Saturday, June 29, 2013

Patience and Kindness (Love Dare Days 1&2)

The first couple days of the Love Dare have given me a lot to think about.

First, I'm definitely glad I chose this journey for my step 9. Over the past two days, I have learned a lot about myself and my capacity to love.

When I read the first chapter and challenge, I felt a little overwhelmed. The first chapter was about patience, and the dare to go with it was to say nothing negative to your spouse all day. I know I'm not a super mean person, but I definitely have my fair share of negative statements in our marriage. In fact, I have found over the past couple of weeks that our vicious cycles of negativity and hurt form when I say something stinging, negative, and/or hurtful to Jack, and then he retaliates. Thus, the cycle has started.

The vicious cycle looks like this: Jack says/does something that irritates or hurts me (keep in mind that when I am already hurting **ahem--the past two weeks**, I am way less patient and more easily irritated). I say something mean/sarcastic back. He gets offended and starts being rude back to me. Then, I'm mad that he is mad at me when it was obviously (sarcasm) his fault. So I get mean again. He's mean again. It keeps going like that until I cry, one of us apologizes and breaks the tension. Or both.  Then the cycle is broken. I know that it really would be best to just prevent the cycle, but that honestly always seems so. hard. I feel like I can't express my hurt or pain if I don't react in a way that really lets him know how I feel. And I know that is just so dumb. I always know I'm being dumb, but anger and negativity are addictive.

I know that if I can stop the first negative thing that comes out of my mouth as a reaction to the hurt or other emotions I am experiencing, the vicious cycle is prevented. That is something I have been working on as I have been trying to strengthen my weaknesses, but I just haven't quite found the best way to do it. But, this first dare helped open my eyes to what I need to do for that aspect of our relationship (thanks to God for showing me this was the way for me to go).

So, that's basically what my challenge was the first day. It actually wasn't as hard as I expected. I mean, going one day without being negative is really refreshing. It made me think about everything with open eyes and realize the little things that were irritating were not that big of a deal. Really. It was much easier than I anticipated to stop myself from saying something or reacting in a negative way.

All day long, I thought to myself how much easier it was than I expected. I also thought about how easy it would be to get back in the habit because one day isn't enough to break the bad habit of saying negative things.

The writers of the Love Dare knew that too. I was a little surprised (but I don't really know why) that the second challenge included the words, "along with saying nothing negative to your spouse..." The second day, it was a lot harder not to let the little things get to me. By eleven o'clock yesterday morning, something was really getting to me. I can't remember what it was. I just remember the feeling. I didn't know how to express myself because when I feel the way I felt yesterday, the way I express myself is through anger and negativity.  But the Dare told me not to be negative. So, my response to the situation was to abruptly excuse him from the room by saying, "Well, I'm going to read my scriptures now." I read. I wrote in my journal. By the time I was finished, I had gone through my method of processing emotions, and I felt fine. I was so glad I hadn't ruined the day by negatively reacting the way I normally do. The rest of the day was cake. I don't remember any other times where I felt overwhelmed with the desire to be negative.

The other part of the challenge yesterday was kindness. I was supposed to do an unexpected act of kindness. I had no idea what to do, so throughout the day, I was on watch--looking for opportunities to serve out of kindness. I offered to make Jack lunch, but he didn't want me to (well, he wanted us to make lunch together). I even offered to sacrifice the time I had set aside to work on lesson-planning to spend the whole day with him and do whatever he wanted (it took a long time for me to come to peace with that offer because I really needed to work on lesson planning). Luckily for me and my lesson planning, he wanted to work on planning for the business he is trying to start. The act of kindness I chose was to load the dishwasher. Usually, I try to get him to help me with housework stuff. This time, I just did it. And when he tried to help, I told him I was doing it and that there wasn't room for both of us (maybe a little mean, but holy cow he wouldn't let me do anything for him yesterday!). My other act of kindness was to play all the games he wanted to in the evening. AND, I didn't even get competitive and mad when he beat me. Now, that is quite the feat for me.

Focusing on patience and kindness have really been good for me. Choosing not to be negative has taught me a lot. I don't have to be negative to express myself (I actually already knew that, but I wasn't able to break the cycle in myself yet). I can work through my emotions, and if something needs to be addressed, the time to do that is after I have processed, not in the heat of the moment. Sometimes, it just seems easier to be negative and angry, though. That's what Satan wants us to think because that is the way he works. However, I know from experience that being negative and angry only makes everything harder and worse. So, I have to be brave enough to break that cycle.

Choosing not to be negative and angry allowed more peaceful and loving feelings to dwell in my heart. I wanted to be close to him (whereas last week, I did not want to be close to him, and when he would touch me too much, I would have to *gently* say sorry I'm hurting and I just really don't want you to touch me). I wanted to touch him. Throughout the day, I felt a stronger and stronger pull of love and attraction towards him. It was a feeling that has escaped me lately. I wanted to breathe him in. I wanted to be his. 

Choosing to be kind had the same effect.

I know I haven't done this on my own. From the moment I read the first chapter and felt the weight of how hard it would be (and it hasn't been easy), I had to turn back to step 1 and ask Heavenly Father for help. I knew I could not to it alone, and He would need to be there with me to help me increase in love.

When we were dating, I knew Jack wanted to marry me, and I wasn't sure about marriage. I had a someone coming home from his mission in a couple of months, someone who, for the past three years, I had planned on marrying. Then my friendship and eventual relationship with Jack put a twist on what I thought my future was. I felt bad because there were times when I knew I was leading Jack on. He liked (loved) me way more than I liked him. He was in the friend-zone, loving me, and I would have to shoot him down many times. We "broke up" from being friends quite a few times. I knew after all those times I needed him in my life. Eventually, we started dating seriously, and it got to the point where I knew we would either have to break up for good or get married, and I was so scared. For everything. I prayed so much for God to show me the way. I asked God to show me  if marriage was in our path, and if it was to help me truly love Jack. Marriage was in our path. When I started praying daily for God to help me love Jack more, He did. Our love grew, and I knew without a doubt that we were supposed to get married.

I haven't asked God to help me love Jack in our marriage the way I should. I've fallen into the trap of thinking that love is just a feeling that you can fall in and out of and that the feeling of love determines my actions. I've been hurt and thought Jack needed to serve me to prove his love, and during all that, I forgot that I also need to use action to show and increase my love too. I've prayed multiple times over the past few days for God to help me love Jack better. I have been reminded that while I have been using the power of the Atonement to strengthen me in other aspects of my life, love in my marriage is something He can/needs/wants to help me with too. Through my actions and the power of the Spirit, I've discovered what love can feel like. I've felt love blossoming in my heart, and I can feel the power of what it can grow into if I keep working at it. I know this is only a slight taste of what I have felt in the past, and what I can feel as our love deepens.

It does make it easier that Jack is in recovery and that our relationship doesn't feel completely one-sided. For that, I am eternally grateful.

Today, the dare still includes not being negative. I am so hopeful :)

Also, this is one of my favorite songs about love. Just for kicks.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Love Dare

This afternoon, while praying, I received distinct revelation as to how I should go about step 9.

I haven't started on step 9 yet because I wasn't completely sure how I was going to do it this time (and there were the relapses and the horrible week and stuff that made me stop and just have to get a grip on life and stabilize before pressing onward in the steps). Yesterday and today I've been thinking I'm close to ready, but I was just waiting to figure out how to approach it.

I'm ready now. Ohhhh I'm SO ready! While I was praying, God told me exactly what I need to do, and I'm excited! Don't you just love personal revelation?

For those of you who are going through the steps for the first time, step 9 (restitution and reconciliation) is not as intimidating as you might think it is from just reading it. Upon completion of this step, you are free. You are free of the inventory, the confession, and the pain your weaknesses have brought because you just made it all right. You've repented. You've turned yourself over to God. You're trying to do His will. And you have made every effort to restore peace to relationships that have been harmed. You've made restitution and reconciliation.

