abuse, addiction, betrayal, Choices, infidelity, Narcissist, The Other Woman

What is Cheating?

My Ex likes to quibble over little things that do not matter. He has done this throughout our marriage to deflect the conversation from any real understanding of feelings to arguing over semantics.  Think of Bill Clinton’s definition of what IS is and you will have an idea of what it is like to have a discussion with my Ex. Instead of tapping into what a person is feeling because of what they are saying, he argues over the words they use.  It’s very difficult to communicate on any meaningful level with this dynamic.  Connection is almost impossible.  So it is no surprise to me when we talked about his cheating, what that means for me, how it effected me in the past, and what it does to me now, that he just doesn’t get it. He is more interested in the definition of cheating than he is in what his cheating actually did to me.  It is as if he really believes that if cheating is defined a certain way then it really isn’t that bad.  But pretty much all addicts who are not in to recovery think in these black and white terms.  While the betrayed spouse is bewildered that this even needs to be discussed.  It shouldn’t be discussed.  Cheating is wrong on any and every level. Period.  Everything else is just semantics.  All the word twisting, mental gymnastics and fun house mirror contortions won’t change what it did to the heart of the betrayed.  Addicts would do well to understand this and just SHUT UP and LISTEN when their spouse tries to share how their actions made them feel! They shouldn’t try to defend themselves or try to wiggle out of their spouses pain.  They did it.  They should own it. This is what accountability is – owning your crap.  And that means owning what it actually DID to the other person, not what you think it did, or what the definition of what you did changes the impact somehow.  What you think about it doesn’t matter!!!

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My Cheater likes to discount all of my feeling with one single sentence, “I guess you and I have different definitions of what cheating is.” This shows the depth of the lack of understanding he has for his actions.  It isn’t about definitions.  It never was.  The reason he wants to define it so he can find a loophole to escape the responsiblity and accountability of his actions.  If he can tell himself “it’s not so bad.” Then he escapes the accountability and, thus, the consequences.  This is why he continues to think that he can just say he is sorry and call it good. (But this issue is for another post.)

Luckily for me, Heavenly Father has done a pretty good job of defining what cheating means.  And his prophets and apostles have taken over to provide clarity, just in  case there are any misunderstandings.  Cheating is far more than just sleeping with someone. Once you have gotten into bed with someone who isn’t your spouse, you crossed the cheating line a long time ago.  Sleeping with someone is the last thing you do on the cheating timeline.

“Heavenly Father’s teachings on the sanctity of marriage, however, remain clear. “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” tells us that “children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.2

The scriptures declare, “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14; see also Mosiah 13:22; D&C 59:6), and “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife [or husband]” (Exodus 20:17; see also Mosiah 13:24). Story after story—from David and Bathsheba (see 2 Samuel 11) to Akish and the daughter of Jared (see Ether 8:8–17)—warn us of the destructive results of lust and infidelity.”

When a man looks upon a woman he has already committed adultery in his heart.  That is why the Lord says to avoid the very appearance of evil.  With the advent of the internet it appears that my Ex isn’t the only one who tries to excuse his behaviors as “not really cheating”  so the church published an article in the Ensign to clarify it for these men who stray on the internet and in person and then try to rationalize it by saying they were not cheating. This article is so on point and so timely that it will save your marriage or convict you of your wrongs and get you back on track.  I highly recommend it! You cannot talk to members of the opposite sex behind your spouse’s back, try to hide it, and say you were not cheating.  You were. You absolutely were cheating.

