Carry My Burdens

from Meghan

Today in my Healing Through Christ Family Support Group call, we read this as part of Step Two:

Because our Savior respects our agency, He will not take from us what we are not willing to give. We become ready to willingly give and completely surrender our fears to Him. Then we prayerfully ask our Savior to take from us the fearful emotional burdens that are creating so much hopelessness and pain in our lives. Rather than allowing ourselves to fall back into painful emotions; we continue to choose to fall to our knees and surrender all of our emotional struggles to our Savior, allowing His tender mercies and grace to bless our lives. We are learning to let go and let God for His “perfect love casteth out fear.”

I thought about whether I cling to burdens that the Savior would willingly take from me. Then I remembered my experience when I was in labor with my daughter. I had been in the hospital for several hours in hard labor when the nurse told me that I had made no progress in the last few hours. When she left, I turned to the wall and told the Lord I had nothing left. I couldn’t do anymore, and I asked Him to help me and take over. From that moment things started progressing, and she was delivered not long after.

The message I learned at the time is that when we have done all we can, we can ask the Lord to take over and He will help us. That idea was a comfort to me, as I believed that God would support me when I am overwhelmed.

But today, I realized that I have been limiting what the Lord can do for me. I have depended on my own strength until it is absolutely depleted, and only then I have turned to ask God to take over. He didn’t set that limit—I did.

I wonder how many times I have needlessly clung to a burden that He was willing to take from me? I wonder how often I have trusted to my own strength and missed the calm and increased strength and healing He was eager to give to me? Have I remained in fear when He was ready to give me peace?

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I want to learn how to let go, and let God, and feel His love and Redeeming power in every minute of my day. I want to depend on His strength to sustain me rather than my own.

As part of “always remembering Him” I want to remember to offer my burdens to Him. Perhaps sometimes He will take them, and I will be relieved of the suffering they inflict. Other times He may give me greater strength to carry the burdens that are mine for a now. But either way, I will not be carrying them alone.

The Sun’s Love for the Moon

from Annette

And I, God, said: Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven, to divide the day from the night, and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and for years;  Moses 2:14

Each day both the moon and the sun move across the daytime sky.  As they travel above us one always appears to lead the other.   If it is during the phase of the moon when it is growing bigger and brighter the sun appears to lead the moon across the sky.  If the moon’s light is dimming, it appears to stop following the sun and leads out on its own.  Yet to me this is more than just two heavenly objects crossing our sky, it is a story of love, the love of the sun for the moon.  When the moon stops following and leads out on its own, the sun does more than just follow, the sun appears to move faster to catch up to the moon as its light fades with each passing night.  Finally the moon will vanish completely as the sun reaches the wayward moon.  Then for a moment the sun and the moon travel together across the sky until the sun pulls ahead again with the moon following close behind.  We can see the result of this change as the sliver of the new moon appears again in the evening sky and its light begins to grow again.

On August 21st everywhere in the United States we can see the very moment that the sun catches the moon in the daytime sky as we experience the total eclipse of the sun.  If you’re lucky enough to be in the path of totality you will see the light of the sun completely surround the moon as it is held briefly in the arms of the sun.  It will be an unforgettable sight to behold.

Eclipse

For me this is not only a story of love between the sun and the moon, but a story of love between “the Light of the World” or “the Son” and a little wayward moon, me.  As I obediently follow “the Son” my light grows brighter inside me.  I can feel the light growing by the joy I feel in my heart for myself and others.  But if I think I no longer need to follow “the Son” and pridefully lead out on my own, that light begins to disappear.  I know when it’s happening by the joy and happiness that vanishes from my life.  But “the Son” will never give up on me even if I feel I no longer need His guidance in my life.  As my light slowly vanishes “the Son” draws closer to me until He catches me in His arms, surrounding my darkened self with His light.  That moment in His arms changes me and once again I choose to follow and my light begins to shine again. This light first begins as a tiny sliver, yet with each passing day, as I faithfully continue to follow the Son,  my light  grows bigger and brighter until it become as beautiful as the full moon in the night sky.

President Uchtdorf has shared, “Oh, it is wonderful to know that our [Savior] loves us……His love is such that even should we give up on ourselves, He never will.” I am grateful for this reminder of His love for me in the coming Eclipse. How I love my Savior, the Son, the Life and Light of the World.