My first time through the 12 steps, I was really focused on relationships outside my house. After all, I had done an inventory of as much as I could think of from my life, and I had a lot more relationships to restore then than I do now. Because I've done step 10 (daily accountability) already, I've even done a pretty good job at repenting, seeking forgiveness, and restoring peace in my relationships as I make mistakes. Right now, I feel that the relationships I will be focusing on for step 9 are my relationships with Jack, self, and God. Well, my relationship with God is something I'm always working on, but I threw that in for good measure. Really, it's Jack and myself. Those were the main ones I identified in step 8.

Something that I have been struggling with a lot for the past two weeks is love. Love for Jack. I love him because he is my husband. I married him because I loved him, but do you see how I just got that backwards? I love him because he is my husband. He has hurt me a lot. We worked hard, and the move we made in December has been really good for both our relationship and his addiction. Things have been great this year until the past couple of weeks. Now, with his relapses, we've been fighting. A lot. I've been angry. A lot. I initiate a lot of the fights--kind of because I want his attention, and kind of because I just want to bring him down with me (sigh. just like Satan). Because of all the tension and anger, I've felt like the giddy love, the happy love is slipping away.

That sounds horrible. I really do love him at a very deep level. I also have moments where I feel that giddy, happy love slam me in the face. Like today, when we were driving home from the temple, and we were dancing in the car (I taught him how to have car dance-parties). I looked over at him, and I just had this feeling overpower me that he is just the cutest guy ever, and he is 100% perfect for me. And, I definitely wouldn't want a divorce. I actually let my thoughts go there one day last week. What would life be like if we divorced? The answer? Empty. My life would be empty because I do love him and he brings me so much joy. Our marriage brings me so much joy. But right now I am hurting. When I am hurting this way, the little things that annoy me, and the big things that hurt me all pile up and bring me down. And my love feels a little empty because of my pain. My love for him goes deep, but I feel like I can't reach it right now. I can't reach it from the beach I am stranded on. I feel like our love is floating away, and I don't want that to happen!

Really, he is in recovery mode. He has sincerely apologized. He has taken my crap and Satan-like attempts to bring him down with me. He hasn't gotten as mad as he maybe should at the way I have treated him lately. Granted, I also haven't gotten as mad as I could have about the relapse thing, so maybe we're even on that. Anyway, overall, he is recovering. He is trying, and that's all I can ask for right now. I really can't expect him to just be clean. He is trying so hard, and he sometimes gets more depressed than I do about the fact that he hasn't mastered his addiction yet. He is still learning. And so am I.

And I won't let the addiction tear away my love for him.

Wanna know something funny? Jack is a tad shorter than me. Whenever I get mad because of his addiction, there is always this unsettled anger that he is shorter than me and addicted to pornography and masturbation. As if him being taller would somehow make up for his addiction. It's ridiculous.

Remember that letter I wrote to Satan? Well, it was a little bout of courage and ferocity God gave me to gear me up for the hard times coming my way. I was prepared. I think that little fire helped me make it through the past couple of weeks. Now, I'm here to remind that evil being that God is on my side, and I like it that way. And He is helping me. Today, He gave me distinct revelation as to how I will restore and reconcile the love that is floating away in our marriage. That's what I was praying for, and that was the fastest answer to a prayer I've had in a long time (yet another sign that He is there, and I need to wait patiently on his timing for things...).


The Love Dare. Or the Husband Challenge. I haven't decided which one I will do yet. Both came to mind at pretty much the same time. Maybe I'll do both!

The Husband Challenge is something I was invited to on facebook a long time ago. There was a PDF and everything, so I saved it. I didn't actually do it because I was like, "Oh, we're fine" at the time. But I still have the challenge on PDF, so I can do it whenever I want to.

If you haven't heard of the Love Dare, go watch Fireproof. It's a Christian movie about a firefighter who is going through bad times with his wife (including his pornography addiction). They are on the verge of divorce, when, as a last hope, his dad challenges him to do this love dare. Then if things still aren't working, he could go ahead and file for divorce. It's not the best movie in the world (acting-wise), but the message is awesome. I actually wish we had more corny awesome-message movies in the world. It's by the same people who did Courageous, which was a great corny-awesome-message movie.  

Restitution and reconciliation.

The Love Dare. The Husband Challenge.

 Both of those are there to help us gain appreciation and love for spouses. God gave me revelation that it will help me restore the love I'm feeling is starting to get lost.

 I'll probably do the Love Dare since it's Christian-based. If you have seen Fireproof and are wondering how I will do it, they made a book called The Love Dare. It's based on that movie. Jack got it for me for Valentine's day. That sounds a little self-serving on his part (haha, which is totally what I thought too at first), but he actually wanted to do it for me, and then I wouldn't let him. I said he got the book for me, and I was going to do it when he least expected it. Since I just made it public, and he reads my blog, he will know what is going on. But, hey, who cares, right?

I am seriously SO EXCITED for step 9! Like, you have no idea how much hope and light I feel right now, and it's a huge relief because of the dark hole I have felt like I've been in lately.

I'm excited because I know the Love Dare will bring me closer to Jack. I know it will bring our relationship closer to God. And it will help me feel peace and forgive myself for the pain and heartache I have caused.


Perspective on the journey

"For most of us, the turn away from self and to the Lord that constitutes 'putting off the natural man' is not an immediate, smooth, continuous, and uninterrupted about-face. Rather, we are likely to start and stop, to stumble, and to both press forward and slide backward along the strait and narrow path. We may be disappointed at our apparent lack of progress or disheartened by the gap between what we know and what we actually do.

"Devoted discipleship is rigorous and rewarding, exacting and edifying, demanding and liberating. Sometimes during our mortal journey we may simply think we are incapable of making it to the final destination--that the distance we need to travel and the requirements we must fulfill are just too much. But learning and living the gospel of Jesus Christ is not hard. What truly is hard is failing to live in harmony with the truths of the restored gospel and facing the consequences of allowing the 'natural man' to rule our lives. Selfishness always leads to shallow satisfaction and sorrow and renders unattainable the deepest yearning a of the soul. 

"As we strive to reduce the disparity between what we know and what we do, we are fortified by the knowledge that through the Atonement we can receive grace, mercy, and assurance. These blessings enable us to do good and become better than we ever could if we were relying only on our limited mortal capacity. We do not prepare for and make the trip to eternity alone."

--Elder Bednar, Act in Doctrine, p 89

Monday, June 24, 2013

Another tender mercy

I just want to give a quick shout-out for yet another tender mercy of the Lord.

This morning, when I prayed, I could not think of one single thing I was grateful for. Actually, after a moment of silence, I think I said I was grateful for the fact that I woke up on time so I could try to express gratitude. Sad, right? I felt really bad for God while I was praying. So, I said, "God, I know I have much to be thankful for. I'm just blinded by the darkness right now. So, please, help me to recognize my blessings today and know that you are there."

By noon, I was able to say a prayer that was strictly gratitude :)

That's not why I'm writing. I'm writing because I just checked my email and received the best blessing of the day. Someone emailed me expressing love and concern, and sharing humor and spreading happiness. It was exactly what I needed. I can't even begin to describe how depressed I've been over the past week, especially over the weekend. You've probably picked up on it, but probably not the depth of it. So, if you're reading this, here is another thank you for your sweet, funny email. It made me cry because of the spirit I felt testifying that it was indeed a sign of God's love for me and that people do care, and it made me smile because it was just awesome.

The Lord is watching over us all. I hope we can all see Him and His little acts of love.

I am so grateful for the tender mercies of the Lord that let me know He is always there and always watching over me.

Ps, the thing that got me going today was my study on the Atonement and pain. It really gave me perspective and strength. Click here to read what I wrote about it.

Pain and the Atonement

Today, I read “The Atonement Covers All Pain” by Kent F. Richards from the April 2011 General Conference. This post stems from that talk and my thoughts and I studied and read related scriptures.

All quotes are from this talk. No, I didn't cite them. This is my citation.

This talk provided me with a lot to process and think about, and it really helped bring me more peace. If you've read recent posts, you would know I'm having a hard time. Between scripture studies, I get filled with some serious anxiety and depression. My studying of the scriptures and other gospel tools is what is keeping me afloat and hopeful. After today's study, I feel much more hopeful than I have all weekend, and I think I have enough hope to give me the motivation to be productive today.

Here is a dive into what I studied/learned/was reminded of about the Atonement today. If it's kind of on the choppy, side, please excuse me. This pretty much came straight from my journal (with some name changes and minor stuff). I just hope that maybe my thought process here could help other people who have been struggling too.


