Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Warm, Godly Hug




hug [huhg]
verb (used with object), hugged, hugging
1. to clasp tightly in the arms, especially with affection; embrace
2. to cling firmly or fondly to; cherish
3. to keep close

*         *     *     *        *

What does it mean to hug? No, really. What does it genuinely mean to hug?

A hug is one of, if not the utmost expression of the purest love.
It communicates...
... compassion
... kindness
... charity
... affection
... understanding
... empathy
It presents as a courageous expression of actively listening to the needs of others, as well as our own needs.

Sometimes we don't realize that a hug is more than just giving. In fact, it is much more, because we receive so much in return:
  1. Hugs are warm; physically, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually.
  2. Hugging builds trust and a sense of safety; nurturing open and honest communication.
  3. It also boosts oxytocin levels; healing feelings of loneliness, isolation and despair.
  4. If we hug for an extended period of time, our serotonin levels elevate; resulting in increased happiness.
  5. Hugging boosts our self-esteem, showing us that we're special and worth loving. The associations of self-worth and touch sensations from our early years remain embedded in our nervous system as adults, therefore the cuddles we received as children remain imprinted at a cellular level; connecting us to our ability to self-love.
  6. Those hugs that are especially tight help relax our muscles; releasing built up tension in our body. They can also take away pain and soothe our aches by increasing blood flow in our soft tissue.
  7. Hugs teach us that there is equal value in giving and being receptive to warmth; connecting and sharing. In essence, hugs teach us how to flow love both ways.
  8. Much like meditation and laughter, hugs teach us to be present in the moment. They free us from our circular thinking patterns and connect us with our heart and feelings. They allow us freedomif even for just a momentfrom the weight of the past and doubt about the future.
  9. The energy exchange between participants results from the deliberate emotional investment in the relationship that the hug represents. It encourages empathy and compassion; two of the most powerful emotions for good. 
  10. Hugging is also synergistic; meaning the whole is more than the sum of its parts. 1 + 1 no longer equals 2, but 3 or even more!
Hugs are absolutely delightfully delicious!

Lately I have been thinking about the day that I will, again, see my Savior...
Oh, how I long for that day.

I want to...
...see Him
...touch Him

I want to...
...feel of His warmth
...feel His strong arms around me

I want to...
...hear Him say my name
...hear Him say 'well done, thy good and faithful servant'

But mostly, I want to hug Him.

I want Him to...
...wrap His strong arms around me.
...pull me close to Him.

And, I want to...
...grip His robes
...and, never let go

In that one Hug, we would each communicate so much to one another:
  1. Warmth
  2. Trust, safety, openness and honesty
  3. Healing, connection
  4. Happiness, joy and belonging
  5. Self-worth, self-love
  6. Comfort, relief, satisfaction
  7. Giving, receiving, sharing, and flowing love both ways
  8. Pure enjoyment of the present
  9. Transparent willingness to live in empathy and compassion
  10. A bold claim to the absolute abundance the hug will surely create
Unfortunately, there are times when my longing for that day erodes my gratitude for my present, because I fail to acknowledge that I actually have access to this very relationship with my Savior right here and now, in my present.

Accessing the many powers of Grace acts as a virtualyet tangiblehug from our Savior. Each time we do so, we increase in love for Him, loyalty to Him, and connection with Him.

Each time we do so...
  1. We feel warm
  2. We trust, and therefore are able to be courageously open and honest
  3. We become healed, for He is the great Physician (no need for a 2nd consultation)
  4. We experience the utmost and unabashed joy
  5. We come to accept, embrace and even love ourselves
  6. We are validated, comforted and calmed
  7. We experience a flow of love both ways, strengthening our bond with Him
  8. We not only feel satisfied, but actually happy, in our present
  9. We gain the ability to feel, express and receive empathy
  10. We are granted the courage to boldly approach His throne of Grace
Ultimately, we become more like Him
We become love

All, from a hug...

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Drop of Oil

The experience I am about to share, I do not share out of pride or bragging, but in an effort to document the feeling I received afterward; the whisper from the Spirit that what I felt was the very preparedness I'm striving for when the bridegroom comes.

A couple of Sundays ago, my Relief Society President approached me at church and gave me my visiting teaching list. Admittedly, I wasn't in the best place when she handed it to me. I'd just spent the past hour and a half wrestling my youngest in Sacrament meeting, leaving me irritated and on edge.

It got worse when I glances at my list.

Six.
Six people on my list.
SIX!?!?

I begrudgingly thanked her and rushed off before my face revealed my feelings.

I steamed over it through the rest of church, until later that day my companion text me and said she didn't think it would be as tough as it looked.