Reviewing My Life

by Annette
As I again face the task of “make a searching and fearless moral inventory of yourself,” I become discouraged. I have been working on this step for several years. I have struggled with writing about my life, sorting through years of depression and addictions. Why does this step follow “trust in God”? I found the answer in the garden I never planted one summer.
I live on a small farm and should be harvesting bushels of produce out of a productive garden by the end of August. That was a difficult year and I found no time to plant one. Did that mean I had a beautiful brown spot of furrowed soil to look at in my backyard? Of course not. Without care and attention, I had a garden full of weeds, some of them 8 feet tall. It was really just a source of embarrassment.

Irrigation
On the back of my garden spot, buried beneath those weeds is an irrigation system similar to the ones used in the west. Lack of rain made it necessary for me to dig it out to water my pastures. When I went to put the system together I found it under a jungle of briers and thorns which cover my garden/weed plot. I went out and fought to haul the first 40 foot pipe out and soon my legs were scratched and bleeding. As I laid the pipe out on the lawn I could see it was broken from being stepped on by my horses. Discouraged, I worked to bring out the rest. Almost without exception I found the same thing, somewhere the pipe would be broken. The last one was buried beneath stinging nettle and my bare legs were burning before I finally got it out.

My husband helped me lay them all across the lawn. All I could see was the broken mess of pipes. How could I get the system to work and water my pastures? I wanted to just tear it apart. My husband encouraged me to first try to see if I could find where the damaged sections went together. I didn’t want to; I was frustrated because my lack of care had produced this situation. My husband was persistent. After about an hour we had moved things around until we could see where all the breaks were. My husband got the bucket, the spare parts, and using primer and glue it was soon back together again, ready to water my dry fields.

It never is easy to look at the reality of my life. Like my garden it is covered with weeds of all kinds. It is an embarrassment I would rather hide from others. But the Lord encourages me, with help of someone I trust to start digging through it, sorting and analyzing what is there. As I dug through the weeds in my garden/weed plot, I found my watering system. Though it needed a little repair my husband was there to help me. As I sort through the garden/weed plot of my life I will likewise find the “treasure” the Lord knows is there. He will help me sort through it, repair it, and make it whole. As for the weeds in my life He has already taken care of them through the atonement. But before it is possible, I have to first discover what is amiss, then pull those nasty weeds out, roots and all, using the gift of repentance. Then all that will be left in my garden is the person I really am, a wonderful child of God the Lord wants me to discover.
I just have to trust Him enough to step into my garden and start searching.

Sources of Support

by Susan
The name for Step 6 in the Spouse and Family Support Guide has been changed to “Thy Friends Do Stand by Thee.” The scripture that accompanies it is Doctrine and Covenants 121:9, “Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands.” I have felt this very love and support. Step 6 is a beautiful section focusing on seeking support. It says: “In addition to relying on the Lord, seeking support from others can be helpful as we face our loved ones’ addictions. We don’t need to suffer alone. President Henry B Eyring said, ‘All of us will be tested. And all of us need true friends to love us, listen to us, to show us the way, and to testify of truth to us so that we may retain the companionship of the Holy Ghost” (‘True Friends’).hugging Sharing our struggles may be an uncomfortable and vulnerable experience. Many of us feel fearful or ashamed about our loved ones’ addictions and do not want others to know about the problem. We may be concerned that others will judge us or our loved ones. Our loved one who is struggling with addiction may ask that we not tell anyone, even ecclesiastical leaders. However, it is acceptable and important to ask for the help we need or desire.

As we identify sources of support, Step 6 suggests considering the following:

Family
Friends
Priesthood and Relief Society Leaders
Mentors
Support Groups
Professional Help

I have personally made each one of these part of my recovery.

At the end of Step 6 we are asked, “How can you be a support to others passing through similar difficulties?” This one is a toughie! It requires sacrifice on our part, but on the other side of sacrifice are great blessings! Step 6 quotes Elder Orson F. Whitney (as quoted by James E. Faust) in saying, “To whom do we look in days of grief and disaster for help and consolation? …They are men and women who have suffered, and out of their experience in suffering they bring forth the riches of their sympathy and condolences as a blessing to those now in need. Could they do this had they not suffered themselves?”

