Monday, October 28, 2013

None Too Deep

A friend of mine recently came out with her struggle with pornography.  She is a wonderful and virtuous woman.  A beautiful daughter of God who is facing her struggle head on.  She has given up her corrosive dark secret in order to become whole again and help others along the way.

When she first went public with her struggle she was met with 'concern' from some of her family members. They were concerned that she had fully given up her virtue by having sex.

Sadly, my friend felt obligated to post somewhat of an explanation to assure everyone that she had not had sex, but rather was 'just' addicted to pornography and masturbation.

My heart immediately ached for my friend...

What if she had slept with other people?
What then?
Would she then be judged and shamed harshly?
Would she be less than?
Would she be used goods?

I was reminded of a story Elizabeth Smart recently told when asked why she willingly remained with her captors instead of attempting to run away.

She reiterated a lesson taught to her by a teacher when she was a young girl.  The teacher, attempting to teach morality through abstinence, told Elizabeth and the young girls in her class to not have sex or they would be likened to a "chewed up piece of gum."

Used.
Dirty.
Disgusting.

Elizabeth believed since her captor had sex with her that she had become as a 'chewed up piece of gum.'  She felt that her family would no longer love her and no one would want her.

She was ashamed.

I remember being involved in a Facebook discussion regarding the interview when it first aired.  One woman responded something along the lines of "she was not a used up piece of gum, 'especially' since it wasn't her fault that she had sex."

Another shaming statement.

So those who do choose to have sex are used up pieces of gum?

No.  They are not.

No one is a chewed up piece of gum, regardless of what they have done.  We are all innately valuable and absolutely equal in the eyes of God.

So what if my friend had actually had sex?

Then she would have had the opportunity to call on and practice the same healing power of the Atonement as she has for her other struggles.
The same healing power of the Atonement that heals everyone's struggles.
The same power of the Atonement that permeates our darkness and bathes us in His healing light.
The same power that lifts our countenance and strengthens our resolve.

It doesn't matter what we have done.  The path back home remains the same.  Through Him.

Through Him who cherishes us...
...loves us
...adores us
...cares for us
...encourages us
...honors us
...preserves us
...comforts us
...guards us
...nourishes us
...nurtures us
...shelters us
...sustains us
There is not one of us but what God's love has been expended upon.  There is not one of us that He has not cared for and carressed.  There is not one of us that He has not desired to save, and that He has not devised means to save. - George Q. Cannon
However many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made . . . or however far from . . . God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love.  It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ's Atonement shines.- Jeffrey R. Holland

He loves us with a burning passion that not one of us can even fathom.

None of us are too deep.

Each and every one of us can be returned to wholeness no matter what we have done.

Thus is His promise.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

#nofilter

'#nofilter' is a common hashtag used with pictures to signify no enhancement being used to make the picture look better or different.

No Filter                                               Amaro Filter

Photography filters definitely have their place - they can brighten colors to bring passion and vitality to a picture or they can soften the colors to make the picture more serene and peaceful.

However we filter a picture, even if it hides imperfections and makes it more beautiful, it is still not truth.  We are not experiencing the picture in its true rawness.  

I liken this to us.  

How many physical and emotional filters do we use to cover up who we really are? 
How many do we use to enhance ourselves so that we will look 'socially acceptable,' both physically and emotionally?

Why can't we just be real?

Because we are afraid.  

We are afraid of not looking as good as the person next to us, or being as emotionally healthy.  
We are afraid of being judged and shunned.  
We are afraid of being labeled...
- not good enough
- not pretty enough
- not sexy enough
- not funny enough
- not good enough
- not patient enough
- not spiritual enough
- not.... enough... period.

We are afraid of being shamed.

Oh how fear rules so many aspects of our lives.

But what would really go wrong if we were completely honest for a day? 
About our circumstance...
- about our feelings
- about our dreams
- about our sorrows
- about or weakness
- about our vulnerability
- about our strengths
- about our virtues

Scary?  Yes. But so very worth it.

Let us grasp tightly onto bravery, courage and faith, and embrace our vulnerability and authenticity.

If we are to use any filters to enhance ourselves, let them be the filters of compassion, humility, love, empathy, patience, faith, resiliency and courage.

Let us not filter out our weakness and imperfection, for acknowledging and embracing them is what leads to growth.

