Wednesday, February 26, 2014

My Book is Now Available on Kindle!

So I have some most excellent news!

As most of you know, I received some disheartening news last week: Covenant Publishing did not agree to publish my book.  I was sad and confused, but soon found hope in the knowledge I have of my Father in Heaven's plan.

I quickly got to work praying and asking Him which direction He wanted me to go.

His answer came in the form of an 'idea' that popped in my brain. I thought 'why not see about publishing straight to an eBook?'...

Hmmm...

Over the following 24 hours I researched the possibility and learned that it is free to publish to Kindle, while retaining all rights to pricing and content. Not only that, but the content would become available to anyone in the world with access to a Kindle or the Kindle App.

I immediately felt that this was the direction the Lord wanted me to go. With the help of my husband, we weighed the pros and cons. . .

My ultimate desire is to help the Lord reach as many of His lost daughters as possible. With a hardcover book published in Utah, my book would only be available to a limited number of people. The printing process itself would take time, and the content would likely be edited to soften some of the darker truths I felt inspired to tell.  With Kindle, however, the purchase price is minimal, it can reach anyone in seconds, and I can update the content as needed. 

Also, I retain the right to unpublish the eBook at any time, which means I can continue to submit to local publishers while it remains available on Kindle.

I feel like this path is a huge win for everyone!

So with that, I would like to announce the official publication of my Kindle eBook, available now on Amazon.com for $4.99!  Click here to visit the site...


I want to officially thank all those who helped refine this work. I love and appreciate each one of you.

Please, let me know what you think of the book... and, if you wouldn't mind, rate it on Amazon.

Thank you!

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Bittersweet Sting of Rejection




Well, I heard from Covenant Publishing yesterday, and the news was not great. 

My book has been denied.

I was impressed, however, with how kind their response was: 
Dear Sidreis, 
Thank you for submitting By the Light of Grace to Covenant. After careful consideration, we have come to the conclusion that it does not fit our publishing needs. Thank you for being willing to share your very personal experiences. Although we did not publish your book, we recognize the tremendous courage it takes to open your heart and bear your testimony. You have a special story to tell. Trust in the Lord’s timing; He will help you tell your story. 
We appreciate the skills, effort, and time that have gone into preparing your manuscript.  
Best wishes in your future writing endeavors.
Sincerely, 
Editorial 
I think their response was the nicest rejection I have ever received, hah!  I also recognize what they did say; that they appreciate the skill and effort I put in to writing the book. I really get the impression that those who read it were impressed with it, but that they just didn't feel it was right for their company, at this time.

And because of that, I really don't look at it as 'rejection.'  Yes, I was disappointed at first; sad, confused, and maybe even a little hurt, but the Lord was with me among all that swirling emotion and afforded me a sweet miracle to help guide me through it.

As I re-read their response, I paused at 'Trust the Lord's Timing; He will help you tell your story,' and thought: 
I did
With no hesitation the Spirit responded with truth: 
Such a thing as trusting the Lord should never end on an 'I did,' but rather, should always be a continuous 'I do.'
I knew the answer came from the Lord, because it felt good.  
I didn't feel like I was being reprimanded for lack of faith or for doubting.  

I felt like the Lord was saying, 'I hear you, I feel you. Know that I am with you and trust that I have a plan for you. I commissioned this work and it will come forth in my time and for my purpose."

Simply put, Covenant Publishing was not the Lord's plan.

And, with that, I am satisfied.

I am already moving forward in search of other opportunities. I have sent the manuscript to some additional trusted friends just to have them read it and offer suggestions to tighten it up. I am also researching more publishing companies with whom I can submit. 

But mostly, I am staying close to the Lord.  

I don't know what is to come.
But I do know that I have the choice to enjoy the ride. 
And that, I will do.

Friday, February 14, 2014

*My* Son Would Never View Pornography



Have you ever caught yourself thinking that your child would never view pornography?  That he/she is completely safe because...

    1. You have internet protection software
    2. You have taught them better
    3. They are active in church
    4. They have really good friends
    5. They understand that it is dangerous
    6. ...insert any other rationalization or justification why your child is the exception...
The fact is, our children are bombarded on a daily basis with pornographic images.  Hardcore?  Maybe not.  But pornography is not defined by where it falls on the sliding scale between soft and hard. 

