Thursday, February 27, 2014

He is Near

This week has been amazing. And by amazing, I mean it amazes me how horribly hard this week has been. It's amazed me how much worse this addiction impacts my life than I thought it did. My husband has amazed me--in a really awful kind of way--twice this week.

But it has amazed me how much light, peace, and beauty can be found in such a time as this.

I'm not here to rag on my husband. I'm not here to tell you about the recent horrible disclosure and how I don't know when I will be able to trust him fully again. I'm not here to tell you about the many tears shed this week, and how I've been just going through the motions every day. And I'm not here to tell you that I hate him and want a divorce (because I don't, by the way).

I'm here to tell you that God has a plan for each of us. I'm here to tell you that God loves me, and He loves you more than you can imagine. I'm here to tell you that you are not alone. You're never alone. He is always there. Sometimes you can't feel Him. Sometimes the darkness seems so thick that it is all you can do to lift your head up, look forward, and hold on to something. Sometimes you want to scream and break things. You want to run and hide. You want to cry your eyeballs out, eat some brownies, and cry some more.

That's okay. He is still with you.

In many ways, my life is falling apart all around me. But one thing is constant: God. He has circled me with His arms in love many times. He has whispered promptings. He has sent angels of mercy to look after me and make sure I'm okay. He has surrounded me with clouds of love, and the love I have felt from on High this week has been so powerful, that I am in tears as I write this.

He loves me. He really, truly, loves me.

He holds me.

He carries me.

I'm not alone in my pain. He has felt it, and He aches for the suffering I am enduring because of my husband. But He has blessed me with grace and mercy, and I am finding this to be an opportunity. I have an opportunity to grow closer to my Father and Elder Brother. I have an opportunity to feel light and share it with others around me. I have an opportunity to trust in the most divine Being and learn how He can really catch me when I fall. I have an opportunity to reach out to others and share my testimony of God's love.

I'm grateful for the strength I am gaining. I am grateful for the faith, understanding, and perspective I am gaining. I am grateful for charity. I am grateful for hope. I am grateful for peace. I am grateful for angels, both in Heaven and on Earth.

I am grateful for my Savior, for it is through Him that I know I can be saved. And it is through Him that I know my husband can be saved. It is through Him that I know I will make it through this experience. And it is through Him that I will be able to forgive and trust my husband again one day.

This is how I described how I feel in my journal this morning:

"I will be okay. I have felt immeasurable amounts of love this week. I know I am being carried by God. I don't know exactly how to describe it, but I hope I can remember this feeling forever. It's like I'm floating on treacherous waves, and God has reached His hand out to pull me up onto the raft. On this raft is the only speck of sun. The sun is shining down on me because He is with me, and in that spot, the water is calm. I know the tossing waves won't throw me off the raft because He has given me peace in my exact landing spot.

"I know I'm not alone. I see it in the love everyone is showing me right now. I see it in the concern of friends volunteering to do anything for me. I see it in my dog who loves me. I see it in my little sister. I see it in the scriptures, and the things I am learning. I see it in the Mormon Messages I watch. I see it in words of the apostles. 

"I feel His love all around me. I know He is guiding our lives. I also know He wants us to succeed, and He won't give up on us. I know I am nothing without Him. He allows me to do all I need to do. I am alive in Him. I am alive because He wants me to be. He is lifting me up. He has never left me, and He never will. I know that. I hope I can hang on to that for the rest of my life."

God has a plan for each of us. I know that the stuff that has happened this week needed to happen. I'm seeing many things fit together and how they have all been part of the plan to get us where we need to go. We do have our agency, but if we can use that agency to do God's will, the plan will work out. If we follow God, we will reach our potential. 

I fear the pain of the road ahead. I could give up now, but I'm not going to. I know that right now, all I am supposed to do is take care of myself, and let God take care of the rest. He will protect me as I travel this road. 

And I hope for the beauty that my marriage can be. I can see it clearly. I really can see it. There is a goal in sight, and that is helping me hang on. 

