Addiction

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.

Monday, May 6, 2019

A Not So Perfect Instagram Life...

     Writing is a therapeutic outlet for me. For lack of a better phrase, I just kind of throw it all up on paper (or in this case the computer screen)...I deleted my Facebook account a few months ago. Great decision. However, I still have an Instagram account. Why? I am not quite sure, other than I do like to see people that I don't get to see very often, or not even at all, in my life. I am finding more and more that, although it is fun to stay connected to others, it rarely (if ever) brings me joy or peace whenever I decide to scroll through the feed. Most often, it brings feelings of inferiority, anxiety, envy, sadness, and even resentment. None of which are feelings that I like to have as my companions. Now I can say that if I were more confident in myself, had millions of admirers that couldn't wait to see my next post about my workout routines, my healthy eating habits, fashion/beauty tips, home decor, me traveling the world, or just to see my picture perfect family photos, that those feelings wouldn't overcome me when I would scroll through the Insta feed, but I dare say those feelings would still be there. My life is NOTHING like you see on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, VSCO, etc. I am even guilty of mostly only posting the exciting, happy, glamorous-seeming, events that take place in my life. So I often think, what if I was just "real" all the time on social media? I'm not saying getting on and airing my dirty laundry, going off on my soap box(es), or NEVER posting those happy, glamorous-seeming events. When I see or read of someone that has similar challenges and trials in their lives and how they are working through those things, it is so empowering to me. It makes me feel that I am not alone. I am strengthened. I feel peace. I am motivated to be the best ME I can be. Not to be better than anyone else, but only to be a better me than I was the day before. 
     Some days (especially like today) I feel like this single mom gig is more than I can bear. Don't get me wrong, my kids are honestly amazing in every way. They are truly better than I could have ever hoped to have had, which makes flying solo in this role SO much easier. I can't imagine, and truly feel, for the single parents out there that have to deal with kids that make heart breaking choices without a partner to work through it all with. All of that being said, no matter how ideal the situation can be, I never imagined I'd ever be a single parent, and I never imagined how difficult it can be some days. Just difficult in terms of not being able to provide so many of the things that it SEEMS most kids they associate with have. Trying to decide if this month I can pay for extra curricular activities, or get the oil changed and a tune up that the car is in desperate need of. Putting off braces for Koleman, saving for college/missions, getting into our own home, and getting some dental work done because I need to figure out the month to month expenses and miscellaneous surprises that pop up before I can even think of those things. Trying to figure out how I can work a second job, but not quite sure how to fit that in with a full time, pretty demanding career. Having Koleman come home from school often asking how he can make friends and how to interact with kids, not knowing what to really tell him other than to just keep trying. Wishing so badly I could talk about it with a spouse that loves and cares for him equally and would be able to take him to do things that only a dad can do. Or listening to Addie and all the things she is struggling with, wishing so badly, once again, that I could confide in a spouse and, together, we could help her through it. Not being able to say, "hey this time will you talk to Addie about ditching school so much." Or, "It's your turn to talk to Koley about making sure he is handing in all of the homework he needs to have done." Some days I feel like I am stretched so thin, that I can't even function well enough for them to have even one parent that isn't always feeling like an emotional wreck. But even without having financial and emotional support that a spouse can and does bring, in my opinion, the most difficult part of raising kids on my own, is seeing the pain, that they try so much to conceal, of not having a dad as a constant in their lives. Watching them as they watch and listen to so many around them interact with and/or talk about their own dads. Wondering what is going through their minds, and having it rip my heart out not being able to ease the pain or make it feel better. I can't even sympathize with them. I grew up with a dad. A dad that was a faithful husband and father. Who went to great lengths to take care of our family and was always there no matter what. 
     I KNOW that we truly are so blessed and have SO much. Today has just been 'one of those days'. I am sure tomorrow will be better!

