Saturday, November 22, 2014

I am more than my body

This post feels really vulnerable. 

Because of my pregnancy and the uncomfortable changes that happen to a woman's body during this time (uncomfortable because I'm not used to my body feeling this way and being this large in certain areas), I've been experiencing a lot more body image issues than normal. 

Don't get me wrong. I think my body is a beautiful thing, and it's amazing that my body is creating a human right now. It's amazing how capable my body is of doing what it is doing and how every change that is happening is necessary for the growth of my baby. But it's still hard, at least with what I've been fed through media, to accept some of the changes happening. Plus, I'm just a person that has a hard time dealing with change sometimes. My body has been a certain way for so long, and now that it's changing constantly, it's a little hard to get used to.

Anyway, back to the point. Body-image issues. We all have them. They didn't just start for me because of my pregnancy. I've had body image issues since I was maybe 10-12. These issues have caused me to stress-diet and develop disordered eating habits at times. I have been very unhealthy because of my desire to look a certain way.

Discovering this addiction fed many of my issues, at least until I was able to work through many of the emotional consequences of the addiction. I know I'm not alone in that, and I also know that many women who are dear to me have a harder time battling their body-image demons than I do.

So, I want to share something I discovered today while studying my scriptures.

In Ether chapter 3, the brother of Jared is preparing his "vessels" for the trip across the sea. He is worried about there being no light on their travels and asks God what they should do for light. Simply put, God asks him what he thinks he should do, so the brother of Jared moltens some stones and asks God to touch them so they will shine in the darkness and provide light.

The Lord put forth His hand to touch the stones with his finger, and the brother of Jared SAW HIS FINGER. It scared him because he had never known that God has a body of flesh and blood as we do. So then they had this conversation about God's body, and God revealed His full self to this man.

These verses really hit me (14-16, emphasis added):

"Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters.
"And never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created, for never has man believed in me as thou has. Seest thou that ye are created after mine own image? Yea, even all men were created in the beginning after mine own image.
"Behold, this body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit; and man have I created after the body of my spirit; and even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh."

This got me thinking. We are so much more than just our bodies. Our body houses our spirit, and I personally think the spirit is more important to focus on. However, our bodies are very important because they house what is most precious: our spirits. [So maybe that makes the body and spirit equally important.] Our bodies need to be taken care of and cherished, not beaten down and sworn at because they don't look the way we wish they did or because they don't function in ways we think they should.

Our bodies have been created to be like God's body. We don't know what God looks like, but what if He looked a little bit "less than"? What if His body doesn't look like we imagine is the "perfect body"? The body of His spirit is perfect. And so are ours.

When we focus on our physical flaws (or things we perceive to be flaws), it brings us down. It takes away focus from our hearts and spirits and even causes damage to our spirits. That's what Satan wants. Satan wants us to be distracted from the most important things. He wants us to focus on destroying ourselves because HE CAN'T HAVE A BODY. So, he doesn't want us to be happy in ours.

We need to take care of our bodies, both physically and emotionally, so our spirits can be more receptive to the beauty and joy this life has to offer. We have been created after God's image, and we have divine responsibilities to perform in this life. Those responsibilities can best be fulfilled when we take care of our bodies and our spirits.

That means we need to treat ourselves with respect. Just like our spirits are individual and unique, so are our bodies. It pains me to see my friends tearing themselves down because of their perceptions of their bodies. I think every body is beautiful. I really do. I find that focusing on people's spirits is more important than focusing on their bodies because their spirit is who they really are. I know God feels the same way. He sees us as we really are, and what we have going on inside our bodies is the most important.

Our bodies are a gift to house our spirits, and I'm sure it pains Him to see me beating myself up because of my stretch marks or extra fluff and sagginess. I'm sure it pains Him to see me beating myself up for not maintaining a specific weight or level of skinniness for society's approval. He knows who I am inside, and He knows my potential. When I beat myself up for the perceived flaws of my body, it causes emotional damage. That emotional damage makes me halt a bit in life, thus slowing me down on the path to my potential.

