Saturday, November 17, 2012

Moving On

When I first started this blog I was fractured. I had divided myself into parts so I could choose who received which part. There were too many people who weren't safe to offer my whole self to.  Especially my spiritual self.  That I protected most fiercely.

As I've healed, I've learned that it's not about whether others are safe or not. It's about being safe within myself. It's about bringing all those pieces back together to create the whole me. It's about believing that all those pieces are important and make me who I am. It's about believing that the whole me is good enough to offer to the world. To not have shame for what I've experienced. To believe in what I've learned enough to shout it to the world. To not feel like I have to apologize for who I am.

Like a broken vase, the big parts of me have been glued back together. There are still visible cracks and tiny chips that will never be found, but for the most part I am whole. Whole enough to serve my purpose. To do what I was meant to do.

A vase holds water. Water that sustains the life of cut flowers. Water that allows those flowers to offer their beauty to the world.

I can hold water again. I can help sustain others. I can help others offer their beauty to the world. And I can offer my own.

I don't need this blog like I used to. I am not hiding parts of myself from the world anymore. I will leave it up because these few posts contain parts of my testimony that I was afraid to share.  These parts of me matter.  Sharing our souls matters.

But I don't need to write here anymore. I am confident in offering my story to the world, including the people I know. I don't think I'll post here again.

I will continue to write. I will continue to document my healing and my testimony. But I will do so on my main blog, The Mess that is My Life. If you would like to follow my healing and learn with me, I invite you to follow me there. The next post I'll publish will be my husband's story. He wrote about being an abusive husband and what he's learned and how he's grown. It will go up in a day or two.

I won't be writing here, but I am not going away. I still long to help others. I still want to listen and strengthen when I can.  I still want to testify.

Thank you for sharing in the spiritual parts of my journey. It helped to know I wasn't alone.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day

I came into Father’s Day apprehensive.  My last two sessions in therapy were about how to handle this day.  I have dreaded this day every year for many years.  Trying to figure out how to interact with my dad, whether or not to get him a gift.  Do I have to spend time with him? 

A few days ago an idea popped into my head for a gift.  I stumbled upon a song he mentioned about 15 years ago by an artist I’d never heard of.  How I found it at just this time and remembered that my dad wanted that song, I will leave for you to decide.  I believe I was guided.  I’ve let God know that I am willing to do this work and He is helping me.  Showing me that He’s got my back.
I spent many hours putting together this very personal gift for my dad.  Songs from his youth on two cds.  I was starting to think Father’s Day might not be so bad.  (I also made his favorite dessert, which is traditional.)

The morning went well at home with my husband and kids.  I went to church in a good mood.  The speaker was the son of one of my dad’s best friends from a few years ago (he passed away when I was in high school, I think).  He talked about his dad, and other crusty men, and how they parent.  How they show love.  He talked about the things his dad taught him.  Many things he said touched my heart in a very personal way.  I felt a love and tenderness for my dad that I don’t think I’ve ever felt before.  It was healing for me.
As I listened to him speak I realized that my dad loved me in the only way he knew how, the only way he saw modeled as he grew up.  He provided for us and prepared us for the world.  He taught his kids to be hard workers.  Teaching us independence was important to him.  Teaching us to help others.  To be good people.  He never learned how to be tender.

In that moment, I felt impressed that I could be the one to teach him how to love me.  It wasn’t modeled before him, but I can model it.
Part of that is learning how to speak up when he says or does something unkind.  I need to be able to tell him when he hurts my feelings.  Something to work on in therapy.

I went up to his house determined to lead.  I can choose the relationship I have with him now no matter what relationship we had in the past.  Choosing a good relationship now doesn’t mean the past doesn’t matter, just that I don’t have to live there anymore.
I walked in and went right over and gave him a hug (I could count the number of hugs we’ve ever shared on one hand).  I presented him with his treat and then his gift.  He was receptive to all my offerings.  It was a good moment.

I don’t think I’m through it all.  There is still some fear that I struggle with.  And this was a good mood day for both of us.  But I feel like it’s more important than ever that I heal this.  I used to wish I could put off doing my therapy work regarding him until he was dead.  That would be easier.  Then I realized I needed to do it now for my own peace of mind.  Now I understand that if I am going to help him learn to show love in a way his family can feel, then I need to hurry.  He’s a healthy 70-years old, but our time is still limited.
Our Sunday School lesson was on having that mighty change of heart.  Letting Christ change us.  Choosing to give away all our sins to know God.  And sometimes beating our head against the brick wall to help someone change because we are being prompted to keep trying.

Our Young Women lesson was on forgiveness.  Letting go of hurts and insults is for us, to heal us.  And as we do, we can model for others.  Maybe they will see our behavior and our joy and seek to find it for themselves.  Forgiving others brings us peace.  And serving those who have wronged us helps us forgive them.
Everywhere I turned today was something guiding me toward healing my relationship with my dad.  This was not a day of coincidences.  This was God saying, “Keep going.  I’m with you all the way.”