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Trauma

I am sure 99 percent of people have gone through some type of trauma in their lives. Whether it was kids being mean at school, divorce, abuse, betrayal, addictions, etc. I don't think we realize the affects trauma, or different life experiences have on us. It is so real. It is so debilitating. It is downright evil. SO many of us don't get the help we need to overcome things in a healthy manner, which in turn affects our happiness, relationships, and even the way we present ourselves. How do I know this? I am a prime example of allowing trauma to dictate my life. I've allowed it to determine how I respond to situations, how I feel the world views me, how I view myself. I have allowed it to sabotage relationships. I have allowed it to push people out of my life that I want and need. I have even allowed it to determine my worth.
I had a girl in jr high tell me I was annoying, stupid, ugly, and did all she could to make it so I didn't feel included or have friends. I was such a confident, outgoing, happy person. However, I got to the point where I believed her. I believed all of those things. I hid in the bathroom at lunch almost daily, usually crying. I began to seclude myself from friends, feeling I wasn't good enough to have any. I believed I was the ugliest, most annoying, worthless person to walk the earth. I ALLOWED myself to get to that point. I became extremely introverted. I was depressed. I didn't even know who I was anymore. I developed an eating disorder that nearly took my life, and I honestly was at a point that I hoped it would.
Fast forward about 8 years, and I experienced major betrayal in my marriage. I experienced neglect. I experienced abuse. I eventually experienced divorce. I moved on by busying myself. I focused on my kids. I focused on my new life of being a single mom. Having to figure out how to do it all on my own. How to provide for my children by myself in every way. I didn't get the help I needed to rid myself of the trauma and pain so deep inside of me that had built up and lingered for many years.
Fast forward another 7 years, I have moved past ill feelings for any that have hurt me in those traumatic ways. I have moved past the hurt of wanting to be with my ex husband and missing him. But I NEVER focused on healing me. I just moved on as if it was all said and done and I could live my life the way I wanted now. I am now at a point where I feel almost more despair, pain, hopelessness, confusion, and chaos in my life than I did when I was actually in those traumatic experiences. It has hindered my progression in developing healthy relationships. I have allowed it to make me react irrationally in many different situations. I have allowed it to put up walls and not trust. I have allowed it to completely dictate how I respond, how I act, how I feel, and even how I treat others. I am FINALLY getting the help I need. I am FINALLY on the path to getting my life back, to being ME again. I URGE anyone that has experienced trauma, to get the help you need right away. Don't let it do to you what it did to me. I wouldn't change life experiences at all. I wouldn't. They have taught me, strengthened me, made me more aware of others and their trials, but I WOULD change the slow process of getting the help I needed so long ago.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

The time is NOW...

I haven't kept this up for quite some time. Every time I go to write, I have so much going in my mind that I just want to get out, but never seem to know how to get it out the way I want or intend. Whether anyone reads this or not, writing, for me, is SO powerful. It is almost a liberating feeling. Life definitley has so many curve balls, and just when I feel like I've had my share of them thrown at me, more and more just seem to keep coming. The crazy thing is, they are getting thrown to everyone. While going through the last years of my marriage and through my divorce, I never thought I could EVER feel more pain again. I never thought I could get to a lower place, however, although not going through such horrendous circumstances as I was then, never say never. I'm learning that you most certainly cannot overcome traumatic experiences alone and that there is someone that ALWAYS knows how you are feeling and is ALWAYS there. I love my Savior with every ounce of my heart.