Look for God's love. It is there, but sometimes we get so depressed that we forget to actually see it and let it envelope our hearts. Look for it. Embrace Him, and you will find that He has already been embracing you.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Dear Kilee

Dear Kilee,

You are beautiful. You are wonderful. You are so deeply loved by a Father in Heaven and and elder Brother. Your understanding of their love for you is so much smaller than the actual amount. Know that. Hold that. Be still. Feel their nearness. Let their love fill your heart, and please don't give up.

They see you. They know you. They feel your pain. They want it to end just as much as you do, but this is a result of another person's agency, and it must work its course.

They are supporting you. Look around. See the beauty they have given you. Recognize it for what it's worth. Know you are being carried at this very moment. You are being carried every moment of every day this week. And you will continue to be carried until they know it is safe to let you walk on your own feet again.

Ben has hurt you. He has hurt you for more than three years. As a result, you have not only endured horrific pain, you have learned and grown. You have learned a lot at your young age, and the things you are learning will give you strength and a stronger capacity to love and serve others in the future. You have a divine purpose. Don't forget that.

Ben has crossed a line that has never been crossed before. It's only natural to feel anger. Anger is part of the healing process. Break the anger down. Anger is a mask for other emotions. Don't let those emotions sit and fester as anger. Figure out what is really going on, and allow yourself to feel the true emotions lying beneath. Don't get me wrong, you can be angry. Release your angry energy and tension so it doesn't fester and become something much worse. But deal with the other emotions as well, or they, too, will fester and boil.

Remember the promises God has made with you. Remember the instruction and guidance He gave you in the priesthood blessing you received just Sunday from your father on earth who loves you very much. Remember that Ben loves you and your relationship can be repaired. Now is not the time to give up on him. Hold on for a little bit longer.

Things are hard right now. I know you want to burst into tears at every waking moment. I know you would be happy to have an accident fall upon you so you don't have to face reality. I know you want to quit your job. I know you're exhausted and depressed. I know you feel completely broken, and the glue doesn't seem to be all the way dry before you get dropped off the roof again. But I also know that you are strong. You are stronger than you give yourself credit for. Be gentle. It's okay to cry. It's okay to ask for help. It's okay to take the time you need to yourself to heal. Do what you need to do. Slow down when you feel like you're going faster than you have the strength.

Breathe. Feel the air fill your lungs and blood course through your veins.

Laugh. Laugh at the silly things your students do. Laugh at the sweet things your sisters do. Laugh when people make ignorant remarks.

Love. Find opportunities to serve. Show those you love that you love them. Look beyond yourself and love others, and as you love others, you will feel God's love for you even stronger.

You can do this. I believe in you.



Wednesday, February 19, 2014

You Can't Control His Addition

My husband writes for familyshare. Last month, they sent a list of topics for him to choose from, and he chose this topic: you can't control his addiction. When he first told me, in my head I just thought, hm...interesting. I was wondering how he was going to write it and thought it might be intriguing to read from the addict's perspective about how the spouse can't control his addiction.

It was only a matter of time before he asked me to write it for him. Because obviously, I would write about that topic better than him (wink wink). I put a lot of thought and prayer into it, and it was somehow very spiritually cleansing for me to write this article. Check it out here!

Disclaimer: They did change my article a little bit before it was published, but what can you do? I hope you enjoy it! It's already been shared on FB 115 times!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

God's Love: True Love

Coincidentally with Valentine's Day, I've thought about love a lot this week (not intentional, but well-timed I guess).

This week has been a doozy. I felt completely unprepared for the black hole of emotions that swirled around me. I discovered, though, that I have actually been very prepared for this in quite a lot of ways, and the week went way better than similar weeks in the past.

Earlier in the week, I went a couple of days barely talking to Ben (we only talked when I called him to make sure he was okay) as a boundary that needed to exist for some healing to take place because of recent actions on his part. And when I started talking to him again, we still didn't talk very much. It was really hard, to put it simply.

