18 August 2014

Wounded at Church

I have a sweet friend who serves in the Relief Society presidency in our ward. I love and respect her immensely. Yet I walked away from her most recent presidency lesson feeling hurt and marginalized. The topic? Reminding the sisters that it was not our right or responsibility to speak to another sister about her personal sense of modesty. Now, while I do actually agree with her, I think the moment that first zinged me was when she said, "And it isn't our husbands' right either."

Boom. I was now really struggling with the fact that I feel triggered when I go to my place of worship with excommunicated Mister and disfellowshipped Son#3 and then see the attire of some of the less active sisters. Now, I absolutely respect that those sisters have their own issues, that they struggle to attend church for their own reasons, and somewhere within me I am glad they have come. But, it doesn't make their wardrobe decisions easy for me to accept while flanked by the two addicts in my household. But the sister giving the lesson wouldn't know that.

As the lesson progressed there was also the admonition that while we may not be guilty of speaking anything negative to these sisters, we still can drive them away with our thoughts and judgemental glances. Ouch. I have felt uncomfortable and even unworthy to return to the RS room since that lesson.

Today I read another blog that describes my feelings well. There is a feeling of loneliness and lack of support for my reality. (Read her post at Within the Heart of Me...)

Have I driven away a sister with a negative thought or a judgemental look as I wrestled between her right to decide what is appropriate to wear and my desire to feel safe at church? I suppose it is possible, though surely not my intention. Do I now feel like there is another wedge dividing me from the great sisterhood of Relief Society? Sadly, yes. But I am trying to find the courage to close the gap somehow. Giving words to my truth here is just part of the process.

Next up, STEP NINE: Wherever possible, make direct amends to all persons we have harmed, except when to do so would injure them or others.

02 July 2014

Arms of Love

I was at a Healing Through Christ family support group meeting tonight when I felt so strongly that I needed to review a piece I had written in my journal back in 2006. It is a reminder of the power of love like the Savior's love in the life of one who is wounded and wandering. As I look back, I remember a time when I was that one and my mother had the strength and faith to show me love like unto the Savior. May I be more like my angel mother. 

Today I understand more fully how desperately my addicted loved ones need love from me. Love like the Savior's. Love like my mother's. A love that can heal me and my addicted loved ones in ways unique to each of use and our needs. I must use my mother's example and my own mother heart to love them. It is crucial to my own healing path, as well as theirs.

"I know there may be some who have a difficult time imagining what His love feels like. Think of a mother with her newborn baby. The warmth, safety, cherishing, and peace of a mother's embrace can help us understand what it feels like to be encircled in the arms of His love" (Bonnie D. Parkin, "Eternally Encircled in His Love," General Relief Society Meeting, September 23, 2006).

As I read these words, I immediately remembered a picture of newborn me and my mother. I am tucked in tight with her, lying on her chest, both of us sleeping under a blanket lying in her bed. The thought of this picture fills me with the warm love of my mother. I think of her as I continue reading a copy of Sister Parkin's talk.

"A young adult Relief Society sister wrote, 'Only in the love of my mother do I come close to understanding the magnitude and power of the love of the Savior.' Mothers, can you see how essential you are in teaching this truth to your children? As you encircle your children with your love, they will catch glimpses of His love." (Sister Parkin)

I absolutely know this is true. Tears rush to my eyes as I remember a time in my life when my mother encircled me with her love. In spite of the pain I had caused her, she helped me to draw closer to the Lord and to feel His love deeply and profoundly.

I was 17 years old. I was single and pregnant. That news was devastating to my parents. I remember when I would see my mother step outside onto the deck and release her tears. It pained me to know how I had hurt her.

Mom would also be my biggest supporter. She went to every doctor's appointment. She became my labor coach. She waited in the foyer as I spoke to the Bishop and began the repentance process. Later she accompanied me on visits to a worker with LDS Social Services. She allowed me to make my own decisions, having faith in me when I had none in myself.