Let's see what Webster has to say...


por·nog·ra·phy

  [pawr-nog-ruh-fee] noun:
  • obscene writings, drawings, photographs, or the like.
Ok, makes sense, right?  
But what does obscene really mean?


ob·scene

  [uhb-seen] adjective:
  • offensive to morality or decency.
Our children are exposed to images on a daily basis that are offensive to morality; to the Lord's definition of morality.  You can read more about what that looks like, here.

The reality is, every-single-child is at risk.


I share the following story by permission from my son . . .


**********

My son is amazing. He is currently 14 and in 9th grade. He has participated in band, choir, chess club and another (weird) club where they made underwater robots. He does well in school, with a stellar 3.36 GPA and is responsible when it comes to getting himself to and from school everyday.  

He loves seminary and often comes home talking about what he has learned and how he can apply those principles in his own life. And let me tell you, the kid is funny, but more importantly - he thinks I am funny; often telling me 'you are the coolest mom in the world.'

He is active in church, having served as the Deacons Quorum President for two years and now, in the absence of an active President for either the Deacons or Teachers Quorum, fulfills most responsibilities for both. He goes to church early every Sunday to secure brethren to bless and pass the sacrament, and stands at the front during Priesthood opening exercises once a month asking for volunteers to collect fast offerings.  

He has a good heart; a service oriented heart. He has this amazing capacity to love everyone, and be kind to everyone, even in the face of not being the most popular kid in school. He is made fun of a lot but he strives to not let it get to him, and succeeds for the most part.

Does he have normal occasional attitude tantrum, missing homework, lying?  Yes.

He is not perfect.
But he is good.
I felt he was one of those kids that  easily fell under the category 'would never view pornography.'

I mean, if there were such a category.

I was wrong.  He did have access and he did view.

He became withdrawn, sucked into his own world.  
He would rush home from school, anxious to play a new computer game:

"Can I just play upstairs in your room where no one can bother me, mom?"
"Sure, I don't see why not"

I was careful to limit his time on the computer, and I wasn't worried about him accessing anything inappropriate because, besides being a 'good' kid and having all the devices in our home protected, it just never occurred to me that it was a possibility.

And so went the next couple of weeks . . .


Then one morning I awoke to find a blog linked to me on Facebook. I was touched by a particular post and took some time to respond to it. A week later I wanted to revisit the post to see if there had been any additional activity. The funny thing was -  for the life of me I couldn't remember the name of the blog and, even after much searching, I couldn't locate where it had been linked to me.

Then came the familiar whisper . . .

Check your computer history

It took me a bit to actually figure out how to check my history, as I'd never done it before.  Once I got it open I started scanning for the blog, but my eyes caught something else. My heart dropped as I found searches on terms that would lead anyone into a dark place. 

I was confused at first because my husband and I have our own computers and 'no one else uses it.' It never even entered my mind that my son, my sweet and good son, would fall into the same trap that kept me bound for so long.

But then I looked at the time periods during which the searches occurred and realized they corresponded with my sons computer time. Seems he wasn't playing his game after all. No, he was hurrying home each day because he was already sucked in. His mind had become desperate for those images, always wanting more more more...

How did he access pornography if my computer has protection software, you might ask?

One word: Youtube

I took a closer look at the searches and quickly identified a pattern.  Each set of inappropriate searches were padded by searches on Star Wars in an attempt to hide his behavior.

I can imagine Satan was whispering all the same lies to my son, that he had whispered to me:

Hide it so you won't get in trouble
Your mom will be mad at you
Looking isn't bad, just acting on it is
If you don't hide it, you'll never be able to look again

I felt so sad for him.  My heart grieved for the loss of innocence, as well as for my naivity. But as sad as I was, it was quickly overtaken by swelling amounts of gratitude. I knew that Heavenly Father had hidden that blog post from me on Facebook so the Spirit could prompt me to check my internet history. Even though I was naive, the Lord was not and was ever watchful over my son.

Later that day my husband and I sat down and talked to him. We were very careful to not come from a place of panic or fear or shame. We worked that afternoon to prepare ourselves Spiritually in order to approach the situation in a loving way.

