Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Letter To My Past

In the ARP program, we are encouraged to make restitution to anyone we have hurt, and to seek restitution with people who have hurt us. While I've completed this step before, I had some thoughts this early morning that I wanted to write down in the form of a letter. I woke up at 5am, unable to sleep, and of course my go-to is my laptop. I spent 2 hours working on my commercial fiction, and now I'm going to blog. 😊 more specifically, I'm going to write a letter. It is addressed to anonymous.

Dear anonymous,

Thank you, for a great life lesson learned.

At one point, I thought your influence in my life was solely to cause me pain and anguish. I could not see beyond my suffering, through the Refiner's fire, to the future that my Heavenly Father had in store for me.

During our time together, I was in my darkest state of mind. I did not recognize myself. I knew you were trying to hurt me, and I knew you were going to destroy me--if I let you.

For a long time, I almost let you.

The heartache and torment your actions caused me led me to believe I would never heal. I never thought I'd find peace. I did not want to find love. I never wanted to hurt, ever again, the way you hurt me. I was willing to be at odds with everyone, including God, in an effort to avoid anything that might inflict more pain upon me. I gave up such big, important parts of my spirit. I hated you. I hated myself.

But somehow I found the light. I remember finally feeling resolve and restitution over those years of struggle, and how liberating it was. I no longer felt the need to blame you, or make you pay for your mistakes. I did not seek revenge. Instead of anger for time and love lost, I felt relief and gratitude. Because of you, I have acquired the skills necessary to climb the mountain of mortality. My heavenly father loves me, and He has always had a plan for me. That plan included my hardships facing your abuse. He has always wanted me to be strong, wise, and defiant in the face of the adversary. He has predetermined my path as a mother. It has always been my calling to be a mother. He has wanted me to lead by example, to be compassionate and understanding, and to touch people's lives in ways others could not.

Without you, I would not know what it means to be patient. I would not have learned to control my temperament. I never knew what it was like to dispute in a constructive manner, or what it was like to forgive. I would not know how to soften my tongue and quiet my voice in the face of aggression. Without you, I would still be the same.

Instead of hindering my growth, you have exponentially encouraged it. I know how to calmly reflect on a situation and analyze the positive and negative angles before reacting. I can speak my mind and have a strong, firm, opinion without offending. I do not hold grudges the way I used to. I can give, selflessly, without being taken advantage of. I am not afraid to love.

I am a mother. I have started my eternal journey and give my heart fully to my children. I can raise them with kindness and long suffering. I do not fear betrayal as I once did. Acceptance of human error and mortal weakness comes with a simpler understanding now. My aspirations to lead and nurture a growing family include expressing love and respect in my marriage, and all relationships around me. I can lead by example. I am an example of sympathy. I feel more.

Because of you, I am an unbeatable daughter of God, a princess in a kingdom on High. I have chosen to accept your lessons and incorporate that experience into my eternal progression. Because of you, I am a good woman. I take responsibility for my actions. I do good deeds for other people. I care about pleasing those around me instead of just pleasing myself. I know what it is like to have nothing, to have lost everything, and to be in the depths of despair, and I know what it is like to rise out of that and achieve all that I thought I'd never achieve. I know how to give thanks. I can stay away from pride because I know what it means to walk away from everything I own, to leave my home, my belongings, my clothing, to disregard all my earthly possessions, and start over. I do not desire worldly possessions the way I once did.

Thanks, to you, for helping me along the way. Your contributions have been invaluable.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Addiction Recovery Program: Step 12

Okay, sorry. Last post for today!

I just have so much on my mind today!

As you've read, I participated in filming for the ARP videos that will be released online by LDS studios. They filmed me speaking about step 4. I'm hoping they still use it, while simultaneously feeling horrified that they are going to use it! It is scary knowing the public will see me, hear me, and finally know some of my darkest hours. Regardless, I was happy to be involved in something so life changing, Maybe my story can help someone out there.

Speaking of life changing...I have a friend named Erik. (Hi, Erik!!)
He is the participant who filmed for Step 12.
Step 12 is Practicing the principles of the ARP program and sharing them.

I met Erik when I was training to become a facilitator. He works with my parents, who are missionaries for the program. As a good friend, he asked us if we would be extras in his video. I was happy to!