Pain: there are some cases where it is inflicted on purpose for the growth or repair of certain aspects of the body
-          For the repair of my back, I have to do stretches and exercises that are painful. I have to endure that pain as it is necessary for the healing that needs to take place.
-          That physical pain is a severe trial I am experiencing. It’s in my back and my feet, and sometimes, it really is excruciating.. I have to have that pain, though, to help my soul reach the perfection I am seeking and that God knows is possible. Pain is a part of growth and perfection. If I didn’t experience pain, my body would never come close to perfect again. But, if I do the things I am supposed to, despite the pain, I can experience recovery. I can be recovered, in a sense, to Heavenly Father and the spiritual state I desire.
-          The same goes with my emotional pain.

There are different ways I can deal with pain: I can get angry that it is happening and pull away from God. I can also use it as an opportunity to rely on the only true source of healing, which is God. I’ve felt the pull of both. I also know which one provides me with nourishment to my soul and which one leads me into deeper despair.

Pain is a part of life. Why? Because we all need to experience pain to grow. When you are trying to get in shape, if you never push yourself, you will never grow. If you never push yourself, you will never get faster. If you only run an eight minute mile every day and don’t try to increase your time or distance to avoid the pain (soreness, possible injury, etc), you will avoid the pain, and you won’t get better/faster. Pain is a part of life because we need it to grow. We also need repair time—time to heal. This helps prevent injury and allows a safe growth process.  In the spiritual sense, that comes from the time we take to increase our knowledge and understanding of the plan of salvation and our relationship with our Father and Jesus Christ. Without that time to repair and rebuild spiritual muscle, we will get too injured to go further.

Pain teaches us patience. That is one of the character weaknesses I have been working on strengthening, so in the eternal perspective, my pain is very important to my strength.

Elder Orson F. Whitney wrote (cited in the talk by Elder Richards): “No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude, and humility. … It is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire.” Are those not the qualities I am trying to strengthen in myself? I am being prepared and strengthened.

“Much of our suffering is not necessarily our fault.” We experience pain from life in general (death, illness, loss of job), and the actions of others. My pain comes from both of those categories. I can deal with my pain appropriately as I realize that opposition is part of life. Without opposition, the plan of happiness wouldn’t be. We need this opposition. Without opposition, there could not be wickedness or righteousness. There couldn’t be happiness or misery (see 2 Ne 2:11). We need opposition. “We all encounter enough to bring us to an awareness of our Father’s love and of our need for the Savior’s help.” And that awareness of the Father’s love and our need for the Savior are part of what we are here to discover. That awareness and knowledge will help us get where we are going in the eternal realm.

The Savior knows personally the pain I feel. He knows the pains of us all because of His Atonement. Rather than just knowing, He suffered it so He could understand our pains and know how to succor us. I can have faith in Him because He suffered it. I can have faith in Him because He knows exactly what I am going through. My favorite scripture about the Atonement is Alma 7:11-13. In these verses, it describes His purpose.  He suffered everything for us so His “bowels could be filled with mercy” and so He would know how to succor us. As we rely on that, and His power, we will be converted to Him, and we will be able to achieve our purpose of life.

Here are some other scriptures about the Atonement that he mentions in this talk and impacted me as I studied them:

3 Ne 9:13
I love this verse because it asks all those who were spared because they were more righteous if they will come to Him and be converted so He can heal them. Even though it says they were more righteous than others, they weren’t perfect. They still needed the power of the Atonement to help them be fully converted to Him and be healed of their pains through affliction, infirmity, or sin. Maybe my sins aren’t as bad as other people’s are, but I still need that healing through the Atonement. Any sin makes me unclean, so I need to repent and become clean again.

3 Ne 27:13-16
These verses reminded me of something I realized yesterday (courtesy of Bishop and Jack). We met with our bishop yesterday, and towards the end he excused me to talk to Jack alone. When Jack came out, one of the things he said they talked about was how Christ suffered the Atonement for love of God first. He did it for us and His love for us—we know that. But, first, it was for God. Christ said “send me” because He loved God and wanted His purposes to be fulfilled and let God receive the glory. He came to the world to do the will of the Father. Through the will of the Father, Christ was sent here to draw all men unto Him. If we repent, are baptized, and endure to the end (keeping our covenants), all will be well for us.

“Late one night lying in a hospital bed, this time as a patient and not as a physician, I read those verses over and over again. I pondered: ‘How is it done? For whom? What is required to qualify? Is it like forgiveness of sin? Do we have to earn His love and help?’ As I pondered, I came to understand that during His mortal life Christ chose to experience pains and afflictions in order to understand us. Perhaps we also need to experience the depths of mortality in order to understand Him and our eternal purposes” (bold added).

No amount of pain I will experience in this life will come close to the pain He has felt because He suffered not only my pain, but everyone else’s. However, my pains help me understand Him, why he came here, and the plan of salvation. My pains and growth not only help me understand the Atonement better, but they help me understand my role in the plan and give me glimpses to what I have waiting for me hereafter as long as I remain faithful. And when I am in intense pain and feel completely alone, it is a tremendous blessing to know that I am never alone. Christ is always there to succor me and lift me up, and He knows exactly what I need because He has felt that same pain.

Relief may not come immediately. I mean, I will get some kind of help. His power is administered through giving me strength, patience, and peace. Just because the trial isn’t removed doesn’t mean He doesn’t care or isn’t watching over me. He is always watching over me. He has felt this pain. He knows me, and He knows exactly how much of this pain I need to condition me into the spiritual shape I need to be in.

“Our great personal challenge in mortality is to become ‘a saint through the atonement of Christ.’” My trials are helping me get there. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

A broken heart

Christ probably wouldn't have left my husband to take apart a heavy, wooden bunk bed all by himself (as a help to my parents. No kid beds for us). Especially after seeing him struggle with it and knowing how hard it looked to do alone. I feel bad for getting mad and leaving. I even felt bad while I was leaving. Part of me said stay. The other part of me said staying will make everything worse. So I left. I wasn't sure which was really the right thing to do. I guess I could have finished helping and then left to find my peace today.

I went to the gym and swam a mile. I had no one to celebrate that accomplishment with. Swimming a mile is a huge victory for me! It represents a victory of battles with my back. I just celebrated in my head. 

Before I swam, I went into a bathroom stall and prayed. I told God I can't handle all my emotions, and that I was sorry I left Jack to fend for himself. And that I felt like crap. Then, I said, "Please take this and do what needs to be done. After this week (it's been bad. on so many levels), I don't have the strength to carry on. Please give me strength, peace, hope. Something." I wonder if that's similar to how Christ felt while He was taking on my pains and sins in the Garden. Maybe. Or maybe after the Garden and on the way to Calvary. Maybe. When I closed my prayer in His name, I felt a sense of understanding from Him, though. He has felt enough to understand me. He gave me enough peace to walk out to the pool and swim a mile. 

I feel more composed now. I got to think a lot while I swam, and I did a lot of self analysis. I realized I'm not mad about what happened today. I'm still mad about this whole week, and I'm fragile. There have been a lot of slip-ups with the addiction. Our week away (yes it was part work, but the evenings were supposed to be all about us) fizzled into a mess. I feel emotionally and intimately unsafe right now. And now, for that purpose, I need to draw boundaries with our physical relationship. We just started trying again to have a baby. That is on hold now. Again. Sigh. 

My heart hasn't felt this broken in a long time. I don't know how to handle it this time. 

At least I know that I'm on the right track. Turning myself over to God's care is the best thing I can do for us. Setting boundaries again will be necessary. That's on the right track too. I'm also trying to find good outlets for me. I'm going to paint more. And sew some stuff.   And, of course, write. 

I actually wasn't going to blog yet, but I decided to after the tender mercy I just experienced. After swimming, I drove around trying to figure out my next step. I didn't want to go home yet, so I decided to find a park where I could study my scriptures and think. I prayed then opened up to where I am. Yesterday, I left off mid-chapter because I just felt like the next verse would be a good start for my next read. Boy, was I right to follow that prompting. 

Mosiah 18:21 "And he commanded them that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another."

