Addiction does not only affect the user. It affects SO many people. People that love and care for them. People that look up to them. People that rely on them. People that trusted them. People that only want the best for them. Husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters..........SO many are affected.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Marriage...An Eternal Partnership.

I was recently called in my church to teach Relief Society (women ages 18 and older). I thought, "why would they want me?". However, as I have been preparing for my first lesson, I believe that this calling (unfortunately for the sisters in my ward) will be more for myself than for them. I think I was meant to have this to humble myself, stop feeling sorry for myself, and to reach outside myself more. That as my preface to this post, I was given the schedule of lessons I am to teach. What are the odds? My very first lesson is titled Marriage-An Eternal Partnership. I enthusiastically (although hesitantly inside) told the counselor in the Relief Society Presidency that I could handle teaching it, no problem, as she was kind enough to ask knowing my circumstances. Just because of my circumstances, it doesn't mean I don't believe wholeheartedly that marriage is ordained of God and truly a partnership with Him. It is the HUGE reason for us coming to the earth, to have our families, and to learn and grow together in this sacred partnership. As I have began to prepare for this lesson and the direction I want to go, as I read the lesson outline by one of our former beloved Prophets, President Howard W. Hunter, I had a rush of emotions come over me. I have felt sadness, joy, discouragement, peace, and confusion all in one reading.
 I recently went and spoke at a different stake's girls camp. As I spoke to these beautiful girls, I told them that as I was growing up when I was their age, I always just assumed I would be married to a returned missionary, someone who cherished the gospel as much as myself, in the temple, we'd have four kids, and live happily ever after. Well, life certainly doesn't always turn out like we want or expect. I don't know that it ever does exactly. I did marry a returned missionary. He was only three days fresh off of his mission when I met him. So I just knew he would have the strong values and morals that I was seeking. I was sure he cherished the gospel principles and honored his priesthood with the utmost respect. I mean, he did just get home from his mission! I believe he did have a testimony and believed the same as me, however, his choices weren't always in line with what I had always pictured the man I'd marry to be. We didn't marry in the temple initially. It was devastating. One of the worst things I have ever been through. That was a choice that I made also. A choice that was life-changing. We were sealed almost exactly one year later, which was amazing, but not what I had expected. We had two children, and then dealt with four miscarriages. Not what I wanted or expected. And we didn't end up living happily ever after together. Our eternal marriage shockingly ended officially on October 3, 2013. It was a nightmare. It was not what I EVER would have imagined. I remember sitting in the attorney's office in June of 2013. He had left for the last time a month prior. I couldn't believe where I was. I couldn't believe I was actually going to sign a document that would end what was supposed to be for eternity. I couldn't believe the man that told me he loved me would make the choices he did. How could someone do that to someone they loved? I really believed he did love me when he said it. How could I ever trust again? I remember the reactions of people that knew us when they found out we were getting divorced. They were shocked. I had several people tell me we were the last ones they would ever expect would be getting divorced...well I was right there with them.
 Satan is relentless at destroying families, and he is doing a very good job at it. I remember even when I was growing up, divorce wasn't super common. Now it seems divorce has affected more people than not in one way or another. It is so heartbreaking. It actually makes me sick that I fall into the "divorced" category. Satan uses many different tactics to destroy families. There are so many temptations that he puts in our pathway. They only become temptations, when we are the ones to allow them to be. I have firsthand experience of the effects of a spouse giving into temptations such as pornography and infidelity. It not only affected myself, but my children. I feel we can never be too careful when it comes to "cleaving" unto our spouse and our spouse only. Now this doesn't just mean in regards to the opposite sex. It means our spouse should come first and foremost before anything or anyone; that includes hobbies, work, even our church callings and our families we were raised in. They should be our first priority, along with our children. In the Doctrine and Covenants section 42 verse 22 it says, "Thou shalt love thy wife [or husband] with all thy heart, and thou shalt cleave unto her and none else." In Matthew chapter 19 verse 5 it says, "For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh." Like I mentioned,  there are many tactics that the adversary is using to destroy families. These different temptations I speak of, again, don't only involve infidelity. I have seen people that are VERY close to me suffering in their marriages due to a spouse being putting video games, work, sports, friends, and even their parents or siblings, before their husband/wife. Marriage is definitely not easy. It is a growing experience where there is a lot of lessons to be learned including, patience, sacrifice, humility, selflessness, having an open mind, and many more. Although not easy, if both partners in a marriage are doing all they can to implement these qualities continually and consciously, they most likely will have a very successful and loving marriage. Marriage, along with parenting, is the hardest, yet the MOST rewarding commitment you'll ever make. It truly is ordained of God and the purpose we are sent to this earth. We are sent to have families of our own. To work together as husbands and wives to help one another reach the ultimate goal of eternal exaltation.
 In the lesson outline I'm using to teach this, President Hunter says, "Just as baptism is a commandment of the Lord, so is temple marriage. As baptism is essential to admittance to the Church, so temple marriage is essential to our exaltation in the presence of God. It is part of our destiny. We cannot fulfill our ultimate aims without it. Do not be satisfied with anything less." There seems to be a lot of both men and women that are choosing to not get married for many reasons. Some look at it as it hindering their "freedom". Some are more interested in a career path than having a family. Maybe to some it's too much of a financial burden that causes them to not have the "fun" life to travel, buy expensive things, or just to do as they please. Some may just be waiting for the "perfect" person or the "perfect" time. There is never going to be a "perfect" time or person! I love what President Uchtdorf said in the last general priesthood session, "My beloved brethren, may I remind you, if there were a perfect woman, do you really think she would be that interested in you?
In God’s plan of happiness, we are not so much looking for someone perfect but for a person with whom, throughout a lifetime, we can join efforts to create a loving, lasting, and more perfect relationship. That is the goal." From personal experience, it most certainly is vital that we find someone that has the values and standards that are most important to us and that will provide a means to help one another reach that goal of eternal happiness and that of living with our Savior and Father in Heaven together with our eternal families. Obviously, there is not a perfect person on the earth, and even a "perfect" person for any one person to marry. We all have flaws, downfalls, different views on certain things, etc. What is awesome is we will inevitably marry an imperfect person, but as we are all imperfect, together with your spouse, you can help each other, complement each other's weaknesses, and strengths, by cheering one another on and supporting one another in the way that would be in line with keeping the commandments and living in such a way to return to live with our Heavenly Father again.
 As I have now been "officially" single for nearly three years, however even five years prior to that I remember as our marriage started failing, watching husbands involved with their families. Watching them sitting in church with their arm around their wife, helping wrestle the kids. Watching husbands and wives play happily at the park with their children. Watching husbands and wives out on little dates. I am not going to lie, it's hard. I get envious. As our marriage started to fall apart (not even realizing that was what was happening) I remember longing for those things. After our divorce, I remember feeling completely happy and content, FINALLY! How would I ever be able to trust again anyway? I just wanted to be a mom, and my kids were all I needed...or so I thought. Just in the last few months, I again, have felt that longing to have someone to talk to about my kids. Someone to confide in. Someone to share things with. Someone to fill a void that only a spouse can provide. It just goes to show how natural it is. That we were sent here to get married for eternity and to have our own families. It's extremely hard for me to hear people degrade their spouses. I know that marriage also brings frustrations, and we ALL get frustrated at times. We're human. But to hear others talk negatively about their spouse, it makes me cringe. Not that I didn't voice frustrations. I wasn't perfect. However, going through all of this, has made me realize how vitally important it is that we cherish our spouse. We don't speak ill of them. We hold them with the utmost respect. Sure, it is not always easy when we are annoyed or frustrated, I get that. I am saying that having been married, and now being a single mother, I would not ever want to take for granted again the beautiful thing marriage is. I certainly didn't realize how important these things were when I had them, like I should have. Not only do I long for that companionship, but I want so badly for my children to have that male role in their lives. Someone that will love them and be there for them like a dad should.
 I want to end with one last quote by President Hunter, "I pray that the Lord will bless us that we may realize the reason for our existence and what we must do to find our way to exaltation and eternal life. Part of the eternal plan is the marriage we hold sacred."