Erik is an awesome person. He has already filmed a courageous segment for LDS Voices of Hope. I watched the video and was in awe of his bravery. Such a strong soul. 
You can watch the video here:

Erik was then asked to go into detail about his story, and share it with others, in the video for Step 12 for the ARP program. I was delighted to be an extra in some of the scenes. In one particular scene, they asked me if I would "appear to be crying". They wanted me to look like a mess...you know...an addict who was suffering. I jokingly told them, "I don't cry." The director asked me to go to a place that I could feel some sadness. (Ya, directors will do that haha) I was getting my "cry" makeup done when a prompting hit me. I told the makeup artist and Erik who was nearby, "You know, if you want me to cry, I have a cry song." They looked at me dubiously. 
"Seriously," I said. "It makes me cry. Every time. Without fail. Which is why I NEVER listen to this song."
The makeup artist immediately pulled out her iphone and said, "What is it?"
I told her. "His Hands, by Kenneth Cope."

They started playing the song and Lo, the tears came at once.
I went to that place of sadness (but also happiness) and spent the remaining of filming sniffling, sobbing, and smearing makeup all over Erik's white shirt.

I look forward to the videos and all the lives he will touch with his story! Stay tuned to www.lds.org for updates on when the videos will be released! And also....to see me, the girl who "doesn't cry"...Bawl her eyes out!

((I'll let you in on a little secret. If you watch the video, know that there is an iphone sitting beneath my chair, playing His Hands on repeat. Also know, my tears are VERY REAL and VERY CORPULENT! Once they came, I could not get them to stop!!)

Addiction Recovery Program: Step 4

I had the wonderful opportunity, on top of the opportunity to be an ARP facilitator, to film a segment for the Addiction Recovery Videos that are coming soon. They will be available to the public online, and I couldn't be more excited!

The LDS Addiction Recovery Program is a 12 Step Program, but it is not like every other 12 step program. This is an inspired program. It is special. It can help people like me and you overcome our addictions, our shortcomings, our heartaches, and find peace. We can grow closer to Christ and develop a real relationship with Him, and God the Father. As his children, we are meant to grow, through adversity, and become righteous characters that can live eternally with Him one day.

The Refiner's Fire is real.

I have experienced it.

To hear my full story, you will have to wait for the videos. (That's assuming they use the footage they shot of me) But for now, let me just share a snippet with you.

I was chosen to speak on Step 4.
At a preliminary filming for LDS Studios, volunteer facilitators were asked to share on their favorite step from the program.
In a room full of facilitators, I was the only individual who raised their hand for Step 4.

Step four is known to be the biggest challenge for people in the ARP. 
It is making a written and moral inventory of your life.
A lot of people face this step with dread, or don't face it at all. It can be a huge obstacle for participants. The daunting process of writing down this inventory scares people into ceasing their progress, or dropping out of the program, or they just prolong it way more than necessary. I understand it is hard for most people, but you may find it surprising that this is my favorite step.

In my "share", I likened step 4 to my gardening skills.
(I'm not a very good gardener)
When trying to keep a flowerbed clean and tidy, you must attentively weed the soil. You can just grab the tops of the weeds and remove them, giving the illusion that your garden is free of these spoils, or you can dig deep and remove the weed from the root. If you just skim the surface, the weeds reappear in what seems like hours! If you remove them from the root, you will enjoy weeks of a fresh garden blooming with healthy flowers. Weeds will attempt to grow again, but there will be a lot less this time, because you've already removed the majority of them. You will have little difficulty removing these new trials, pulling from the roots. This is kind of what step 4 does to our souls.

I talked about writing down some of my weaknesses, or just things I didn't like about myself. It ended up being scribbles on a paper. But it got easier, and Oh, let me tell you, it was SOOO worth it.

You may fear the pain and torture digging up old memories will bring. But I promise you, the pain and torture will significantly lessen after you do your inventory.

Imagine, on a regular basis, every time you are consumed with these angry thoughts. Your past, your addictions, your flaws...it hurts, every single time. Doesn't it?
When you recall how others hurt you, you relive those awful experiences.
We suffer real PTSD, and we experience these symptoms with every crucial deja vu.

Step 4 can cleanse you of this.

It will be TEMPORARILY agonizing to write everything down, but you will be FREE OF IT once and for all.

It will never hurt that way again, I promise.