"This mother listened. She shared her faith in the Lord; she set an example; she shared her expectations for her daughter to return continually to the Lord. As we approach the Lord, we feel His love draw us closer. Mothers, teach your children to always include the Lord in their lives, and help them to recognize His loving influence" (Parkin).

Those were difficult days for me, and I know they were for my mother. I spent a great deal of time on my knees, weeping and pleading for forgiveness, and seeking direction. My prayers were private, but I
always knew that I was not alone in my cries, that Mother was also praying in my behalf.

I remember once when she asked me what she had done wrong, and it was then that I began to pray for my mother. I had been so focused on my needs, my hurts, and my repentance. Her heart needed healing at least as much as mine did. She was seeking answers for both of us, and I sought that too. That was a big changing moment for me, as I really started to look beyond myself.

I was concerned about my family, as well as my baby. Prayer was my lifeline through it all. I asked to be placed in another home for the remainder of my pregnancy, hoping not to publicly shame my parents and to make it easier for them to let go of a grandchild that I was planning to place for adoption. I had reviewed all of the information and recommendations and knew in my head that it would be best to place the baby. My mother was fully supportive, never questioning my decision. But, after a short time we were told that another home was not available.

I really doubted myself at this point. My petitions to the Lord had been answered, or so I thought, but then that path was not available. This made no sense, and I presumed that I must be too unworthy at that time to receive answers from Heaven. That is a dark place to be. How could I make plans for my life, for the life of that little baby that was daily growing inside me, without the guidance of my Father in Heaven?

Mother encouraged me to continue my entreaties. Somewhat afraid, I spent a very long night in prayer. I was discouraged and afraid. I was even unsure of what to ask at that point. But, I talked through it all with my Father in Heaven.

Every possible scenario came to my mind and I conversed with the Lord about each of them. I distinctly remember telling Him that I knew the church's stance was to place a baby for adoption when no possibility of marriage existed, that every baby deserves to be sealed to both a father and a mother. I saw no hope of marriage in my near future. I could not possibly provide a father or a temple sealing for my child. This meant I needed to allow another couple to adopt my baby.

And yet, I received no confirmation of that decision. I was utterly confused and began to despair. I paused and then I ran through that thought all over again. But at the end, I told the Lord that I knew there was no possibility of marriage or a sealing in my near future. At that point, I stopped and could not continue. A dark feeling washed over me, telling me that I was wrong. It was in the very early hours of morning and I sensed a light in the distance.

My prayer changed again. This time I asked Heavenly Father if it was possible that I would be married soon. I felt warmth and light. But, I could not let myself believe it. I had to ask again, and hope that the Lord understood my hesitation in accepting this prompting. Again, I felt confirmation that I might be married. I pressed on, asking the Lord if He would promise me that my baby would be sealed to me in the temple before the child's first birthday.

Now, in my heart I knew this would be nothing short of a miracle. How could it be possible that I could fully repent, find a suitable mate who would want both me and my baby, and be worthy of a temple marriage in approximately seventeen months? Impossible!

I heard many negative remarks about my decision to keep my baby. But, those remarks never came from my mother. She would stand by me as I delivered my own son. I know it was a frightening day for her. It was exactly seventeen years – to the day – since she had delivered her youngest child, a preterm son who died shortly thereafter. In agony, my mother watched as my baby's heartbeats dipped down and would not come back up. She watched as my labor quickly turned into an emergency cesarean section. As they wheeled me down the hall, Mother walked after. Unable to enter the surgical room, she stood outside and prayed mightily for us. She later told me how relieved she was when she heard his first cry, and delighted when the nurse let her hold her grandson in the hallway.

There was a new light in my mother's eyes when I saw her next. I knew that she had forgiven me. Joy had eclipsed the pain that had been there in her eyes. That light grew even brighter the day she helped me to dress in my wedding gown inside the temple, ten months later.