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Not Necessarily "Picture Perfect"...

 I seem to write about the same redundant things. I guess the reason being is that writing is my out. I feel I can get out all that I am struggling with, and not really necessarily bother anyone (unless someone actually reads this). This afternoon I took the kids to the dentist. We are switching to a new dentist and so I got the fun job of filling out all the paperwork for all three of us. I handed the receptionist my insurance card. She then asked, "Are you married?", to which I of course replied, "No, I am divorced." It still stings every time I say that. Not necessarily because I miss who I was married to, or because I want to be married to him again, but more so because I NEVER thought those words would come out of my mouth. We were called back to see the dentist. First, the kids had their teeth cleaned. As the dental hygienist was cleaning their teeth, we were talking. She asked me where I was from. Then she said, "Oh is your husband from Pleasant Grove too?" Once again, I had to say the dreaded words, "Oh I'm divorced." I have just been struggling so much lately. I don't understand why. I have EVERY reason to be happy. Then today, having to say that awful phrase twice within an hour, it just solidified how I'm feeling. I recently read an awesome article called What We Cannot Afford to Live Without. The author talks about all the struggles that surround us. She then says flat out, life isn't fair. She was feeling discouraged with all of the turmoil in this world, when she received a phone call from a friend. This friend was struggling in her marriage. She writes, "She never imagined that their “for time and all eternity” marriage would mean time apart on earth. She never imagined that the priesthood holder in her home would question the reality of God, question his love for his high school sweetheart, and question whether or not a forever even exists. She never imagined she’d be getting her kids ready and out the door on her own. But here she was. Alone. Living a life she never saw for herself." I felt as though in some ways, I was reading about how my own life panned out to be.

NEVER in a million years did I imagine this life I am now living. Now don't get me wrong, it is an AMAZING life, but a life I did not foresee being mine. I have said this a million and ten times, but all growing up, I just KNEW I would marry in the temple, have four or so children, and live happily ever after. I had this vision intensify as I reached the Young Women age and I sat in on lessons painting the "picture perfect" way our lives should end up being. Of course that is how we want them to be, how our Heavenly Father hopes they are, but He also knows that the idealistic life of marrying perfectly, doesn't always happen. He knows that some of us need such growing experiences, as I did/do. My "picture perfect" life of marrying in the temple was diminished right away as I was married civilly, and had to wait to be sealed a year later. I was devastated. I jumped that hurdle, and life seemed to be right as I had always imagined. However, my "picture perfect" husband wasn't exactly what I had envisioned for myself. Although very patient and loving toward me, the gospel wasn't as important in the same regards to him as it was to me. I always pictured my husband being the one to head up family prayer, scripture study, family home evening, etc. He was always willing to join in happily, but if I wasn't the one to head it up, it most often wouldn't have taken place. Yet again, another hurdle that I was able to work through. I wanted to honor and respect him no matter what. So I prayed for patience through this, and realized that he, himself, didn't have the male example in his home to reiterate the importance of the priesthood power he held. Still not "picture perfect", but we were happy. He was a great dad. 