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A friend posted this on Facebook yesterday and I think it gets to the heart of the matter:

“Just need to say my piece….. I am in no way perfect and in no way a saint…… But I have made many mistakes I had to learn from the hard way. I own every single one of my mistakes because I have nothing to hide ……. If you are in a relationship (committed), engaged or married…… STOP doing inappropriate things behind your partner’s back. STOP talking to members of the opposite sex in a manner you know you shouldn’t. STOP CHEATING on them. Have enough respect for the person who loves you too not be tied down by you. Give them the chance to truly be loved by someone who deserves their love. I am telling you the truth eventually comes out….. Always does. If you think this post is about you maybe you should ask yourself WHY you think that. If you have to hide your messages, delete them or sneak around…. You my friend need a wake up call. This is in no way directed at the people in open relationships or non-committal ones…… That is all.”   ~ Crystal Applegate

Speaking of looking.  My Cheater looked at other women…a lot.  Right in front of me.  When I would protest he would say, “What?  I just noticed. I didn’t linger.”  But he did linger.  He rationalize. And it hurt me.  Over and over and over.  He will never know the tears I shed over his “just looking.”  Hot tears raced to sting the back of my eyes every time I saw him do it. Tears he never saw me shed because he would ridicule me for them because he would say, “you have nothing to worry about.”  Turns out I had everything to worry about!

Had he really honored me or cared about my feelings he would have checked himself.  He would have said that if it bothered me he wouldn’t do it.  He would have said, “If you catch me looking at someone else and it makes you feel bad about yourself then tell me because I wouldn’t want to do anything to hurt you!”

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He flirted too.  Incessantly.  He flirted with women he worked with.  He flirted with friends.  He flirted with women at church.  When I would say something to him about it, he would blow it off as “I’m just being nice! What?  You don’t want me to be nice to people?  Ok, I won’t be nice to anyone.  I will just be all business.”  The problem with this is that he again discounted my feeling and refused to address the real issue. My issue was that he didn’t flirt with ME like that, so why wouldn’t I feel like I was being cheated out of something I saw him give to others?  So yes, sometimes cheating is just talking to other women!  Especially if it isn’t at least as nice or flirty as you talk to your own wife.  When I asked him why he didn’t talk to me like that, he would just say it’s not how he really is in private.  But he could do it for them, why not for me? Isn’t it cheating when you cannot make an effort for your wife that you make for other people?  Maybe it’s just me, but I feel when you give someone else something you are not willing to give your spouse, you are cheating them out of the very best part of yourself.  Discounting my feelings was cheating.  He was disloyal in front of me, so it made it very easy for him to be disloyal behind my back.  The article continues:

“President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) said, “One might expect that every marriage in the house of the Lord would carry with it a covenant of loyalty one to another.”5 Renowned marital researcher John Gottman pointed out that “a committed relationship is a contract of mutual trust, respect, nurturance, and protection. Anything that violates that contract can become traitorous.”

Cheating can be something as simple as a disregard for your spouse’s feelings.  When you do not take them seriously enough to listen to their concerns and work to correct your offending behaviors, that can also be cheating.  The point is that anything that leads you to disconnect from your spouse and to move out of the space where you have more concern for their safety, wellbeing, and comfort is the first step down the road to infidelity.  You cheat them out of your best self and you cheat yourself out of a healthy and faithful marriage.

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And this is how Satan binds us in flaxen cords and leads us carefully down to hell.  Here a little, there a little.  Step by step.  We don’t normally just jump into bed with someone else to begin with. My Ex’s ability to jump into bed with someone else started years ago when he thought it was ok to look and to flirt.  Sex addiction is usally a life long problem that started long before a marriage even happens. The way my Cheater treated me in our marriage is a tell that he had hidden unhealthy behaviors about how to treat a woman long before he met me.

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So yes, dear Cheater, you cheated on me for a long time before you got to the point that you were chatting with multiple women online behind my back.  I spent years and years crying tears over every slight given to me by your careless words and acts, which are all recorded in heaven.  One day you will account for every tear I shed. So yes, you did cheat on me more than you care to admit or own, but it wasn’t blindly.  I tried to tell you.  You were just too busy trying to define what IS is. You were not protective of me or our marriage…that is the definition of cheating.