That was a direct answer to my prayers. No contention. Work together in faith. Remember we are one. And remember to love

Everyone's situation is different. Those words may not be the exact answer for everyone, but it was exactly what I needed tonight. 

Time to go home and make amends. 

And here are inspiring words from my favorite hymn (Reverently and Meekly Now). I saved this as a note on my phone a couple months ago at church:

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Soapbox Corner: Modesty

If you haven't seen Jessica Rey's speech about the evolution of the swimsuit, you should now. It's very interesting and enlightening.

I've noticed that people either really like or really don't like what she has to say.

I posted this video on my Facebook. The video got lots of shares and likes and one comment. I'm good friends with the girl who commented, but some of what she said made me just want to shake her and yell, "You don't understand!"

I wouldn't say our conversation got heated. But it did get a little intense. We just don't see eye to eye on the modesty issue. It definitely got me thinking.

Her main argument was that the way men's brains function is not the reason to dress modestly. She said that the only reason we should dress modestly is for God and out of respect for ourselves. The way men think should not tell us how to dress. I know it is stereotypical towards men and maybe not every guy who sees a woman in Daisy Dukes and a tube top is led to think sexual thoughts. Maybe. I don't really care if it is stereotypical. It's real. Even if not every man is led to sexual thoughts/actions, many are. Some of those men don't even want those thoughts, but they come when they see a neckline crawling down cleavage or shorts riding up. Even good, religious men think those thoughts. Even if they fight it.

My number one reason for dressing modestly is my love and respect for God. Number two is respect for myself. Another reason I dress modestly is for men. I don't want men to think impure thoughts about me. I also don't want to be held in any way responsible for where their thoughts go. If I dressed immodestly, how could I expect Jack to recover from his addiction? How could I expect him to recover if I am a constant temptation of the sexual nature? Sometimes I cringe when we are out in public and I see a women dressed immodestly. I cringe. Because I know right where his thoughts could go. It's a little selfish of me because I don't want his thoughts there, but know you what? Most of the time, he doesn't want his thoughts there either. That doesn't change the fact that his thoughts go there. Sometimes it even happens without him realizing what has happened.

I know. Women's rights! Feminism. "Men aren't in charge of me, I am!" "It's not my problem if he can't control himself, it's his!" You know what? It actually could become your problem. Or maybe it's not your problem, but it's another woman's. And men aren't in charge of you, but it sure as heck would be nice if you would respect them and their brains.

I think it's a fact of our society that women are objectified. The media portrays it. Everywhere. Movies, magazines, billboards, commercials, TV shows, clothing stores. Trends. Women are objectified, and women play into it.

Growing up, a common compliment I heard girls give each other at school or in the locker room was, "Oh dannnnng girrrl. You look sexy." Sexy. When I was a teenager, I didn't think anything about it. I wanted to look sexy. I wanted to be desirable. I wanted to be noticed. Well, I've learned now what it means to be noticed, and that's not because I've been noticed. I've learned because I'M MARRIED TO A PORN ADDICT! AND THIS WOMAN WOULD APPRECIATE IT IF YOU OTHER WOMEN WOULD CLOTHE YOURSELVES A LITTLE MORE!

Don't you think that part of the reason God wants us to dress modestly is for moral and brain protection? I do. I think God knows what He is doing. He knows Satan's tactics. He knows men will be targeted through sex. He knows that Satan will try to break down the family through sex. And that is what is happening. Too many people, men and women alike, view sex as a pleasure or fun time. It's not regarded with the sanctity that it should be, and IMMODESTY PLAYS A HUGE ROLE IN THAT! Especially when women think immodesty is not a big deal and that their immodesty doesn't or shouldn't affect men.

I really don't think it should be up to women to keep men in check with their thoughts. It's kind of unfair. But, heck, it is up to us. It's up to us virtuous women who want to protect our families because I can guarantee you know one else will care.

So, please, let's make a whole army of virtuous women and try to make a stand for modesty and the protection of families!

(end soapbox).


This post was written in a moment of complete frustration with life, porn, and immodesty-feminism.

For a great take on modesty, click here

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Process of Conversion

"Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually" (Mosiah 5:2).

Those were the words King Benjamin's people responded with after his teaching. 

When I read this verse, my eyes focused on the words "in our hearts" and the follow-up with action: they didn't want to do evil, but to do good. 

The people heard the teachings of King Benjamin, and they felt the Spirit touch them.
Their hearts were changed.

It reminds me of how much I want to "do good continually" and how imperfect I am. As much as I want to do good, I still mess up. I've had some seriously spiritual experiences in my life. I have had experiences that have rocked me to the core and instilled in me a dedication to be better. I have had experiences that have changed my heart. And even though I know what good things I should do, I have a hard time really working that change of heart. I have a hard time being perfect (haha, don't we all?). I know I should be patient, but I'm still impatient sometimes. I know I should try to adapt to change better, but sometimes I just don't want to. It's really hard, and I struggle to give up some of my sins and character weaknesses... and those sins and character weaknesses are the words I substitute every time I run across "addiction" in the 12 step manual. 

Well, ladies and gentlemen, that, in turn, reminds me that I need to be patient with Jack's addiction. If I'm so attached to my sins and weaknesses, I really can't imagine how hard it is for him to detach himself from his addiction. I know that somewhere in his heart, he wants to be clean. He knows that too. He wants to be fully rid of his addiction, but it's a scary thought. He knows that his life will be more rich, more full, and just plain BETTER without his addiction. But we all know how hard it is to make changes and give things up that are such a huge part of us. I certainly know. And I don't even have all the pornography-chemical-brain-attachment stuff (don't you love how technical I am?:)) going on like he does.

Just like I have experienced a change of heart, even in the slightest, so has he. Just like I want to be pure and holy, so does he. Just like I struggle with overcoming my sins and weaknesses, so does he.

I need to be patient and keep working on turning myself over to God and leaning on the Atonement. And I need to worry about Jack a little bit less. I can't change him. But I can change me and hope he changes himself (through Christ. We all need Christ).

It doesn't take away the problem, but it does lessen the burden.

Jack messed up today. It was a bigger mess-up than usual. We were afraid of that. We made it to our destination yesterday, and I got to go to my conference today (by the way, it was amazing. in case you were wondering. and I am so excited for the upcoming school year!). We were both a little worried about him being alone in our hotel room while I would be at my conference during the days. But we've said lots of prayers, and he brought stuff to occupy his time (did I tell you he is trying to start a business?). I had faith.

I said a BIG prayer for him before I left his morning.

This doesn't mean God didn't listen to me. It just means Jack used his agency, and God didn't force him to do anything.

I really can't expect Jack to perfectly cast off his addiction every day, at least not with the typical definition of expectations. I can expect it in a hopefully optimistic kind of way. If/when that expectation isn't met, I can turn to Christ to help me through it. I guess I just mean that I can't demand that he perfectly cast off his addiction every day. But I can always be optimistically hopeful.

I expect that he works on his repentance and conversion. As long as he is striving to do that and has a ray of hope, we're going to be just fine.

I expect that I also work on repentance and conversion. As long as I strive to do that we will be just fine.

Like I said, I understand, at least a little bit, how hard it is to cast off sins and weaknesses. Over time, our lives will change. Right now, I can't expect perfection. I can expect hard work and effort. There will be mess-ups, but that is normal. I know he has experienced a change of heart. I know he wants to be pure and holy. He is struggling, and that is normal. Just like mine, his full conversion is a process.

It doesn't make it any less hard. But it lessens the burden.

"For most of us, conversion does not occur quickly or all at once; it is an ongoing process and not a one-time event that results from a dramatic or overpowering experience. Line upon line and precept upon precept, gradually and almost imperceptibly, our motives, our thoughts, our words, and our deeds become aligned with the will of God. Continuing conversion unto the Lord requires both persistence and patience" (Elder Bednar, Act in Doctrine, p. 79).


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

I'd rather be grateful than hateful


I wrote my post yesterday from the car. We are road trippin' across the state so I can attend a conference/training for a class I am teaching in the fall. Jack is coming with me because he is unemployed... So why not, right? We'll have every night to spend together in a hotel this week. We can do fun touristy stuff too. During the day, he is going to research business ideas he has (we have a really good friend who really wants to start a business with Jack. Might as well look into it since he has the time).