Fast forward a few years to when Addie was in kindergarten, Koleman about 3. I was wanting so badly to have another baby. I was going to have at least four in my "picture perfect" life. After four miscarriages, it wasn't so picture perfect. It was extremely difficult for me, but yet again, I jumped the hurdle and finally realized how blessed I was to have the two I did, instead of not being able to have any children at all.

I NEVER imagined I would have a child that would have special needs. That wasn't ever a thought in my "picture perfect" life I always imagined. So when I heard the words, "he is autistic", I was scared, confused, sad, and felt a sense of despair. How was I to do this? I didn't know about autism and how to help him.

As time went on, not only was my envisioned "picture perfect" life not panning out at all as I had imagined, it seemed to be crumbling to pieces before my eyes. My husband was living a life that was entirely different than I thought. I felt that something was off for many years, but always buried those feelings because, no way was that going to be my life. My husband would never make those choices. 

When he left to work out of state (after I told him I didn't want him to). I felt sick. The day he left I miscarried the last pregnancy I had. Not in my "picture perfect" image. He very rarely called, and when he did, he always had to hurry. Something wasn't right, but I wasn't going to let there be something wrong (since I have so much control over that). 

A few months after he left I was talking to him and he said, "I think I should tell you that I drank last night." My heart dropped to my toes. Ok, not "picture perfect" but we all make mistakes. At least he told me. Thank goodness for repentance. I can forgive him. I can help him work through this, I thought.

Fast forward nine months later to when my world was crashing before me. I was talking on the phone to a friend that worked with him after I was worried sick after talking to him and he sounded terrible. I had his friend go check on him. He informed me that he was "just drunk". My heart sank, yet again. He then said, "Do you have a minute? I think there are many things you should know..." The rest of the conversation felt as though it was a living nightmare. "Kevin drinks all the time. He is drunk more often than not." I couldn't do this! He told me he drank once. "He also has been smoking and abusing his pain medication." Are you kidding? This is a joke right? This couldn't be happening. "The other thing I think you should be aware of is he has been communicating with another female." Ok, now this guy is jumping to conclusions, I thought. It's probably just some girl he is friends with. He would NEVER be unfaithful to me in that regard. "They communicate almost all day, everyday either through text or on the phone." No, he is mistaken. This would never happen. I hung up the phone feeling almost paralyzed. This wasn't happening. This isn't what I signed up for. I was supposed to have four children, married happily to a righteous priesthood holder that not only honored his priesthood, but cherished it. When it was confirmed that in fact, he did have a relationship with another girl, I literally wanted to die. The drinking, the smoking, even the prescription drug abuse, I could work through those things with him. I could help him. We could conquer those. But the affair...I thought I was his everything. I thought he loved me. We were sealed for not only time but for all eternity. He told me I was the "girl of his dreams". He told me he loved me. He told me I was his world...but I wasn't. I saw hard evidence of the relationship he was having with another girl. I dry heaved all night. I plead with my Heavenly Father to take this from me. I literally couldn't keep living. This wasn't ever supposed to happen in my "picture perfect" life. I couldn't do it.

I wanted to try to work this out. It was the hardest decision up to that point. How could I ever trust him again? How could I feel my worth again? I had to try. We were supposed to be an eternal family. We had two precious children that deserved to have a dad and a mom that cherished one another. I HAD to I did.

Everyday was a battle. I knew he was not doing things he should, but couldn't prove it. He would tell me it was ok. He was doing all he could to repent and be the father and husband he should be. I believed him until the next day. Day in and out, I knew he was doing something. Everything was off. He wasn't the man I married. Far from it. 

Finding out, yet again, with hard evidence, that not only was he abusing pain medication, but illegal street drugs, and being unfaithful to me with a different girl this time, I couldn't do it anymore. I had to protect my children. I had to be the mom they needed. I wasn't being the mother I should have been. I was consumed in being a detective instead. Always trying to make sense of things, searching for answers. I couldn't do this to my children anymore. With the choices he was making, I didn't even know that they were safe. I had to be done. 

As I sat in the attorney's office with a document that was about 1/4 inch thick with the label Hadley vs. Hadley and Decree of Divorce at the top of it, it was all I could do not to run to the bathroom and vomit. I had to do this, but this wasn't "picture perfect". You don't get married to get divorced. What was I doing? I was tearing our family apart. At this point, I no longer had a choice. I reluctantly signed the documents. It was done. It was final. My "picture perfect" marriage that I had always dreamed of, couldn't have been further from what my reality now was. It was now up to me. I was the only one to provide for my two children, not only financially, but in every other aspect as well. I didn't have a husband, a partner, a teammate. It was solely up to me, and me alone. 

Two and a half years later, as I reflect on the events that have transpired in the last 15 years, I sit in awe. NEVER, EVER would I have imagined this to be my life. A now single mother with two children that depend solely on me for everything. Not having someone to confide in, to give input on decisions concerning our children, not there to watch Addie dance with me, or to laugh together and enjoy the pure happiness they both bring. 

Going back to that article, the writer goes on to talk about her friend and despite her huge challenges, she realized that she needs to do all in her power to have the spirit to be with her as much as possible. Pray more meaningfully. Study the scriptures more intricately. To hold meaningful family home evenings, prayer, and scripture study with her children. This is truly the only way I was able to find ANY sense of relief when I literally just wanted to die. I felt so hopeless at times that I couldn't even get myself to get out of bed. I would pray so fervently, and each time, I was able to feel some peace, some comfort, and some hope. That is the only way to happiness. Doing all in our power to have the spirit to be with us as much as we possibly can. It has to be a conscious effort as we are surrounded by so many vices that tend to take the spirit away whether it is the media, or even just trying to have the perfect glorified look that everyone seems to be seeking. 