Stay Sweet, Be Strong

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The Cupcake Warrior

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betrayal, grounded, healing, infidelity, My Story, Self Care, Spiritual, Trauma Recovery

Untethered 

I have been working on becoming grounded practically everyday since my yoga class began two months ago, and with good reason – I am untethered from the earth. A thought that both intrigues and terrifies me at the same time. Don’t panic. I am not suicidal. I just have this feeling like the earth is no longer home to me. I don’t belong here. The earth has become my prison and it is holding me hostage. If I were to go to my heavenly home today, I would be ok with that, because I would be free of this pain. If I could choose it, I would not stay. But it is not my choice to make. So my mind and body are rebelling. It’s another coping mechanism of the brain to deal with intense pain.

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Today I discussed these feelings with my therapist, and I discovered I am not alone in this space. Floating above the earth and not feeling your feet touch the ground is not uncommon for women in betrayal trauma. Imagine all of the souls that walk among you who are untethered from this world because they feel indescribable pain. These are the real walking dead. Welcome to the world of the betrayed.

Imagine a pain so deep, so wide, and so vast that the earth is not large enough to hold it. That is what betrayal trauma feels like. Pain like that cannot be contained on earth. It is bigger than the earth.

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I discovered my disconnnect from all things earthly while doing a guided meditation of visualizing my chakras. Being grounded is the first chakra. It’s color is red and it’s location is at the base of the spine, the tailbone. In visualizing this chakra you should be able to see, in your minds eye, a bright red spinning disk at the base of your spine.

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I can see all of my chakras, but this one. The others are all present, to one degree or another. I can see them all but this one. Which is weird because I can normally, easily visualize the color red, just not in relationship to my chakras. Some of my chakras are vibrant and alive with vivid colors, others are faint. The red one is, well, practically non-existent. It is mostly gray, powdery, and dust, like a fire that has burned itself out completely. Periodically it pulses with the faintest red glow, almost imperceptible. An ember that  still burns hot, but is covered in ash.  So faint, and sporadic, that I almost didn’t notice it. I’m afraid to blow on it too hard, for fear I will blow it out completely. I only saw it because the fact that it wasn’t there frightened me. I kept searching for it in my minds eye long after the instructor had moved the class on to the next one. Once I saw it, I moved on too. But the experience left me shaken. So I finally told it to my therapist today.

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Her response was amazing. It left me feeling very validated and less alone. “How could you be grounded if the one thing you were grounded to, betrayed you?” Being grounded is a feeling of safety. It is your security. What happened to me was anything but safe. My whole world was blown apart! The life I thought I had was a total lie!  What was there left to be grounded to? Nothing! It is all gone! Being grounded implies I have something solid to be grounded into. The betrayal of my spouse is no small thing. It makes a mockery of everything I thought was real. With my reality called into question, how could I be grounded? And what would I be grounded to? This is what I now have to figure out. What is it that grounds me to this world in the aftermath of all this destruction?

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For now, it is my children and grandchildren. I stay here for them. They need me to be whole and grounded so that they have something to anchor themselves to as well. But I cannot put my exisitence and well-being solely on them either. That isn’t fair. In a fair world, the way God intended it, parents need to be grounded so children can ground to them, not the other way around. Their Dad betrayed them too. He left all of us untethered, and then he ran away. Now I am the one left behind to clean up after him, to make sure everyone else left behind will be ok. It’s not their job to make sure I am ok. It was his job. Does that make sense? Being tethered to them must be a temporary space for me to live in. I need a reason to stay that is greater than they are. A purpose for my very be-ing.

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So I work hard on feeling grounded everyday. For them. I found this chakra balancing meditation I do every night before bed. It’s a little weird, but I like that the first thing he does in the video is to have me imagine a strong cord attached to my tailbone that goes to the center of the earth and attaching itself to anything solid I can find. For me, it is the earth’s core. I wrap the cord around and around that glowing ball in the center of the earth. That is how committed I am to staying here; I ground all the way into the core of the earth!  For now, I am tethering myself here by an imaginary cord until I can find a more solid foundation for my life. It’s a place to start, until I can rebuild. With any luck, it will be something worth all this pain.

