change.  Batman explained that now, when he meets a bad guy, he puts his arm around them and says, "Let me tell you about my friend Jesus."  Jesus' grace alone is what can lead the bad guys home.

What a beautiful lesson.  Sometimes as victims of others actions we are so caught up in seeking justice and even vengeance, that we forget that the only way to bring about change is Christ's love and grace.  Only His power will enables us and the perpetrators to change.  Jesus really is a Super Hero.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Faith and Diligence

First off, I need to apologize for taking so long to write this post after the last one. Life has been incredibly hectic for me the last few weeks. I'm glad that Haydee was able to write during that time so there has been a presence here.

I have been thinking about a post that details the things I was able to do to remain engaged with my wife's family rather than withdrawing as I talked about in my previous post. I was struggling with how to approach the topic. Then, as I was doing my scripture study this morning I came across what I was looking for.

As part of his teachings to his son, Helaman, Alma talks about the experiences of Lehi's family with the Liahona:
And it did work for them according to their faith in God; therefore, if they had faith to believe that God could cause that those spindles should point the way they should go, behold, it was done; therefore they had this miracle, and also many other miracles wrought by the power of God, day by day. (Alma 37:40)
There are a couple of key things here that are important. First, faith. This is not a generic "faith in Christ" kind of faith. While that type of faith is a necessary beginning, the faith Alma is talking about is the specific belief that "God could cause that those spindles should point the way they should go." Lehi and his family had to have faith that the specific miracle they were looking for was possible.

The next key is that "they had this miracle, and also many other miracles wrought by the power of God." By exercising this specific faith that the Liahona could point them in the direction they should travel in the wilderness, they received that miracle, but they also received other miracles based on their faith in that one specific thing.

The final key is that this was done "day by day." Lehi and his family had to look at the Liahona every day. They could not take a day off. They could not think to themselves, "we know what direction we are going; we don't need to look today." When they took this attitude, things did not work out for them:
Nevertheless, because those miracles were worked by small means it did show unto them marvelous works. They were slothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey;
Therefore, they tarried in the wilderness, or did not travel a direct course, and were afflicted with hunger and thirst, because of their transgressions. (Alma 37:41-42)
So, how does this relate to my ability to be engaged with my wife's family? It's really simple. In learning about my addiction and recovery from addiction, I have been given a few simple things to do each day; my dailies. I do these things each day with faith that they will allow me access to the power of God to be able to overcome any temptations I may face that day.

There are three things I do every morning to help me in my recovery. I study the scriptures. I don't just read any more. I begin my study with a prayer asking for help to learn what the Lord would have me learn that day. I then read with a full purpose trying to understand every detail of what I read until I find what I feel the Lord has for me to learn that day. I do not read a certain number of verses or chapters or for a certain amount of time; I read until the Holy Ghost speaks to my heart and I learn something. I then record what I have learned in my study journal so I can go back and remember what I have learned.

The second thing I do is meditate. I'm not talking about sitting in the lotus position and chanting "ohmmmm". The meditation I do is much more focused. It is designed to help me be aware of my thoughts and lead them in the direction I want them to go. I will write a post describing this type of meditation later.

The third thing I do each day is to make a daily plan. This is a plan of small measurable goals that focus on different areas to help me be healthy. I make goals relating to my physical, emotional, spiritual, and sexual health. They are simple things that I need to do during the day to stay healthy. For example I might set a goal in the physical area to eat my 5 servings of fruits and vegetables that day. A goal in the emotional category could be something like having a conversation with one of my children. A spiritual goal would be something like listen to a General Conference talk. In the beginning, my goal in the sexual area was just to not act out that day, but now, I have come to the point where I focus on my thoughts more than my actions. If my thoughts are clean, my actions will follow.

The best part about these is that the miracles that come each day are not limited to my ability to remain sober. I am blessed with other miracles also. I am blessed with the ability to engage others even in crowded settings and not withdraw. I am also blessed with an ability to focus on my work and do more in a day than I have ever been able to before.

None of these things are difficult to do. They are small actions on my part. The key is that I do them each day with faith that I will be blessed to be able to progress on my journey in the most direct course that day. I have to remember why I do these things each day. If come to the point where I think I can do things on my own and I don't need these tools any more, the miracles I have been seeing will cease and I will not progress on my journey.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Beautiful like Strawberries

In another post I talked about the spiritual nature of beauty and how I learned to feel beautiful because my Savior and my Heavenly Father know I am beautiful.  Even after I understood and knew that I am beautiful, I questioned how Edmond could believe I am beautiful and still seek out porn.

Has that happened to you too?  Your lover says you are incredibly beautiful, but still finds pleasure looking at other women.  How can you regain your self confidence, feelings of beauty and (for me) the status of sex goddess, when you're not quite sure you can beilieve what your lover says. Understanding Edmond's brain helped me.