Our son was surprised, yes, and fear washed over his face - but I was quick to reassure him:

"I love you"
"You are not in trouble"
"I am so very sorry that you were exposed to these things"
"You do not have to carry this burden alone"

His chin raised a bit as tears streamed down his young cheeks. 

"I just couldn't stop."

I felt the heaviness in his heart and I desired so much to just take it away.  But I couldn't, so I did the next best thing.  I took the opportunity to open up a dialogue on shame, cravings, isolation, triggers, desperation, agency (loss of) and bondage.  I taught him about the whispering's of the adversary and how he makes dangerous things seem so enticing. 

The conversation went well and any shame he may have felt quickly alleviated.  


I wish I could say the struggle ended there, but the following weeks were a bit rough. He seemed more sorry that he got caught than he did for what had happened.  He became depressed and irritable; he picked fights with his brothers and was quick to anger toward his dad and I.

I was desperate to help him, but I didn't know how

I felt like Alma as he prayed for his son, Alma the Younger, to find true Godly sorrow because I knew how powerful Godly sorrow is in turning lost hearts back to the Lord.  I didn't expect an angel to appear to my son, but I desperately wanted him to have some experience to help instill in him the desire to fight

I kept asking myself 'how can I teach humility and Godly sorrow?'  But what I was really searching for was a way to make my son feel humility and Godly sorrow. 

But I kept coming back to the same answer.

I can't.

I didn't have the power to instill something in him that he needed to seek out for himself. All I could do was teach him the principles of humility and Godly sorrow and be an example of those principles in my own life. 

Even at the tender age of fourteen, he still had his agency. 
He had to want it.
He had to choose.

It took time, but he eventually came back around to being his usual happy self. I guess, maybe, sometimes we have to sit in our muck a while to really figure out we don't want to be there.

I am grateful for his shame-free willingness to share his experience, his weakness and his humility, in order to help others. I am so proud of him and am grateful he is mine. 


**********

I write this post for me, for God, and for anyone who is reading.
But I write more specifically to the parents who might feel their child is the exception.

Our children are faced with temptation every single day.  While writing this very post, I asked my son what he has seen over the last few days that would trigger him; things he has to fight in order to keep himself clean:
There was girl at school wearing a sheer shirt over a revealing tank top, and many girls don't wear bra's.  I hear dirty jokes all the time, and I overhear conversations where other kids are talking about sexual positions. 
I look away though, mom. I just turn my head and try not to listen. I understand that those things make my body feel good but it doesn't make my spirit feel good. It takes me to a dark place and I don't want to go there again.

And who did he hear these things from? 'Good' kids whose innocence is also being corrupted.

If we believe that our children are completely safe from the harms of such stimulations we are underestimating the power and influence of the adversary as well as overestimating the maturity of the judgement center (frontal lobe) of our child's brain.

If we don't acknowledge the cunning capabilities of the adversary and recognize the susceptibility of our children, he will do what any criminal does... Search and destroy.


My child is at risk.

Your child is at risk.
Every child is at risk.

Satan goes after the 'good' kids that we so naively think are safe because his ultimate goal is destroy families by corrupting the righteous. It makes complete sense that he would strive to destroy the younger, more innocent and more naive, generation.


But do not fret, because there is hope.


We have the Lord Omnipotent on our side, over whom Satan has no power. So long as we call on the principles of grace by doing our best to educate and make aware, keep our homes free from temptation and access, and teach our children the principles of the Atonement - His grace will make up the rest, because His grace is sufficient.

Of this, I have no doubt.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

I Love Him More than These


Since starting my blog, and networking with other people and organizations, I have been graced with many opportunities to share my story.  Some of these opportunities have been under the LDS umbrella, others have not.

I want to tell of an experience I recently had with one of those "not's."

It was a non-profit organization filming a documentary on the harmful effects of pornography.  Their mission is huge; to spread awareness on a worldwide level by presenting the documentary to diplomats representing the United Nations.

I, of course, jumped at the opportunity.  I mean, come on, it's the United Nations.

I felt relatively comfortable in front of the camera while sitting on the beautiful couch in the posh Tuscan house up on the hill.  The owners had graciously agreed to lend us their home for the evening.