Accompanying this quote, is this suggested under Personal Learning and Application in Step 6: In what ways could someone who has been through a similar situation to yours help you? Who do you know that has been through a similar situation that you could
turn to? Consider asking local leaders, such as your bishop, quorum leader, or Relief Society president to refer you to someone who has overcome similar challenges.

I certainly am far from perfect and I do not have all of the answers. But I am on this road. My hope in doing this article was to give others on this road a hand of love and support. We can’t fix each others’ problems. Boy I wish we could! But knowing that we have a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, and a heart that understands has been a huge part of my recovery. I am so grateful to those that made the difficult sacrifice of telling me their stories so that I knew I was not alone. It was more than an “anonymous” article, it was a name, a face, a loving Daughter of God who reached out unselfishly to me. I will be forever grateful to sweet sisters (I call all of you sisters) that share this road with
me.

Recovery = Accountability

Susan & Jeff are sharing their personal recovery journeys to help others in similar circumstances.

by Jeff

Dear friends, my name is Jeff and I am a recovering sex addict. Step 10 is Daily Accountability with the key principle to “Continue to take personal inventory, and when you are wrong promptly admit it.” Following steps 4 and 5 had helped me learn the importance of daily accountability. I did not want to build up another inventory of 30 years of sins that continued to escalate.

Some counsel I received early in my recovery was that the higher the accountability, the higher the rate of recovery. I took this to heart and established a high degree of accountability for myself. I am accountable to the Lord for everything each day. I am accountable to Susan to let her know when I am tempted and what I did about it. I established a clear definition of relapse and committed to accountable to the Lord, my wife, my children, my coach, my bishop and my father in law. I had talked with all of these people during my repentance and recovery process and they were all supportive of my efforts to remain clean from addiction. I had started a personal accountability chart early in my recovery to keep track of my days sober. I posted the chart in the kitchen and marked it daily (or weekly when I was traveling out of town) for my progress.

checklist

After the cleansing process of step 9, the desire for my addiction had really diminished. For me, this does not mean my addiction was a done deal. I still had stresses from my job and from life that I am learning how to process. There were still consequences of my addiction that I was dealing with included trying to rebuild trust with Susan and we continued to have good day and bad days. Sometimes trust was growing and other times there was doubt. The daily accountability to the Lord and to Susan helped me grow in my confidence in my Savior. I saw progress and was learning what I needed to do to receive the blessing of the spirit each day.

Over the next few years, I continued to go through the maintenance steps and daily accountability. Sometimes I would get busy and distracted and slack off for a period of time and then come back. Over time, I started to get casual in my daily accountability and allowed myself to slip into complacency. This was followed by denial. I wasn’t back to full acting out in my addiction, but I was not being accountable and I started letting my thoughts wander and my eyes linger longer when temptations came. Of course this led me down the path to relapse.

Susan was visiting family in the US and I was in China. It was a terrible day. I felt like I had made so much progress and was so disappointed in myself that I was so weak and stupid. I knew better and yet allowed myself to be pulled back in. Fortunately, as I went through the remorse cycle I remembered the commitments I has made that I would talk to Susan within a day and call my branch president. I knew if I didn’t pick up the phone and call Susan immediately and tell her, that I would rationalize my relapse and return to my addiction. I called several times and got her voicemail. I also called my branch president. When Susan called back, I told her about my relapse and it was extremely difficult.

It was like we were back at the starting point in the hurt and pain when she first discovered my addition. I talked to my counselor and he said I could use this as a great learning opportunity to get stronger in my recovery. I worked things through with my bishop and I talked to everyone in my accountability circle. These were some very good conversations that helped me learn from my relapse and re-commit myself to continued recovery and daily accountability. They were so understanding and helpful that it was a huge comfort to know that they were still with me even when I messed up. One tender mercy from the Lord is that because I was honest upfront with Susan, the path back to healing and working on the recovery of our marriage went faster.

I have a new perspective that daily accountability is a blessing and not a punishment from my addiction. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ for everyone and helps me stay focused on my Savior and doing His will. It is a much easier way than the addiction or relapse. It opens the way to personal revelation to know the Lord’s will for me each day.

