Sunday, October 1, 2017

To Stand or Kneel

For the last couple of years the high school at which I work as a lunch lady has had a wonderful project to help the students and even faculty get to know one another better and to take a moment to see things from someone else's point of view.

It's called "Swap a Heart". Everyone gets a t-shirt to decorate any way they want, hopefully relating to the short essay they are encouraged to write. It is hoped one will write about something they are passionate about, that makes them tick. I'd like to share what I wrote and painted here:

For a little over a year now I have taken time to observe the faculty and students at ______ High School. Working in the lunchroom doesn’t give me a chance to observe them in the classrooms, but seeing them wander by, wander in, and wander through the lunchroom has had me thinking about one thing in particular: the observance of the Pledge of Allegiance.

One particular co-worker of mine is crazy into scouting. She has worked with the cub scouts for possibly more years than I have been alive. When I first came here about five years ago I marveled as she paused every morning to place her hand over her heart and recited the Pledge. Every morning! It brought home to me my own lack of respect when it came to what the Pledge of Allegiance meant to me.

In the years since I have only seen one young man stop on his way to class (even though he was late) to place his hand over his heart, face toward the flag, and recite the Pledge. One young man. That’s it. I became saddened. It takes a minute at most, yet no one else has done the same.

In recent months a popular protest amongst Americans is to kneel during the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of the National Anthem. I have been struggling to understand why, in particular because the things they are protesting for are the very things the National Anthem, the flag, and the Pledge stand for. In my mind these individuals were disrespecting the very things this land was dedicated toward preserving.

Most of the time I find social media difficult to stomach, as people far and wide have decided it’s the best place to lay out their every opinion, whether it’s warranted or not. I was grateful for it in the last few weeks, however, as I was given a small insight into the reasoning behind those who kneel.

The reasons came down to one simple thing: hope. Hope for something better. We are a nation of individuals who hope for more than the lot we have been given in life.

Hope for freedom to walk down the street without fear.

Hope that our words can and will make a difference somewhere.

Hope that as we go about our daily lives there will be those who see us, our needs, our fears, and our courage.

Hope that if we did not start our lives in America, we can make more of our lives here.

Hope that the color of our skin, our hair, or our eyes will not make people uncomfortable, but embraceable.

 Hope that when someone looks our way the state of our smile will be more important than the state of our clothes, our car, or our home.

Hope that our children will grow up to be the leaders who will make the changes necessary to allow our hopes to become reality.

And when our hope feels frail, as though the fires have been trampled to the point where even the embers are unseen, that is when we kneel. That is when we take the broken and shattered pieces of our hope and place them at the feet of God, in whom we trust.

This we do in the hopes that one day He will heal our hope enough that we can see ourselves stand once more, hands over our hearts, one nation under His protection and guidance, whole again.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Impressions We Leave Behind

This weekend, being the LDS Church's annual General Conference, is one of the busiest for my husband. He helps to cook the food for all the Church leaders who meet to speak and teach, for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir who performs, and for the audio/visual and security and all the others who work behind the scenes for two incredibly busy days.

That's a whole lot of people to feed.

Some people volunteer to be on the serving lines and help to clean up. One such woman took a look at my husband as he made the rounds and said, "I just love your wife." He had never met this woman before and couldn't understand how she knew we were married.

Come to find out she was a friend of mine from high school. We latched on to one another early on in our Freshman year. I remember loving her long, blond hair and bubbly laugh. I remember us walking down the hall one day and saying in a seriously cheesy teenage tone, "Hi Jared" to a boy we both thought was cute. I remember laughter and tears, and most of all love.

When my husband asked what I was like in high school, I don't think she could recall much more than I did, only to say, "I just know when she was around everything was happier. She made life fun." My friend also remembered me being there while her parents were going through a divorce.

Those words of hers meant a lot to me, especially as I've been doing some serious soul-searching the last few weeks. Being a Relief Society President in a ward (basically the leader over the women of our local congregation) requires things, and some of those things do not come naturally. For me, it's getting out of my house and going visiting. Some of you may think, "That's not so hard." Others (fellow introverts unite!) may be mentally patting me on the back in understanding.

There is a huge emotional block when it comes to placing myself in the personal space of others. I begin to psych myself out with thoughts of people not wanting me to visit them, to call, to ask about their personal life. Yet common sense tells me that's exactly where I am supposed to go and what I am supposed to do. I watch as my counselors are easily able to accomplish precisely what I am so unwilling to do, and then begin chastising myself for not being like them.

