Friday, March 28, 2014

Coming To Trust

I found a profoundly interesting scripture the other day.  I had been looking up scriptures about trusting the Lord, something I am continually working on, and found one in an unexpected area.

You know the story as well as I do.  Ruth and Naomi.  Ruth leaves her homeland to accompany Naomi into the land of Israel so that, "thy people shall be my people and thy God my God."  Ruth supports the two women by gleaning in the fields of Boaz.  After learning her history, Boaz treats Ruth kindly, extending the offer to drink and eat with his workers, and even to harvest among them.  Ruth questions his generosity and Boaz responded with words of commendation. (This is even before Ruth asks for his hand in marriage...)

The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust. (Ruth 2:12)

I love the imagery of that blessing, "under whose wings thou art come to trust."  Each leap of faith, each hardship endured, each prayer for guidance is a step leading us to full and complete trust in the Lord.  Trust is a process.  Each day our trust in the Lord can grow as we walk in His ways.

I love Nephi's lament-- have you heard it called that before?  Nephi is stressed out because he and his followers have to abandon their land and property to flee from Laman and Lemuel; his parents are dead.  Nephi lists his issues, struggles and problems then defers to the Lord:

I know in whom I have trusted.  My God hath been my support; he hath led me though mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep.  He hath filled me with his love....
Oh Lord, I have trusted in thee and I shall trust in thee forever.
(2Nephi 4:19-21,34)

The more I look, the more I see this pattern.  List of all my problems; testimony of the blessings the Lord has poured out to those who trust him. Paul recounts the blessing and miracles received when people trusted and had faith in God (Hebrews 11).  Alma testifies to his son Helaman of his personal witness of the Lord's miraculous hand in healing his heart and leading him in the path of apostleship as he learned to trust the Lord (Alma 36-- I love verses 3 and 27).

Maybe I need to write my own account.  Here have been my problems and here is how the Lord has delivered me as I put my trust in Him.  I'm still coming to trust in His ability to deliver me, but even in that process of coming, I am learning, becoming, and growing.   His wings protect and cover me in my storms and guide me to the highest mountain peaks.  I shall trust in Him forever.

Friday, March 14, 2014

A Woman Who Arranges Things

One of my favorite musicals begins with the heroine describing herself, in song of course.

I have always been a woman who arranges things,
for the pleasure--and the profit--it derives.
I have always been a woman who arranges things,
like furniture and daffodils and lives.....

Just leave everything to me!

Dolly and I, we share a bond.  I like to be needed, to be doing, arranging and organizing.  Honestly, though, I  juggle way too many balls at once and I am always frustrated when I trip on some unexpected life event and one (or ten) balls come crashing to the ground.  So then as I pick myself back up and brush off the dust and gather up all the balls that went helter-skelter and start juggling them again.   I begin to worry about the other pebbles I might trip on.  So then I pull out my trusty map (a feat in itself with all those balls in the air), arrange/organize the path to avoid and circumvent all other pitfalls and chaos and continue on my way.

Really arranging or organizing or whatever you call it, is my coping method.  If it (meaning everything) is planned out then I can brush the worries aside and continue on my merry little path to perfection.  If I have wrapped my little brain around all the details and planned for contingencies, I am good to go and I can enjoy the ride.

The reality of life though is that I can't control it.  I can't plan it.  I can't organize it.  I keep trying to, but life-- and the lives of my family can't be systematically formulated to ensure the smooth sailing that I really, REALLY want.

When I melted down about not being able to plan, control, or formulate minute details as a child, my mom would smile and in a grim tone offer the only suggestion she had, "Give it up for Lent."  Give up my worry, give up my control.  Give it to God. Let Him carry the load and the burden of worry and stress.  Be present, aware and let it go.

I've practiced that recently.  My family is at a crossroads right now.  Employment, housing, and life change is imminent-- or maybe not.  I wanted to see my path; to plan and organize and prepare for the changes that are (or maybe are not) coming.  The stress was eating at me-- what was the path?  which one to take?  where?  when?  I wanted to yell at God and say, "Just tell me how high and how far and I will jump, leap or even pirouette, just TELL ME!!!!"