Not long after I finished my post yesterday, our car BROKE DOWN. In the middle of nowhere. Well, we were on the outskirts of a very small town, so it could have been worse.

When the car stopped (that's right, it randomly just powered down and we had to get over to the shoulder and try to get it up and running again), my first thought was prayer. I said to Jack, "You man the wheel, and I'll pray." It was a very sincere prayer. I actually felt like a child. I felt like I was exercising the faith of a child, and I just knew that all would be well because I prayed.

We made it to an O'Reilly store (about four blessed miles later).

The guy working did a diagnostic check for us. We couldn't get a mechanic yesterday. And O'Reilly didn't even have the parts we probably need and won't get them in till this afternoon. So, we booked a hotel, and after multiple failed attempts, we got the car started again.

Again, I told Jack to man the wheel while I prayed. This time, I was even more sincere. The car was in worse shape than it was before, and just the fact that it started was a miracle. I prayed that we would make it to a hotel safely. I prayed that we would have peace and strength. And I prayed that we would be blessed according to our faith. I've never said that in a prayer. Let me tell ya, it was powerful. It was one of the most powerful experiences I have had in prayer. I felt the Spirit so strongly, and I felt safe in God's hands.And when I closed in the name of Jesus Christ, I could feel Him right there with us.

The hotel was only about two miles away from the O'Reilly store. That was the longest two miles of my life. For obvious reasons, we didn't want to just leave all our stuff in our abandoned car and trek to the hotel. We really wanted to make it safely to the hotel: with our car and everything inside. When we started climbing a hill that went over the freeway, Jack kind of freaked out. It did seem like the car was going to stop again, but I just kept repeating that we would be fine.

I knew we would be fine. I just had this really strong feeling that our faith was being tested and that God wanted us to put our faith in Him.

Jack has been really anxious about this all day. I haven't been. I mean, yeah, it's a HUGE inconvenience. If we don't make it to the conference, the school probably won't pay for this trip: the hotel we had to stay in last night, our dinner (and food for today), and our gas/mileage will be coming out of our pocket. That and whatever it takes to repair this beast. And, as you all know, Jack doesn't have a job, and I don't get my next paycheck until school starts in the fall. He has been stressing about it a lot, and I really don't blame him. He stresses more about finances than I do.

I, on the other hand, have not been stressing. I'm actually kind of grateful our car broke down. It gave us an adventure together. It gave us the opportunity to depend on God together. It made us work together. It might make us go into more debt together, if worst comes to worst, but I know that God will take care of us. I know that somehow it will all work out. And we are together in this. Last night and this morning have been nice because it's been so non-stressful for me. We have nowhere to go. If we wanted to go anywhere, we have no way. We have to just relax and spend time together. We got to talk. I got to express some feelings that needed repair from a loving husband. Our lives are currently on hold until further notice. It's nice. 

I am grateful for this experience. I have been asking for help in relying more on the Atonement in my life. He gave me an opportunity. I have been asking for healing in my marriage. He gave us an opportunity. I have been praying for Jack and his addiction, and God gave him an opportunity (read his current post here).

Life is full of opportunities. Those opportunities can be full of trial, fear, hope, love, peace, etc. You name it. Life and opportunity can be anything you let it be. God grants us opportunities to refine us, and I'm grateful for this opportunity. It helped me realize the strength of my faith, and it helped me gain an opportunity to be a strength for Jack too.

I'm just so full of gratitude right now!

I love it! I'd rather be grateful than hateful :D

Monday, June 17, 2013

Finding Strength in the Atonement

I learned something last night. It's not pretty. 

I've never fully understood masturbation. I had a different idea of it in my head. But last night, Jack and I discussed his addiction. And I learned in more detail what goes along with masturbation. 

Now I don't know which is worse. Is it worse to watch pornography or is it worse to fantasize about having sex (etc etc), envisioning and streaming pornography in your mind? I don't know. Both are bad. It doesn't matter which might be worse, but I now understand that Jack only struggling with masturbation at the moment and staying clean of porn isn't necessarily progress. It is, but it isn't. It is. It's good that he is clean on one side. But it isn't. It's worse than I realized. 

I feel let down. I feel sad. I talked through my anger and sadness last night. I'm glad Jack is such a good listener, especially when it's painful for him. 

The whole conversation started with me stating that I've noticed the masturbation has recently become more frequent. And I followed that up with my statement that I don't think I fully understand it and then asking questions. 


I'm grateful I'm working on my healing. I feel a strength that only the Savior can provide, and I feel prepared right now. I don't know which direction things will go--hopefully continue to go up. I'm really glad I'm working on step 8 right now. It's a small reminder that I'm not perfect, and Jack still deserves for me to treat him with Christlike love. He still deserves forgiveness. And I still need to watch myself and seek forgiveness when I do wrong. I need to be humble--in all aspects of my life. 

We're going on a trip together this week. Hopefully that provides some healing for us...?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

I want to be a disciple of Christ

As I've been studying step 8, I realized I have to ask myself, "Do I want to seek forgiveness?"

Seeking forgiveness requires humility. It requires patience (especially with self). It requires faith. It requires charity. It requires me to seek out and use the power of the Atonement.

See that list I just made? Those are HARD. Some are harder than others, but nevertheless, they are hard. They are weaknesses I have identified in myself, and I'm still working on overcoming them.

Do I want to seek forgiveness? Sometimes I don't. Sometimes the idea just seems so hard. Sometimes I want my husband to just read my mind. I want him (and whoever else I have wronged) to know that I am sorry and just forgive me. I don't want to work. I don't want to "seek forgiveness." Because my nature is stubborn and prideful. And it's much easier to be stubborn and prideful than to do the opposite.

Do I like myself when I am that way? No, not really. I have felt the power of the Spirit in my life. I have felt peace come with humility, patience, and charity. I don't like myself very much when I turn to the "natural man" and give up on becoming the "peaceable follower of Christ" that I desire to become.

 Do I want to seek forgiveness? YES.

Why? Because it's the next step to bring me closer to Christ. Because I want peace. Because I am trying to be a disciple of Christ. Because I love my husband (and the others whom I have hurt), and I want to make things right.

The content of this step is so powerful. I don't know how to adequately describe it. I'll do my best to express my thoughts and feelings on this.

My ultimate goal is to be a disciple of Christ.


I want to emulate Christ in thought, word, and deed. That's a hard task to achieve, but it can be done through the power of the Atonement. I know that to become the woman of God I desire to be, I have to forgive and seek forgiveness. It comes down to humility, which is probably my greatest weakness.

I've already added so much commotion and craziness to my life and the world around me. I know I'm not, nor will I be in this life, perfect. But, as I try to become the woman my patriarchal blessing describes, I will become more perfect. As I try to become who Christ would have me be through strengthening my relationship with Him, I will become more perfect. As I become more perfect, I will contribute more peace to this life than I ever thought possible. I won't be able to do that if I 1) harbor negative feelings (for *ahem* myself or others), or 2) fail to humble myself and seek to make right my wrongs.

The deeper I delve into the gospel and gain more understanding, the stronger I feel. I definitely have my days where I feel weak, but when I study my scriptures and other gospel tools, I feel strength. I feel power. I feel the armor of God protecting me.

Forgiveness is at the heart of the gospel. Forgiveness, along with love, is the heart of the Atonement. If I do not seek forgiveness, I am not accepting Christ's gift. If I don't forgive, I am denying the power of the Atonement as it works for others. If I seek to forgive and seek forgiveness for myself, I gain a stronger understanding of the Atonement and strengthen myself with God's armor.

So, as I clean up my wreckage, I will put on the armor of God (see Eph. 6:11-18). I will seek forgiveness, forgive, and gain the power and strength the Atonement offers.

Who's in?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Of kayaking trips and life lessons

I have a story. To make it sound less awkward, I decided today is the day to pick names for my husband and me on this blog. That way, I can call him by name instead of continuing to say "my husband" this and "my husband that."

He'll be Jack (his choice) and I'll be Marie.

Isn't this beautiful? We hiked here a few days ago.

 We went kayaking today. We even invited my mom.