Let us not focus on that which we are not, but rather, find joy for that which we are.
Let us know without any shadow of doubt, that even in our rawest state we are enough.

I am enough.
You are enough.
We. Are. Enough.

We are powerful, gorgeous and resilient giants of celestial human beings.

Let us never forget...
We are enough.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Living a Better Story

As The Togetherness Project begins its trek into my past, I am left with feelings of connection, hope, generosity, love, compassion, unity, courage, vulnerability, sisterhood and power.

It was pure goodness.

I absorbed and learned SO much.

I took something important from each and every class I attended.  Over the course of the next little while I'd like to share with you the life altering principles that really spoke to my soul.

The opening Keynote speakers were Josh Brazier and Hollie Henderson, there topic: How to Live a Better Story.

I loved their premise.  They broke the chains of stigma and stereotype simply by acknowledging that we don't have to be the person 'others' or even 'we' think we are.

They shared how we often focus on all that which lies in the way of our goal instead of focusing on the goal itself.

I can relate to this.  I shared, on facebook, a while back that I was frustrated with the fact that even after over 30 years of practice I still manage to spill the freshly filled ice-tray on the way to the freezer.

My wise friend Lucy suggested that instead of focusing on the ice-tray as I walk to the freezer, I keep my eyes lifted and focused on the destination.

Who would have thought, but it worked!  Once I stopped listening to the voices of paranoia in my head - the obstacles seemed to melt away.

We can be the person we want to become.  Life is not written in pen.  Life is malleable, ever changing and growing.

It is alive.

It thrives on what we feed it, how we treat it, and who we invite into it.

At one point during the presentation, Hollie shared the following video.  I cried through the entire thing. In it you will find:

Hope
Courage
Bumps
Strength
Sorrow
Slips
Love
Bruises
Humor
Determination

It in, you will find strength to instill, in your own life, the desire to live a better story.


Friday, October 18, 2013

This Thing Called 'Scanning'

My husband told me once that men often struggle with this thing called 'scanning.'  Scanning is when we use our addictive radar to hunt for that which will give us our next fix, whether big or small.

I used to think it was a guy thing.

I was wrong.

I am a total scanner.

I first recognized it a few days ago.  We recently switched from Direct TV to Dish Network.  Shane, the installer, was very kind and patient as he walked us through the workings of all our new equipment.

At one point, he began skimming the channels.
And then he began skimming through the premium channels.

Before I could tell him we wouldn't be utilizing those channels, even through the free trial, my eyes began to scan the screen.  I went into some sort of robot mode; eyes locked-seeking titles to satiate the instant craving that erupted out of no where.

My eyes grew wide and I finally looked away as realization washed over me...

I'm a total scanner!

Since then, I've noticed other instances where I scan.  I scan in my thoughts when I look for just the right fantasy that will meet the needs of my craving in that moment.  If I'm feeling insecure, I'll scan for people in crowds who might be looking at me; paying attention to me as I internally pine for their attention.

I am pretty excited about this discovery.  Now I can work on it.  Each scan is a Skittle of my addiction and if I'm to get better, I need to work on getting rid of it.  If I am aware of my scanning tactics, I can work to change those habits.  I can recondition myself.

I am grateful that the Lord is mindful to let me bite of pieces of awareness a bit at a time.  He is constantly helping me grow and get better.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Roles of the Father and the Son: A Question From a Teen

I received a very in-depth and well thought out question by a young woman last night.  She is struggling to find the much needed and deserved connection with her Savior.  I feel her struggle to reach for Him in her words.
I think I'm confused with the roles that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have in my life. I have a very deep and profound love for my Heavenly Father, but I don't understand how my love can be split in two?  Also, can you explain the relationship between Heavenly Father and Christ and how they are both equally involved in our daily lives/how do they work together?  Also, we pray to our Heavenly Father for communication, but how do we communicate with our Savior?
Excellent questions from such a young mind, wouldn't you say?  I will offer my own thoughts as well, but I thought it would be great to get mass input here.  Thanks in advance!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Sobriety vs Recovery: Focus, Endure and Trust

I'm often asked what the difference is between sobriety/abstinence and recovery.  Prior to recovery I spent a lot of wasted energy on striving to achieve and maintain 'sobriety,' without anything to sustain it, and each time I would end up crashing; succumbing to the endless temptations around me.  