 After watching The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints annual General Conference this past weekend and learning and listening from a Prophet and Apostles called of God, I just feel I need to get out all that I am feeling. The world has so much good, but at the same time, is becoming more and more wicked. There are way too many distractions and things or people deceiving us into mistaking  good for evil and evil for good.  Becky Craven, Second Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency gave an amazing talk in the Saturday morning session. In her talk she said, "We can rationalize all we want, but the fact is, there is not a right way to do the wrong thing." I have been thinking a lot about my own testimony. It is not near as strong as it was even a couple of years ago. Although I go to church every week, it has been a real struggle. Never feeling like I belong or that I have a place there has been the greatest obstacle. Here I am a single mom, living on a teacher's salary, not even in my own home, barely making it month to month even without a mortgage, going to
church among a lot of affluence. Nobody has ever treated me as if I don't belong. Nobody has ever made comments about not having my own home or not driving the nicest car. Nobody has made me feel less for not traveling all over the world or for not having the "right look". Everyone has only been extremely kind. Yet, here I am automatically feeling like a fish out of water because from a worldly point of view, I really don't belong there. In turn, it has made me not only dread every Sunday, but it has made it so I am blinded to the whole purpose of going. Elder Jeffery R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said in the Saturday afternoon session, "The hour we spend in sacrament meeting is the most sacred hour in our week." That really hit me hard. THAT is the purpose for my attendance. I have been allowing the views of what is acceptable in our world cause me to feel like I don't belong in a place where I know I belong and a place that is a true source of comfort and peace as I partake of the sacrament each week, renewing my covenants with Him and showing reverence and appreciation for Him. Yet, I have justified it by letting myself believe that since I don't have the same material things, a husband, or a high paying career, I don't belong. I say all of this just to make the point of how skewed the views of the world are and how easily we can have those same skewed views if we do not consciously make the Savior a priority in our lives. This is also going back to feeling like I am at one of the lowest places in my life right now. I think about the trials that life has brought me, the trials I am struggling with right now, and lately most days, I just don't feel like I can keep going. I would do anything to have a spouse to help me parent. To confide in. To pray about my children with. To help me know what to say and the best way to comfort my beautiful daughter when I get a text from her during my lunch last week that says, "I have no one". To give advice and come up with a great idea to help my sweet son as I hear him quietly having a conversation with himself trying to figure out how he can "just have one friend, just one."Someone to help provide financially so they can have their own rooms with their own beds. The fact is I don't have that. My kids don't have that, but the thing is, we have SO much more than we could ever ask for in each other and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is hard not to get discouraged. It is hard not to feel less for not having the same caliber of material items that it seems all the people we associate with have. It is hard sometimes feeling like we are not a complete family when it is the end of year drill team review and all the girls seem to be walking out with two parents, not just their mom. This weekend as I listened to the beautiful messages given by men and women that are called of God, I feel like I almost got the wind knocked out of me as I have reflected on my mentality the past several months. Here I am dwelling on so many trivial things that in all reality, mean absolutely nothing when it comes to what my purpose is while I am here on this earth. The thing is, I don't have time to lose when it comes to achieving the ultimate goal I have, that of living the best I can to feel the true happiness and joy that I was sent here to feel. To develop and nourish the relationship with my Heavenly Father and Savior that I desire to have. To cherish my time with my children and focus on all the good we have, even if we are just a family of three making our home a place of refuge from the evils of the world and focusing on what brings the only genuine happiness that can be felt. President Nelson closed the conference saying, "Despite contention all around us, one's home can become a heavenly place, where study, prayer, and faith can be merged with love." That is where my focus should be. I don't have time to lose in worrying and putting so much energy and heartache into what the world says is happiness and how my worth is determined.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Challenges Can Be Overcome.