I began telling my story as I usually do; how my addiction didn't start because of inadvertent exposure or abuse, but rather, out of unbridled curiosity.  I moved through all that I experienced in my childhood, adolescent years, teen years and young adult years.

The tone of the interview was good... at first.

I knew that the documentary being filmed was not intended for a religious audience.  I knew the purpose of the film was to show those from other nations that not all Americans advocate for pornography; that we also feel it is harmful, to ourselves and anyone touched by its ripple effect.

I was completely comfortable with contributing to their angle of approach, at least, until I began to eliminate my Heavenly Father, Savior, the Atonement and the sweet Holy Ghost out of my story in an attempt to mold my experience to what they were looking for.

At one point the interviewer asked me what my turning point was in my recovery; that moment in which I became aware that what I was doing was damaging me.

I thought a moment and landed on the truth; that without my upbringing in the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, I never would have known that my behavior was damaging.

I was that addicted.

All I cared about was getting my next fix. If I hadn't had an internal moral compass instilled in me at such an early age, there would have been nothing, absolutely nothing, that would have stopped my behavior; except maybe eventual death.

The interviewer did not seem satisfied with my answer and pushed for more of a 'non-religious' response that she could present to the United Nations diplomats; many of which are most likely not religious, or at least not Christian.

Conflict consumed me. I searched my memory for just one recollection of clarity in which I realized what I was doing was hurting me, but I had nothing to give her.

And so went the rest of the interview . . .

I stretched and stretched to tell my story without mentioning God, or the Light of Christ, or my Bishop, or the Spirit.  I felt hollow, but I wasn't sure why.  I was stuck in 'desperate-to-please' land and couldn't seem to escape it.  I wanted the interviewer to be proud of me; to approve of me.

The uneasiness grew as I drove home in the still silence of the crisp night.  I felt like I had tried to tell a story of how I endured and overcame cancer without talking about all my doctor visits and chemo treatments.

Again, I landed on truth; it's just not possible.

I awoke at 3AM the following morning and couldn't get back to sleep. Hungry, I went downstairs to grab a bite to eat.

The full force of my actions hit me as I stood waiting for my soup to heat up.  I began shaking as racking sobs overtook my body.

I felt like I had denied my Savior. Not out-rightly, obviously, but I felt like I hid Him; like I said to Him 'here, hide behind this curtain for a time, I need to talk about my recovery and no one can know You were involved in it.'

I felt sick.

How could I even fathom talking about my recovery without talking about my Savior?  If it weren't for Him, there would be no recovery; no story.

I felt like I maybe touched a bit of what Peter felt like when he denied Christ.  We don't hear that part of his story; how devastated he must have felt after he realized the gravity of what he'd done. The pain he felt must have been absolutely staggering.

I poured my heart out to my Heavenly Father . . .
I am so so very sorry. How could I ever take the Savior out of my recovery?  It's not even possible.  I owe Him absolutely everything.  He has carried me, and comforted me, and held me, and cleansed me, and lifted me, and healed me, and changed me. He has never left my side. How could I be so quick to tell the story as if He were never there?
Even though this experience is painful, I am grateful for it.  I am grateful that you are letting me experience what it feels like to take my Savior out of the equation; hollow, alone, afraid.  I have been there before; for far too long and I never want to return there.
I promise, Heavenly Father, I will never deny Him again.  I will never again speak of my recovery without speaking of my Savior.  I will preface every interview with that information, and if they aren't satisfied with those terms, then there will be no interview.
I have learned, Heavenly Father.  It has proved to be a painful lesson, but I have learned.
I am feeling better now, although I still tear up when I think about what I did. I have not touched shame, nor am I ashamed, but I still hurt inside for hurting my Savior.  The pain will subside with time, I'm sure even more so as I continue to openly declare my gratitude for His saving Grace.

I find comfort in the fact that even after Peter's denials, the Lord forgave him and returning to him, asked:
Lovest thou me more than these?
The Lord, likewise, beckons to me:
Sidreis, lovest thou me more then these? These people, your desire to please them, and your need for approval. Tell me, do you love me more than these?
Yes, Lord, I love thee more than all of these.  Forever.

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"