The concept I was failing to grasp was that recovery is what sustains my sobriety.  

Think of it like this...

Another goal I want to accomplish is lose weight. I've struggled with my weight for most of my life; especially since the delivery of my youngest son.

I struggle with my weight because I love these types of foods way too much:



I crave this type of food.  The craving is so intense at times that even with the best intentions of staying away from it, my willpower fades, and I cannot keep from eating it.

My attempts at abstinence, at sobriety, from these types of food have always proven fruitless.

The food always wins.
The craving, always wins.

I cannot simply stop eating this food and expect to stay healthy, however, or I'd starve to death.  No, I need to replace this food with healthier options:



I need to focus on the healthy, endure the detox process, and trust that my body will learn to crave the yummy stuff rather than the unhealthy stuff.

Such is with recovery from sexual addiction.  We will fall over and over and over if all we strive for is to not act out.

We must focus our energy and time on healthy behaviors, activities, habits and coping mechanisms.

Once we have our recovery plan in place, we just endure the detox process that will follow.  Our bodies experience intense sexual cravings after ceasing our unhealthy sexual behavior, just as it craves fat, sugar and salt when we switch to eating healthier foods.

Finally, we must trust that the Lord is with us every step of the way through this gut wrenching process.

All He asks is that we give an all-in, concerted effort and He will do the rest.
He wants us to succeed.
He desires for us to get healthy and He will not leave us unaided.
I'm not going to lie, it is hard - but He knows that; He has felt it, carried it, and atoned for it.
He has endured the very same cravings that we have; even food cravings.
We may feel that we are left alone to our own devices, but we are not.
We have our own chariots of fire on the hill, ready and waiting to defend at the first rally call...
All we have to do is ask, and then let God help.

The difference between sobriety and recovery is clear...

Sobriety is stagnant - there is very little work involved, and without work there is little result.

With simply white-knuckling effort we are often left with intense craving; our minds consumed with thoughts of the drug we wish we had.  It leaves us empty, sad, and hopeless; wondering if we will ever escape the poisonous grasp of our addictions.

Recovery takes a lot of hard work, diligence, faith and trust.  But because of our willingness to put forth such a significant effort, the Lord gladly pours out many blessings upon us.

Such blessings that leave us feeling hopeful, full of worth, cherished and happy.  It helps us feel connected to our Father in Heaven, Savior, family and friends.  With recovery, our cravings diminish, as well as our shame.  We begin to see Satan for who he is; the enemy of our soul, and we come to more quickly identify and dismantle his lies.

In recovery, we are made whole. We are freed from sins of the past and find hope for our sins of the present and future.

In recovery, we are finally able to maintain that ever elusive sobriety.

In recovery, we are found and, again, made whole..

Friday, October 11, 2013

Malignant Virtues

I want to share an awesome principle I learned from Elder Richard G. Scott this past conference.

His talk was on repentance through the Atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ; but more specifically he spoke on the distinct difference between weakness and rebellion:
The joyful news for anyone who desires to be rid of the consequences of past poor choices is that the Lord sees weaknesses differently than He does rebellion.  Whereas the Lord warns that unrepented rebellion will bring punishment, when the Lord speaks of weakness, it is always with mercy.
I absolutely love this concept.  I'm always speaking of how we tend to get guilt and shame confused; coupling the two into one emotion when in reality they are stark opposite.

The same goes for weakness and rebellion.  Shame and rebellion are the warped, diseased and malignant doppelgangers of guilt and weakness.

Think about it.

Satan would have us believe that our weaknesses themselves are an utter offense to God.  That we are a smudge of disappointment simply for being weak, for struggling, for being tempted.  He would have us feel unworthy for making mistakes.

How sometimes quick we are to forget that the Lord actually gave us weakness for a specific purpose:
Ether 12:27
And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness.  I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
It may be hard to see, but the Lord actually gifted our weaknesses to us.  He has allowed us a  refining process to cultivate and strengthen our humility.

Weakness is not a vice, but rather a virtue.  Rebellion is our vice.

Rebellion is brazenly denying His outstretched hand; giving up, stopping and denying His plan.  That is where the dark clouds of trouble roll in.  That is where we choose to leave the safety of His Celestial mantle.