“The greatest evidence of our Savior's love for us is His Atonement. His love overflows with grace, patience, long-suffering, mercy, and forgiveness" (Parkin).

My mother showed me such love. She was always at my side and on my side, even though I had hurt her deeply. I am so grateful for her love that has surrounded me from birth, a love that helps me to comprehend the Savior's love.

"But behold, the Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love" (2 Nephi 1:15)

30 June 2014


It hurts to be broken. It aches to feel alone. What would happen if I am willing to pick up these broken pieces of my heart and figure out where they fit with the broken pieces of his? What will it take to stop remembering why I am broken and start focusing on who is helping me with my  healing? What if I let go of the life I imagined long enough to make a whole new picture of our future?

I heard this song for the first time today and it moved me.

09 June 2014

Quiet Strengthening

This is all so exhausting. I want to pretend it isn't real. I want to just be "normal" ... whatever that is anyway. This time of year is hard with "wedding season."

My heart aches with every new engagement announcement, wedding invitation and happy anniversary celebration. I quietly smile and try to feel joy that such happiness can exist. But the reality of my marriage (now choking on addiction) makes it difficult to feel that joy for others and that breaks my heart. This isn't who I want to be but I am weary of fighting.

I sometimes wish I could go back to not knowing, to living with the invisible something that crept into my home and stole my peace bit by bit. Sigh. It was easier not knowing somehow.

But I cannot go back. I know the signs all too well. And in the midst of all these happy couples, I recognize that Mister feels amiss too. Sadly, that means he seeks for love through the addiction and I feel even more alone and unsafe. Will it ever change?

I want to scream to all of those unsuspecting women, piercing their happiness as  I expose the dark secrets that have been woven into my life. It could happen to them too.

Instead I cry out to the Lord for strength. Help me  breathe today. Help me face one more day. Help me change even if Mister chooses to stay the same. Help me learn and heal and move forward. I cry. I weep. I share my burden with Him and let the pain run out of me until I feel weak.

Then I ask Him to build me up again. Prepare me for another day. Show me the way. Lead me, Lord. I will follow. I am one day stronger.

12 February 2014


I have let myself become the victim again. The last two months have been a gradual downhill slide.

Son#3 is so out of control with his addiction. His grandparents decided to give him a tablet for Christmas and within 30 minutes of opening the gift he was surfing the sites that destroy him. He is so out of control and I cannot help him. That makes me feel like such a failure as his mother. But I can't protect him from himself.

Then there is Husband. He rarely attends his meetings. He is making poor choices in a variety of ways ... asking me to go to the church to pay the mortgage after spending money on frivolous things, choosing to go home from work without pay because he doesn't like the work he is assigned for the day.

Husband also decided to let Son#1 move back into our home without even asking me. Son#1 was arrested for driving while barred. He faces fines and potential jail time. I think Son#1 needs to hit rock bottom before he will change his life around but Husband insists on rescuing him. Husband hires an attorney and lets Son#1 eliminate bills for food and shelter by moving in with us. The truth is that Son#1 is an alcoholic who lies, cheats and steals to survive. These are the very behaviors that caused him to be invited to leave our home. But now he is back because Husband wants to rescue him from jail time and help him get on his feet. Husband doesn't see what is so screamingly obvious to me: Son#1 is actively in addiction. We will be destroyed trying to save him. He has to save himself. He has to want to change and work for change or else there is no way to stop him from destroying his own life and us right along with him if we try rescuing him right now.

Then there is the big anniversary. It has been one year since Husband was excommunicated.  It was no big deal to him because he would just get rebaptized in a year. But he has made no effort toward that. He hasn't even attended church for the last 6 weeks.

And so I feel raw and wounded and victimized. I hate feeling this way. I hate feeling like my home is swirling with sin and there is no escape. I hate what my life has become in the last two months. I need to work on me. I need to work my own program. I need to stop spending my time being angry and spitting at these raging fires. I need to spend more time on me and finding peace and rest again.