Life certainly isn't "fair", but if it were, what would our purpose be for being here? How would we grow and become who we were sent here to be? How would we be refined and prepared to live with our Heavenly Father again? Trials come no matter what. Our choices could always be in line with the commandments, but adversity will be there regardless. Maybe we make choices that take the spirit away, and in turn cause major heartache, pain, and hopelessness, but again, we can always turn to Him. He is there regardless of how unworthy we are or feel to have His help. Despair is real. It is scary. But the great news is, we ALWAYS have Him to turn to before reaching that point. I am so incredibly grateful for the gospel. For my Savior and all He did and does for me. For a very loving Heavenly Father that knows all, and will NEVER turn His back on us. Yes, life isn't going to always be what we expect, but regardless of what transpires in our lives, we can always have joy, peace, and hope. We can because He will never leave our side.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

14 Years Ago...

Fourteen years ago yesterday, I felt excited and nervous as I was dressed all in white. My tummy was so big I couldn't see my feet. I was so grateful that my precious baby girl that was to arrive soon, was going to be born in the covenant. She was going to be mine forever! That day was the beginning of what I thought would be eternity... Last night as I sat in the temple, I reflected back to that day. I remembered feeling her kick almost excitedly as though she knew what was happening. She knew that we were being sealed as an eternal family. Little did I know that only three short days later she was going to join our family. I thought about the time line of events from that day to today over the course of fourteen years. NEVER on that special day 14 years ago, would I have ever guessed in a billion years, that the events that played out in the next 14 years would take place. Little did I know just 19 short months after Addie was born, Koleman would join our eternal family. When Koleman was born, I knew he was special. EVERYONE is special, but this was a different kind of special. I felt he needed to be tested. Something was different. Not a bad different, but different nonetheless. At the age of 3 (almost 4) he was diagnosed as being on the Autistic Spectrum. Although I never thought I would have my own child with special needs, I can't ever describe in words what a gift he has been. He teaches me daily. He is so full of insight. He is truly a blessing that I never imagined I'd have.

I didn't know that three years after Koleman was diagnosed, I would have the strong feeling that I needed to enroll in school, to become a teacher. I NEVER wanted to be a teacher, or at least I never thought of that. Addie in second grade, Koley in kindergarten. I was LOVING being a stay-at-home mom. I spent a lot of time in both of their classrooms volunteering. I loved it. I distinctly remember the night I had that feeling. We didn't live far from the elementary school that they attended. One night I took them on a walk to the school to play on the playground. I remember watching them play and then looking over at the school, seeing doors decorated with artwork done by the students. I can't explain the feeling, but I had a thought come into my mind, "You need to go back to school, and you need to be a teacher." I almost had an argument in my head with myself. I didn't want to go back to school with my kids being so young still. And a teacher?! What in the world?!! There is no way I could amount to that!! But the feeling of me needing to go back was so strong, and so clear. I couldn't deny it. I almost wondered if my husband was going to die prematurely and I would have to be the sole provider for my kids. The next week I enrolled for the coming fall semester to finish my generals. After finishing them, I applied and was accepted into the Elementary Education program at Dixie State University.

 Little, did I know on that day 14 years ago as I was sealed to my husband, that it wasn't going to be for eternity with him. As I was going through my schooling, it started to become apparent as to the urgency of me needing to go back to school. The reason I needed to obtain a career that would be ideal for a mom. Especially a single mom that actually was going to be the sole provider for her children, but not because of her husband dying prematurely like she thought maybe could possibly be the reasoning behind the urgency she felt to enroll in school. 

NEVER would I have thought that to be what my life would end up as. It is absolutely crazy what life brings. Although things have happened that truly were as if I was living a nightmare, I am grateful. Through all of these unexpected, extremely hard events that have taken place in the last 14 years, I can't begin to describe the lessons I've learned, the strength I've gained, the faith I was actually forced to lean on to make it through, and most important to me, the relationship I have now with my Heavenly Father and the testimony I have obtained. There were days I literally felt as though I couldn't even function. I felt as if I were in a hole of despair and pain that I couldn't get out of. I felt alone. I felt like I couldn't go on. Those days were when I literally could do nothing to ease the pain so I would pray. I would pray for what, at times, seemed like hours. The only thing that brought any relief was to pray. This is where my faith was forced to be strengthened. This is how I gained the relationship that I don't know I ever would have or could have in this way, with my Heavenly Father.