She was right.
  1. Two of the sisters live together, and welcome visiting teachers.
  2. One is my companions mother, who is on a mission.
  3. One is my son's primary teacher, and also super easy to visit.
  4. One isn't active - and we aren't sure how to handle her - but we are making contact.
  5. One is on the the edge of inactivity, but I've already spent a number of hours in her home and text her all the time.
Due to my companion being out of town the latter part of this month, we quickly got to work and visited all, but number 4, within a week.

It sure feels great to get my visiting teaching done. Not for the numbers, but to actually be in the home of our sisters and see them, feel them and strive to identify their needs.

The lesson, however, came a few days after we'd visited #5.

I was recently invited to organize this year's ward Christmas party. We are a newly organized ward so none of the organizations were assigned to this particular event. In preparation for it, I was invited to the most recent Ward Council, in an effort to employ the help of each organization in the ward. We spent thirty minutes or so working through the food, decorations, set up/take down and entertainment.

As my time was coming to a close, I asked if anyone had any further suggestions or questions. In response, the ward mission leader raised his hand and said:
"Tell me about the #5's" (he said their last name)
I was a bit surprised with the gear shift, and fumbled a bit over my thoughts and words. But then it just spilled out of me.

I'd recently spent hours in this sister's home and was able to communicate and express how she is doing, what she has gone through, what she is feeling, why she is struggling with activity, and what her needs are.

It was a bit whirlwind'ish at the time, but later when things calmed down, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude and peace.

I felt grateful that I'd actually gotten my VTing done. That's I'd fought through the fear of walking over to this sister's house to knock on her door, and grateful that I'd taken the time to listen to her; really listen to her.

I felt peace because I'd been prepared. When the ward mission leader asked me about the family, I was sitting before the bishopric and the president of every organization. How embarrassing would it have been if I'd had to respond:
"I don't know, I haven't visited her."
In that moment, I knew I'd tasted a bit of what it means to fill my lamp with oil; that I'd experienced a bit of what it feels like to be prepared at the last day.

And it's not like I did something over-the-top, huge and grandiose.

I just did what the Lord asked me to.
I just did my visiting teaching.

Friday, November 7, 2014

If I Could Just Buy a House

I've been thinking a lot about belonging...

What does it mean to belong?
How do I belong?
Who do I belong to?
What do I have to do to belong?
... and
Where do I belong, if anywhere?

Feeling like I don't belong is something I have struggled with for as long as I can remember.

I think being so transient through my younger years has severely contributed to these feelings.

Let me map it out... these are all the places I have memory of living:
  1. Mission, South Dakota (I could have lived in multiple houses here)
  2. Libby, Montana 
  3. Troy, Montana
  4. Glendive, Montana (house 1 - Nana's backhouse)
  5. Glendive, Montana (house 2 - Apartment)
  6. Glendive, Montana (house 3 - Trailer)
  7. Glendive, Montana (house 4 - Sargeant Street)
  8. Helena, Montana (house 1 - Church farm)
  9. Helena, Montana (house 2 - Government housing)
  10. Adelanto, California (house 1 - Dad's roomate's house)
  11. Adelanto, California (house 2 - Rental along the highway)
  12. North Edwards, California (house 1 - Dump that we stayed in for a month)
  13. North Edwards, California (house 2 - Better house than the previous)
  14. Boron, California (Nicest house we ever lived in)
  15. Lindsay, Montana (Left home at 16, living with friends of the family)
  16. Glendive, Montana (house 5 - Lived with  a member of my ward)
  17. Glendive, Montana (house 6 - Lived with another member of my ward)
  18. Glendive, Montana (house 7 - age 17 - my first apartment)
  19. Acton, California (Back with my parents, living in the bus)
  20. Glendive, Montana (house 8- Living with my boss from Hardees)
  21. Torrance, California (house 1 - Living with my ex boyfriend)
  22. Torrance, California (house 2 - Same circumstance, different house)
  23. Torrance, California (house 3 - Split with the ex, moved in with a ward member)
  24. Torrance, California (house 4 - Moved in with another ward member)
  25. Orem, Utah (house 1 - Moved in with a woman from a conference I attended)
  26. Orem, Utah (house 2 - Moved in with another friend and her family)
  27. Orem, Utah (house 3 - Married now, moved in with the inlaws)
  28. Lindon, Utah (house 1 - First apartment together)
  29. Orem, Utah (house 3, again - Living with in-laws in-between moves.)
  30. Lindon, Utah (house 2 - First house together)
  31. Orem, Utah (house 3, again - Living with in-laws in-between moves.)
  32. Orem, Utah (house 4 - Legacy apartments, where I found recovery)
  33. Price, Utah (house 1 - current)
Seriously... where do I belong?