All week, I've thought a lot about our marriage and love. I thought about times when I felt love was strong, and I thought about times when I felt love was weak. I questioned what was going on with my love in that current moment. I thought about the love that friends and family have shown me. I thought of the love of my students. And I focused the most on God's love.

I'm a survivor. I survived this week (and many other hellish weeks in the past few years) because of God's love. At a time when I thought about giving up, He gave me the strength to go on. He has blessed me in so many ways that I can't even count.

Ever since the new year started, I've been getting up extra early to study my scriptures before I go to school. As a result of that extra effort, along with countless prayers begging God to help me feel an increase in love for the people around me, I've felt a change in my spirit. I've felt an increase of love, patience, and strength (sometimes very slight--but still an increase). I'm realizing more and more the power of using the Atonement in my daily life. Sometimes, I feel like I haven't quite figured out what that means, but I know that by putting in the effort, I am being blessed. Sometimes the only I feel like I can do to acknowledge His hand in my life is to say, "I know that I couldn't do this without you. If you weren't helping me through this, I'd be a goner. Thank you." But sometimes, I am able to relate to His sacrifice and really understand how He has felt my pain and can lift me up.

This week, I finished the Book of Mormon. And then I did an amazing thing (this has seriously never happened to me): I decided to start it over again--immediately! I was so excited when I finished the Book of Mormon, that I wanted to read it all over again, and I'm focusing on recognizing God's love as I read. Reading it this time around has been so amazing: I'm finding many parallels to my life. As I read and discover the ways God has blessed His servants, it makes it a little easier to see how He is blessing me, especially when I'm suffering. He is there. He is always there, and He loves me.

My relationship with Him is improving. I'm turning to Him more and showing more faith. I'm understanding what it means to have charity. I'm feeling more love for people I don't even know because I can look at them and see a child of God.

Ultimately, everything I'm learning about love and my relationship with God has really helped me in my relationship with Ben. You may have read his recent post: Seeking Christ. In this post, he talks about my reaction to his latest confession. First, I asked him not to contact me. That was because I needed to process and didn't want to be disturbed or stressed by him trying to talk to me. During that time, I was teaching. But in the back of my mind, I was asking myself what Christ would do. I love Ben. I was angry, frustrated, and hurt, but I love him and wanted to show him that. I also knew that God loves him, and after much thought and prayers in my heart (for compassion), I decided what Ben really needed was to feel loved and understood while I still enforced my boundaries. The messages I sent him were a direct result of seeking love and compassion.

As I prayerfully sought what to say, I literally felt my heart swell. I felt love. It wasn't a romantic love. It was just a deep-rooted, spiritual love. A kind of brotherly love.

That feeling of love has stayed with me all week, and even though our relationship has struggled, I've most felt firm in my decision to continue to be with him. I see his potential. I know what he can become, and he is working to get there. He has made leaps of progress in the past few years, and I love him for that. He is making a huge sacrifice in his life (trying to overcome an addiction is a huge sacrifice), and he is having a hard time too.

Even though I have a deep-rooted love, I was afraid for Ben to come home this weekend. I was afraid that it would be stupid, like last weekend was. I was afraid that I would be excited for him to leave again, and that this weekend would just be a big blob of nothingness, or pain, in my life. But ever since he came home, things have been really good. I've actually felt closer to him, and I've felt a stronger sense of love, than I have in a long time. Which is actually really surprising to me. But that, in itself, is a tender mercy--a sign of God's love. He is still blessing me.

Today, during the sacrament, I was overcome with love. I felt so much love from and for God. I felt so much love from and for Ben. And then I had this moment of feeling like everything is worth it: the pain, the heartache, the loneliness, the sleepless nights, the crying. All of it. Because without those, I wouldn't know how bright God's light could shine in my life. I wouldn't know the power of deep love. I wouldn't know how happy I could truly feel in the midst of darkness. 