Friday, June 15, 2012

Sharing Spiritual Experiences

I've always known God was there.  Not some mystical, magical, undefined being.  A person who cared for me.  A person who protected me.  A person who loved and valued me.

For as long as I can remember.  He was there.  Not in some abstract way, a sense without definition.  In a way that just felt natural.  That felt secure.

I had my first intensely personal experience with God when I was very young.  I was aware of a relationship with God at an early age.  Before I knew who or what God was, before I understood what it meant.

But I don't share that with people.

Because once I started to learn how the world worked I understood that it wasn't safe for me to do so.

I grew up going to church.  We asked a blessing at meal time.  That was about the extent of religion in my house.  An occasional attempt at a religious lesson.  Choose the right.  Do unto others.

But no God.  We go to church, but we aren't those peopleDon't take the religion thing too farDon't get all self-righteous.

I learned early that discussing spirituality was not acceptable.  To even discuss God or ask a question about Christ or scriptures was inviting ridicule.  Any attempt I made to be righteous was seen as self-righteous judgment of those around me.  Was seen as holier than thou.

When you feel something so deeply, and have it mocked regularly, it hurts.  It is damaging.  It shuts you down and you learn to keep those thoughts and experiences to yourself.

But I have those experiences for a reason.  The back and forth communication I have with God is not for me alone.  The miracles in my life are not just to convince me.

It took me so long to understand this.  To find my way past the blocks that were placed in my life by judgmentality.  To see that the real power in my spiritual experiences comes when I share them.  When I listen to my heart, see that a person's desire is sincere, and share what I know.

The adversary loved it when I was too scared to share.  He wanted me silent because my words could bring others to God.

I am done being silent.  I am ready to sing praises.  I am ready to proclaim truth.

God lives.  He knows me and loves me.  He is mindful of me.  And of you.  He cares what happens in my life.  He guides my life.  God still works miracles today.

And I refuse to be silent about Him ever again.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Woman of Faith

The Book of Mormon tells a story about two thousand young warriors, dedicated to God.  Within this story there is a scripture that many mothers cling to.  These young men are described as having great courage and great faith.  And in Alma 56:48 they say, "We do not doubt our mothers knew it."  They trusted that God would protect them because their mothers had taught them this.

As a mother, I want to teach my children well.  I want to teach them truth.  And I want to help them become good people.  I also want them to be people of faith.  I want them to know God and trust that He will protect them and guide them if they will invite Him into their lives.  But there is only so much that I can do to make this happen.

My children must choose for themselves.  And that's scary.  They may choose to leave the church.  They may choose to disregard all that I have taught them.  They may go against everything I believe in.

All I can do is love them, teach them, and be a woman of faith myself.

Being a woman of faith is more than just believing or knowing that God is there.  It's more than trusting in Him.  It's more than telling my children that they are His children and He loves them. 

It's about living a life of faith.  It's about putting into action those things I believe.  As it says in James 2:26 "faith without works is dead."  I may believe in being honest but if I do not practice it, my faith benefits no one.  No matter what principles I believe, if I don't live those principles my faith in them will mean nothing.  And proclaiming belief while living in opposition to that claim does not teach faith to my children.

I cling to the story of the two thousand stripling warriors.  I live a life of faith for myself, but also for my children.  I want to model the behavior I'd like to see in them.  I try to be a good person.  I try to please my Father in Heaven.  I try to set a good example.

And occasionally I am rewarded for my efforts.  Several months ago I heard my son speak of his feelings and how difficult it was when his father left the church.  And then he said, "But I knew my mom still believed."  He talked about how he relied on that and how it gave him the strength to stay committed.  And then a few months later I got to hear him say that he'd found a testimony of his own.

These were incredibly humbling experiences for me.  I am so grateful for a teenage son who is willing to share his feelings with me.  I am grateful that he trusts me.  And I am grateful that he is finding out for himself, that he is becoming a man of faith.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother

"Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee."  Exodus 20:12

I am a religious person.  One of the driving forces in my life is to be obedient to God.  To please Him.  Knowing that I please Him brings me great peace.  Knowing when I don't brings me discontent and sadness.

I have struggled with this commandment.

When I was young I thought it meant that I should do what I was told.  Plain and simple.

As I got older I began to question that.  What if it isn't possible to obey my parents and God?  What if their desires are in conflict?

I also remember reading that scripture and imagining some parents using it as a threat.  Obey me and I'll let you live (that thy days may be long).

I hope I have learned a lot more about that command.  I have taught it to children many times over the years through various church callings.  I hope I have taught it in my home.  Each time I have taught it I have focused on the word honor.

I come from a difficult childhood.  I did not, and still do not, have a good relationship with my father.  I spent most of my life fearing him.  I often still do.  My mom did the best she could and we had a pretty good relationship, until I realized that I was often used as the surrogate spouse.  And now, when she is struggling, it can be tough to spend time with her.

And so, as I recently spent two weeks working on this commandment and trying to figure out how it fit into my life as an adult, I struggled still.

I no longer believe it is my job to obey them.  I must find my own way.  I do not think my father agrees with me.