The Cupcake Warrior

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Be Strong, Stay Sweet!

Becoming, Choices, healing, My Story, Peace, Spiritual, Trauma Recovery

If I Can Do It…Anybody Can

The following is a talk I gave in church two weeks ago on “Faith.”  I included it here because it is a part of my journey and my story:

Apparently, I have raised a family of highly competent and competitive children.  It is not uncommon for the simplest of family activities to turn into a full-blown competition, complete with lively and braggadocious conversations about how this one or that one is going to “out do” the others. These contests of strength and prowess can come up in nearly any conversation, and on almost any topic, “well, if Brent can do it, then I certainly can!”  We pick on Brent because he is pretty much accomplished at everything he does, and we love him, so we don’t want him to get a big head.  Plus, he is generally good-natured and self-deprecating about his abilities and accomplishments.  On the other hand, when it comes to me, I am the low bar standard of family competitions. In tones that are less than flattering it is declared, “Well, if Maaa-ggaahhh can do it…” (My Grandchildren call me Magah.) The grandkids even join in on that one! And that is ok. I am happy to be the low bar standard, if it is the best motivation to get them moving in the right direction.

In this atmosphere of good-natured ribbing and one-up-man-ship, we give each other the faith to try.  To pursue the unknown, and to go where no man, or woman, has gone before. I say, dream big.  “Go big, or go home” is my motto. If we turn it into a competition, we can generally get each other to do almost anything, including playing Nertz with the Bennett’s, wherein we KNOW we are going to lose before we even get started. And yet we continue to engage because we have faith, that one day, we will take them down!

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According to Joseph Smith in his Lectures on Faith, “faith is the moving cause of all action…in all intelligent beings. All accountable and intelligent beings have faith in this sense.  Such is part of life itself.  Because faith dwells in the hearts of all mankind, they sow with the assurance of reaping; they plant with the hope of harvesting; they exert themselves in the pursuit of knowledge, wisdom and intelligence because they believe they can obtain them. Without this faith, both mind and body would be in a state of inactivity and their exertions would cease, both physical and mental.”

Unlike, our family that uses competition and comparison for the faith to try, our Father in Heaven shows us in His character, attributes and perfections, a more excellent way.  We know from the scriptures the nature of God is that:

  1. He is an eternal being
  2. He is merciful and gracious
  3. He is an unchangeable being
  4. He is truthful
  5. He is impartial
  6. He is loving

And because we know He is these things, we can center our faith on him to lay claim on eternal life and salvation.

It is upon this sure foundation of the character, attributes and perfections of God, and his Son, Jesus Christ, that we hear prophets declare with unshakable assurance things like;

“With God nothing shall be impossible.” Luke 1:37

and…

“I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheth me.” Philippians 4:13

Because their character’s are unimpeachable, because their attributes are completely just, and because they are perfect, we can have absolute faith in them to do whatever is necessary for us to reach out to them and never let go.  And this faith allows us to move forward with the utmost confidence that they will do what they say, and that if we follow them, we can, through them, lay claim to salvation and eternal life!  I can even know that I can beat the Bennett’s at Nertz if I want it enough.

Brothers and Sisters, the way I see it, there is no downside to this arrangement!  We all can know with absolute assurance that we can, and will be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel, no matter what else may happen to us!  And all because we know God and Jesus Christ are eternal, merciful and gracious, unchangeable beings,  who are truthful, impartial and loving. They have always been this way, they will always be this way, yesterday, today and forever.  You can rely on them 100% for forever! Once we grasp this about them, we will no longer wonder why we can do anything because of them!