I know it doesn't work out for everyone in my situation. I hope no one has taken this post as me saying that you have to pray or study your scriptures more and that if you do, God will bless you with great amounts of love in your marriage, and all the wrongs will be cured. It's not that way. We all have different situations and different husbands. The only way it is working the way it is (and trust me, this is all looking back. I don't necessarily always have a great attitude) because we are both putting forth effort to reach God and pull Him into our relationship. Sometimes we don't do a great job, and I definitely don't always feel so at peace with things, so during moments like this I like to write it all down. That way, I can look back in times of hopelessness and discover hope and strength again.

PS, he posted at the same time as me. You should read it. It kind of made me cry.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

No Earthly Thing Can Make This Right

A couple of weeks ago, Ben gave me a blessing. In that blessing, I was instructed to use this time while he is living in Texas starting his new job to come unto Christ. I've had a lot of fears about this time over the next few months, and those fears were validated in the blessing (along with the course life is taking while he is gone. *sigh*). I was told that it would indeed be hard, but I was also told I would be given strength as I turn to Christ and come to know Him. 

I've really been clinging to that promise. I've made a more solid effort over the past few weeks to turn things over to Christ. When I'm feeling down and depressed, but I don't want to pray, I pray. It's starting to become a stronger habit to pray/study scriptures when I am feeling low. I'm discovering in my thought processes the things that are little pieces of pride in me, and I'm trying to let them go. 

Things are really hard right now. Like really hard. Every day this week, I've prayed for another snow day...even though we have 14 snow days to make up already. I'm tired--and by tired I mean I'm completely exhausted and don't know how I can take another step into another day. I'm emotionally and physically exhausted. And when I've woken up to false hopes of snow because the storm just barely missed us, I've seriously considered taking a sick day.

I've prayed a lot lately. I've prayed for light, peace, and patience. I've prayed for love. I've prayed for other people besides myself. I've prayed for light. I've prayed to recognize Christ in my life. I've prayed to feel His love for those around me and emulate that in my words and actions. I've literally said, "I can't do this. Please take it from me and help me have the strength to get through today." Praying and turning it over to Christ is starting to become second-nature to me. Which is a good thing because I tend to get stuck in the "I can do this myself" attitude. Or I just get so frustrated that I refuse to give it to God because it's His plan that is hurting me. 

On Sunday I read Alma 34. This is one of my most favorite chapters in the Book of Mormon because it gives a lot of really great insight to the Atonement. Now, for the most part, it is talking about how the Atonement covers for sins and allows us to repent and be saved. I felt really prompted to read it, and as I started seeing the call to repentance, I kind of thought to myself, "Really, God? You direct me to read about repentance?" However, as I read, I had a lot of things jump out at me that brought me peace to my situation.

First, I was thinking about my relationship with Ben and my current pain level, and the thought hit me that it just doesn't matter. I mean, it matters because he is my husband and there are promises and all that jazz, but the most important relationship I will ever be a part of is with God. I need to focus on that, on Him, and things will be okay. I will feel peace because He will lift me up.

As I read about the Atonement in Alma 34, in verse 11, it asks if any man can atone for the sins of his brother. And in verse 12, it says the law requires the life of a man who murders. I thought of me. I thought of Ben and the pain he has caused me. No earthly thing can make it right. Truly. In the deepest depths of pain and despair I have felt, I have only been lifted up by the Atonement. He has killed a part of me, and he has never been able to make it right. Nothing he has said or tried to do has made it right. Ever. I've only ever been made whole through the power of the Atonement. I love the Atonement because it works in so many ways. It works when we are in need of repentance and being changed and made whole. But it also works when we are on the other side and have been deeply wronged and feel like we are wounded on a battlefield. That's me right now (but trust me, I need it for the other side too). I have to seek Christ so He can make me whole. 

In verse 15, it says Christ will bring salvation to all those who believe on His name. The idea of eternal salvation, an everlasting peace and light is glorious. I want it. I feel like I can taste it, and it draws me closer. So I choose to believe. I'm choosing faith. 

Also in verse 15, we learn that Christ's mercy can meet the demands of justice, and that will encircle us in the arms of safety. Being encircled by arms of safety is a dream to me right now. Feeling save, feeling love, is all I want and need. With that, I know I can press forward.