Recognizing that my body is a house of my spirit helps me feel more at peace. I need to keep myself healthy and strong so my spirit can perform necessary works in this life. My body is beautiful because I am beautiful. I am a daughter of God, and I know when I can shine the light in the darkness, I feel beautiful. But I can't shine that light when I am constantly beating myself up.

This doesn't mean I will be able to just stop fretting about the changes in my body. But I will certainly try harder. I know after this baby comes, my body will not be the same as it has been in the past. But it will be even more beautiful because I have done another divine work with my body, and that makes it special. We all do divine works with our bodies. Our bodies give us so much potential. So, as I approach the future, I will try to find ways my body is divine rather than not meeting the social standards.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Dear 21 year-old Kilee

If you could write a letter to yourself back when you first learned of the addiction, what would you say?

I'd encourage everyone reading this to write their own letter. It's a very healing experience. Mine could have been longer, but I submitted it to something and it had to be less than 500 words. This isn't the first time I've written a letter to myself, though, and I know it won't be the last. Every time provides a little bit more healing.

Here's my letter:

Dear Kilee,

When you were married, you could never have imagined the betrayal and hurt Ben could cause you. You thought you were both on the same page and on the path to the celestial kingdom together. Now, in just a few seconds, your world has come crashing down.

You are so young, and you are embarking on the journey of a lifetime. Right now, you can't imagine it getting worse. It can. But it will also get better.

More will come: pain, darkness, heartache. At times, hope will seem completely lost. You will ponder the idea of divorce and even the possibility of taking your own life to escape the hell of the addiction.

There is more than darkness in your future. There is bounteous light and hope, and you will make it through the dark periods every single time. As you and Ben embrace recovery together, you will learn to love each other in ways you never thought possible. You will discover your greatest strengths and weaknesses. You will see the compassion and love you are both capable of. And you will start the rest of your family.

Through recovery, you will make friends you would have never known otherwise. You will learn lessons about friendship, vulnerability, and service. You will learn to love others and see them as Christ does.

You will learn about the Atonement, and you will be cradled in the arms of your Savior. You will learn how to follow promptings of the Holy Ghost. And you will be able to share a message of hope with others you come in contact with.

Ben will get into recovery. Eventually, he will acknowledge this is an addiction and he can't do it on his own. You will seek help together and become one in the fight against Satan and his efforts to destroy your family. You will be given knowledge and resources to help you understand the addiction. You will learn it's not your fault. You will learn you can't control the addiction. And eventually, you will turn it all over to God and trust in His plan.

You will go through hell on earth. But you will come out stronger and more beautiful. Four years from now, you will be welcoming a baby boy into your home, and you will be so grateful for the efforts you have put into your marriage and recovery. Things won't be perfect, but you will have hope and be grateful for the recovery path you are on together.

This addiction won't exempt you from other trials. So many hard things will come your way, but your experience with the Atonement will teach you that you are never alone. You will become a strength to your family and friends, and you will have a sense of gratitude for all the blessings God has given you.

Don't give up. You can do all through the power of God.

You are beautiful and strong. You can do hard things.



When I wrote this, along with a little bio for my submission, something hit me. Hard. I mentioned in the letter that we will be welcoming in a baby boy four years from the time I first found out about the addiction. Well, that's awesome. But what's even more awesome is that we will be welcoming him into our family exactly one year (to the month) after things hit rock bottom in our marriage. Our son will come a year after we could have given up on our marriage but chose not to. So much healing has taken place this year, and I am so grateful we get to celebrate that with the entrance of our son into this family.

Three months to go!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Refiner's Fire

Watch this great video.

I have so many thoughts, but I'll spare you [most of] mine and let you ponder the meaning of this message for yourself. The only thing I really feel the need to say is that it reminded me of something someone said at group on Sunday:

During the sharing portion of the meeting, a woman sitting by me said she is realizing that one of the ways our trials brings us closer to Christ is because our trials allow us to succor others. Alma 7:12 states that Christ took upon Himself all of our infirmities so He would know how to succor us in our trials. What better way to come unto Christ than to feel the pain of our sufferings and to be able to use that pain to lift others up just as Christ does? 