It has been five years since my divorce was final. After being divorced, I only wanted to focus on school and my kids. I needed to figure out how to be the sole provider in all ways; financially, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, physically. I was all about my kids. They were all I did. They needed me and I needed them. Once I started teaching and they were getting older and more independent, I started to slowly feel that I was losing who I am. I still had zero desire to date. I NEVER thought I would have to date again in my life. I hate dating. Didn't date a lot in high school or even after I graduated. I am more reserved. I don't have a lot of confidence in myself that way, and I continually think in my mind, "why would anyone want me". However, aside from all of that, I was genuinely happy. I felt like I could go the rest of my life just being a mom. I didn't need anyone by my side in that way. I was in a good place as far as J went. I didn't miss him, I didn't want him back, I didn't hate him, I wasn't angry, and I didn't even feel hurt anymore. I was doing great. I had this. I was getting my life back...or so I thought. I still haven't dated a lot, but as I have dated a bit, I realize just how broken I am. Trauma was happening in my life EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. If you have read my story on here, it really is just the surface of all that went on. Everyday I was scared, hurt, confused, and felt like my life was out of control. I saw things I NEVER thought I'd see. I heard things I NEVER thought I'd hear. I experienced things I NEVER thought I'd experience. I hurt like I NEVER thought a person could hurt. I felt like I was ok after all was said and done with the divorce. I didn't need anyone to help me get through anything, because I felt I was already doing great despite the previous 7 years. I was so foolishly wrong. I went to a couple of counseling sessions after my divorce. That is it. I felt I didn't need to go anymore. I had a testimony and the strongest relationship with my Heavenly Father I had ever had. I felt I was over everything. As I have tried now to have relationships as I have been seeking and feeling as though I need an eternal companion, I realize that I have SO much work to do. Five years later and now I feel as though I am more of a mess than I was right after my divorce. Again, I am being extremely vulnerable here, but I am ok with that. I realize I don't trust. I don't feel there are any decent men out there that aren't already married. I feel (as I mentioned in my last post) that there are always ulterior motives. I have triggers. I have flashbacks. I have emotions that have been buried so deep within myself that need to be healed. I push people away. I feel that they are going to leave my life anyway, so I just try to hurry the process along. I feel unlovable as far as a relationship with any man goes. I feel unworthy. I feel not good enough. Not pretty enough. Not strong enough. Not fun enough. I feel I don't fit the "mold" of the women that surround me that men are wanting. I am broken. I sound pretty pathetic, and really, I am. But what I am trying to convey is that when we face trauma of any kind, we need help. We need guidance. We simply CANNOT get through it on our own as much as we feel we can. I KNOW that through The Atonement, we can be healed in all things. I know that there are people that are trained as professionals to help us heal. I am finally seeking the help I should have sought long ago. I have a lot of work to do. I have a skewed mindset. I am so incredibly grateful for the Gospel. Without the knowledge that I have, knowing that I am NEVER alone, that I can get through ANYTHING with an all-knowing Heavenly Father and Savior. I am so grateful for professionals that have been trained to help by giving me tools to work through the trauma. To help me not react out of triggers or fear. I know that the first step in all of this is to be, as my counselor says, "my own best friend." With the Savior by my side all things are possible. I will trust again. I will feel of my worth again. Nothing is too broken that the Atonement and hard work can't fix. Nothing.



Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Healing Takes Time