In His loving kindness He was silent.  He let me choose to wait and trust.  He patiently waited for me to kneel and hand him my juggling balls.  He is carrying my load, my stress, my worries.  My task is to wait patiently for his hand to be made manifest in my life.  I kind of like not having to multi-task while juggling all those worries.  I am at peace.  I am content with today.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Advice for a Teenager Struggling with Addiction

I had a meeting with my Bishop last night. During the interview, he asked me what advice I would give to a teenager who is struggling with pornography and sexual addiction. I was not prepared to answer that question. As I though about it, the first thing that came to mind was that the teenager needs to talk to someone about what is going on. After all, we all know this addiction thrives on secrecy and lies.

As a follow up question, the Bishop asked if I would advise them to talk to their parents. I really struggled with this question. Looking back at my teenage years, there is no way I would have told my parents. Knowing myself, any negative reaction at all from my parents would have driven me further into the addiction. I would have felt I could never tell anyone again about what was going on. On the other hand, a loving response from my parents may have helped me to find recovery earlier in my life and may have kept the addiction from sinking so deep.

As an adult, I would definitely say the dealing with any possible anger or negative reaction from my parents would be better than the years of silent suffering on my own. I'm not sure I would have understood that as a teenager though.

The more I think about it, the more I think my answer would be to seek the guidance of the spirit. While all of our stories are very similar, each individual circumstance is unique. I don't think there is a single answer that fits every situation.

The one thing that is common is that we all have a Father in Heaven and a Savior who love us. They want us to be happy and to return to them. They will always respond to us with love and kindness and encouragement as long as we are striving to put our lives in accordance with their will for us.

I'm sure others have thought about this question, so I'm going to put it out here for others to answer also. What advice would you want to give to a teenager who is struggling with pornography and sexual addiction?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Manipulation and Lies I Tell Myself

I felt a new (to me) emotion the other day.  Nausea, icky, dirty.  Need to run to the shower and clean myself.  It wasn't stomach flu, it was a reaction to the realization that I was being manipulated.  I had felt the something is not right, icky stomach before, but never my whole body feeling ill, emotionally distressed, and frankly not ok.

I work with kids with special problems-- kids who can not and do not fit in the regular school system.  One child in particular is very charming.  I knew that and thought my boundaries were up, but he got in and little by little started pushing my limits, with smiles and witty comments and more eye contact than usual.  My head said, wow he is really practicing good manners today.  My emotions said, wait, why, what is going on.  I looked back on the day and time after time he had broken minor rules and all I had seen was the smile.  I felt ill, used and manipulated-- and frankly nervous to go back and work with him the next day.

So I have spent the past few days working out my feelings about being manipulated and why that is such a huge deal for me.  I grew up being manipulated.  I grew up knowing that life -- even family life -- is a game and if you want anything you have to play the game and be what someone else wants you to be.  Then they are happy and life is easier.  It doesn't matter what you want or what you feel, just do what it takes to keep peace.  Even now I feel the pressure to be what I am expected to be.  Perfect.  And by perfect, I mean what someone else thinks perfect is.

What I am learning from this...  The voices in my head aren't real.  They are programming put in place while I was growing up telling me what is real, correct and good.  I can choose to accept or reject this scripting at any time. They only define me as much as I choose to let them.

On the other hand, my feelings are real.  My feelings are a reaction to what is happening in my head and around me.  Sometimes they conflict with the voice in my head.  Anxiety is just my heart telling my head something and my head not accepting the feeling as real.  Stress is my head and my heart arguing about what I ought to be doing with my time and my head telling me I need to be/do more. 

I'm not quite sure what will change with this new realization.  Maybe acceptance of who I am.  Hopefully acceptance of those around me who are just playing out the script in their head.  The ability to discern what really is.  I'll keep you posted.