Trials are hard, but they are necessary for the refining that can shape us into people of Christ. With every trial, we have a choice. We can choose to draw away from or closer to Christ. Sometimes, out of bitterness and anger, I choose to step away. But I almost always turn that around and move towards Christ. I know He is my salvation, and I know that only through Him will I find peace in this life. 

Trials are necessary to helping us discover the best traits within ourselves. All the good in my life has come from all the hard I've faced in my trials. As much as I sometimes wish my trials away, I don't ever truly with them away because I know with every trial I face I am being shaped into someone better.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Addiction, Forgiveness, and the Atonement--Another Woman's Story

A friend posted a link with the following story onto my timeline on Facebook. It is so powerful, and I feel like I have to share it.

I hope you get as much hope and peace from this story as I did.

Story came from here.

Name Withheld
When my husband and I were dating, he decided he had to tell me about his addiction to pornography. He was clearly embarrassed and repentant, and had been "sober" for some time. I was surprised but felt honored that he trusted me with this secret. If anything, I loved him more after that. This was a battle we were going to fight together. It was his past and we'd have to fight it, but we'd be fine. I wasn't so naive to think that it wouldn't cause strain in our relationship, but I didn't anticipate the heartache, anger, self doubt, and betrayal.

His sobriety lasted through our dating, engagement, and first three months or so of marriage. When he then admitted he had viewed pornography, I was felt so stupid. How did I not know what was happening in my own home? Was I not enough? I plunged into feelings of worthlessness.

I remember thinking, "He's such a good man. How can he do such a disgusting thing? He loves me. How can he do something so hurtful? Does he really love me?" I felt very alone. I respected the fact this was his secret to keep or share, but that left me with nobody to talk to. I was so hurt that I used anger to cope with the sorrow.

All of those feelings were mixed up with gratitude that he came to me with the truth and that he knew he was wrong. I was heartbroken that right when I needed comfort the most, I couldn't ask the man who stood at my side for a blessing of comfort. He was not worthy to use the Lord's priesthood. He knew it, and I could see how ashamed and sorrowful he was.

He couldn't give me a blessing, and because of the personal nature of the situation, I couldn't go to another priesthood holder. So I went before the Lord on my own. I read a book about Christ and the atonement called The Peacegiver. I spent time in prayer and meditation. Relief didn't come all at once, but I was given little assurances that we'd be able to overcome.

Things got better, and things got worse. We'd have months of sobriety between views. Each time he fell, I had to work through the same emotions and thoughts. Every time was a little different, but every time I needed my Savior to heal my broken heart.

We learned that high-stress situations sometimes triggered the temptation. We also learned that sometimes the temptation would come without a discernible trigger. I found the sooner he admitted to a fall, the easier it was to recover for both of us. If I asked him to report in every so often, it gave him the chance to feel safe to be open.

I made a few mistakes that I learned from. I learned that faking trust or forgiveness prolongs the process. Pretending everything was okay, telling my husband I forgave him when I hadn't yet, just made the pain fester and anger grow.

I had to be careful to focus on what I could control. I couldn't make him go to the bishop, make him attend a support group, or put enough protection on our technology to keep pornography unavailable. I could control if I was honest with myself and my husband about my feelings.

I could control my focus. I could focus on my husband's honesty and other good qualities. I could focus on the Savior and Heavenly Father. I could control my self talk. I didn't need to take blame, but could instead acknowledge that my husband has his agency and made the choice to sin on his own.

I also chose to study about the effects of pornography. I learned how the brain is rewired through the viewing of pornography. I learned how it really had little to do with physical needs, and more to do with a chemical in the brain, much like a drug addiction. No matter what I did, that rewiring could not be fixed.

I learned that the average Utah child sees pornography by age eight, according to one statistic. I came to appreciate what my husband was up against. Don't misunderstand: he still had his agency, he still had to take the blame for his actions. However, I came to realize he was fighting a battle that had nothing to do with my ability to be a good wife, friend, and support.