So long as we strive to recognize, repent and learn from our mistakes, we are safe.  Weakness does not deny us His help, but rather, His help is freely offered because of our weakness.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Call For Input: Obsession

We are currently working on Step 1 of the Healing Through Christ workbook for sexual addicts.  In addiction, obsession often (if not always) accompanies powerlessness.

Man or woman: what did/does obsession look/feel like for you?

Remember, please make your answers in quotable form so they are usable in the workbook.

Example:
"When any amount of stress (little or big) hit my life, I would automatically turn to thinking about how long I had until I could get home and get a fix.  It didn't matter if it was minutes or many hours until I would be home.  I found myself distracted and my attention would be fixed and focused on what waited for me at home.  My thoughts were consumed with working out a plan to find the 'right stuff' to get the 'best fix.' Obsession on getting the right fix led to being unproductive at work, many cancelled plans, lying, and ultimately hurting myself and others around me."
Thank you in advance for your thoughts!


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Bucket List Wish

What a wonderful opportunity to hear from our God ordained leaders this past weekend.  I love how much more comfortable I am listening to the General Conference messages now.  It used to be that I could hardly stomach listening to what I perceived as 'accusations.'  

You aren't enough
You aren't doing this right
You are going to hell

I'm sure I had help with those thoughts.

I'm different now, though.  Now, I rejoice in the words being taught!

As I settled down in front of the television to listen and soak up inspiration this past weekend, I was blessed with the usual instruction on faith, obedience, tithing and repentance.  But I was most struck by principles taught by Richard G. Scott.  He took the time to express the distinct, yet often confused, difference between weakness and rebellion.  

I have my own thoughts to share on his topic, and will at a later time.  For now, though, I want to share a personal memory I have of Elder Scott.

Elder Scott is one of my favorite Apostles.  I met him once, a long time ago.  He was visiting my stake center to preside over a conference.  I sat behind him, positioned in the alto section of the choir.  His presence was so relaxed.  He was warm and welcoming, and even allowed questions and feedback from the audience.  

He asked something at one point, and I remember having a thought; a comment.  I was too scared to raise my hand, however.  I was in the choir loft where everyone could see me.  The last thing I wanted to do was bring unwanted attention to myself.  

I remained still and silent.

I did, however, have the strong desire to meet him; to shake his hand. As unworthy as I felt, I knew I was in the presence of an ordained Apostle and I didn't want to miss out on this once in a lifetime opportunity.

After the conference, I stood in line behind the plethora of people that flocked to shake his hand.  I felt insignificant.  But, I also hoped that by shaking his hand I might find hope and strength.  That the small touch of his handshake might instill in me renewed commitment and determination.

My turn soon approached and he gently took my hand and smiled at me.  I stumbled over my words as I blurted out: 
"I had a comment during your talk but I was behind you so I didn't raise my hand."  
He paused and said something completely unexpected: 
"Oh, well, I'd love to hear it now."  
He waited expectantly as I stood there and blinked.  

What!?
Blink
He wants to hear what I have to say?
Blink
Uhhhhhh
Blink

I eventually formed some words.  I couldn't tell you what I said, or even what it was about.  But I remember what I felt like it was yesterday.  

Fear
Shame
Worthlessness  

I was sure he thought I was stupid.  

I also felt like he could see right through me; that he knew of my deep struggle with sexual addiction.  He is a seer and revelator, after all. 

I felt such acute conflict.  I wanted to desperately to be in his presence, to stay with him, to connect with him, to bask in his goodness and be protected by his mantle.  Yet at the same time I felt such intense self hatred.  I felt the almost tangible transformation of good feelings turn vile and nasty.

I still remember that day; cherish that day and regret that day all at the same time.

One of my greatest wishes is to re-write that memory.  I feel the opportunity slipping away. As the church continues to expand the Apostles are becoming busier and the chance of my path once again crossing with Elder Scott's continues to decrease.

I have this desire to tell him I'm different.  That I'm better.  Who knows, maybe it will happen.  I do know that if it doesn't happen on this earth, I will have the opportunity to express my feelings to him in the next.  

I anxiously await the day.

Ezekiel 34:11-12,16

"For thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick"