Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Enduring Stress

On a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest, how would you rate your stress?  I have been running at a steady 9/10 for a long time now.  It is catching up to me.  I'm gaining weight rapidly.  I'm exhausted with headaches, muscle aches, fatigue, insomnia, and stomach problems.  It isn't healthy and we aren't meant to live our lives this way.
And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.                                                                                                              ~Mosiah 4:27
God never intended for us to kill ourselves by working ourselves to death.  But I seem to choose to live my life this way in spite of this wise counsel.  And I would bet I'm not the only one in this boat.  I'm guessing there are many of you floating with me.  We just don't let people know that we are about to sink.

I've known for a long time that something needs to change, but I just can't seem to figure out what to give up because I feel like every obligation I hold at this point is equally important.  Does that sound familiar to anyone?

I don't have the answer on how to solve that dilemma.  I'm working on it, but I don't have an answer.  What I can tell you is how to get through it if you find yourself floating alongside me in this "stress" boat.  You want to know what the secret is?  Let me tell you...

Prayer.

Yes, I said prayer.

This morning as I knelt by my bed, I just gave it all over to the Lord.  All of it.  And I have to do that every. single. day.  Or else I won't make it.

There is a healing and powerful stress relieving power that comes with the physical action of getting on your knees, bowing your head, folding your arms, closing your eyes, and pouring out your heart and soul to a higher person... one who has a personal investment in you and your success... Why does God have a personal investment in you and in me?  Because He created us.  And because of that, He loves us and has our well-being ever on His mind.  How do I know this?  Because of the many experiences I have had where I have felt the comforting touch of His hand on my shoulders, lifting my burdens as I pour out my heart and soul to Him in reverent pleading.

This morning was one of those experiences.  As I knelt there, I expressed my gratitude for things I am grateful to Him for.  As I did that, the tears came and washed my cheeks as they trickled onto my bed.  I just needed Him to know.  And I needed Him to hear me ask for His help.  Because the things I need to do, I cannot do without Him.  When I arose the weight was lighter.  I realized once again the strength that comes with exercising faith and truly trusting God to hear and answer our prayers.  I turned it all over to Him.  He knows I need help.  Now I need to keep putting one foot in front of the next, moving forward, and watching for the ways He will help me.  The help will come.  I know it may not be today, but it will be when I need it.  That is what faith is.  Truly.  How grateful I am for faith.  How does anyone survive without it?  I really cannot comprehend that reality.  To think of that just makes me sad.

So if you haven't prayed in a while.  Truly prayed.  Do it.  It feels good.  The more you do it, the more you will find relief from the cares and stresses of the world.  You may not be able to fully rid yourself of stress, but you can manage it and you can endure it.  Prayer is good medicine for that.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Crisis of Faith

People who aren't Mormon think that we believe weird things.  I get that.  But I wonder how many of these people who condemn us even know what we believe.  I'm guessing it would be a very small percentage.  Even people who grew up in the church and have left the church as adults seem to have a clouded view of church doctrine, from what I have seen.

It bothers me that people say we are ignorant and that we are not Christian, but they don't seem to understand how much we study the Bible in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I'm not saying this to be boastful, but I feel that I have pretty good understanding of the scriptures, both the Bible and the Book of Mormon.  I spend a great deal of time studying, trying to understand and learn.

I try to stay away from news articles that have Mormons in the headlines because there are so many "Mormon haters" out there and they seem to troll around those kinds of articles.  They blow up the comments feed with their anti-Mormon rhetoric and attack anyone who leave a comment to defend our church.  They are like sharks circling around a bleeding prey.

I try not to let it bother me, but it really does.  It is hard for me to understand how people can be so critical and hateful of things they don't even know.

I saw a formal response by the church about this guy named John Dehlin being excommunicated who is part of the Ordain Women movement or something like that.  I didn't know who he was or what the story was with him, so I Googled it and came across an article in the NY Times for Huffington Post or one of those news sites.

This is where I messed up.  I left a comment.  The replies to my comment blew up with trolls within seconds.  People left comments to my comment that were completely inaccurate scripturally and then tried to tell me that I didn't know what I was talking about, when it was very clear they had probably never even read the Bible.  I was attacked on every side because I agreed with the church's statements on this matter.  After about ten minutes debating back and forth from the several replies to my responses, I finally had to just log off and walk away.  I was getting so worked up and I couldn't keep up with all of the replies.

I stewed and stewed over this experience all last week.  It sent me into a tailspin of sorts and I found myself in a crisis of faith.  Trust me, I've had plenty of those.  This isn't my first one.

Encounters like this always force me to look at my beliefs through a microscope and to really pick apart what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches.  I have to go back to the scriptures, the words from church leaders, and spend lots of time in prayer as I work through it.  I spent the better part of last week doing this.

And you know what?  I still come back to the same conclusion.  I believe this doctrine is true.  I believe Joseph Smith truly was a prophet of God.  I truly believe he saw and spoke to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in a grove of trees after he prayed to know the truth.  I believe this church was restored to the earth after the priesthood authority given to the apostles by Jesus Christ were killed and it was taken from the earth for a time.  I believe that Jesus Christ leads and guides this church and that He speaks to one living prophet on the earth at one time and that that prophet today is Thomas S. Monson.  The rest of the world doesn't have to believe this.  They can all think I'm crazy and everyone else who believes this too, but I don't care.  I can't say it isn't true.  It all makes sense to me, no matter what anyone else says.  They can attack me.  They can call me weird.  They can say I belong to a cult.  They can say I've been brainwashed.  They can say what they want.  They can think what they want.  I believe it's true.  And I have to stand by that.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Battle for Modesty

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I grew up in a house with four sisters.  I have NO brothers.  I had lots of boyfriends in high school, but I was a "good" girl and wouldn't let them go any further than holding my hand and kissing... NO french kissing.  I was innocent and naive and I liked it that way.  I didn't have the relationship complications that I saw my other girlfriends go through who were in more serious relationships than I was.  So when I got married, I really didn't understand a whole lot about the male thought process.  Remember, I was 18 years 8 1/2 months old when I got married.  I was young and I was naive.  (And that wasn't a bad thing.)

I was so incredibly blessed to marry a man who was good and kind and also naive and innocent to the ways of the birds and the bees.  We literally talked about everything in the fourteen months that we dated.  Conversation always came easily and we never had a single disagreement until well after we were married.  People always talked about how things would change after we got married.  But for us?  It didn't change.  We were, and are still, each other's best friend.  We've been married for 22 years now and we still talk about everything.  I know what he thinks about everything and he knows what I think about everything.

Sometimes I would ask him, "What are you thinking?"  And he would say, "Nothing."  I would pressure him and say, "How can you not be thinking anything?"  (Because I am a woman and there is NEVER a time when I'm not thinking about SOMETHING!)

And then he would educate me on the ways of the man's brain.  He finally told me, "If a man says he's not thinking about anything, he's really NOT thinking about anything."  Huh.  That was a strange concept for me.  "Weird," I would think.  And he would educate me on other things as well.  So I asked him to explain to me what goes through a man's brain when it comes to women.  What he shared with me forever changed my behaviors and the way I dress.  It has greatly influenced the way I raised my daughter AND my sons.

He explained to me that teenage boys have sex on the brain.  Their sex drives are on high speed.  They can't help it.  Even the good boys.  (Take a biology class if you aren't sure why.)  The difference between the good boys and the bad boys are that the good boys try to control it and the bad boys don't.

A girl flirts with a boy... She puts her arm around him; or sits on his lap; or wears a shirt that is a little see-through or tight or low cut; or wears short or tight fitting shorts/leggings/yoga pants... She is thinking she is being fun and cute.  He's thinking she's advertising, so maybe she's "easy".  When a girl hugs a boy, she doesn't realize that all he can think about is that he is getting a good chance to feel her breast without her even knowing it.  When she sits on his lap, it gets his hormones going into overdrive.  When she wears clothing that is revealing, he is going to look... whether he means to or not.

Can he help it?  Can he control it?  Sure!  By why should he have to?  How is that any different than the whole smoking in public debate?  How we act; the language we use; what we wear; and everything else we do in public affects other people.  Period.  It is derelict to think otherwise.  I am a strong proponent of personal accountability and I have little patience for those who have little of it.  That just shows a lack of respect for others and oneself.

What has sparked this little tirade of mine, you ask?  Let me explain:

A few weeks ago I read a blog post by Veronica Partidge titled, Why I Chose to No Longer Wear Leggings.  I shared it on my Facebook page with my comment that said, "I'm so glad someone said this. I think wearing yoga pants / leggings in public is immodest. They are fine for at home, but not in public, unless worn under a long shirt or dress."

Oh boy!  Did I open a can of worms!  I got a heated debate from both sides of the pro/con leggings in public debate.  I usually shy away from heated discussions like this because I am thin skinned and can't handle confrontation very well.  I usually fold and take my post down.  But I didn't this time.  I left it up because I feel strongly about modesty.

And then my husband and I decided to go watch a movie last weekend.  We chose Project Almanac because it looked like a fun family movie about time travel.  ummm... NO.  Ten minutes into the movie, we got up and left.  As far as I'm concerned, it was written and directed by a horny teenage boy.  The language was terrible and (as much as we saw) it was from the perspective of a teenager behind a personal video camera.  One scene shows the boys in their science lab and they are "secretly" filming a girl sitting across the room who is wearing super short shorts.  (1) Any real school would have a dress code that she was breaking; and (2) she looks up and gives the boys a dirty look for looking at her like she's a piece of meat.  ummm... hello!  When someone chooses what they wear in public, they don't get to pick and choose who ogles them.

It takes me back to junior high and those hormonal thirteen and fourteen year old boys.  I remember how they were.  Some of them were the biggest perverts!  And I hated it!  I hated it when a boy would "pop my bra" in the back or make perverted comments.  It made me uncomfortable and I didn't want to be around them.  I also didn't want to encourage them, so I was careful to make sure I didn't dress in a way that would draw their attention to me.  I didn't want it, so I exhibited that choice by dressing modestly.

What exactly is "modesty" anyway?

Dictionary.com defines it this way:
1. the quality of being modest; freedom from vanity, boastfulness, etc.
2. regard for decency of behavior, speech, dress, etc.
3. simplicity; moderation.
When you think of modesty for what it is, it isn't hard to see that we live in a very immodest society.  Whether it's men wearing their pants low with their underwear hanging out; or a woman walking around in a low cut top to flaunt her breast augmentation; or someone using the f-word like it's an acceptable adjective; it is the same.  And it offends me.  There.  I said it.  It offends me.  And no, I shouldn't have to look away.  I shouldn't have to pretend I didn't hear that awful language.  But I do because I don't want to look and I don't want to hear it!  And it makes me a little angry that I have to because other people don't have respect for how their actions affect others.

I wish more women would take the time to ask men whom they respect what they think.  I think they would be surprised by the answers they get.  I know I was when I asked.  My husband is very clear on his feelings on this subject.  He hates it when women are around him that are dressed immodestly.  It makes him uncomfortable.  He always says that he finds women much more attractive when they wear clothing that covers up their bodies and fits them correctly, rather than women who wear clothes that are too big, too small, or too revealing; no matter what size they are.

I also wish more men would ask women what they think, even though we say it enough that they just need to listen.

I stumbled upon another great read on this subject by a man named Al Blanton.  He wrote A Man’s Perspective on Yoga Pants.  One thing he said that I really liked is this:
"The sin of lust is every man’s battle, and any man who tells you he doesn't struggle in this area, to some degree, is not being truthful. [..]  Men are not being liberated from this addiction because they are afraid to confess or seek help. It is the “unspoken sin.” Many women don’t understand it and many more are affected by it."
It is well worth the time to read.  I wish more people would speak up in defense of modesty.  I wish more people would live it and teach it to their children.  I'm sure this post will offend some.  I can't help that.  But I can't be silent anymore.  I just care too much for that.  There is more I can say on this matter, but it will have to wait for another post.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Falling Hurts

I've fallen twice in the last three days.

I was taking the tree out of the office at work and was walking backwards on the porch.  There was a long rectangular box at the edge of the porch, about 1' wide by 1' tall by 12' long or so.  I didn't know the box was there and fell over it backwards while still holding the bottom of the 12' tall Christmas tree that I was dragging.

It really scared me because I didn't know how far away I was from the edge of the porch and I didn't know what I was falling over.  It is about 3 feet from the porch to the ground with a flower bed just below the porch.

Thankfully, I didn't go off the porch.  I did scrape and bruise up both of my lower legs nicely though.  If I would have fallen off the porch, it is likely I would have broken something.

Then I tripped over the vacuum a day later.  It was my own fault.  I left it in front of my bathroom thinking I would get back to it.  I went to town and when I came back it was dark.  I had forgotten about the vacuum and walked into my bedroom to go into the bathroom and, "smack!", right into it.  I tumbled over the top of it, knocking it and myself to the floor.  So any parts of my legs and arms that weren't bruised and tender from the first fall are now that way from the second fall.