So, yes, I may be the low bar standard to any competition in my family.  But am I really?   Most of you know I am having to endure a terrible trial, one that is so devastatingly challenging, that is has wrenched my gut, snapped all my heartstrings, and left me to cry everyday in a fetal position in the corner for the better part of two-years.  But even in this condition I had the good sense, like Peter, who was sinking into the depths of the sea, to cry out, “Lord, save me!” Why?  Because I know instinctively, who it is “who is mighty to save!” I know who I am, and whose I am.  So that in my hour of desperate darkness, I know where to find the light, however faint it might be to me at any given moment.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35-39

As I mentioned before, I learned, though this experience, that my default button is faith.  It is what enabled me to cry out, instinctively, and desperately, in my deepest hour of need, “Lord! Save me!” But I did not know I would, or could, do that, until it actually happened.  I didn’t come here in a day, a week or a year.  It was a thousand little choices over a lifetime that led me to this place.  It was placing one foot in front of the other and moving along the path of my life, having faith in a loving Heavenly Father and his Son Jesus Christ because I knew their nature, character, attributes and perfections.

Bruce R. McConkie stated:

“In order to be saved in the Kingdom of God and in order to pass the test of mortality, what you have to do is get on the straight and narrow path – thus charting a course leading to eternal life – and then, being on that path, pass out of this life in full fellowship….What you have to do is stay in the mainstream of the Church and live as upright and decent people live in the Church – keeping the commandments, paying your tithing, serving in the organizations of the Church, loving the Lord, staying on the straight and narrow path. If you’re on that path when death comes…you’ll never fall off from it, and, for all practical purposes, your calling and election is made sure.”

Brothers and Sisters, it really is just that easy, but you have to decide, today, which path you want to be on and who you will follow? You just have to make up your mind to give the Lord your heart, and let’s be honest, that is the only gift you have to give him, because everything else is already His.

So what exactly are the mile markers on the path of faith?  How do we train ourselves to have a muscle memory of faith so that when the storms of life rage all around us we instinctively cry out, “Lord, save me?”

Nephi lays it all out for me with such plainness that even I could understand and apply it:

“And now my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this straight and narrow path, I would ask if all is done?  Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for you have not come thus far save it were but the word of Christ with the unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.

Wherefore, ye must press forward, with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope and a love of God and of all men.  Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting up the words of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father; ye shall have eternal life.” 2 Nephi:19-20

In order to understand this scripture and why the Lord was recommending it to me in my greatest hour of need, I spent the better part of a whole year, studying it, word by precious word.  I unpacked it, held up each nugget and gem to the light, and put it under a magnifying glass as I studied every facet, looked at the color, the beauty, and sought to understand how it applied to my life.  As a result I gathered a few exquisite gospel diamonds along the way.  This setting does not allow me to do any justice to what I learned over the last year, so I will share just a few of them with you in the hope that you will pursue a similar quest of your own.  Trust me, there is much there to explore!  For instance, there are over 100 General Conference Talks that reference this scripture alone.

Press Forward

Press Forward means leaning into the direction you are facing with all our might, mind and strengthen. Moving toward a new destination and successful conclusion.  To do this we must “set our hearts on the things that matter most” according to Elder Uchtdorf. He states,

“We have a tendency to focus on the insignificant and the expense of the profound…we know what matters most in life…our weakness comes in failing to align our actions with our conscience.  How you spend your quiet time may provide a valuable clue to what matters most to you. Where do your thoughts go when the pressure of a deadline is gone?”

When the pressure is on from people and things that would detract us from the things that matter most, what will our response be?

Steadfastness in Christ

Steadfast means to be resolutely or dutifully firm and unwavering; steadfastly loyal.

Nephi said it best: “Oh that I might be like unto this valley, firm, steadfast and immoveable in keeping the commandments of the Lord.”  When it comes to the commandments we must be firm, steadfast and immovable. There is no wiggle room.  Commandments keep us safe!  They are the boundaries in our lives that keep the bad stuff out.  The idea that Commandments = Boundaries caught my attention because much of my recovery work centers around having good boundaries so I can feel safe and protected from further abuse, and just like a property line around our homes, our boundaries tell Satan, in no uncertain terms, this is where I will go and no farther. I choose to stay on God’s side of the line. I choose to be safe! I learned that when I am steadfast in my life:

  • I have very clear boundaries for myself and others.
  • I have a clear vision for my life – when I have a clear vision for my life, that allows me to make very clear choices, because I know, without a doubt where I am going and what I need to do to get there.
  • I pray and study the scriptures to know where the Lord wants me to go and what I should be doing to get there.
  • I am always abounding in good works because idle hands are the devils playground so doing good keeps me out of mischief.