16 November 2013


I was really caught off guard yesterday. A staff member came into my office visibly upset. He confessed to me that he had an affair ... with the wife of a board member. He was telling me because of the potential repercussions to our organization. (Light bulb moment: this explained the sudden resignation of said board member the afternoon before.)

I haven't been able to get the encounter out of my mind. Part of the trouble is that this man was doing something Mister has never done. He was confessing before I discovered a problem on my own! Still, I was amazed that I could be calm in that moment and not shame this employee in any way. (Calm except for that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.) I felt sorry for him as he shared his story, worried about the rumor mill and tears slid down his cheeks. My heart went out to his wife and I was somewhat relieved to hear that they have marriage counselling set up already. Good for them. I tell him that I hope they can work through it and that I am sure it will be hard and to let me know if he needs some flexibility in his work schedule as they move forward. He says I shouldn't feel sorry for him because he is the #^€&*#!@ that did this.

Wow. That came out of nowhere. Clearly this was completely out of my control. But there I was having to figure out damage control. And I worry that just seeing this person at work may be triggering for a while. The devastation on his face...

My lingering question is: does it ever go away? Do the trigger points fade in time? For now, it makes every other possible trigger easily set off. For example, no way was TV an option just because of the commercials. And I felt compelled to call and warn Mister last night that it was going to be a rough night because my feelings were raw... which he sighed about and felt was completely unfair since HE didn't do anything wrong. Ugh. It has been my experience that this super heightened sensitivity does get better ... but does it ever go away?

Then I arrive home. I find out the "home" cell phone is missing. I immediately feel like Son#3 has it. He lost his own phone the day before and has not yet gotten it replaced. My gut instinct is that he is back into the porn calls... but can I trust my gut? Ever fiber of my being is on high alert. The all too familiar self doubt returns.

Then the morning comes. Positive proof of Son#3's choices surface without any sleuthing or policing. I am hurt. I am disappointed.  I am sad. I wonder why I still doubt myself so easily. I am angry that I hit yet another trip wire.

And then I return to my boundary. I will remember the positive things about my son. I remind myself that he is acting out in addiction but is still responsible for his choices. He brought it into my home and he needs to take it back out.

The cycle of addiction continues but I can choose to feel my hurt and disappointment and sadness then let it go. I can give myself and my son the gift of forgiveness. I can choose to move forward for me in spite of the devastation in Son#3's life. These are his choices. I can repent for not trusting my discernment or turning quickly to the Lord for clarity and peace. And I can turn to Him now. He alone can help me return to a place of peace and healing, as He always has. I trust that He has the power to work a miracle here when the time is right.

16 October 2013

The Line Was Drawn and so....

There it was. I had made this wonderfully important boundary that I was so excited about. I had drawn the line in the sand that would keep love in my heart for my son while also keeping me safe. But as with most lines, once it is drawn then comes the real test.

My heart ached after discovering that Son#3 has been acting out... posting ads on Craigslist with our home address to "hookup." Talk about feeling unsafe! I have worked to keep my boundary and focus on the good but this is a new level of unsafe. Sadly, he is going to have to find somewhere else to live. This just is not okay. His part of the boundary today is calling his voc rehab support person to work on a plan for moving out. My part of the boundary continues to be to focus on positive things about Son#3 and I am pleased that I have been able to do that. I cannot describe how helpful that is to me in finding peace in this moment of trial.

I decided to study Appendix 3: Tough Love and Facing Abuse from the Healing Through Christ workbook. Wow. I hadn't read it before and it left me in a puddle as I felt the Spirit witness of its truth and helping me to feel even more peace about having COURAGEOUS LOVE for Son#3. 