It is inevitable that we are going to all have days when we feel down, overwhelmed, maybe even hopeless, or a sense of despair. When such days come it is almost vital that we have something to ease that pain, something to look forward to, or something to give some hope. The awesome thing is, Heavenly Father knows all. He knows best. He knows our fears, our doubts, our pain, our desires, our weaknesses, and our strengths. He knows what we need when we need it. He will willingly provide a way to obtain the things we want and need. He WANTS to provide that way. The only thing He requires is that we ask. We put our faith forward. We lean on Him. He gave us the most incredible gift that has EVER or will EVER be given. He gave us His Son. Our Savior, gave His life for us. He suffered, he felt ALL that we feel. EVERY heartache, every pain, every ounce of anger, distress, fear. He WILLINGLY felt these things, and then gave His life for us. He did this so that we could have the opportunity to repent. To come unto Him. To place our burdens at His feet. To never feel alone, as He has felt all that we feel. He is the ONLY one to feel everything we have and will. All we need to do (and I say this to myself more than anyone) is to willingly place every ounce of our faith in Him, in our Heavenly Father. My favorite talk by Elder Jeffery R. Holland is entitled, "An High Priest of Good Things to Come." In this talk he says, "Christ knows better than all others that the trials of life can be very deep and we are not shallow people if we struggle with them. But even as the Lord avoids sugary rhetoric, He rebukes faithlessness and He deplores pessimism. He expects us to believe!"  
He expects us to believe! He wants us to believe in Him. He does know all. He does know what is best. The key to obtain hope, happiness, and peace is to allow Him to take our burdens. Believe in Him and have the faith needed to know that He will provide a way for us. He will give us all that we need. This has been the most valuable thing I have gained the past 14 years. This knowledge. To actually have no choice but to rely on Him. I wouldn't trade the last 14 years for anything in this world. Nothing. Not even the heartache, the pain, or the despair. I am beyond grateful for this gospel. I am beyond grateful for the plan of salvation. I am beyond grateful for the temple and the opportunity I have to live with my two angels once again for eternity. I am beyond blessed.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Faith...the ONLY Way to Endure and Find Joy.

Almost 14 years ago exactly, I remember holding my brand new baby girl in my arms. I was in awe that she was mine. That my Heavenly Father entrusted me to hold such a sacred and beautiful calling. He trusted me to be the one to raise one of His precious children. To teach her, to guide her decisions, to be a righteous example. I was feeling so much joy, yet a bit overwhelmed at the same time. I specifically remember that at that moment, I looked over at my husband and felt grateful that I had a partner in this calling. Someone to pray with me for our precious daughter, and little did I know that just 19 months later we would add to our prayers, our sweet son as well. I felt grateful that he held the priesthood and could be there to bless them. I was blessed to be able to be home with them as it was extremely important to me. I was so grateful for that privilege. However, I remember one specific day as they got to be a little older, Addie just 4 and Koleman almost 3. I was feeling overwhelmed. In a matter of maybe an hour and a half, they had got into a box that had Styrofoam in it broke it up into millions of tiny pieces and were throwing it all over the living room pretending that it was snowing, "painting" my bathroom mirror with toothpaste, and drew a beautiful picture with permanent marker on my brand new couch. I remember when their dad got home how relieved I felt to see him. I was happy to let him take over for a bit! It felt like one of the hardest days ever! Oh to only realize what a matter of seven years would bring, I would go back to that day in a heartbeat!...

I NEVER fathomed I would one day have to take over the role of being both mom and dad. That I wouldn't have someone that I could talk to when I needed help making a parental decision and getting input and guidance from a spouse as well. I didn't realize how hard it would be to feel the weight of providing solely on my own for the two of them. Knowing they only have me to be the one to provide the physical necessities of life. They solely rely on me to be there when they are sick, to listen when they are sad, to comfort when they are scared, and to help when they are stuck. This recent school year has been one of many, many ups, but even many more downs. I don't mean to sound pessimistic, and I am sure at this point that is the way this is looking, but I really am heading somewhere with this that is positive. :) It has been almost three years since I have been officially divorced, seven years since we have really been a functional family unit. Just in the last five months have I seen the effects it has had on Addie. She is a normal teenager. Struggling to feel good about how she looks, where she fits in with friends, and dealing with the pressures that come just from being this age. However, this past little while has been extremely difficult as she has displayed fear, anger, and sadness that I have never seen from her. She was SO confident, and now is so hesitant to be herself. Always afraid she's not going to be accepted or that people will up and leave her for something better. There have been nights that I haven't been there for her like I should be because I am at school trying to be prepared for the next day. Many days when she texts me from school saying she can't face being there and me not being able to even call her to comfort her as I am with my own students. Many times when she has needed me to just be there to hold her and give her my time, and I didn't because I was trying to do the best I could to provide and to be a success in my new career as a teacher. I didn't say I couldn't be there for her... I simply wasn't. I would weigh what I should do. Not sure if I should risk not having a job to support them so I could run home and be there for her, instead of just talking to her on the phone. I have been so consumed with making sure that I am providing financially, trying to figure out my own emotions and feelings as another wrench has been thrown in the mix with me personally, and in turn, not being even a fraction of the mom I want to be and should be for my children. Not there like I should be to make sure they are getting their homework turned in. Not there to make sure they are eating healthy. Not there to give them my undivided attention. Not there to monitor their phone and iPad use like I should be. Not having family home evenings that are really meaningful, or discussing the scriptures, only reading them. Some days when I get home from school, I am so drained not only physically but mentally and emotionally as well that I can barely even carry on a conversation. As the last day of school was just this past Wednesday, I have replayed this year in my mind over and over. I have had a nightmare twice since then about being the absolute worst parent that ever lived. They not only lack a father, but have a mother that isn't near where she should be in providing the emotional support they need. I have literally been pleading with my Heavenly Father to help me. I feel like I have failed in all aspects as a mother this past nine months. I feel that I have been pulled in a million different directions, so instead of persevering and relying on the Lord to support me, I just have shut down. It has been a lesson that I have certainly needed to learn, and unfortunately, not only have I learned the hard way, but my kids have had to endure me getting to this point as well. I have not been the example I should be of putting complete faith and absolute trust in the Lord. I was able to jump some of the most difficult hurdles that have EVER been placed before me because I did put my faith in Him. Why I haven't had that same faith these past several months, I don't know. Actually, I do know. I have let so many distractions all around me take over that I haven't ALLOWED the Lord to step in. I haven't turned to Him like I should have been. I haven't placed my trust in Him and put this at His feet. He knows what I need. He knows what is best. He has been waiting for me to allow Him to help. To ask him with more fervency and to trust in Him more fully. Without Him, I couldn't do this single parenting. I haven't done it without His help. I testify with every ounce of my heart that the only way to get through ANY trials that we face, is to turn to Him. Sure, we are going to make MANY mistakes (me probably millions) along the path, but I have sincerely learned that if we are doing all in our power to do those things that not only will bring us closer to Him, but that will help us place our complete faith Him, we can get through anything. We can not only get through anything, but we can enjoy the journey through whatever it is we are enduring. We can be happy. We can feel peace. We can find the strength we need to hold tight to the iron rod and not let go even for a second.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Truly Beautiful.