When people ask me where I'm from, I jokingly respond 'everywhere,' but really, where do I belong? I claim Montana, because it's where I have lived the most; where I spent most of my childhood, but do I belong there? Does Montana claim me in return?

I just don't know.

I've had a very painful memory recently come up for me regarding belonging, or lack thereof.

I was about 10 years old. I was visiting my biological father and his new family in Mission, South Dakota while my family moved from 'Helena, Montana (house 1)' to 'Helena, Montana (house 2)'. I remember feeling really excited to spend time with him because I hadn't seen him in a very long time. I was also anxious to spend time with my brothers, whom I'd never met.

The plan was for me to spend a month with them, the first week of which went just fine. I spent most of each day at the swimming pool, taking full advantage of the summer pass they had purchased for me. After that week, though, I got tired of the pool and communicated to my stepmother that I'd rather stay home that day.

It was at this point that her true beasty colors came out...

She became incredibly nasty; sequestering me to the younger children's room where I spent every single day of the rest of my visit. I was made to sort the pieces of multiple Smurf puzzles that were strewn all over the floor; pieces that to my young eyes, all looked exactly the same. I spent my days struggling to sort each piece into piles representing each puzzle. I would leave that room at night with the floor covered in little piles, hopeful that I'd be able to finish the following day, only to wake to the floor in such a state that there was little to no evidence of there ever being any piles. I do not know if it was the kids who destroyed the piles, or my stepmother herself.

Regardless, I was made to start over.
Every day.
For weeks.

I didn't tell my biological dad what was going on because I feared he'd side with my stepmother. And I also didn't tell my mom because I feared that my stepmother would find out and retaliate.

The only happiness I experienced during that time was the occasional phone call home to my mom. I longed to hear her voice, and began asking to call home more often. Each call brought comfort; helping me pass the time until I could return home.

I survived well enough on those phone calls, until the day I called only to be met with the dreaded beeps, followed by the words; 'We're sorry, the number you have dialed is no longer in service.' I eventually learned that the disconnect was due to the move; a lapse between one phone being shut off and the other being connected.

But I didn't know that. I panicked.

I called that number again, and again, and again, only to be met with the same result.

I felt defeated.
I felt alone.
I felt abandoned.
I felt scared.
I felt forgotten.

I prayed, begging the number to work.
I tried again.
Nothing.

I didn't know what to do, so I did nothing.

After dinner, I asked if I could go to the park.
The beast agreed.

I walked to the park and sat in a swing.
No one else was there.
Just me.
Alone.

I sat there, and let the tears roll like thunder down my face.
I felt hated.
I felt despised.
I felt like a burden, even disposable.

I remember looking in the distance and seeing cars on a highway. I wondered if I hitchhiked, if I would be taken to a place where I would be loved, cared for, cherished.

No child should feel like that; like they will find happiness on the other end of a highway hitchhike. I shudder at what could have happened if I'd acted on that impulse. I was obviously being watched over.

Transience has always been a huge part of my life, and I feel that because of it I was not able to establish essential healthy relationships with others. I also feel that on some level I actually began to fear making those connections, because as soon as I did we would move, and they'd be torn away from me.

One major realization that I have recently discovered, is that if I had made healthy connections, I would not have the giant hole in my heart that I'm continually tempted to fill by acting out in addictive behavior.

So, what does all this have to do with buying a house?

I've recently realized that I'm living in somewhat of a desperate state. I'm extremely anxious for my husband to get promoted to the next level of management, because that will provide our family with a level of geographic permanency that I've never experienced.

No matter where we land with that promotion, we will likely be there for a very long time. Knowing we would be there for a lone time, we would buy a house. And it would be in that newly purchased house that I would feel physically and emotionally safe enough to open up and establish all of those connections I have longed for my entire life.

If I could just buy a house, I would feel like I belonged.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Grace; the power by which we are able to do hard things

The Togetherness Project
October 2014

* * *
                                                                      
Music: Grace by David Tolk


I don't pretend to know everything about Grace.
I'm not Brad Wilcox and I don't hold a high position in the church.
... and
I don't have what one might consider 'credentials,' on the topic.

But I do know something of Grace, because I have been...
... found by it
... touched by it
... encompassed by it
... healed by it
... rescued by it

The story, of which, I share here and here..

* * *

So, what is Grace?


We know that Grace has many powers, but how do those powers actually manifest in our lives?

I posed this question to the women I presented to, and was honored by their responses (paraphrased):
"Grace helps us find our rock bottom, when we can't find it ourselves."
"Grace has given me the physical strength necessary to do what I need to do."
"As I let Grace into my life, I am given the desire and strength to forgive."
"I feel Grace speak to me and guide me through the hard decisions that lay ahead."
There are many powers of Grace that He uses to:
  • Comfort us
  • Validate us
  • Heal us
  • Raise us up
  • Relieve us
The list is endless and unlimited, and we are free to call on them at any and all times.