In 1929 Elder Orson F. Whitney of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said: “You parents of the wilful and the wayward! Don’t give them up. Don’t cast them off. They are not utterly lost. The Shepherd will find his sheep. They were his before they were yours—long before he entrusted them to your care; and you cannot begin to love them as he loves them. They have but strayed in ignorance from the Path of Right, and God is merciful to ignorance. Only the fulness of knowledge brings the fulness of accountability. Our Heavenly Father is far more merciful, infinitely more charitable, than even the best of his servants, and the Everlasting Gospel is mightier in power to save than our narrow finite minds can comprehend” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1929, 110).

He is angry and spitting his displeasure at me every time we talk. But I have amazingly been able to remain calm and retreat to another room to reflect on his strengths and consider how those strengths will help him when he is ready to seek recovery. Whew. Still it is emotionally draining and little thoughts creep into my head about why I haven't chosen to be courageous with Mister in the same way... but then I feel a peaceful feeling about doing what I can right now and leaving the rest to the Lord for now.

As I pondered on what I was learning from this appendix material, I was reminded of an experience I'd had several years ago. I am grateful for a lesson I learned about myself then while serving at girls camp. I learned that I have the gift of faith.

"But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will." (1 Corinthians 12:7-11)

Brother K indicated he needed to talk to me for a minute as I was swiftly navigating the halls at church. I was guiding Ariana back to class, and then needed to ring the bell and check on Nursery. When those tasks were complete, Brother K and I ducked into the kitchen for that talk.

The location of our visit was somewhat amusing, considering the purpose of his visit was to extend a call for Camp Cook at Girl's Camp. He shared the basic responsibilities, and said that another High Councilman was actually over Girl's Camp, but since Brother K is in my ward, he was extending the call in that brother's behalf. Because he was not handling most of the callings for camp, he did not know who I would be serving with but was sure the stake Young Women president would be in attendance.

The entire Stake Young Women's Presidency had changed during the last year, and the sisters are all from wards rather distant from my own. I don't even see these women during Stake Conference, because the stake is split with the northern units having a session at our chapel and the southern units meeting at the Stake Center. These sisters are from the southern portion of our stake. I did not know who they were.

Then, he told me the dates of the camp. Brother K said he had already talked to my husband and that he knew this was the same week Mister and some of our sons would be going to the Boundary Waters for High Adventure, but to please try to work it out and get back to him in the next week. I wanted to accept. Then, off I went to tend to my Primary duties.

Girl's Camp was rolling around in my mind for the remainder of the day. I had gone last year and had such a great experience. But, who would care for our three youngest gentlemen? Would it even be fair to them to be gone while their father and older brothers were already away? What would I do with the two dogs? What would preparations be like after sending off the scouts the day before? Could I reasonably do this?
Camp was a major topic over the next few days. Mister was very supportive and said he would do what he could to help. But, really, there was only so much he could do since he would be gone. It would be a burden to ask my parents to watch the gentlemen. They had done so last year, but my mom had taken a job since then. She or Dad would have to take vacation in order to watch the children. Asking Mister's parents also seemed out of the question. Mister was already borrowing their Suburban for the scout trip that same week. It was a lot to ask of his non-member parents to be supportive of two church activities, especially when one did not specifically benefit their child or grandchild. There were so many issues and angles to consider. Mister and I practically discussed it forward, backward, upside down, and inside out. I had prayed about the matter but had not yet found the solution.

Son#3 had overhead some of our discussion. This became apparent while we were visiting Mister's parents that 
week. Son#3 piped up as inspiration struck him. He and his two younger brothers could stay with Grandpa and Grandma during camp. He was certain this was the solution! 

Mister's parents were confused, as were the rest of the gentlemen. Mister briefly explained that I had been asked to go to Girl's Camp again this year, but that it was the same week as the Boundary Waters trip. I felt so uncomfortable at this sudden exposure of my dilemma, that I nearly missed it when my father-in-law said he thought they could do that. My mother-in-law thought it was odd that I, the mother of five sons and no daughters, would be asked to go to the girl's camp again. She knew last year was a last minute kind of deal, because the original cook needed assistance after having knee surgery the week before camp. But, she had run Cub Scout day camp for years and knew these types of things were a lot of work, as well as a lot of fun. Then she confirmed that it wouldn't be any problem at all to tend our youngest three.