I covered my face with my hair and walked into the kitchen to fill the dishwasher so my family wouldn't see me cry; more so from self-pity than from pain.  But a little bit from pain too.

I hate falling.  It hurts... my pride and my body.

As I lay in bed I would flinch every time something would brush one of my bruised spots.  It was really sore.  As it always seems to do, this life experience got me to thinking about what I have been taught about life, eternity, and spiritual matters.  Life is full of parallels and symbolism if we look for it.

I thought about how physically falling down is so much like spiritually falling.

Sometimes, like my first fall, we are blind to what's coming and it takes us by surprise.  Other times we see the fall coming, but feel helpless or indifferent to it.  Like my second tumble, it may be a result of our own actions.  Spiritual falls can happen because of sin, pride, jealousy, greed, apathy, selfish desires, or even ignorance.  Sometimes it just happens, for no rhyme or reason... fate, as some would say.

It's not until we fall and feel the pain that we realize to what extent we have injured ourselves.  We are all going to fall - both physically and spiritually.  That is part of life.  What makes the difference between being happy or unhappy in life depends on what we do after the fall happens.

We can:

{Negative responses}
Stay down and feel sorry for ourselves.
Look for someone to blame.
Get angry.
Wallow in self-pity.
Be unforgiving of ourselves or others for the circumstances surrounding our fall.
Pour salt in the wound so it always reminds us of our failure or weakness.

{Positive responses}
Ask for help to get back up.
Cry and mourn for our pain, but do not dwell there.
Learn from the mistake that caused the fall.
Dress the wound and help it to heal.
Get up, dust ourselves off, and keep moving forward.
Forgive.

We may always have scars that remind us of our fall, but scars aren't a bad thing.  They can be reminders of a difficult time that we made it through.  They can remind us that it hurts to fall and that we should do all we can to prevent it from happening in the first place.  They also remind us that the healing process takes time.

In the case of spiritual falls, repentance can be difficult.  It hurts to admit our sins and to make the effort to change.  But just as physical bruises, scrapes, and broken bones heal, so do spiritual wounds.  It takes time.  It isn't easy and we still feel pain as we heal; in the case of spiritual healing, it might be in the form of heartache, regret, or even physical pain.  It's hard, especially when our ego is bruised and we are ashamed.

Bruises give us indications that they are healing by turning colors: dark purple to light purple to green to yellow, and then they are gone.  It is a process.  It doesn't happen overnight.

Repentance gives us indications of spiritual healing; Anger and despair turn to hope, we smile more, we forgive more easily, we are grateful.  When the repentance process is complete, it means we have fully changed and put our sin behind us.  The final step is to forgive ourselves, always remembering what caused our pain so that we don't ever go there again, but letting it go; getting back up and moving forward again.

I've come to understand that we all do stupid things.  Sometimes we get hurt or we hurt others.  It stinks.  And it hurts.  I wish it didn't have to be that way.  But it is.  I have learned that it is important not to judge others and the choices they make.  We just don't know all the details.  I'm grateful it isn't my responsibility to be your judge or my judge.  I'm trying each day to be better, but sometimes I'm just not.  Sometimes I fall down and I hate myself or others or even God for the pain I feel.  That's part of being human I think.  But I try not to dwell in those low places.  I like to be happy.  I like to laugh.  I like to like others and have them like me.  I like having hope.  I like feeling the comforting feeling of the Holy Ghost and being worthy to have that Gift with me.  So I try not to stay down very long when I do fall.

When I struggle spiritually, I try to get back on track as soon as I can, both mentally and emotionally.  I do this by really pondering the scriptures and seeking for answers to life's questions there.  I pray for help.  Satan likes it when we are miserable, because he is miserable.  He doesn't want us to pray or have a relationship with God.  Those feelings of discouragement, hopelessness, or anger come from him so we should fight those feelings.  Our Heavenly Father loves us so much.  He knows we are going to fall, but He still loves us and just waits for us to reach out to him.  He doesn't like it when we suffer.  I know this.

My scrapes and bruises are healing.  My ego is healing also.  I think I counted eight bruises on my lower legs.  My left wrist hurts and my right elbow.  ugh... But each day it hurts a little less.  I'm trying to be better spiritually too and heal the wounds I have there also.  Each time I make a good choice over a bad one, I feel a little bit better and little bit happier.  That's how it works.  Just know that if you have fallen, you can heal.  It is possible.  Have hope.  I do.