When we reached our destination (a spot on the lake that extends somewhere between 100-200 yards wide), I flopped out of my kayak (yes, I flopped. It was not at all graceful) to swim some laps.

I heard from our bishop's wife that swimming laps in the lake is so much better than in the fitness center.

The fitness center where we usually go to swim is a 20 minute drive away. It takes a long time for us to drive there, change, swim, shower and change, do my stretches, then drive home. We go 2-3 times a week, though, because I love swimming and it is the only form of exercise I am allowed to do right now.

I wanted to swim today. Jack wanted to kayak. Rather than taking two hours to swim at the fitness center and then take a small kayaking trip, we decided to try out the bishop wife's vision of swimming in the lake. I was excited! I've wanted to try swimming in the lake, but I just hadn't gotten around to it yet. This was the perfect opportunity.

Little did I know this was the perfect opportunity to test my weaknesses.

First of all, it's not like I don't have stuff to do. I have a lot of school business I am working on for next year along with my callings and assignment in the church. I had a plan for today. It was to get up (I got up WAY later than anticipated), study my scriptures, go kayaking/swimming, work on all that stuff I need to do, do the facilitator training modules (I'm a facilitator now, yay!), and prepare for and attend group.

When my day doesn't go according to plan, I tend to freak out a little bit (that is one of my weaknesses). Stress, anxiety, and fear start creeping in, and I get mean. I don't deal with changes to my plan very well. It's something I have been working on.

By the time we got to the lake, it was almost noon. I realized that my day was probably going to be shot, and I faced a choice: I could get irritated at everyone who made my day slower than it was supposed to be, or I could just get over it and enjoy our kayaking trip.

I chose to try to forget about the anger starting to creep in (SUCCESS!) and just enjoy the day (and not make any kind of scene in front of my mom, who also happened to be half the reason my day was getting so far off-plan). I told myself to just breathe and not freak out. In reality, I don't even have anything that has to be done by tomorrow. Everything will be fine if it doesn't get done today. I can relax and enjoy my summer days.

I got in my kayak first and let Jack and my mom push me out. The nose of the kayak went under and I started freaking out because I thought I was going to sink (fear and freaking out: weakness #2). As if I wasn't right by the shore...

My back tensed up (as it always done when I panic), and I told Jack I was scared that my back would hurt too much and maybe I shouldn't actually go out today. He told me to decide, and I remembered that I am being fearless now.

I started paddling.

When we reached our destination, I put on my goggles, kicked off my flip-flops, and flopped out of my kayak. I tied our kayaks together, and looked across the lake. Fear settled in the pit of my stomach. "I can't do this," I thought. "I am going to die." Have you ever had that feeling where you are so determined to do something cool, and then you realize that it's way more freaky than you thought? That's how I envision myself if I ever go sky-diving. It sounds really fun, but I bet right before jumping out of the plane, I would cry. I don't know if swimming laps in a lake sounds cool to you, but it did to me. The idea of it made me feel like I'm awesome, and I didn't even think about the fact that

1. Unlike a pool, I would have nowhere to stop and rest when I get tired. Even though I swim for half an hour at the pool, I take a couple of small breaks.

2. If I got tired in the middle of the lake, I could drown.

3. You can't see anything in a lake. I could barely see beyond my wrist.

And other thoughts ran through my mind, but I can't remember it all. Those were split-second thoughts. Really, in that moment, it felt like I was heading out into the ocean to swim for my life. Or that I had been shipwrecked and had to swim to shore.

I half-shrieked, "Jack, I'm scared!" I thought I was going to cry.

He looked at me like I was crazy. "Why are you scared?" I felt this undertone of "it's not like you can't swim for half an hour. You can swim across that."

I didn't really know why I was scared, but I was terrified. It was this huge wave of panic that I didn't really know what to do with (yet another weakness happening right here).

"Um, I think I'll drown."

"With me paddling right alongside you?"

"Um, I might get hit by a boat."

"Marie." He gave me his stop-being-afraid-of-stupid-things look. He was paddling alongside me for that specific purpose. So I wouldn't get hit by a boat. We planned that.

"I don't know."

My excuses were gone. And lame. And I'm supposed to be fearless. I started swimming.

Halfway across, I stopped to tread water and, in my panicky voice, yelled, "Come here come here come here COME HERE! I NEED TO HOLD ON TO YOUR KAYAK!!" He thought I was going to capsize him. I was more careful than that. I just needed to overcome my panic again and hold on to something for dear life.

I managed a full lap, stopping every so often to freak out. Then, I climbed (flopped) back into my kayak and laid in the sun, thinking.

It really wasn't so bad. Actually, I wanted to do it again. We paddled around some more so I could rest (climbing back up was HARD). He found a rope-swing to play on while I got to watch and laugh at him for a change. Then, I was ready for round two of swimming.

This time I got in the water with ease and started swimming without hesitation. I knew I wouldn't drown. I knew I could make it all the way across. I knew if anything happened, Jack was right there by my side.

I swam much quicker this time, and I didn't stop for any breaks. I just took breaths and strokes. I felt myself pull into my usual swimming rhythm.

During this round of swimming, I had time to think and take note of what was going on.

Before I got into the lake, I knew I wanted to swim across it. I even thought I would swim for half an hour, just like normal. Once I got into the water, everything changed. Fear sunk in. As I swam my first lap, I felt darkness around me. I had horrible thoughts entering my head, and I was seriously afraid for my life (it's dumb, I know. Haha, don't judge). I didn't think I would make it. I almost didn't want to make it. Part of me just wanted to get back in the kayak and pretend it hadn't even happened.

While I swam, I couldn't see anything. I couldn't even see my hand. I could see as far as my wrist. There could have been anything there, and I wouldn't have been able to see (really, there were only fish... I think. But I kept envisioning myself getting attacked by sharks or snakes or something horrible). In my head, there could have been anything there, and I wouldn't have known until it attacked.

It was a hard swim. It was harder than swimming in the pool. But it was so much more worth it in the end, and it was more fun. If anything bad had happened, my husband was right there to save me. He could reach out to me if I needed it, or I could reach out to him if I knew I needed it.

After making it the first time, I knew I could do the second lap.

I realized that terrifying little swim was like life. 

Before I came to this earth, I knew I wanted to come. I may or may not have understood how hard it would be (I don't know). But I knew I wanted to come here. I knew it would be a great experience and would help me achieve my goal of proving myself worthy to live with Heavenly Father. During life, however, we are tempted by Satan. There are times when we are surrounded by darkness and can't see farther than "our wrist." There are times when we have to know and rely on our Savior, who is always watching over us. And there are times when we need to be humble and ask Him for help ourselves. We experience pain. We experience darkness. We experience numerous trials, and with each one we learn. With each one we realize we do have the strength (through Christ) and the tools, and we become better prepared for the next trial. We can keep pushing on, and we can become better and better through each trial.

I'm grateful that I had the strength to push past my fears and do what I knew I wanted  to do. Actually, I needed to do this. I needed to experience those fear so I could face them.

I'm also grateful that I could pinpoint my weaknesses as they occurred today. It was a good little test, and I'm grateful I could try to find appropriate ways to deal with my stressors.

I see great progress here. Yes, I saw weakness, and yes, I was very full of fear at some points. But I didn't let it stop me. I pushed on, and even gained a life-lesson takeaway while I was at it.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Cleaning the Wreckage

"Step 8 was an opportunity to make a plan to clean up the wreckage and rebuild all that could be saved" (p 47, ARP Guidebook). 


Step 8 provides us with the opportunity to seek forgiveness for past wrongs. It's a follow-up from the inventory, confession, willingness to turn ourselves over to God, and the humble preparation of asking God to remove our shortcomings. In step 8, we become willing to make restitution to all persons we have harmed.

It sounds intense. It sounds scary. But, fear not! There is no reason to fear. We have God on our side, and seeking repentance is crucial to our coming back to Him. We may feel at first that we have no need to repent--that we are the victim here, and others need to ask us for forgiveness. We've all been there. BUT, we may have been so caught up and focused on others around us (and their wrongs) because of our situations that we may have forgotten to keep ourselves in check too.