During the different General Conference sessions the last two days, I have been given insight into what I need to do in order to overcome this. The answers came from three different speakers, but the messages all came together for me.

1. Look up. When I am busy hanging my head in fear and disappointment in myself, look up. Therein lies the Light of Christ. Therein sits the goal of who I want to become and what Heavenly Father needs me to be. I must look up in order to get up and move forward.

2. Stretch a little farther. Just as the woman with an issue of blood had to stretch in order to touch the hem of the Savior in full faith that she would be healed, I need to stretch a little farther to fulfill my calling of looking after the sisters of the ward. The Savior will reach out to help me along that path, but I also have to reach out to Him, knowing He will help me push past this block.

3. Fear and faith cannot reside side-by-side. I know this. I really do know this, and I am getting better at putting aside fear and stepping forward in faith. It is simply time for me to put into practice the things I know. Fear is crippling, and for some reason it runs deep through the lines of my father's family. Breaking the chains takes putting faith into action.

4. I am not meant to be the leaders before me. It's one of the hardest things for any leader to shake off - the ghosts of those who came before. Relief Society leaders hold this position for about 3 years, sometimes more or less. When I look into the room on Sunday it is filled with women who have been where I now stand, and I cannot imagine how I am supposed to live up to their legacies. Today I was told I don't have to. I have my own purpose, and it is to love in the best ways I know how.

I thought about the impressions I left with this friend of mine from over 20 years ago, just as she left her impressions with me. I began to think about what sort of impressions I want to leave with the sisters, and I decided that if I can leave them with similar feelings as I did with my friend, then I have done good. This means make them laugh, let them think of love, and be there when they need a shoulder to cry on.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Two Years and a Lot of Changes

It's been almost two whole years since the beginning of another new journey, one that has taken me down roads I never thought I'd travel. One thing I discovered about getting rid of false ideals that have taken years to pile on, they don't disappear in one go. As I peeled off a few layers of lies, the forgotten truths that first created those lies reared up biting.

WARNING: If any of you find child abuse to be a trigger, please don't keep reading. Please.

It was the same night that I wrote about in my last post. I was still flying high from the peace I felt when I went to bed. I have always been a side or stomach sleeper. Always. Laying on my back, even in the dentist's chair, makes me dizzy and sick to my stomach. That night I happened to think about this silly fact when these words popped into my mind: "Maybe I can't sleep on my back because I couldn't breathe when he would lay on me." Just like that I couldn't breathe. Just like that I was curled up in a ball biting back sobs so I wouldn't wake my husband.

When I gained enough control over myself I crept into the living room to sit on the floor, rock, cry, and pray. I don't know how long I was there. It doesn't really matter. The next day was Sunday. The moment I was able to get a hold of my husband and my bishop at the church building I asked for a blessing. I was numb for a good while.

The next night I sat on our back porch, grateful the kids were gone that evening to various friends' houses. Instead of putting down negative thoughts about myself I began a tirade of angry words at this man (a neighbor). I filled pages and pages until I couldn't write much more. The words most penned - I was just a little girl.

At last I ran out of steam, no more room to be angry...for the moment. It was then more words came to my mind. Be gentle. You have no idea how he was abused as a child. Though I cannot explain it, I knew with absolute certainty that whatever he had done to me and other children in our neighborhood was nothing compared to what his own father had done to him over years and years. This knowledge was placed into my head because in that moment I had a choice. I could either choose to dwell in the misery and anger this new found truth brought, or I could choose to forgive with the understanding that even as it would set me free, one day this man would have a reckoning with his Savior.

Being who I am, I chose forgiveness. What surprised me was the healing it brought when it came to how I thought of myself. I had spent years trying to understand why I always felt like a dirty, sinful creature. I would mentally beat myself up for things I didn't even understand. There was this lie so deeply etched in my child's mind that if something was wrong I couldn't tell anyone. Especially my parents, because my parents would be so mad at me. Looking back on my life, on the things I kept reprimanding myself for, they were due to the false beliefs this man forced on me. I didn't want to live those lies any more.

One day during that week I took some time and attended one of our temples. I prayed. Oh how I prayed. Near the end of my time there an answer came in the form of a scripture:

"That ye might be sanctified from all sin."