* * *

Barriers to Grace

As many powers as Grace has to offer, there are just as many barriers to accessing them:
  • Lack of faith
  • Lack of understanding
  • Feelings of unworthiness
  • Isolation
  • Pride
  • Unwillingness to ask for help
  • Fear of judgement
  • Fear of change
  • Fear of __________ (insert)
  • ... and shame
"Shame, for women, is this web of unobtainable, conflicting, competing expectations about who we're supposed to be. And it's a straitjacket." - Brene Brown
"Shame . . . is an attack on our character, on our very being, on who we are; a deviant assassination on God's very own creation." - Sidreis Keller Agla
The list is lengthy, because there is no tool that the adversary is not willing to use to keep us separate from the love of our Savior; from His saving Grace.

Fortunate for us, our Savior's power is much greater than the enemy to our soul, and He is willing to do all that it takes to keep us close to Him.

* * *

Breaking Down Barriers

Throughout my recovery, I have discovered three major mindsets that have hastened my journey, ultimately bringing me closer to my Savior.

The Twelve Steps of Recovery
I have adopted the Twelve Steps of Recovery into my life.
I don't just work them, rather, I live the principles they teach.

I do not advocate any one particular twelve step program. I advocate all of them:
And many many more.

Each program teaches principles, and provides literature, that can be a great strength to us.

Becoming a Seeker of Knowledge
I asked questions in order to gain a better understanding of addiction, addictive behavior, how the Lord perceived me, and really - anything else that I felt would benefit me.

Seriously, Amazon loves me.

I researched as much material on addiction and began buying a whole collection of recovery books.

I read them.
And then I read them again.

I talked to people.
I asked them about their experience.
I asked them what they learned.
I listened to them.
And, I chose to believe them.

The Power of Belief
In the end, with all the information I had gathered, there was still one thread left holding me back from a life of freedom.

I had to believe.

I chose to set fear and doubt aside and believe:
  • The program
  • The books
  • Those in my group
  • My Sponsor
  • My Bishop
  • In myself
  • And, Christ.
trusted Him; and trusted that the burning feeling that my belief sometimes lacked would eventually come.

That is the beauty of belief.
We can do it anytime, independent of anything else.
We can freely give it any time, whether we have a burning testimony, or not.

The ultimate act of trust and humility.

To raise our hands high and solemnly declare, "I believe you."
"Faith is stepping into the darkness and trusting that the light will follow." - Unknown
* * *

Does Grace free us from pain?

Yes, and no. More so, it embraces our pain.

Meet, Aaron-Hulk.
He's my youngest.
And, he suffers from chronic nosebleeds.
Looks pretty tough doesn't he?



He is a little toughy...  most of the time.

But those moments, at 2....3....4 in the morning when he wakes to his face covered in blood;
bleeding
broken
scared 
All due to a condition he didn't ask for or do anything to cause.
That is when the toughness melts into a humble puddle of goodness.

Those moments are special to me.
The moments he calls out to me, confident that I am right there.
That I will come running at his first peep of need.

They are special because I get to wrap him up in my arms.
I get to whisper to him:
It's ok
I know it's scary
I'm so sorry you are bleeding
Let me clean it for you; wash it away.

I get to hold him as he cries; comforting him in his most terrifying moments
And stay there until his eyes again begin to droop, reentering a blissful slumber.

It is in those moments that the greatest attachments with him are born and nurtured.
It is in those moments, when we are bleeding and broken, that our greatest attachments to our Savior are born and nurtured.

How glorious is that?                                                                            
* * *

No Expectation

One aspect of Grace that I didn't understand, but learned as I prepared this presentation, is that Grace has no expectation.

Think about it.

Grace does not tell us, 'I will comfort you for X amount of time, but then you have to:
... get up
... be happy
... stop moping
... forgive'




Seriously, that's all He wants.

The opportunity to sit with us and comfort us.
Simply to be near us.

Although not expected, when we allow Him to be near us, our desire to get up, to be happy, to stop moping, and to forgive naturally increases. A natural progression; we cannot help but do otherwise when we let His Grace into our lives. When we let Him sit with us, comfort us, warm us and heal us.

One of the greatest gifts He gives us is the power of empathy and validation.
More specifically, He gives us His empathy and validation.

Take a moment and listen to this song.
No expectations.
No Assignments.
Just listen, and let the His validation wash over you.


Here's to you!

* * *





The Togetherness Project
October 2014

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"