I know I've posted on here before about what I think true beauty is, but I've really been pondering it again recently as I've listened not only to my daughter talk about having to look "just right" everyday, but how it is truly a primary focus for most women/girls. Scrolling through the feed on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, VSCO, whatever it is, there seems to be one major thing in common...everyone is striving to have the perfect image. As I scroll through Addie's Instagram, I notice something that really actually makes my stomach a little sick. I could be completely wrong (and maybe I am), but to me it seems that although these social media sites are a fun way to stay connected, and for me, a fun and easy way to 
scrapbook, it also seems to be the means to these kids finding their self-worth by how many likes they get, how many followers they have, how many comments are made, etc. I have also found that through listening to different conversations, or reading comments on these sites, it is a means of having your whole self-worth crushed in seconds. It isn't just the social media sites that are causing the loss of self-worth. This image of having perfect hair, teeth, skin, eyelashes, body, face, makeup, clothes, nails etc. It is the center of all social media whether it is blatantly obvious, or in a subtle way, it's there. Listening to how kids treat each other at school, the mean things that are said, the judgments that are made, the expectations that are set for how you need to look/be to be "popular". It is heart-breaking. When a boy finds the worst picture he can possibly find of a girl and screenshots it then takes it around at lunch and shows everyone that will look saying that no wonder this girl wears way too much makeup because look how ugly she is without it. So the girl runs into the restroom and cries for an hour, not wanting to show her face. Or when I go out to recess duty and see one of my students sitting against the wall with her head buried in her hands sobbing, because a group of girls would say "EW" every time they walked past her, because she isn't "pretty" enough. Or when I hear a group of boys rating girls on a scale of 1-10 on how "hot" they are. Or when I sit at different high school sporting events and watch how desperately all of these kids are doing all they can to fit in, to be noticed, to be accepted. Seeing girls go to extremes in wearing completely inappropriate clothing, to hearing the language that comes from their mouths, to seeing a group of kids pick out something they see as a flaw in other kids that walk by and laugh hysterically at them. I just have to sit back and think WOW! 
I'm older now. I am far older than these kids I refer to. Although I have gained more wisdom through many life experiences, I still focus far more on my outward appearance than is necessary. Not because I think I'm beautiful, but just the opposite, that I'm not beautiful according to "worldly standards". Shallow as it sounds, I am far too worried about not looking "just right" as to be accepted in this world. Because unfortunately, no matter what anyone says, no matter our age, we live in a world completely obsessed by outward appearance and that is sadly, where we find our value more often than not, even if we don't realize it. I feel like there is so much emphasis placed on "trying to keep up with the Jones'" that we get caught up in it even when we don't want to or aren't aware of it. Unfortunately, I can see that a lot of the emphasis on the perfect image doesn't only come from kids at school, magazines, or social media, it comes from parents too. And even more unfortunate, I am guilty of this at times. Whether we realize it or not, we place a lot of value in making sure we look "just so". Paying hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to have the glorified "look" that is accepted in the world; from the salon to a plastic surgeon. Now don't get upset, because I am not saying that these things are bad, I am saying these things are becoming priority in a general sense. It just makes me think, no wonder. No wonder these girls that are so young, are already looking in the mirror and feeling like they aren't "good enough". It is definitely a fine line, because although we need to take care of ourselves and present ourselves in a presentable fashion, we take it to the extreme (myself included). The sad thing is, if this is going to continue to be the emphasis of how we look at ourselves we are not only cheating ourselves, but we are cheating the world of so much good. When we are so consumed with not feeling pretty enough, skinny enough, wealthy enough, etc., it takes away from putting that energy into things that really matter, things that we could do to bring more good into the world because we are so consumed with the trivial things that don't matter. So how can we not be so worried about our looks when we are bombarded by messages the world sends of what beautiful is? Is it even possible to see the true beauty around us when all we seem to hear is what the world sees as beautiful? We most certainly can! Is it an easy task? Not at all! We have to consciously and continually remind ourselves of what true beauty is. Not feed into the lies that Satan puts in our minds of how we need to look in order to be accepted and feel of worth.
So what exactly is true beauty? To me true beauty is a women that puts others before herself. True beauty is someone that selflessly serves those in need without looking twice at what they're wearing or what kind of car they drive. A truly beautiful person, serves ALL they can no matter what the outward appearance is of those they are serving. I see true beauty in a mother that is always doing her best to be an example to her children of kindness. Loving and accepting ALL no matter their circumstances, no matter their marital status, no matter the house they live in. I see true beauty in someone that speaks of others with respect. Taking care to consider that everyone is a child of our loving Heavenly Father. I see true beauty in these young girls that put their values and standards above what may bring ridicule or a means to not fit in and be shunned. I see true beauty in the sweet testimony that is shared testifying of the gospel truths. I see true beauty in a person that steps outside the group to welcome someone that may feel out of place. I see true beauty in someone that takes time from a busy life to visit a friend in need. I see true beauty in someone that takes time to help a single mom in ways they may not be aware by loving her children.