To be sanctified means to be cleansed, not only just the body but the spirit as well. If I was to move forward and find happiness and light and become the person my Heavenly Father saw, I needed to be cleansed in both body and spirit. That is what I worked on for a good year.

Memories popped up now and again. Some were horrific, others were fairly benign. Yet they each held the emotions of that little girl as she experienced them. I dealt with panic attacks, yet was blessed that I was still able to work through it all. I received counseling from a man who was definitely guided by the Spirit as to how to help me best.

I have to credit my amazing parents. They had no idea what was going on, but they gave me a home full of love and the gospel of Jesus Christ. I was safe there. I have no doubt that made all the difference.

Since that time other major changes happened, changes that needed me to be much more whole. Our ward (local congregation) and another ward that meets in our same building had both been struggling for years for enough people to fulfill the necessary positions. Church officials on a higher level counseled together and decided to combine our congregations. When our new bishop was called, he asked me to be the Relief Society President - I was now to watch over more than 300 women in our new ward. I have two counselors and a secretary with whom I work.

Yet I still feel as though I'm not enough. I can't seem to get to everybody to talk and chat and visit with. In the almost one year we've been together my presidency and others have overseen more than 14 funeral luncheons. Being a part-time worker and a full time wife and mom doesn't leave a ton of time to do everything I want to do, and I can feel those ugly lies trying to take hold again.

If I had not been awakened to what happened all those years ago, if I had not let go of all those lies, my ability to function in this position would have had me drowning. Instead I am treading water with a life jacket on. My Savior will not let me drown.

It's been two years since I last wrote, but it's been an amazing two years.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Day 2 of The Negative Thought Purge

Yesterday I went to see Sue, though not for me. This was the second visit for my daughter, M, who is also in need of some healing of the mind, body and spirit. I was definitely meant to be there with them both, as things took place to make a major shift in my knowledge of what's going on in my family. It also lead me to understand more the power of forgiveness. More on that later.

After last night's purge I felt better than the day before. So much so that when I sat down to write my negative thoughts it was difficult to come up with them. Instead of having a bunch of murky, nasty, vindictive, untrue statements flow easily from my mind I found myself feeling more contemplative. The bad beliefs went deeper and were harder to come up with. Why?

I truly believe it's because under the surface of all that negativity I had to fight to find the lies. Truth is beginning to resurface. There is the Light of Christ shining through again, though there is a lot of work yet to be done and a lot more healing to experience.

The first day I managed to fill almost all three pages. This time around I barely managed a page and a half. I probably could have done more but my spirit was too busy being filled with the beauty of watching the clouds roll quickly across the sky, flowing from one vibrant color to another as the sun settled behind the western mountains.I believe when I prayed for all the empty spots that had been occupied with the icky, murky, nasty thoughts that had taken root to instead be filled with peace, there was nowhere for nastiness to settle back in.

The peace and love of our Savior is truly incredible.

The overlying feeling left with my spirit was one of forgiveness. Forgiveness of others and of myself. So long as I held on to all of those negative beliefs there was no way I could forgive anyone, least of all imperfect me. If I can't forgive myself how can I possibly forgive others?

Forgiveness is freeing. It lightens the soul and gives room for peace. The natural man doesn't want to forgive. It wants to hold tight to grievances and grudges. That's not how the Savior works. He doesn't want to see us live that way. He wants us to be happy, even if we don't believe we can ever experience it, or deserve it.

Challenge for day 2 of your negative thought purge. After you've written down all of those negative thoughts for a second day in a row, pray for the spaces to be filled with peace and forgiveness. Even if you can't believe it'll make a difference, trust in the Savior.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Power of a Thought

In the last few weeks I've started to visit with an energy healer. I won't go into why at the moment, but yesterday's visit got me thinking about the power of thoughts.

Sue, my practitioner, told me it takes just as much energy to think of something positive as it does to think of something negative. Yet we always tend to gravitate toward thinking negatively, especially about ourselves. As I pondered this thought, I realized just how damaging or healing that one choice can be: will I tell myself something negative or something positive?

I hold deep within my mind and heart a lot - and I really do mean a LOT - of negative beliefs about myself. They all run along the lines of not being enough. For anyone. I'm not smart enough, pretty enough, funny enough, serious enough, rich enough, poor enough, outgoing enough, quiet enough, loud enough, fast enough, thin enough, social enough, religious enough, service-oriented enough, energetic enough...and the list goes on and on. Because of all these negative thoughts I've told myself and allowed others to tell me and convinced myself it's what people were saying to/about me I no longer exist. Not as I once was.