Because of my husband's addiction, I became really self-conscious. You know how teenagers are in that egocentric stage where they think everyone is looking at them, talking about them, whispering behind their backs?  Well, I hate to say it, but  I fell back into teenager mode. Because I always wondered if he was looking at me, wanting me, loving me, I began to question many other people around me. I started questioning everyone' motives and trusting very few people, or only halfway trusting most people.

I hurt some people. Because I was angry and distrusting, I hurt people without even meaning to. Here's an example:

We had some friends in our ward who stopped returning our phone calls. Every time we invited them to spend time with us, they had an excuse not to or didn't even call us back. Eventually, we called them less and less until we stopped trying to hang out with them altogether. I thought, well, they must not really like us. They must not want to be our friends. If they wanted to be our friends, they would put forth the effort of trying to spend time with us. Or they would tell us that they really do want to spend time with us, but it's just a bad time right now. We used to sit by them at church because we were among the few couples in our ward without children. Eventually, we sat by them less and less until we stopped sitting by them at church. We stopped talking to them. Saying hi in the hallway was awkward.

Months later, I finally talked to the wife and asked what happened. I missed them, and I had no idea what happened with our relationship. Also, we were moving soon, and I didn't want to move with hard feelings. Basically, they had been really hurt that we slowly stopped calling or sitting by them at church. I'm sure whatever their reasons were for not returning our calls or never wanting to hang out with us was valid. They didn't want to lose our friendship, though. My egocentrism, however, cost us a valuable friendship in that ward.

I know of more people who were hurt by my actions during the really hard time with my husband. Because I couldn't make him perfect, I expected perfection from myself and others around me. I was impatient and irritable at meaningless things. I had angry, negative thoughts about many people. I possibly even hurt more people than I know...

I've created wreckage, my friends! I've created wreckage in my friendships, in my relationship with my husband, and with myself.

I still create wreckage, and I know I will continue to create wreckage. That is why the Atonement is so beautiful. I can create wreckage and seek forgiveness for it. I can mess up and make mistakes, but as I humble myself and come to God with an honest, sincere heart, it can be healed. It can be made right through the Atonement.

Step 8 says, "Before we could rebuild relationships, we needed to identify the relationships that were damaged." So, I made a list of everyone I had harmed. I wrote about the situations. However, I discovered (as the guidebook says) that I "could not list these people without being distracted by feelings of resentment toward those who had harmed [me]" (p 47). I was able to pray to Heavenly Father and explain my feelings. I could confess everything to Him and seek His guidance as I sought for peace and healing. I studied the parable of the man who was forgiven his debts but needed to forgive others. I started understanding the miracle of the Atonement better than ever before.

Along with my list of people to seek forgiveness, I made a list of people whom I needed to forgive. Some names were on both lists. "People often get caught in terrible cycles of exchanging hurts with others. to break these cycles of mutual resentment, someone has to be willing to forgive" (p 47). I've seen that happening in my marriage, along with other relationships as well.

Writing became a great tool for me to sort out my feelings and experiences so I could figure out what exactly was going on in my head. During this process, I prayed for the desire to forgive. I prayed for forgiveness. I practiced praying for others' welfare. I prayed for those I had a hard time liking. I prayed for those I didn't understand. As I gained compassion, I was able to identify more relationships that needed healing.

When I experienced this step for the first time, I had many relationships that needed healing. I had much healing to experience in general. I still have much healing that needs to take place, but as I read through and practice this step, I can see a pattern to the relationships that need healing. Most of the people who I need to seek forgiveness from are very close to me. Those instances deal mostly with my impatience.

As I've written in the past, I made so much progress when I journeyed through the 12 steps the first time. That progress stuck with me. One of the maintenance steps (the steps that help you maintain your new, spiritually-minded way of life), step 10 is about daily accountability. I did step 10 almost a year ago. Since then, I have been pretty good at keeping myself accountable and promptly admitting my wrongs. I have been fairly good at seeking forgiveness (not perfect). I don't have as many relationships that need healing as I did the first time.

I'm still cleaning up wreckage. There is always wreckage to clean up, for both me and my husband. I'm so grateful for this process. I know without the 12 steps, I would be lost. I wouldn't know where to turn, and I would not know how to deal with things. Part of step 8 is forgiving others, but I'm glad the focus is on seeking forgiveness. I'm glad I know I need to forgive myself. I'm glad I have this road to walk with Christ.

I'm also grateful for the understanding I have reached. I am a victim. But, in some ways, so is my husband. He is a victim of himself. Satan. society. me. The 12 steps have helped me heal, gain perspective, and become more Christlike. Hopefully, my husband won't be a victim of my wrath for much longer. I know eventually, I will find better ways to handle everything than by lashing out. 

I'm grateful for the 12 steps. I'm grateful for the journey. I'm grateful for my knowledge.

I'm grateful I have the Atonement to help me clean up the wreckage. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Let's Get Those Work Boots On

"Before our recovery, our addictive [insert angry or other weaknesses/sufferings as a result of your loved one's addiction] lifestyles were like a tornado full of destructive energy that cut through our relationships, leaving much wreckage behind" (Step 8).


Anger is what I have struggled with the most as a result of my husband's addiction. I have also suffered from anxiety and depression, but those both lead to anger too. 

My anger, left unchecked, has harmed relationships and could potentially destroy relationships. I'm not even just talking about my relationship with my husband. I have been so angry at everything that I take it out on innocent bystanders. My mom doesn't know what is going on, but I have taken out my anger on her when she does things that get on my nerves. I really try not to, but it happens. The same thing happens with one of my sisters. And with a handful of other people. When I'm already mad, little annoying habits from everyone get to me, and I take my anger/irritation out on them too. At least it's not happened to them at full force like it has with my husband...

In the couple of years since I originally found out about his addiction and started my own healing and recovery process, I have grown tremendously. I've learned that I have blamed my husband for my character weaknesses when he is really not to blame. My weaknesses are my weaknesses, and they always have been. Maybe the situation has made me feel like I am seeing my weaknesses through a magnifying glass, but they have always been there, and they have always been mine.

Once upon a time, I blamed it all on him. He was the addict, and I was perfect. Everything was his fault. Now, I can see that this situation in my life has been a gift from God to help me see my weaknesses and choose to make them stronger.Or choose to do nothing.

I don't have to make my weaknesses stronger. But I want to. 

A few months ago, I wrote a post about who I want to be. I want to make myself stronger because I have a goal in mind as to who I want to become. At that point in my life, I saw potential. I knew who I could become. I saw that girl inside my, dying to come out. Today, I see even more potential. I've grown so much more in the past few months since I wrote that. I have so much I want to be. I have so much I want to do.  I can't do or become anything without making my weaknesses stronger. 

I can't be a disciple of Christ if I don't lean on Him and try to emulate his character. 

I can't be a giver if I remain selfish.

I can't be a lover of life if I stay mad at the world. 

I can't jump at every opportunity, take chances, or have no fear if I am constantly battling anxiety and letting that anxiety keep me from taking opportunities. 

I can't be head over heels in love if I refuse to forgive, hold grudges, and keep bringing up past mistakes.

I've accomplished a lot already. We all have. All of us, you reading this, you have accomplished a lot. Whatever your struggles are or have been, you've made it through. Or you're making it through.

I'm ready to take the next step. Are you?

I have already turned to the Lord to help me get my life back in order.

I have believed that the power of God can restore me to complete spiritual health. That belief has grown to a knowledge of His power. I know He can restore me to complete spiritual health. If I let Him.

I have already made the decision to turn my life over to the care of God.

I have fearlessly inventoried my life. I have pinpointed the good and the bad. I made made a commitment to become better.

I have confessed what has needed to be confessed.

I have turned my life and will over to God. I have become ready for Him to remove my weaknesses.

I have humbly asked Him for help removing those weaknesses.

The next step I will take is to seek forgiveness. I need to become willing to make restitution to all persons I have harmed. I will prayerfully seek out the Lord's help in making restitution.

Before my recovery (and during),  my angry lifestyle was (has been) like a tornado full of destructive energy that cut through many relationships. It has left a lot of wreckage behind. It's time for me to clean up what I can. 

As I seek forgiveness, I will continue to recognize and ask God to remove my weaknesses. As I make my weaknesses stronger (such as impatience, easy irritation, anger, etc), I will be more likely to control myself rather than lashing out and hurting others, thus lessening the impact of the angry tornado in the future.