   I just think what if? What if we gave more compliments on the things that really mattered, like how someone was so kind to let another person join in when they were feeling left out? Or when someone sacrificed something to make someone else feel happy. Or when someone served another that was feeling alone. Or how awesome we think it is when someone is faithful in reading their scriptures. What if we looked more for these things in others as a means of helping them see their self-worth, rather than always only focusing on how beautiful they are, how pretty their hair is, how perfect their outfit is, how they are the star of their soccer team, how amazing it is that they are in the most sports/extra curricular activities? Again, I am in no way saying those are bad things to compliment others on, what I am saying is we shouldn't make those things the emphasis of how people feel their self-worth. I don't even know if I am making sense, but I do know what is in my heart. If I can convey even a sliver of what is in my heart, I will be happy. We need to remember (this is for myself more than anyone), what is truly important. Where our true self-worth really comes from. We need to emphasize the things that matter, and let go more of the things that don't. We need to let go of the things that aren't a means of returning to live with our Heavenly Father and our Savior again. If we are not "beautiful" in the world's eyes, but we are doing all we can to serve and to stay close to the Lord, that is true beauty. That is pure beauty. THAT is the beauty that we need to strive to have. THAT is the beauty that matters. THAT is the beauty that will bring pure joy.
I've included some pictures of some dear friends/family in my life that, to me, are truly examples of what genuine beauty is. All of them beautiful on the outside, but more importantly, beautiful on the inside, beautiful simply because of who they are.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

We are Among Noble Youth...

I LOVE the story of the 2,000 Stripling Warriors from Alma in the Book of Mormon. They were strong boys that were valiant in defending their families from those who despised the gospel truths. In Alma 53:20 it says:
"And they were all young men, and they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all--they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted." 
I love their example of courage and faith. I have the opportunity of not only being around strong, valiant children nearly everyday, but raising two of the most amazing spirits ever. I can see that although it may not be a physical war defending the gospel truths, it is a war none the less, that these amazing youth are battling with courage and faith. I wonder almost on a daily basis, why someone as flawed as myself, was chosen to be the mother of such strong, faithful, valiant children. I am usually reminded that I'm doing most of the learning by their examples rather then them learning from mine. They are SO strong. The adversary knows this and I have recently witnessed him doing all that he can to try to bring these amazing youth down. I watch my beautiful almost 14 year old daughter on a daily basis doing all she can to do what's right; reading her scriptures, praying, choosing not to watch things that aren't uplifting, or choosing to distance herself from influences that will only bring her down. She is strong. She is valiant. She is virtuous. Satan knows this. He shudders at the thought of her goodness. He knows he won't be able to get her to drink alcohol, do inappropriate things with boys, or dress immodestly. So he goes for her feeling of self worth. He knows he can bring her down by telling her she's not pretty, skinny, talented, smart, well-liked, or popular enough. Just like I talked about in my last post, he is the master at being conniving and cunning. He knows what can bring us down and he will do all in his power to do so. Our youth today are faced with SO much more adversity then I ever was. Growing up was tough for me, so I can't even imagine how it is now that they are constantly linked to one another through social media. They can't just go home and unwind and feel a place where they belong and are safe. They have access to anyone and anything right at their fingertips. I am constantly hearing my daughter and her friends compare themselves to others as they scroll through their feed on Instagram, Twitter, and VSCO. Along with social media being a challenge, children and youth are having to go through so much more in their very own families. Satan's influence is strong...if we allow it to be. He has pulled out every stop possible. He is relentless and knows eventually he will lose this battle. So he is trying everything he can to take all in his path down with him. Unfortunately, he is targeting families, and our youth. He knows that the family is central to God's plan. He knows that we came to the earth to have families. He doesn't want our family units to be complete. He doesn't want them to be happy. He has some pretty powerful tools that unfortunately, are now more easily accessible than ever.
 I talked a little bit about the effects divorce has had on our family in my last post. It is not something that I would wish on anyone, especially the children involved. Recently I have had to witness my daughter finally having her bottled up emotions surface from not only being a normal almost 14 year old girl dealing with friend problems and trying to fit in, but from having to endure some extremely painful events that I feel, no child should ever have to endure. Watching her in tears question why she's even here, what her purpose is, and what her value is has been heart breaking. She is so strong, and so incredibly valuable, but she doesn't see it. She has been battling horrifying thoughts that she told me she knows are coming from Satan. He doesn't want her goodness to spread or her example to shine. I sat her down and read to her in Joseph Smith History when he is praying in the grove of trees to know what church is true, and as he does so there was a darkness that overcame him:
"I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction." 
Sometimes that darkness is so thick and heavy around us, it's almost tangible. Although Satan has power to influence us, we have an even greater power to overcome that influence through faith in our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ. It can be extremely difficult to overcome these dark feelings of hopelessness, despair, and pain. So hard at times that it does feel as though you're "doomed to sudden destruction". I have had these feelings on countless occasions. Some just recently. The ONLY thing that brings comfort for me is to kneel in prayer talking to my Father in Heaven. Then allowing peace to enter and the dark feelings subside. After that darkness overcame Joseph Smith, he then said,
"But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction--not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being--just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me."
We may not have the vision of Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ, but we can feel the light and peace They provide. We're living in a time where wavering between the Lord's side and the Adversary's side is in no way solid ground. If we even step a toe onto the Adversary's side, we are playing with fire. He is running out of time and will do any and everything in his power to grab hold and bring us down to destruction. However, the amazing news is, we can overcome him! Satan is using those tools, as I mentioned earlier, that are so easily accessible to bring us down. But the beauty is we have even stronger, and just as easily if not more easily, accessible tools to withstand him! We just need to make our minds up now that we will do all in our power to utilize these tools. Some of these tools include prayer, scripture study, temple attendance, and service. We have the power to withstand Satan. A much greater power than he! With these amazing tools we need to use them constantly to not only empower ourselves, but our youth as well. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

One of the Adversary's Most Powerful Tools.