With every negative thought I gave away a tiny slice of my personal power. I now feel broken in my spirit, my mind and my body. I don't even believe I'm worth putting back together - and that's a very difficult thing to admit, because I thoroughly believe everyone else in this world is worth fixing. So why not me?

Sue gave me some homework for the next seven days. I am to find a quiet spot, I am to start with a prayer, and then I am to take three blank pages and begin writing down every negative belief I have about myself. Not holding back. Just let it all out. When I was done I was NOT to go back and reread it, but to crumple it up and either burn the pages or throw them away. After those seven days I am supposed to do the opposite. I am to take three blank pages and begin writing down every positive thing about myself - even if I don't necessarily believe it. I can write things others have said about me if I can't think of anything myself, just as long as they are positive I AM statements.

I began my first list of negative things tonight. To be honest I didn't think I'd be able to write much. Once the words got going I couldn't stop. I had no idea I believed so many bad things about myself!  After half an hour my mind was exhausted. I had filled up a lot more of those three pages than I thought I could, and I felt...better. It was as though a huge weight had been lifted off my heart. As I'd been instructed I didn't read over what I'd written. Instead the papers were promptly crumpled up and I threw them away. Since my mind felt empty of all negativity I figured it might be a good idea to finish the assignment with a prayer, asking only for the empty spots to be filled with peace.

I cried through most of that purge. It was interesting to see which thoughts caused me the most pain to write. Those thoughts, those beliefs about myself, they were the most telling. It's taken many years of negative thinking for me to get this bad, therefore I know it will take quite some time to reverse the damage done. Right now my biggest hope is to feel as though I am worth fixing - feel this so intensely I actually believe it! So that when I wake up in the morning telling myself I can and will live life in abundance it won't feel like a lie.

Thoughts are powerful. They can make or break a person. Consider what you tell yourself every day. One of the happiest and loveliest women I know weighs over 300 pounds, but constantly tells herself how awesome she is - AND SHE IS!!! She truly believes it and after being told so many times over, we all believe it too.

The next time you feel as though you are drowning in negative thoughts, I encourage you to write them all down. Purge your mind of them. Then throw the papers away. Pray for peace to fill those empty spaces and begin trading those negative thoughts for positive. I'd love to hear how it changes your own lives!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Rediscovering My Voice

Medically there was nothing wrong. My thyroid was normal. There was nothing swollen or out of place. No abnormal growth of cells to explain away the feeling there was something unusual in my neck. Everything was fine. Everything except this uncomfortable feeling that something...something wasn't fine.

I would lay down at night and find it difficult to breathe, as though a ball had been inserted into my neck. I could still breathe, of course, otherwise I wouldn't be writing to you today, but it wasn't with the ease I had previously experienced. I went in for testing. I was now the proud owner of a cpap machine to help me at night. The only problem - I still felt some sort of blockage.

I am a big supporter of what has been termed "Western" and "Holistic" medicine. It's no secret I love to use essential oils, as those are the medicines God originally placed on the earth to help us in the first place. I also believe God has inspired men and women to bring about the extraordinary methods to help treat illnesses in these modern times, and to dismiss them isn't respecting what God has put in place. I believe there is a beautiful middle where both can be used to the sufferer's benefit.

This last year I have been introduced to different types - modalities - of energy healing. I had no idea how many types there were. It came through my parents' introducing me to the "Emotion Code". From there I have attempted some research and even went to a conference about energy healing. In the last few weeks I came to realize the block in my neck is an emotional block. Specifically, the emotion of being silenced.

I don't care for the imagery and feelings that come with the term "chakras" as it's been mystified and corrupted over thousands of years. There is, unfortunately, no other ways to term the energy pathways of the body. It's certainly not a new concept, not for me. I'd dealt with similar things when I did allergy elimination. In different areas of the body there are different energy centers. Because my block appeared in my neck, I knew it was my voice that had been silenced.

I went to see a woman recently who works on chakras, as well as other things. She told me many things, much of which made a whole lot of sense about different things I'd been dealing with as she explained them, including the block in my neck. The biggest way to fix them? Take back my personal power.