Step Five: Acknowledge to Heavenly Father, to ourselves, and to another person experienced in 12 principles, the exact nature of our wrongs.

burdenBy Sandra

In the How to Apply The Principles of Step 5, I have learned when I humbly go to my Heavenly Father and confess to Him my fears, struggles, pain, and my desire to change, He hears my prayers and sends the Holy Spirit to help make changes in my life. Elder Neuenschwander explains; “Our confession to God will…ultimately bring us closer to Him. Confession is a statement of personal responsibility for our actions. Our complete openness with our Heavenly Father reveals a desire to become clean and whole.”

In Step Five I have learned that I have 9 character weaknesses, well we all have 9 character weaknesses. They are as follows: 1-feelings of low self worth, 2- anger, 3-resentment, 4-selfishness, 5-self pity, 6-fear, 7-dishonesty, 8-envy, 9-pride. “These nine character flaws are the underlying , motivating force behind almost all our negative behaviors and mistakes.” I personally can attest to the truth of this statement. I have found anger and resentment have been 2 of the flaws that I have dealt with the most.

In The Promise of Step Five Elder Richard G. Scott cautioned… “Satan will press you to continue to relive the details of past mistakes, knowing that such thoughts make forgiveness seem unattainable. In this way Satan attempts to tie strings to the mind and body so that he can manipulate you like a puppet.” We place a barricade against the healing power of the atonement of Christ whenever we indulge in self condemnation and self punishment over mistakes we have made in our lives.

I take great peace, comfort and courage from Elder Jeffery R. Holland’s hopeful assurance: “God doesn’t care nearly as much about where you have been as he does about where you are, and with his help, where you are willing to go. …it is important to understand that admitting the exact nature of our wrongs to another person does not necessarily mean that we will disclose the details of transgressions and specific sins.”

It is also important to remember that that the person you choose be of the same gender. “We do not choose our spouse, a family member or loved one in addiction.” They are too close to us or too involved with the events we will discuss.

The first time I got with a friend that had completed Steps 4 and 5, I was very concerned about her reaction to my confession. Would she ever speak to me again? Would she tell someone else? I was a nervous wreck! But all went well. We prayed first that the Holy Spirit would guide each of us in our time together. I found that I had a friend that had similar experiences as I. What a huge relief to find I was NOT ALONE on this journey. A big burden was lifted off my shoulders!!

President Thomas S. Monson testified, “Cast off forever is the old self, and with it defeat, despair, doubt, and disbelief. To a newness of life we come – a life of faith, hope, courage, and joy. …. No responsibility weighs too heavily. No duty is a burden. All things become possible.”

Step Five for me can happen at any time. For example,  if something comes up that I have put off due to fear or pride, I know I must do Step Five. Confess to my Heavenly Father then to my friend in recovery. This is a way for me to keep peace, joy and happiness an active part of my life .

President Monson states in The Promise of Step 6: “When you choose to follow Christ, you choose to be changed.” The Healing Through Christ Support Group program has and continues to help me make those changes!

When the Light Goes Out

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Here are some excerpts from an excellent article in BYU Today magazine, “When the Light Goes Out.” While the focus is on the struggles college students can have with anxiety and depression, the insights are valuable for all of us, especially those with children who are trying to help develop emotional resilience in all members of the family. You can find the original article at When the Light Goes Out.

In a recent survey of 574 BYU students, ancient scripture professor and psychologist Daniel K Judd (MS ’85, PhD ’87) and his colleagues found a strong correlation between those who felt that their salvation was primarily dependent on their own efforts and those who experience anxiety, depression, and other mental-health problems. In contrast, Judd notes, “those who understood and embraced the principle of grace had dramatically lower scores.”

_________

On his mission and at BYU, Jordan became a master at appearing okay. “I went into my mission imagining myself being a great missionary. I would follow all the rules, I would be perfect, people would love me, and they would be converted to the gospel,” recalls Jordan. “That just wasn’t the reality.” The discrepancy, he says, resulted in a struggle with depression throughout his service.

Upon returning to BYU, Jordan’s emotional state spiraled downward, but he didn’t tell anyone what he was feeling. “I was very good at masking it,” he says. “People thought I was the happiest, nicest guy, but internally I tortured myself.”