I've posted so much lately. Just goes to show I'm at a rough patch for a minute in life. ;) Writing is my way to feel peace and helps me process and understand my feelings a little more. Life is definitely not what you expect. There are so many twists and turns. There are many ups and downs. Through it all, we have SO much to be grateful for. Even trials that come upon us. There is so much to learn and so much strength to be gained through them. One of my very favorite talks of all time from one of my favorite people ever, was a talk given in October 2011 General Preisthood session for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It was given by Elder Jeffery R. Holland. It is absolutely amazing and so full of power. Elder Holland says:
"Number one, Satan, or Lucifer, or the father of lies--call him what you will--is real, the very personification of evil. His motives are in every case malicious, and he convulses at the appearance of redeeming light, at the very thought of truth. Number two, he is eternally opposed to the love of God, the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and the work of peace and salvation. He will fight against these whenever and wherever he can. He knows he will be defeated and cast out in the end, but he is determined to take down with him as many others as he possibly can."
This is so extremely evident in our daily lives. Satan is most certainly real. He can have power over us, but ONLY if we allow it. He can tempt us and we have the choice to give in or hold tight to the rod of iron. He can tell us lies, and we can choose whether to believe them or not. I have been saddened as I have sat back the past few days with a heavy heart of my own. I've been dealing with some extremely hard emotions. I've been feeling invaluable and not good enough. I have been listening to the lies that Satan has been whispering in my ear
consistently. I've been finding my value not in who I really am. Not in who my Heavenly Father sees me as. But value in how others view me. Or how I THINK they see me. This is certainly, I feel, one of Satan's greatest tools. I think often we are so caught up in what others think, we don't step back and consider Who's opinion really matters. So easily I forget to focus on things that really do matter. But instead I worry more about trivial things and then allow those things to determine how I feel about myself. It kind of seems like that is a weak tool of Satan's, but it is extremely powerful. When we are so concerned with how others view us and not as concerned with how the Lord views us, that only leads to a downward spiral. I have been so upset about how one person I THINK sees or feels about me, which is not of much worth. In turn, it has taken me to a place where I let it consume how I feel, act, and view things. Worrying so much how others think of me in the past, literally about took my life. I listened, and then believed I wasn't good enough. I was annoying, fat, and ugly. I didn't remember who I really was. I didn't focus on the things that mattered most, but instead on the lies I believed that came from Satan telling me my value depended solely on how pretty I was, how skinny I was, and how liked I was by people, people that only brought me down. I did everything I could to be pretty enough, skinny enough, and accepted. Which led to an eating disorder and extreme self-esteem issues. I then started to lower my standards in who I dated because I could NEVER be good enough for someone that I always dreamed of being with. Again, this only brought more devastating consequences. These are only a couple of examples of what comparing ourselves and only finding our value according to worldly status, can eventually do. Losing self-worth is only the beginning to a very dangerous road. It may sound like I'm out in left field. However, if you think about it, people that have a lot of self-respect are more easily deterred from making choices that will only cause pain and devastation. From things as simple as choosing to value yourself enough to dress modestly, not watch or listen to inappropriate forms of media, to saying no to a drink of alcohol, or doing things that are inappropriate outside the bonds of marriage. Unfortunately, Satan has it figured out. He knows that it's more difficult to immediately get  us to make choices that have completely devastating consequences and that bring nothing but misery and pain. So, he starts with the small things. He tells you you're not as talented, smart, funny, skinny, good-looking, wealthy, etc., as others. Because of that, he tells you you aren't as valuable. Unfortunately, we live in a world where more often than not, those are the things that determine how we measure value. When we start believing the lies that we aren't valuable because we don't live up to worldly criteria of value, we lose self-respect. Maybe not an ample amount at first, but over time, the more we feed into those lies, the quicker that self-respect diminishes. This is when we do what we can to feel cared about, accepted, and valued. If you don't take a drink of alcohol, they will think you're not fun so you better do it. If you don't join in on the gossip about someone else, you won't fit in. If you dress immodestly, that will be the only way boys will even notice you. And the list of these lies that Satan tells, goes on, and on, and on. All of the choices we make in life, most likely stem from our self-confidence. So, in my opinion, Satan's greatest tool is to tempt us to compare ourselves to others. He wants us to be so consumed with what the world sees as valuable, that it makes us lose our focus on what really is valuable. Trying to find our value in what others think, how others treat us, tangible possessions, or looks, is only a path that leads to misery and pain. Unfortunately, the carefree time that childhood used to bring, is diminishing at a younger and younger age. Children are not only having to face evils that when I was a child, I didn't even know existed, but they are being influenced younger by the worldly standards that so many value. In turn, they are losing self-confidence so much younger. Elder Holland also said in the talk mentioned above, 
"Satan is a real being set on destroying you, and you face his influence at a younger and younger age."
We (mostly talking to myself here), now more than ever, need not lose our focus on what really matters. On who we were sent here to become. Where our value really does lie. We need to consciously continue persevering in faith in our Heavenly Father. It is extremely difficult doing so in the world we now live in. There is so much evil. However, there is SO much good!! Let us not lose sight of the goodness, of who we are, and what our purpose on the earth is.