 I "unpublished" my blog about two years ago. For about two months I have been prompted to re-publish it, and kept pushing that prompting aside. Recently I have been experiencing major PTSD. I thought I was fine. I thought I was in a good place. I thought I could get over all the crazy experiences I have faced on my own. I was wrong. I went to counseling a few times here and there, but never consistently or for very long. It was almost too painful. As I wrote my story on here, I was in the midst of all of the turmoil that was going on. It was therapeutic to write and I felt that maybe my story could help someone else. I didn't know why, but I did. In the past year, I have come to realize that going through any type of major trauma is NOT something that can be dealt with on your own. I am going to make myself really vulnerable right now. I am admitting SO many flaws that I have. Things that I have not dealt with in a healthy way...I have triggers. MAJOR triggers. I don't trust. I feel like there is always an ulterior motive going on when it comes to any sort of relationship. I feel like I will never be able to really trust again. I live with a very guarded and closed mind thinking that the only upright and trustworthy males around my age are already married. I literally have flashbacks and uncontrollable behaviors. All of these things have surfaced in just the past year. Before, I thought I had this. I didn't need help. Oh was I wrong. I am completely broken inside. It has been officially five years this month since I have been divorced. FIVE years and I am just BARELY starting my path to healing. Before re-publishing this blog, I went back and re-read it. There were so many things I didn't remember. So many memories I tried to bury. It was painful. It was emotional. However, it was necessary. Necessary because I can't heal without digging deep to pull out all the yuck deep down and really rid myself from it. So many things that I have tried to just put a band aid on instead of really letting the wounds heal. It is as if Heavenly Father is allowing these feelings to re-surface so that I can truly be the person I want to be. So I can really feel the "pure joy" I refer to in the title of this blog. I have felt so much peace where I am with my feelings for J. I don't miss him. I don't long for him. I don't hate him. I don't love him (other than loving him for blessing me with my two greatest gifts). I feel like I have completely forgiven him. It has been such a great feeling. Even after reading these posts on here again and almost feeling as if I was re-living that nightmare, I didn't feel any ill feelings toward him. I was sure I had forgiven him. Little did I know, I am still hurting. I am not feeling complete forgiveness. Something happened this past Friday that helped me realize why. Koleman and I went to Costco to pick up some pictures I had printed. We decided we would go and see if we wanted to get anything for his lunches for school. As we rounded the corner after getting the pictures, I nearly ran right into J and his wife. In the five years we have been divorced I have NEVER seen J out of context (meaning unless I saw him in passing if he came to get the kids). He and I made eye contact. My heart felt like it stopped. He quickly turned away. Didn't acknowledge me. Didn't acknowledge his son. So many emotions surfaced. Luckily Koley didn't really see him. We quickly left. I took Koley home and after he went in the house I sat in my car and sobbed. He has someone by his side. He is at Costco shopping when I have been asking him for help paying for medical bills, contacts, drill team expenses, dresses to school dances, school fees, school clothes, etc. on a teacher salary it is extremely hard to provide for two teenagers alone. He tells me he is sorry but doesn't have any money to spare. So seeing him at Costco buying things stung. Buying things for his family. His wife and her children. What about us? Your OWN children? Now this isn't a post to diminish his character (even though it may look that way). This is simply to show why I know I am not completely where I thought I was. I didn't feel pain in the fact that I want him back, it was just a reminder that we seemed to be so easily tossed aside. More specifically, me. He does try to make more of an effort with the kids than in the past. It made me realize that I have a lot of work to do to TRULY heal and be where I need to be. I have been on what seems to be on a downward spiral with feelings of hopelessness, loneliness, depression, and fear. All feelings that I have felt I have worked so hard to overcome. Well, I haven't. I only put a band aid there. Writing helps me so much. I don't know why, but I have felt so prompted to start writing on here again. I am going to publish this. Not to try to become "internet famous" (because let's be honest, maybe only two people read this. One of them being my mom), not to make money, or to get pity, but sincerely to help myself heal, and hopefully help someone else that may need to feel as if they are not alone.