This chapter instructs us to "cry unto him for mercy; for he is mighty to save" (verse 18). 

We are told to pray--except he uses the word "cry", which has so much more power, humility, vulnerability, and desperation involved. We need to cry unto Him. Cry unto Him to fight the power of your enemies (ahem*Satan*cough*I hate him). Cry unto Him for all things. Pour out your soul. And when you can't physically cry out, keep your heart full and drawn out to Him. 

I love this instruction. It gives me hope. 

We are instructed to remember to be charitable. I've been studying charity and love lately, and I've really felt that change my heart and ability to receive guidance and strength. And the more I feel Christlike love in my heart, the easier it is to have patience and peace. 

We are instructed to be watchful and pray continually, that Satan may not have us. Satan wants us. We are powerful women, us WoPAs. We are strong and beautiful and brave. Satan seeks us every day. He surrounds us with darkness and threatens to overcome us. At times, I have felt horrifyingly close to falling under Satan's control through the darkness he has set around me. But I've been rescued every time, and for that I am extremely grateful. 

The last verse if my favorite: "But that ye have patience, and bear with those afflictions, with a firm hope that ye shall one day rest from all your afflictions."

I have hope. I have hope in the Atonement. I have hope that I will be made whole and that I will get through this. I'm trying to take it one day at a time. If I can just make it to bed tonight, I will have made it to tomorrow. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

God's Love

I have so much to write about and so little time. So, I'll save my words for another time and share two things I read/studied/pondered this morning that gave me (hopefully) a good lift for the day:

Truth, Lies, and Your Self Worth: An article in the January New Era. It was written for the youth, but I found it so helpful to me too.

The Power of God's Love: A talk given in the October 2004 General Conference. I'd recommend watching/listening to it while reading it. 

"When filled with God’s love, we can do and see and understand things that we could not otherwise do or see or understand. Filled with His love, we can endure pain, quell fear, forgive freely, avoid contention, renew strength, and bless and help others in ways surprising even to us."

Have a great day!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Letting Go of the Outcome

A few weeks ago, I was talking to my friend Alicia on the phone, and we got to talking about a painting I had just done for a friend's birthday. I explained how I used to have a hard time with watercolors because they are so unforgiving if you mess up. If you mess up, you either start over or have to creatively find a way to conceal it and make it look purposeful. Except now, I love watercolors. I love them because they just are. There is no pretending with them. There is no fake. If I mess up, I don't start over. I find a way to work around it and finish with a beautiful product. And sometimes the final product is not what I had envisioned when I started the painting process.

Prior to this part in our conversation, we had been talking about lots of things. Most of it had to do with our marriages, God, and trying to do His will. We talked about following His plan and how impossibly hard it sometimes seems to give Him control. We talked about how utterly scary  it is to give the control over to God because we have no idea what the outcome will be, and we have to have faith and hope that He will give us the strength we need to get through our trials. And we have to have faith and hope that the outcome will be in our favor.

So, as I talked about my art and how watercolors just are and how you sometimes don't have control over them (like if you've used too much water or too much pigment), she said, "Kilee, I would love to see an watercolor representation of what it means to give our will over to God and let go of the outcome."

Yesterday we were snowed out of school. And Ben left to start his new job in Plano. So, after laying in bed for about an hour thinking about how hard the next four months will be, along with surfing Facebook, I decided to give this watercolor representation of letting go of the outcome a go. That's what I'm doing in so many aspects of my life right now. I'm trying to turn myself over to God and let go of this desire to control the outcome of what happens.

I know to some people, these pieces of art may be the kind like, "So not impressive. A kindergartner could do that." But I don't care. These pieces are close to my heart because of the emotional process that went into them. I don't really know how to explain what I had envisioned with this "letting go" idea, but it definitely wasn't what the final result was. I got some fun ideas while painting (like putting big watery globs of color on the paper and just blowing on it and letting it go wherever. That's where those streaky things came from). Anyway, I can't fully explain the process because I'm not 100% sure what happened here, either. All I know is that the act of painting these was wholly therapeutic for me. I just went for it and let it become what it became. Some parts are not that pretty. But some parts are awesome. It's just like life.