A huge low in our marriage was shortly after our first son was born. My husband had graduated and couldn't find work. I was working full time, and he was home with our baby. We were living in a rather dark basement with flooring that was in such disrepair that we laid blankets on the floors so we could set our infant down.

I loved my job, but it was stressful by nature, and the stress was compounded by leaving my baby. My husband felt useless, being unable to provide for us, and he fell into despair. That's when he hit a rut where he was giving into temptation regularly. I had to rely on the Lord more than ever.

One evening, after a particularly rough confession, I wanted space, but with such a little apartment there were not many options. I stood in the little hallway and tried to come up with a way to get that needed space.

I could control my focus. I could focus on the Savior and Heavenly Father.

I thought about asking him to go to his parents for a couple days, but who would watch my son while I worked? I thought about sending my son up with him to be watched by my mother-in-law, but the baby was still nursing and I didn't want space from him. I was at a loss, so I went to the bedroom and kneeled on the mat on the floor that served as our bed.

I opened my heart to the Lord like I had never done before. I prayed out loud, knowing I needed to get through. I needed my Heavenly Father to hear me. I sobbed and begged for His help. What surprised me, however, were the words coming from my mouth. I was not praying for me, but for my husband.

"Forgive him, Father. Please forgive him," I pleaded. I prayed for our home, for our son and for our marriage. I was overcome with the knowledge that God loves my husband. After that heartfelt prayer, I no longer wanted to send my husband away.

Things didn't change quickly. That rut lasted for a while longer. When our living situation changed (he got a job, I quit mine, and we moved into a much better apartment) my husband was able to avoid temptation for some time. When he did fall again, he was scared. Without a trigger to blame his fall on, he knew that he was never going to overcome on his own.

He made a plan and woke me up in the middle of the night to tell me he was making changes. After three years of marriage and ups and downs, I knew this day was a crucial one. He went to our new bishop and met with him regularly. He started attending the support group offered by the Church and even got the information for a support group for me.

That group was my haven. The lessons I learned from studying the manual were inspiring. I was filled with hope and joy. I saw that I wasn't alone. Other women were using the atonement to become whole. I saw my husband grow from attending his group too.

Through the whole experience I have learned about the atonement. I testify that Jesus Christ felt the pain that I go through. He understands the betrayal and he paid the price for the sins. He already paid the price, so I can accept his healing. He can bind up my broken heart.

I'm blessed to have a repentant husband, but I now know that Christ's healing of my heart is completely independent of my husband's actions. The atonement is for the sinner, but it is also for the sinned against.

Forgiving my husband is my way of telling the Lord that his sacrifice was sufficient. It's my way to say, I trust that Christ can heal the aching holes and conquer the gnawing anger inside me. It takes me time to forgive my husband each time he hurts me, but I know I can because of the atonement of Christ.

There were moments where I was in a despair that I believed I would never be happy again. Through the atonement's healing power, my happiness was restored.

I testify that I am a daughter of Heavenly Father. I am beautiful and of worth. I love my husband. I am grateful for his honesty five years ago. I'm grateful for our four years of marriage, and I will continue to do my part to make it a celestial eternal marriage.

I testify of Christ. He gives me hope. He lives and loves my children, my husband, and me. Because of Him, we have joy.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Do all things really work together for my good?

Over the past couple of months, I've been really working on exercising my faith in God's plan and trusting that He has control. It takes a lot of faith in God and patience with myself--because my faith isn't perfect. I have moments of really giving up my control, but then I have moments where I get so scared and freaked out that I start trying to reign in control (and of course, that doesn't work and causes me to make choices and act based on fear).

As I've been working Healing Through Christ, step 3, I've had to really focus on what I'm doing to turn my will and life over to God. It's hard. Like, really hard.

Today, I was faced with the question: How can I come to believe that Heavenly Father is working all things together for my good--even when they aren't happening as I'd hoped?

The question seems simple, but it's actually very tricky. Because part of me wants to believe that all things are working together for my good--that God is in control. But then part of me has a hard time believing it because life is just so damn hard sometimes.