Having the Label of "Divorced".

I remember listening to a talk about twelve years ago during our semi-annual General Conference for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. One of our amazing Apostles gave a talk entitled, "Divorce". At the time, I remember thinking about how horrible it would be. I thought about close friends and some extended family members who had to go through divorce. I felt sympathy for them and remember feeling so grateful it wasn't me and that I was raised in a home with parents that loved, respected, and honored the covenants they made to one another in the temple when they were sealed. I felt so grateful that "divorce" was not a word that frequented my thoughts or vocabulary. It was a foreign word, but a word I knew brang heartache to so many. Little did I know what just five years down the road would hold for me... I started marriage off in a devastating way, not initially being sealed in a temple of God and having to wait a year for that privilege. The moment I knew I would not have the opportunity to be sealed for time and all eternity in the house of the Lord like I always knew and dreamed I would, was the most devastating thing that I had to deal with up to that point in my life. Twelve years after we did have the opportunity, I remember sitting in the attorney's office signing a document that had the title of "Divorce Decree... Hadley vs. Hadley". I signed with an extremely heavy heart. I NEVER dreamed in a million years I would be one of those people that had the label of "divorced" to describe my marital status. It was bad to be divorced. It isn't part of Heavenly Father's plan. People would look down on me. I now had the title of "single mom". I was supposed to do all I could to stand by my husband. Divorce was NOT acceptable. What was I doing? I pulled up Elder Oaks talk after coming home from my attorney's office. I read it with the attitude that I gave up too easily. I was a horrible person. No matter how miserable I was, I made sacred covenants. I wasn't supposed to do this. I then came to a part in his talk where he said,
      "There are many good Church members who have been divorced. I speak first to them. We know that many of you are innocent victims--members whose former spouses persistently betrayed sacred covenants or abandoned or refused to perform marriage responsibilities for an extended period. Members who have experienced such abuse have firsthand knowledge of circumstances worse than divorce.
        When a marriage is dead and beyond hope of resuscitation, it is 
needful to have a means to end it."
That was it. Exactly what I needed at that moment. It was as if the Lord Himself was saying, "You gave it all you had. You did what was necessary for you, for Addie, and for Koleman. You are their protector and because of choices being made, they were not safe and secure. You were putting every ounce of energy into trying to save something that was "beyond hope of resuscitation", and in turn were not being the mother they needed and deserved." Although I felt much peace in knowing that I did do the right thing, the thing necessary to be healthy and happy, I still had the labels of "divorced", and "single mom". 
When I was young, I always looked at divorced people and thought they did something bad. Not because I was told/taught that, but I WAS taught that marriage is sacred and the main reason we're here to have families. I don't necessarily feel that people think I'm a bad person because I'm divorced, but I do know that I am looked at a bit differently than I would be if I were married. I got to a point after our divorce was final, where being a mom and a teacher was all I wanted to do. I was content and had plenty of fulfillment in my life from these two amazing callings. I was being the mother I wanted to be, that I needed to be. Divorce is most certainly hard on the two people that are divorcing, but I dare say, it is much harder on any of the children that are involved. Watching my happy, full of life, confident, care free daughter transform into someone that is unsure of herself, scared of having close relationships in fear of being left, unhappy with how she looks (which is crazy because she's beautiful in every way), feels like many people automatically don't like her. It has been heart breaking to witness. She's still so amazing and does all she can to stay close to her Heavenly Father, but isn't the same happy girl I once knew. Then my sweet son who is overly obsessed with having to know where I am at all times, afraid every single second that something is going to happen to me. Who doesn't easily trust. I know they know they are loved, but it's not the same as having a complete family. Watching Addie's face drop every time a friend or someone talks about their dad and how much they love him, is almost more than I can handle. Or trying to explain to Koleman everything will be ok as he is hysterically sobbing saying, "I just wanted a dad" because someone he only knew for a couple of weeks, but apparently thought would fill that role wasn't going to come around anymore. I wish I could take their pain, their fears, their worries, and their heartache. I've prayed to just give it all to me. Don't let them suffer for something they never asked for. They deserve to have a complete loving family just like anyone else. As I prayed for that, I knew it was something that couldn't be. I can't take their pain. So I then prayed to help me know how to help them. 
I have a very close friend who lost her dad in high school to a long battle with diabetes. That was nearly 20 years ago and I remember her telling me just last year that although it's been several years, people don't understand that not one day goes by where she doesn't think of him or miss him. After the funeral, other people just move on and don't realize the battle those directly affected fight to heal, grieve, and move forward. Although my situation is far different, I can relate in the same way, as I watch my kids deal with the effects of divorce. Sure, it happened nearly three years ago, but the repercussions although a bit weaker, haven't gone anywhere. 
Being divorced makes me feel (completely from my own insecurity) that I'm looked at as though I am not worthy, or good enough at times. I know that is not the case, but it's where my crazy mind goes. All of that being said, I am grateful beyond words, for the trial of not only being divorced, but all other trials as well. It has caused my once sheltered, close minded way of looking at things, to broaden. I am much slower to judge. Much quicker to give the benefit of the doubt. I love with much more ease and understanding. It has made my idealistic way of thinking, completely transform. Instead of only thinking that everyone should get married and live happily ever after in bliss, I now see there are many trials and that no matter what your marital status, it doesn't make you any less. I'm still a daughter of God. I still try to do my best to stay close to Him and try to teach my kids to do the same. We are so blessed to have the gospel. I know that I'll have the opportunity to live with He and His Son again as long as I keep the faith and strive to live in such a way to stay close to Them. Divorce is not easy. It is one of the hardest things I feel there is to endure. Not just the actual divorce, or what led up to the decision to divorce, but the after effects as well. However, like I said before, I now see situations and life in a much different more loving and non-judgemental way. We need not feel hopelessness from the repercussions divorce can bring. President Uchtdorf said, 

  "If only we could glimpse for a moment what the Lord has in store for us, not only in the next life, but in this one as well, our hope would be unshakeable and despair could never overcome us." 
 Hope is a powerful thing. With hope and faith, we CAN endure such trials and come out on top. I love my Savior and my Heavenly Father SO much! With the knowledge I have, I know despite my circumstances, everything will be ok and we can overcome anything through Them.

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."