You may have a little twinge of guilt, remorse, or resentment, until the full process is complete and the atonement has worked fully in your life, but once step 4 is complete, you will feel an enormous relief. A weight will be removed from your shoulders.

I hope you can face step 4 with courage and know that only the fear of what may be is frightening you. Do not let "what may be" stop you from succeeding.

Book Review: 21 Principles by Richard G. Scott

Holy amazing!!!

Okay, so I haven't read a book this inspirational since reading A Purpose Driven Life. This book, 21 Principles, can and should be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of spiritual belief. It was so powerful, it made so much sense, and resonated so well with me I just couldn't resist sharing with you!

Here are some of my favorite passages and what they mean to me.
Page 64. (Principle 13)
"So many of our sisters are disheartened, even discouraged, and disillusioned. Others are in serious trouble because of the choices they make. Satan has unleashed a seductive campaign to undermine the sanctity of womanhood, to deceive the daughters of God and divert them from their divine destiny.  He would focus their interests solely on their physical attributes and rob them of their existing roles as wives and mothers."

This was one of my favorite quotes, because it speaks of women and their divine purpose. I couldn't agree more, that the world's views of a woman are distorted and disillusioned. We as women fall captive to this idea that we have to fit into the world's (or in a spiritual sense, Satan's) image of what a woman must be...to be accepted...to be beautiful....to be powerful. Sadly, much of this image is determined by the physical appearance of a woman. How vile. How disgusting. How derogatory. How tragic!!- the we are actually giving in and damaging our bodies in pursuit of this lie!! I have found so much peace in myself, and in my understanding of my divinity. I have known deep down, since I was a teenager, that my journey (God's path for me) was to be a wonderful mother. It was not to pursue a life of success as a business woman, it was not to seek out fame using my talents. Rather it was to humbly learn of my talents and find a humble career, but to focus all of my divine energy on motherhood. And that is enough!  That is my success. That is my path, my joy, my accomplishment. It doesn't matter what my body looks like, or how much money I make, or how many people know my name. The adversary has tried to make me feel insignificant, unimportant, or failing, because I am not meeting his expectations. I feel happiness and power and an undeniable sense of truth because I am not succumbing to the pressures of the world. I am God's daughter, and I am following His path for me. That is glorious.
Page 53. (Principle 11)
"Adversity is a part of life. We will all have it because we need it for growth and for the forging of our righteous character. Although it may not be a welcome insight, the truth is that you grow more rapidly through challenge and trial than from a life of ease and serenity with no disturbing elements."
This is now my go to comeback when people throw out the line, "I don't believe in God because bad things happen to good people."
Of course they do! And not just to good people, but the best people!! Read that again...adversity is for the forging of our righteous character. Does that not make perfect sense to you? Can you not see how you have benefited from your trials? Do you not recognize the wisdom you have gained, and the knowledge over your peers that you posses, because of these hardships? I love my challenges. I would never take them back. When my family acts like my dark years were a big huge mistake, I kindly remind them that those years taught me more than I could've ever learned in a life of ease. God was forging my character. It may have taken me a long time to recognize it, but I see it now. And it puts into perspective how people who have not faced adversity can be so prideful, judgemental, and disrespectful. They have not yet been through the Refiner's fire....just wait.
Page 97. (Principle 20)
"Forced obedience yields no enduring fruit. Are you one who has tried to exercise faith and has felt no benefit? If so, you likely have not understood or followed the principles upon which faith is founded."
This, alone, would've changed my life. Because I am one who occasionally doubts God's presence, and often feels abandoned or ignored. Reading this chapter, and understanding that faith is a principle that takes practice and work, has opened my eyes.
Think about this.
If you wanted to learn to be a professional ice skater, and you took one professional lesson from a Olympian, how good at ice skating would you be? Would you have the balance and muscle necessary to be a professional ice skater??
If you wanted to learn a foreign language, and you took one class on French, how well would you be able to speak it?
If you needed spiritual guidance or help, and you've never prayed before in your life, or you only pray when desperate, how sensitive would you be to the prompting and response of your prayer?
Faith takes practice. It takes work. It is a muscle, an action, that requires work on our part. God has not abandoned us. He is waiting for us to follow His principles and show Him we are ready to receive His response. I know that is hard to absorb. Humans are selfish, impatient creatures and when we want an answer, we want it now! Unfortunately, that is not always how God works. He may choose to bless an individual in time of sickness, and perform miracles to the wounded, but more often our faith is exercised by our own good works and practice. That is why it is SO IMPORTANT to remain close to the spirit of God, so that our muscles, our faith, is always strong, and we can always recognize His help, His response to prayer, and His plan for us.