As I focus on exercising my faith in His plan, the two things that have really helped me see that He is in control are 1) expressing gratitude and looking for the good in my life, despite the hard, and 2) looking for opportunities to learn from my trials.

Sometimes in the recovery world, we get so caught up in expressing our emotions and being validated and heard, that it can be hard to snap out of the negative. Sometimes we feel there is literally nothing to be grateful for. I'm saying we, but I really mean me (I just assume I'm not alone in these feelings...). There is a time and a place for those feelings. There really is. But I've found that it's important to feel my pain and validate it, but then to see the beauty that is coming from the pain and trials I am facing. Or to see the beauty in my life despite the trials I am facing.

When I see beautiful things in my life, I give a quick thanks for it. I'm not very good at writing in my gratitude journal every day, but I am getting much better at really digging inside myself and expressing gratitude for what I have in my prayers. I am getting much better at expressing gratitude from my heart and looking for opportunities to learn from my trials and see the beauty unfolding even when it's really hard.

Gratitude and learning are key elements, at least for me, to see that Heavenly Father truly is working all things together for my good. He may not like the things happening in my life, especially trials that come as a result of my or another person's agency. But He will help me make each experience something that works for my good.

We hear "all things happen for a reason." That may be true. But it also might not be. This might not have been part of God's plan for me. Women who have suffered serious abuse and trauma might not have been necessarily given that by God. It may have just happened at the hands of the abuser because of that person's choices. But God is always there and He will provide us with the means to endure. And THAT is what will make all things work together for our good.

I'm trying to keep focus on what I'm grateful for and the beauty in my life so the hard doesn't drown me.

How do you come to believe that Heavenly Father is working all things together for your good--even when things are hard as hell?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Reflections on a Mother-in-law Moment

I just got back from a Disneyland trip with Ben's family [so fun!]. While waiting with my mother-in-law during one of the rides, we had a tender conversation about trials in marriage.

Something she said to me really stood out, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. She talked about how Ben always had a strong testimony and carried the Spirit with him. She expressed her love for him and me, and she said very firmly that she knows he has been ensnared by Satan, but she also knows he can be healed as long as he does everything in his power to stay close to the Spirit of God. She said we are both strong, and that she knows we can get through this if we are dedicated to each other and to Christ, no matter how long and hard this healing and recovery process may be.

As I am pregnant with a son, I could feel deep empathy for her pain in seeing her son going through this trial with his wife. For a moment, I could see Ben through her eyes and feel her pain and heartache.

I also know we can get through this, but that much of that depends on Ben's personal dedication to God and his recovery. I sometimes wonder, as many of us do, at what point can I call it quits? At what point is enough enough and God is ready for me to move on? Those thoughts take my mind spiraling out of control, and I have many questions and opinions that I usually keep to myself because it is a very delicate matter and a personal decision for every individual situation.

I know I haven't reached the point where I should call it quits, and I pray I never do. Times get really hard as I face this in my marriage. There are black holes in the four years we have been married that I try to push out of my memory because they are so incredibly painful to deal with. But there are also so many incredibly beautiful moments in our marriage and life together that I wouldn't trade for anything, and many of those beautiful moments have come after the darkest darks.

Ben's mom can see his potential. I can also see his potential. Looking through both my and her perspectives has given me a greater strength and understanding to see what the future has in store for us if we can keep getting through this. I know it won't be easy. It's never easy. But I do know it will be worth it.

Addiction is a sickness. I know there are choices he makes that are not great choices and lead him into the addiction. But I also know (because I feel like I really do know Ben) that he has been ensnared by Satan, and he is going through something that won't just go away. It has to be healed and will be a long process. It will require effort on both our parts (his healing requires effort on his part, obviously, but the process will also require patience and Christlike love on my part).

But no matter what, we are in a marriage. He is in recovery, and as long as he is in recovery, I feel safe enough to work on cleaving unto him. When he acts out, it does cause setbacks and there are issues that arise and need to be worked through. But overall, we are making so much progress, and I am so grateful and happy with where we are right now.

Sometimes I get impatient. But I try to remind myself that life is a journey, and all I can do is make the best of each moment I am given.