Sounds cheesy, doesn't it? I had to take a long, prayerful look at the last few years to see where exactly I had lost my way. With the guidance of Heavenly Father I began to see little choices I had made to let others dictate what was good or bad for me, and about me. This even included the members of my own family, though none of it was intentional. I began to see with spiritual eyes that the person God needed me to become was being lost in what everyone else thought I ought to become. Deep within myself was the unaccountable knowledge that I did not have enough confidence in myself and the inspirations of the Lord in regards to His plans for me to do what I knew to be right. Instead I would cave in to what others felt was more important.

Over the last month I have worked hard to recognize these little choices. I have been asserting my own needs and desires. I have even spoken up instead of backing down when certain people have stated things I knew was not right. One funny thing occurred after my first session - my singing voice started to return. I haven't been able to sing with power in so long I thought my voice damaged. In a way it was.

It's been over a year since I last posted here. It's not for a lack of trying. No matter how much preparation I would do, what time of day I would sit down to write, nothing would come out. Ideas and thoughts would flow through my mind at hurricane speed, demanding an outlet. Not a word could be typed, because my voice was blocked.

This post right here, it's a huge step. My wishes and desires to voice my own opinions and beliefs feel like a reality now, rather than a dream. I am once more making an effort to keep my power where it belongs. With me.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Feeling Adequate at Best

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines adequate as "enough for some need or requirement: good enough: of a quality that is good or acceptable."

Lately I feel less than adequate. Doesn't matter what part of my life we're discussing. Could be work. Could be home. Could be Mom. Could be Wife. Could be daughter of God. Could be grocery shopper. Could be nail trimmer. Doesn't matter.

Certainly my role as blog-writer has suffered as I've tried to stretch myself to play a bazillion different roles. The only problem is a person can only be stretched so far. My brain feels like a giant ball of mush these days. Trying to put connecting sentences together to create a post longer than a status update via Facebook makes my head hurt. Literally. I go into a fog and the next thing I know I've deleted the blog post because I just can't do it. Which breaks my heart as being a writer has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl.

Yet I continue to fight that word: adequate. Good enough. But nothing to cheer about. I read of how families are going to Disneyland (seemingly every one's favorite way to spend their tax return). How people are having their next book published. How they are able to do this and that and this and that and I...am adequate.

Okay so I really do know I'm more than adequate. In many ways I'm so stinking awesome you could hardly stand to be around me. Except you wouldn't want to walk away from my awesomeness regardless of how stinking I might prove to be.

It's so easy to sit and compare ourselves to others. We've never been able to take our kids to Disneyland, but we've always had enough to keep ourselves going. We find ways of having fun times that don't include long lines and going into debt. Though we still would like to try and take the kids one day. I may not have published anything officially, but my writings have blessed the lives of the young women for whom I've put stories together for their girls camps. 

The most extraordinary thing I have done with my life can be seen in the walls of my home. I have four beautiful children who, despite my best efforts, are turning out to be fairly normal and moderately happy. I have a husband whom I adore and, regardless of how crazy or adequate I am, seems to love me right back. Best of all there is a spirit of love in this home that cannot be denied by any who enter in. This home is a little slice of heaven on earth. Well, at times it's more earthy than heavenly, but there really is no place I'd rather be.

I had to remind myself that there are times my "best" is going to be awesome. I'm talking awesomely awesome. Like I could leap tall buildings in a single bound. Other days my "best" is going to be crawling over ant hills (minuscule ant hills) and then taking a nap because that took all my energy. Either way my "best" is the best I can give, and both are okay.

I've struggled this last month. More than I thought I would. My oldest son would have been 14 this year - it's a key age in my church. It hurt, so much. And then four - yes, FOUR - people I loved with all my heart died within a week. I shattered, and trying to glue myself back together has been impossible. 

Yes, I know death is not the end. Yes, I know I will see them and hug them all again. Yes, I know the Atonement of Christ means He knows exactly how I'm feeling and will help me through it all. I know He is my glue. I know He is my carpenter, my Healer, my Brother. But the ache that's left behind when I can't hold them here and now remains.

I received a priesthood blessing tonight from my husband and my daddy. How grateful I am that they are always ready and willing to do so for me. And that my Heavenly Father loves me despite my inaccurate feelings of being less than adequate.

My shoulders feel lighter. Nothing has changed, except my attitude. Which is the most important and most effective change. Especially when it comes as a blessing from up above. And while life may still find me feeling adequate while my Brother and I continue to put me back together, at least I know my best is my best and that's okay.