Next, they asked me who else would be going to camp. Over the years, they have gotten to know a number of people from our church and they were curious if any of those people would be at camp. However, I didn't know any of the other leaders. They both chuckled at this confession. It hadn't struck me as odd until that moment.

Later, my in-laws would also agree to supervise our gentlemen in caring for our two dogs while I was away. My in-laws live right next door, so it would be easy enough to check on the pets. I was awed by their willing support.

On the last night of Girl's Camp we had testimony meetings in our individual camp sites. It was a powerful meeting with the stake camp leaders. I had gotten to know and love these sisters over the course of three days. A part of my testimony was about the missionary opportunity this call had provided for my family. I recounted these pre-camp events and said that it was one more time my in-laws had an opportunity to see the workings of the church, and to let them be a part of that in some way.

When I concluded my testimony, the stake camp director commented about how amazed she was at this example of faith. I didn't really think of it as faith before then. I was a bit nervous about going to camp and even sharing a tent with women I did not know, but it was enough for me that the call had been extended. The Lord would be with me; I didn't need more.

This reminded me of a calling that had been extended to Mister and me. At the time, he had reservations and wanted to think it through before providing an answer. I, on the other hand, was rearing to go and excited about the call. We had some discussion at that time because he didn't understand why I am always so willing to accept callings, even if I was unsure of my abilities or other various circumstances. I didn't understand why that was hard to understand.

This memory, in turn, reminded me of a friend's comments after she gave a talk in sacrament meeting about spiritual gifts. In her research, she read a talk given by Elder Dallin H. Oaks. His first sentence was, "Faith is a spiritual gift" (Dallin H. Oaks, "Spiritual Gifts," Ensign, Sept. 1986, 68).

When it comes to church callings, I believe I have the gift of faith. I know that when a call is extended, it comes for a reason and that the Lord will fill in the gaps for me when I give it my all. This is a gift of faith.
Elder Oaks also said, "We should seek after spiritual gifts. They can lead us to God. They can shield us from the power of the adversary. They can compensate for our inadequacies and repair our imperfections."

These words bring tears to my eyes as I recall another portion of my testimony at Girl's Camp. I felt a healing balm was applied to me during that short window of service. There have been many years that I felt I would never serve in Young Women because of some choices I made when I was a young woman myself. Last year, I did not receive a formal call, but was asked to help out as a personal favor to my friend who was the Stake Young Women's Presidency member in charge of camp. This year, I was selected and called just like everyone else.
This year, I felt a final repairing of an imperfection I had felt within myself, one that I had myself created. It had prevented me from attending my own sixth year of Girl's Camp 16 years before. But this year I accomplished all of the requirements I could not complete back then. This is a tender mercy that I have been given, and it began with the spiritual gift of faith when this calling was extended.

On the last day of camp, we had an award ceremony. As each girl came forward to receive her award, she also was able to select a value magnet from the Stake Young Women's Presidency. They get to collect one value magnet each time they meet with their Stake Young Women leaders. I was surprised when I was called forward to receive the Golden Spoon award. The Stake Young Women's Presidency then invited me to select a value magnet. I chose faith.

Appendix 3 has a lot of references to faith and it is soothing to my soul to be reminded that I have the gift of faith... that I have stepped forward in faith before and been successful and that gives me strength to know I can do it now. I also loved being reminded of the above experience because it helps me to fondly recall this moment of inspiration from Son#3 and I know that there is a great deal of good within him, even though I am frustrated by the choices he makes in addiction now. The Lord has prepared me for this moment. I am awed at the way these pieces of my life fit together so well. I am amazed at His loving training that came in anticipation of this day that I had no idea was coming. (That makes sense in my heart even though I don't think I am expressing it very well.) God is great! 

♥ I can only imagine what He might be preparing me for now. ♥