He turned to pornography as a coping strategy, and he feared telling his parents how much he was suffering because he thought they would be ashamed of him. Jordan also confused the feelings he recognizes now as anxiety and depression as messages from God. “I interpreted those feelings as God’s disapproval of me: He didn’t want me to feel good about myself because He wasn’t happy with me,” he says.

It was during a drive with music blasting—something Jordan often did to cope—that he finally recognized he needed help. It was a turning point.

Jordan found a therapist through campus resources, and his physician prescribed medication. “To talk to a therapist who could explain the science behind what I was experiencing was so refreshing,” Jordan recalls. “[It] was the most weight-lifting, revelatory experience I had.”

____________

As stresses arise, it’s natural for young people to try to replace the negative feelings with pleasurable ones. Unfortunately, Smith says, many of the common go-to methods for young people can be unproductive and even harmful. Some turn to pornography or excessive video-gaming. Others may binge on anything from potato chips to Netflix. While this destructive sort of “self-medicating” may temporarily allay negative emotions, it ultimately creates more problems than it resolves.

Much better, say experts, is for young people to counter stress with their own unique set of healthy coping strategies. Those might include shooting hoops, having a heart-to-heart with a friend or a parent, keeping a gratitude journal, or finding someone to serve. And nearly everyone does better when they avoid isolation and foster social connections.

Young people can also learn to adjust their physiological response to stress. Strategies range from using deep, abdominal breathing to learning to relax one’s muscles to replacing negative self-talk with more productive internal conversations. Smith says thought processes that involve words like should, ought to, must, or have to (as in “I have to get into medical school or I’ll let everyone down”) are rarely healthy and represent a rigid, perfectionist orientation. He says, “People who are resilient tend to have more flexibility in their thinking” (“I hope I get into medical school, and I’ll do my best. But if that doesn’t work out, I’ll succeed elsewhere.”).

The good news, Smith says, is that such strategies really do help reduce stress in just about anyone who is willing to commit to them and practice.

These excerpts are just a taste of a comprehensive discussion of the challenges and solutions to issues that affect almost all families at some time. Follow this link to read the entire article. When the Light Goes Out

Step Four–With Honesty and Gentleness

fear not

My initial reaction to Step Four went something like this: “A moral inventory? Why would I ever want to do that—it sounds terrible!” I had been through the steps two or three times before I began to see something different in Step Four. Assurances of comfort stood out to me; in block letters at the top of the page I wrote the Lord’s words from Isaiah “FEAR NOT; I AM WITH THEE.” The Promise of Step Four in Healing Through Christ gave me courage to begin: “By opening our hearts, we learn valuable lessons from our past and see ourselves with honesty and gentleness.”

Honesty and gentleness. Those words kept running through my mind, as did the assurance that I would not do this alone; President Faust’s counsel “include [the Lord] when you take inventory of your personal worth” gave me courage to start, because I knew I was not doing it alone. I took several weeks to examine my life decade by decade, and as I did, I realized I was seeing things from a wiser, gentler point of view than I had at the time.

And how the rest of the steps opened up to me! With my inventory, I was able to work more deeply in Steps Five through Nine. I was working the steps in a way I had never done before.

When I came back to Step Four last week, I realized I needed to do an inventory of a situation that had developed over the last few months. I needed the clarity, and honesty and gentleness, that comes from applying Step Four. The process is flexible enough to work with a lifelong inventory or an inventory of just one specific issue or event. I’m no longer afraid of what I will find in my Step Fours inventories; I’m eager for the opportunity to learn with the Lord by my side to enlighten, comfort, and give my hope for change.

Heartbreak and Hope

from February 2017 Ensign

man-woman_1864731“No individual’s journey of healing is the same as another’s, and each one is a process—not a destination. Common in many stories, however, is a realization that no amount of pornography use is OK or normal. As a result, when someone engages in any frequency of use or any level of involvement, his or her spouse will experience feelings of heartbreak, betrayal trauma, rejection, shame, and questioning of self-worth. Pornography use damages the connection, trust, and communication essential to a healthy relationship—making it vital for a spouse to seek hope and healing.

“Also common is the comforting discovery that in this bitter experience, spouses can come to know the sweet not by finally finding it on the far side of their trials but by turning with hope to Jesus Christ in the midst of them.”

Read more at https://www.lds.org/ensign/2017/02/heartbreak-and-hope-when-a-spouse-uses-pornography?lang=eng