Page 69. (Principle 14)
"A happy marriage results from making correct choices prayerfully together."
I could write a novel about this chapter but I think that says enough. Marriage is two equal partners. A man may hold the priesthood, and yes There is a hierarchy of priesthood in the church, but in the home a husband and wife are equal. They must work together to be happy.
The entire chapter of principle 12!!!!
Starting on page 59.

Oh man. I cannot begin to explain to you the power of the priesthood. It is something that has fortified my testimony in God. I have witnessed this inestimable, limitless, power, granted by Heavenly Father.
You don't have to believe me. And you can argue against me all day, that these blessings and prayers performed by ordained, worthy, priesthood holding men, are just "coincidences" , but I will argue all day that they are not. It would be blasphemous for me to deny the miracles I have seen because of this priesthood power. I have seen it save lives. On the spot. Multiple times. I have received blessings that were so personal, so private, by men who did not know a thing about me or my life. If you want to know details, I will tell you in person. I believe in the priesthood with all my heart.
These are just a few of the quotes that really inspired me. They have changed me. Again, I encourage you to read this book and please, do it with a willing heart. You will be touched. I promise.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Forgiving Yourself in 3 Steps

A lot has been on my mind this week...haha...as you can tell with my overload of posts. Sometimes I blog a lot, other times I go months in between. I try to just follow my promptings.
It is 3:40am and I cannot sleep. I've been suffering from high anxiety and anger this evening, and although I have prayed numerously for relief, I am sill struggling. I came to the conclusion that my negative feelings were coming from some painful memories. These memories revolve around some poor decisions I made during my dark ages, which was years ago. I know it is common and very understandable for someone who is going through tremendous pain and heartache to make bad choices, but these bad choices can have lasting affects. For me, It has been anxiety and anger.
This early morning, I want to forgive myself of the mistakes I've made and be proud of the progress I've made over the years. I do not need to receive acknowledgment from anyone, but I do need to forgive myself or these memories will haunt and torture me forever. It has been half a decade, and I am ready to let go.
I've narrowed down the process to 3 steps.

1. Make a list of the memories you want to forget and forgive. Release them from your heart by burning the list.
2. Turn to deep prayer to forgive yourself of the mistakes, forget them, and move on in this life of progression and growth. We each walk a different path, and sometimes part of that path is pain.

3. Write down the lessons you've learned and are grateful for from your life journeys. Include blessings you've received. Attach this list to a balloon and release it into the sky.
I'm actually pretty excited about this process. I love balloons and can't wait to see mine float up to the heavens tomorrow with all my good vibes! Even though tonight has been a struggle, I have great trust in prayer and I know that patience is being required of me. I look forward to releasing some hurt, some negativity, and frustration, and forgiving myself of my past shortcomings. I look forward to feeling free and happy! I will share my thoughts and feelings on this soon. Have a good night everyone!
Or should I say
Good morning!!

(Step 9 of the Addiction recovery program involves forgiveness. For more, visit the ARP website.)

Monday, March 16, 2015

My Joy

Love. Peace. Joy.
Wishing everyone a lovely spring! I am certainly ready for more vitamin D, more H20, and more memories!

2 Life Changing Books

Image result for sunshine
Just wanted to share a brief message. I've recently read 2 books that were absolutely life changing for me. Once read and pondered, I applied many of the principles and saw such a change in my life, my understanding of life, and my peace with it.
The first book is 21 Principles: Divine Truths to help you live by the spirit.
The second is The Purpose Driven Life.

Both books are Christian based, and are meant to help people grow in faith and trust in the Lord's plan. We live in a continually frustrating world, of pain and disappointment, and these books really put everything into perspective. They literally take away that pain and disappointment, as a clearer understanding of our purpose in mortality dawns.
I encourage you all to read these books, and see for yourself if they are life changing for you. I especially encourage you to read them if you are overwhelmed with questions and doubt and heartache, or feelings of abandonment by God, or loneliness. If you can read these books with a willing heart, I think you'll find you are pleasantly surprised at how they can change your life.
Lets get reading!