I'm really not a horrible person. I'm just really hard on myself sometimes, especially lately. I know I will need to forgive myself too and lighten up. It comes and goes. Haha.

Whelp, let's get those work boots on (please read in the best Southern drawl your brain can come up with :)). 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Understanding the Plan

I just got a new visiting teaching route. My old route wasn't working very well, and the Relief Society president put me with a new companion. I apologized to the Relief Society president today for being a horrible visiting teacher. I have been in a Relief Society presidency. I know, I understand, how important visiting teaching is, and I have beaten myself up about not being a very good visiting teacher since I moved into this ward. I told her this, and she said, "I don't think God would want  you to beat yourself up. You're being way harder on yourself than He would be on you right now. I think He understands your situation, and you are doing your best to serve in the ways you can." I love her.

I've been beating myself up about a lot of things lately. I started taking step 7 to an extreme, and I got really depressed about not being able to overcome my character weaknesses. It caused me to almost (not quite) hate step 7. When I went through the 12 steps for the first time, I didn't do that. I did my best and moved on. At that point in the game, I think I was struggling a little bit, but I was so excited. I was so excited to be making so much progress and seeing my progress. I don't know why I have beaten myself up about it this time through. I think it might be because I'm much more sensitive. And maybe I'm holding myself to a high standard because I think that I can at least control myself...? I'm not entirely sure.

 It's okay to have weaknesses. We're supposed to have weaknesses. Without our weaknesses, what would be the point of this life? What would we need to overcome to get back to Heavenly Father?

Our weaknesses allow us a choice: we can choose to humble ourselves before our Father and try to do His will, or we can choose to be swallowed up in the world. We can choose to sanctify ourselves and try to live as He wants us to, or we can choose to stray from Him.

I've gone back and forth on that. I want to choose Him, but choosing Him is hard. It's hard to put off our will and do His. It's hard to have a constant prayer. Sometimes it's hard to forget myself and serve, especially when my life feels so hard. It's hard to forgive. It's hard to apologize when I am hurting. It's hard to look outside myself when all I can think about are the things tearing me up inside.

I want to choose Him. But sometimes it just feels so hard.

It's even harder when I don't fully understand the Plan of Salvation or the Atonement. It's harder when I don't understand why I am here or why I need to rely on Christ. It's hard to want to turn to the Lord when I don't understand what He has given me or the eternal laws He abides by.

Today I started studying Enos.

Enos wrestled before God.

As he was out hunting, his thoughts were on words he had heard his father speak about about eternal life and the joy of the saints. His soul hungered for that, and he decided to kneel down and pray. He prayed for hours for the redemption of his soul.

After some time, God told him that his sins were forgiven, and he would be blessed.

"And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away.

"And I said: Lord, how is it done?

"And he said unto me: Because of thy faith in Christ, whom thou has never before heard nor seen...wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole."

Because of his faith in Christ, his sins were forgiven and he was made whole.

Sometimes, I don't fully understand the Atonement. My understanding comes and goes. Sometimes, I feel like I totally get it, at least enough of it, to help me through what is going on. And sometimes, I get so clouded in darkness that I forget or just don't understand why I need the Atonement. The past couple of weeks have been kind of like that. I am independent. I like being independent. Independent is safe. I only have to rely on me and no one else.

I know that is dangerous territory. So, I have been stuck in this little hole of wanting independence, but knowing I need to be dependent on God, and basically going in weird little circles. My desire for dependence gets pushed out by my desire for independence...and so on.

After reading that about Enos, I decided I wanted to study the Plan of Salvation and the Atonement. I'm finally being a little more proactive about understanding these things that are giving me a hard time right now. I need to arm myself so I can fight Satan! He has been viciously attacking me since my last post. Urghhhhh. Seriously. I thought I had banished him, but he just laughed and said, "Okay, take this!" By the way, you should read about how my husband and I like to flip Satan off (his blog).

Alma 42 is a great reference for the Plan and Atonement. I read it during the sacrament and made a note to study it in more depth after church.

In this chapter, he talks about what happened after Adam and Eve partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. They became as God, knowing good and evil. Because they ate that fruit, God had to protect the tree of life so they wouldn't eat its fruit and live forever.

Why? Why would it be a bad thing for Adam and Eve to be like God, knowing good and evil, and live forever? It sounds to me like that is what we want, right? Don't we want to know good and evil, and aren't we trying to gain eternal life?

That's something I have always struggled with. I have never fully understood why Adam and Eve were not supposed to live forever. Why would that make it so they couldn't repent? Why would that cause the plan to be "frustrated"?

What I am about to say is not necessarily doctrine. It's just what I came up with through my searching of the scriptures and prayers for understanding while I pondered this question today.

Here is what I came up with to answer those questions:

*If Adam and Eve partook of the fruit and lived forever, would they have need of the resurrection? No. If they didn't need the resurrection, that would mess up the Atonement. Part of the Atonement is overcoming temporal death and being resurrected. The Atonement and resurrection go hand-in-hand. Neither would apply to them if they were already able to live forever. It would frustrate the need for Atonement and the Plan.

*We need the resurrection. Without the resurrection (if there was no death to overcome), there would be no purpose of this life. We wouldn't have anything to prove. But we do need this life. We need death. And we need the Atonement. And repentance.

*If Adam and Eve were already able to live forever, where would be the motivation to repent? It could be continually procrastinated because they think they have forever. 

**If they partook of the fruit, there would really be no purpose to this life. We would no longer have this mortal state to be a probationary period. Agency wouldn't matter. We wouldn't be able to "perform (our) labors" or improve ourselves or prepare to meet God. We wouldn't even be able to leave this world because we wouldn't die. We would be forever separated from God.  

So, God, in His wisdom, and as what He knew to be the only way we could possibly live with Him, protected the tree of life from Adam and Eve. He protected it so we wouldn't be forever separated from Him.

Because Adam and Eve partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, man became "carnal, sensual, and devilish." Our natural state became an enemy to God, and they only way we could return to Him would be through His infinite mercy. Mercy was brought forth through the Atonement. The Atonement could only work if there were certain conditions of repentance set, so mercy wouldn't destroy the law of justice.

"And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance.

"And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption.

 "Therefore may God grant unto you, my brethren, that ye may begin to exercise your faith unto repentance, that ye begin to call upon his holy name, that he would have mercy upon you."
     -Alma 34: 15-17

Finally, after much prayer and study, I got it! I understand why things are the way they are. I understand the significance of the protection God put around the tree of life so Adam and Eve would not partake. I better understand my path to eternal life. 

It's not any easier.

But I understand.

My husband has a sexual addiction. He is addicted to pornography and masturbation. He has considered leaving me and filling his life with this addiction. He has considered leaving me to live this addiction up to the fullest extent. He has considered suicide. I have experienced a lot of hurt. The thoughts of what he could do are painful.

I have forgiven. 

I have forgiven. 

I have forgiven.

I have been weak. I have been mean. I have been rude. I have acted out in anger. I have manipulated him so I can get my way and my anger across. I have hurt him because he has hurt me.

And I have come a long way. I have seen the healing power of the Atonement in both of our lives. My sins and acting out in pain or anger are not as bad as they have been in the past. But I still struggle with them. I still have progress to make. I still have to depend on the Lord. My healing is about me. It's not about him. It's not about comparing me to anyone else or rationalizing. My healing is about my coming to Christ.  As I draw nearer to Christ, I will become more perfect. I will learn and grow. I will receive revelation for my life. The Spirit will dwell in my home.

So I need to repent. I need to change my attitude and seek out the power of the Atonement.

I need to seek forgiveness. And I need to keep forgiving.

I will mess up. Of course. But it's expected because it's part of the plan. 

I have weaknesses. Of course. But it's expected because it's part of the plan. 

You know what else is part of the plan? Repentance. Forgiveness. Redemption.
I feel like I can finally get over the negativity I have been experiencing because I understand the plan better. I was reminded today of things I already knew, and my knowledge was expanded upon.

Today, in Relief Society, someone posed the question, "Why would God trust me with His eternal blessings if I won't submit to His will?"

Good question.