I no longer believe it is my job to be what they want me to be.  I need to be who I truly am, to find my eternal self and be true to that.

And I no longer believe I must be at their beck and call.  It is time for me to concentrate on my family and build my life.

I do believe I owe them something.  I can treat them with respect, speak of them with respect when they are not around.  I can help them when I am able.  I can be grateful for the good things that are in my life because they are my parents.

Those would be great things.  Sometimes I can do those things.  Sometimes I can't.  Sometimes I can't be in the same room with my father without intense anxiety.  Sometimes I beg family members to rescue me from my mother.  Sometimes I talk about how crazy they are and how much stress they cause me.

I still feel like I don't have a good grip on this one.  The best thing I think I can do at this time is be a good person.  I think that brings them honor.  Even when they don't appreciate it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Rewards of Motherhood

I am a woman of faith.  My belief in God, and His hand in my life, are the foundation for everything I do.  Including the way I mother my children.

I want them to know Him, to trust Him, to know that they are never alone -- even when I am not with them.

And sometimes I am rewarded for my efforts.  Sometimes my children say or do something that lets me know they have been converted.  For a woman of faith no reward is greater than a child who believes.

My daughter, Jessica, rewarded me recently with this beautiful poem.  And my heart melted.

I'm Yours

These are my hands.
They're not very big.
They aren't pretty or slender, either.
My fingers are stubby, and my knuckles stick out.
I have hangnails all over.
But here they are anyway:
My hands.

These are my feet.
They're really quite squat.
They're callused and a little dirty.
I have a hard time squeezing them into high heels.
I'm not sure they're the right shape.
But here they are anyway:
My feet.

This is my heart.
I know it's not perfect.
It's scared sometimes, and weak.
I don't use it as often as I probably should.
It just looks so small.
But here it is anyway:
My heart.

it's hard not to feel like
I'm not very much.

Your power is so great,
and I'm only a tiny piece
of everything.

But I love you, and I know that -
incredibly -
you love me.

So I trust you.

Take them.

Take my hands.
Use them to reach people who need you.
Let them lift spirits and carry burdens.
Make them strong enough to do your will.
They're yours.

Take my feet.
Use them to get your gospel moving.
Let them guide me on the path of righteousness.
Make them quick enough to run to my brother's aid.
They're yours.

Take my heart.
Use it to find your children in their sorrows.
Let it show love to those who need it most.
Make it soft enough to hear when you whisper.
It's yours.

I give you all that I have,
all that I am.

I may not be much,
I'm yours.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Lessons From Family Scripture Reading

Over the years we've tried to read the scriptures together as a family with varying degrees of success.  Sometimes we read together for three nights in a row before things fell apart.  Other times we kept it up for a month or two, with this kid or that kid missing half the time because of a busy schedule or unwillingness.  We keep trying.

But there was a time, many years ago, when we read as a family every night for months.  With almost everyone there every time.  (Yes, my kids were much younger, much less busy, and much more within my control.)

We read about a chapter a night with each person taking one verse as we went around the circle.  (There were fights, tears, and lots of bartering over who got to read the last verse.)  During this time I learned some important lessons:

1.  I learned that my children each respond to correction differently.  My children were all early readers.  And very advanced.  But let's not kid ourselves.  The scriptures can be rough.  Those are some big words that you just don't hear anywhere else.  So sometimes they would stumble.  One daughter would turn to me as soon as she got stuck, looking for guidance.  Another would try, struggle, try again, slow down and work on it, then get it right.  One daughter stubbornly insisted on doing it her way, whether it was right or not.  She'd read what she thought it said.  Too often, when she was wrong, one of the other kids or I corrected her.  (I wish I could go back in time and do that less.)  She got so angry with us for correcting her.  I learned then that I need to tread carefully when correcting my children, especially over something that doesn't really matter, in order for them to feel confident finding their own way.  I also learned that with time, they will find their own way -- even if it's not the way I would have chosen.  But the fact that I wouldn't have chosen it doesn't make it less right for them.

2.  I want them to come to me when they have questions.  Frequently, as we read, things didn't make sense.  Like I said, the scriptures can be tough.  And although some nights they just wanted to get through it and didn't care what it said, other times they wanted to understand.  When that happened they asked me to explain.  They were young and still believed that I knew the answers.  They knew I wouldn't lie to them or make stuff up.  I hope I can always be worthy of that trust.

3.  I want to have the answers when the do come to me.  There are many things I'm smart about.  And there are some I struggle with.  When it comes to the scriptures I have both strengths and weaknesses.  I believe I interpret fairly well.  But I do not remember who it was that did what.  Or where that story is located.  That part has always been difficult for me.  I remember the moment when I realized I needed to quit expecting someone else to have this knowledge for me.  I remember wanting to have it for myself.  It does not stick for me like it does for some.  I have to read regularly if I want to have a scriptural well for my children to drink from when they thirst after righteousness.

There were so many lessons.  Many from the reading material and many from the experience.  I still learn every time I read the scriptures.  And every time I'm with my children.  And I am so grateful.