The Brain (the heart of the problem)-
I've already referred back to Edmond's post on the brain once, but understanding his brain helped me understand pornography's pull and why Edmond could believe I was beautiful and still seek out pornography.

photo credit: Double--M via photopin cc
Quick review:  the limbic system of the brain seeks pleasure and avoids pain.  The pre-frontal cortex (the moral center of the brain) says what is right and wrong and directs actions.  The pre-frontal cortex and the limbic system compete with each other for the desired results.  Pleasure seeking (limbic system) usually wins out.  The moral center of the brain may find an activity repugnant, disgusting and disgraceful, but if the limbic system derives pleasure from that activity, the limbic system will crave that thing.

Here's an easy to understand example.

I know cheesecake is unhealthy.  I recognize that I can eat cheesecake as a dessert occasionally, in moderation.  The health conscious me refuses to eat cheesecake daily, let alone for every meal.

The rational part of me knows strawberries are a sweet, delicious, and divine, especially with a touch of sugar. Strawberries are full of antioxidents and chock full of nutrition.  I can eat strawberries to my heart's content without feeling bad.

But put me in a stressful situation, with a cheesecake in the fridge and all rational thought goes out the window.  All I can think about is my need for cheesecake-- even if the strawberries are right next to the cheesecake.  I know as soon as I eat that first bite all my troubles will melt away in the pleasure of the sensations flooding my mouth.

Three (o.k. sometimes 6) pieces of cheesecake later, I feel sick, disgusting and gross.  I regret the decision to eat the cheesecake.  I wish I had been satisfied with the strawberries.

Does my eating the cheesecake decrease my love for strawberries.  Are strawberries less delicious because I chose to indulge in cheesecake.  NO.  In fact, strawberries are more desireable becasue I KNOW they are better for me.

Back to Beauty
I AM desirable and beautiful to Edmond's rational brain.  That is who he really is.  That is who he wants to  be.  That is who I want him to be.

Maybe the best help I can give him is to rejoice in being a strawberry and remembering that as a strawberry, I don't have to compete with cheesecake.  I am delicious and desirable on my own.

photo credit: Luz Adriana Villa A. via photopin cc

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Feeling Beautiful, Part One

I have started this post at least 4 different times-- maybe because it is such a tricky matter.  Feeling beautiful is just something I struggle with anyway-- then you add into it the feeling of not being enough that invariably comes when a loved one uses pornography-- well it just becomes one big mess.  For me at least.

I never want another woman to feel like their body is not enough.  We do enough to put ourselves down.  We don't need to do that too.  So, I have been indoctrinating teaching my Activity Day Girls that because they are a daughter of God, THEY ARE BEAUTIFUL!!!!  Maybe if they hear it enough when they are 8-9 years old it won't be an issue when they are 16, or 10, or 35.

When I was preparing a lesson for the girls, I came across a talk by Elaine S. Dalton, that moved me, and made me reevaluate how I see myself.  I watched this Mormon Message over and over again.

The part that touched me was, "Hers was a beauty that cannot be purchased. It came from years of seeking the best gifts, becoming well educated, seeking knowledge by study and also by faith. It came from years of hard work, of faithfully enduring trials with optimism, trust, strength, and courage. It came from her unwavering devotion and fidelity to her husband, her family, and the Lord..... It is a beauty that is earned through faith, repentance, and honoring covenants."(full talk)

Deep beauty and confidence in ourselves comes from the inside out.  From the  whisperings of the Holy Ghost teaching us individually that we are each beloved daughters of our Father in Heaven, that He sees the innate beauty of our spirits.

I began embracing these truths:
  • The Lord loves and honors me for my effort to love Edmond;
  • He knows me and sees me as a beautiful daughter;
  • The beauty of spirit I am cultivating through my trials is more captivating than any earthly beauty money can buy.

I know that I am beautiful because I have become disciple of Jesus Christ.  I know I am beautiful becasue My Father told me and I trust HIM.  My beauty radiates from my spirit, not my body.  No make-up, no-sleep, bad hair day, pajamas and all, I am beautiful.

So are you!

Bonus quote because I like it so well:
"We have been taught that “the gift of the Holy Ghost … quickens all the intellectual faculties, increases, enlarges, expands and purifies all the natural passions and affections. … It inspires virtue, kindness, goodness, tenderness, gentleness and charity. It develops beauty of person, form and features. 16 Now, that is a great beauty secret!" 
Elaine S. Dalton-- she rocks! (full talk)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Musings on Answered Prayers

Remember the day I sat in the corner of the celestial room sobbing?  I do; maybe you've been there too.  I remember pleading for the blessings of the priesthood to be restored to my entire family.  I prayed and hoped for the day Edmond and I would sit there together again.  The future looked bleak.  I saw no silver lining in the storm that raged in my heart.  Yet the Lord sent me His peace.