Ps, if you are in the Lehi area (I wish I was so I could attend this), there is a WoPA conference happening in a couple of weeks. Check out this flier. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

My Safety Plan

I started ADDO shortly after coming home from the Togetherness Project last fall [shout out to the Spring Togetherness Project Conference in Phoenix! Only one day left to register for the cheaper early registration fee!]. I think ADDO is really great, but sometimes I feel like it's not quite for me. The way I work my recovery, including things like boundaries, is a little different from most people. So I've gone through phases with ADDO with sometimes a little love, and sometimes a little not as much love, depending on the situation of my life at the time.

I finally did my Bill of Rights, Non-Negotiables, and Boundaries today. When I got to this point a few months ago, I stopped doing ADDO, partially because of a lack of time and partially because (I'll admit it) I was afraid. I was afraid of changing the way I work my recovery. I was afraid of setting boundaries and things completely changing in my relationship with Ben. I was afraid of feeling too controlling or something. I honestly don't completely know what I was afraid of, just that I was afraid. 

Writing my Bill of Rights, Non-Negotiables, and Boundaries was indeed different than my usual plan of action. I mean, I've always had certain rights, non-negotiables, and boundaries in my head. And I've just kind of gone by the Spirit to enforce them. I've enforced things when it's just felt right or let things slide when I've felt like I needed to. So I guess what I'm afraid of is actually having to enforce things because I've written it out. Especially because overall, things are doing much better with us. BUT, writing it all out was empowering, and I'm glad I did it. It gives me something to go back to when I lost my strength or courage to keep myself safe. And it serves as a reminder that I do deserve certain things to keep me safe in my relationship.

 I wrote this all out with a lot of thought and consideration. I did it prayerfully, and it feels right. And I did leave some of the consequences loose (ie. "until I feel safe." You'll see it in just a second) so I have the freedom to choose when I feel safe enough to re-engage in our relationship.

So, here goes. 

My Bill of Rights:

1. I have the right to have a husband who is faithful to me in mind, body, and spirit.
2. I have the right to have a worthy priesthood leader in my home.
3. I have the right to ask questions and receive honest answers.
4. I have the right to say yes or no to sex.
5. I have the right to receive inspiration as to what is best for me.
6. I have the right to seek help, both temporal and spiritual, in times of distress.

7. I have the right to confide in whomever I deem to be a safe person.
8. I have the right to my opinions and preferences.
9. I have the right to be trusted in the decisions I make.
10. I have the right to self care: time off, time-outs, art, sewing/crafting, cooking, playing piano, watching movies, exercising, and shopping.

11. I have the right to a life free of the fear and anxiety this sex-addiction causes.
12. I have the right to say "I love you" when I feel comfortable and safe saying it. 

My Non-Negotiables:

1. I need you to not pressure me to have sex.
2. I need you to tell me when you have a "slip".
3. I need you to study your scriptures for an hour every day.
4. I need you to have a sponsor. 
5. I need you to go to a 12-step group when you move to Texas.

My Boundaries:

If you pressure me to have sex, then I will not have sex until I feel safe, comfortable, and confident.
If my intuition tells me you have slipped or are lying, then I will disconnect from you until I feel safe.
If you are not working active recovery (scripture study, 12-step), then I will disconnect from you until I see you are making efforts to work recovery and reach your potential.
If you do not find a sponsor within two months of moving to Texas, then I will not move in with you until you find a sponsor. 

A lot of these things are things that have already been taken care of or things he already knows as boundaries or non-negotiables. But still, writing it out and having it firm was really good for me. Like I said, it gives me something to go back on, and it's a good outline of what I expect. Taking the time to do this, especially prayerfully and thoughtfully, showed me that I really do know what it takes to feel safe in my relationship and that I've been on the right track of recovery, even if I didn't necessarily know what I was doing earlier in recovery (just following my gut).