May 29, Edmond accompanied me to the temple.  As I sat holding his hand, I marveled at the blessings the last three months have brought in our lives.  The power of the atonement of Jesus Christ, His love and His grace have enabled Edmond and me to to heal; to enact change in ourselves individually and as a couple; to hope in the future; to remember the pains of the past no more.

It has been a joy to see Edmond grow in his testimony of the Savior's healing power; to watch him strive to be his best; to enjoy Edmond just being present with our family playing and engaging with our children.

The promise of hope, of "sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored" has been ours through the miraculous gift of our Savior and Redeemer.  I never anticipated that the Lord would answer my prayers so completely.  I thank the Lord for His gracious goodness.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Trusting in the True Source

A few months ago, I wrote my future picture statement (a positive statement of who I am and who I want to be).  I felt inspired to include,  "Because I know who I am, I trust."  I want to trust the people around me, Edmond especially, but I have struggled with feeling down, because I do not always trust-- others or myself for that matter.  I feel disappointment that I don't measure up to my own expectations or hopes.

As I have been working through this, I realized that the only person I am commanded to trust is the Lord.  In fact, Nephi admonishes, "Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost" (2 Nephi 28:31).

Contrast that with, "And whoso trusteth in the Lord, happy is he" (Proverbs 16:20).

When I trust in the natural man, I am frustrated, bitter, angry, hurt and disappointed-- all the muck Satan wants me to wallow in.  When I rely on the Lord, I feel peace, hope, joy, compassion, and love-- the character traits of the Savior himself.

As I trust the Savior, I find Him near me, leading and guiding me to "green pastures" and "still waters."  Though I still must toil through my challenges, "I fear no evil for [He is] with me"  As I continue to trust the Lord, "goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever" (Psalm 23).

When I feel overwhelmed and afraid, I can trust that, "the lord hath not given me the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7).

When I feel discouraged I can "lift up [my] head and rejoice and trust in... that God who was the God of Abraham" and know that He will deliver me as he did the people of Israel (Mosiah 7:19).

When I feel sad I can remember that the Lord "in all cases" extends His "arm of mercy towards them that put their trust in him" (Mosiah 29:20).

Because I am His Daughter, I Trust the Lord!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

So Many Things

It has been a whirlwind couple of weeks for me. First off, on Sunday, May 26th, I met with my bishop. He determined that it was time for me to get my temple recommend back. He gave me the interview, and it felt so wonderful to be able to answer those questions. Yes, I do have a testimony of God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. Yes, I do have a testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the role it plays in my life. Yes, I do keep the covenants I have made. I may not have kept all of them in the past, but I do now and that it what matters. The following Tuesday, I got to answer all of those questions again with a member of the Stake Presidency.

Wednesday the 29th was a beautiful day. I was able to spend several hours in the temple with my amazing wife. We were able to do an endowment session and a sealing session. As I knelt across the altar from my wife I was reminded of the day we were sealed. I remembered why I fell in love with her in the first place, and I could also see the person she has become since then. She has been there to support and encourage me even when I was at my lowest, and she is still there encouraging me as I work to become the person I was meant to be. I am truly blessed to have her in my life. She is one of my angels.

The following day, we left to make the 15 hour drive to visit my wife's family. It was a family reunion with all of the siblings coming home to visit at the same time. 25 people in a small house with two toilets and one shower. Talk about a situation that makes me want to escape. These are the types of situations where I tend to withdraw and eventually sink into addictive behaviors, but this time was different. Using what I have learned in recovery, I was able to get myself grounded each day and make a plan to help me deal with any situations or temptations that may arise.

Using these tools, I was not only able to survive the week, but I was able to thrive in a manner that I was never capable of before. In the past, I would need to have a place to escape the chaos be alone for a while. This time, I was able to engage in conversations and be mentally present with the family. Only once did I feel so overwhelmed that I needed to leave, and I just went for a walk and then went back into the commotion. I never had to escape into a book or into a fantasy.

Yesterday, we made the drive home. For the first time I don't feel mentally or emotionally exhausted after a trip like that. I am certainly tired physically from not getting enough sleep and not eating enough healthy foods, but I don't feel like I need to take an extra day off of work in order to recover from the trip.

I am extremely grateful to the Lord for helping me to get to the point where I am right now. I can see the progress I have made in just a few short months, and I like who I am and who I am becoming. For the first time in a long time I can actually say that I like myself. It is only through the Atonement of Christ that I am here, and I hope to continue to learn more about that Atonement and become even more of the person I am meant to be.