When you know where you are going you will make choices that bring you to safety so that you will have peace.  Safety and peace are the fruits of good choices.

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Perfect Brightness of Hope 

Hope is hard for me, even of a good day.  But when your forever is destroyed, regular everyday hope is a challenge, but a perfect brightness of hope seemed unattainable to me.  Because of this, I almost skipped over it in my study.  I’m glad I didn’t.  Suffering brings with it a special understand, according to Elder Maxwell. Elder Maxwell and I share a kinship we didn’t have before. Suffering changes your very nature. My experience is no different.  Through the effects of my husband’s addiction and denial I developed betrayal trauma, also known to most of you as PTSD.  Through triggers, that exist almost everywhere I go, I am routinely thrust into fear, pain, anxiety and sheer panic.  I experience the most irrational onslaught of feelings when I least expect it.  Fun huh? I am told emotional, as well as physical torture does this to a person. I tell you these things not so that you pity me, but so that you will believe what I am about to say to you.  In this condition, I don’t feel very hopeful for my life or my future, like at all. Hope is not in my wheelhouse.  Yet even in this condition I found a way to hope and so can you.

In the immortal words of Jeffrey R. Holland:

“In the gospel of Jesus Christ we have help from both sides of the veil. When disappointment and discouragement strike—and they will—we need to remember that if our eyes could be opened, we would see horses and chariots of fire as far as the eye can see, riding at great speed to come to our protection. They will always be there, these armies of heaven, in defense of Abraham’s seed.”

In the hour of my greatest need, I was given strength beyond my own to keep going. I learned later that a great temptation for someone in my shoes is to give up on everything they have ever know. Many of them say,  “If this could happen to me, when I have been good, and faithful, my entire life, what is the point?” Often the betrayed turn to an affair of their own to deaden the pain.  Drinking and drugs are also a very common response. I must admit these things did cross my mind, for a minute, but something else came into my mind, these word from Elder Uchtdorf;

“One of the purposes of the Church is to nurture and cultivate the seed of faith—even in the sometimes sandy soil of doubt and uncertainty. Faith is to hope for things which are not seen but which are true.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters—my dear friends—please, first doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith. We must never allow doubt to hold us prisoner and keep us from the divine love, peace, and gifts that come through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

These are just not pretty sentiments.  They are solid doctrine taught with power by one who knows both the challenges we face, and the Lord who makes the promises.  His words are power until salvation because he has it on solid authority, he has it on God’s authority!  Words that are mighty to save!  And indeed they are! These words gave me the hope I needed to find my faith when I felt like everything was lost and there was no hope.

Feasting on the Word 

This whole talk is the evidence of what can happen when you feast upon the words of Christ. Just do it! You won’t regret it. If you want to know how, come talk to me.

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Endure to the End

Enduring to the end is not my favorite.  I actually hated this phrase, until Elder Wirthlin got a hold of me. Prior to that, I felt like enduring to the end was like riding Screamin’ at Disneyland, hanging on for dear life, until it is over. No thank you. I’ll pass.

What I learned from Elder Wirthlin about enduring to the end changed me, and my perspective. He said;

“Enduring to the end is the doctrine of continuing on the path leading to eternal life after one has entered the path through faith, repentance, baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost.  Enduring to the end requires our whole heart…and offering our whole souls as an offering unto him, and continuing in fasting and prayer.  Enduring to the end means that we have planted our lives firmly on gospel soil…those who endure are balance, consistent, humble, constantly improving and without guile.”

Enduring to the end is a bedrock doctrine. That means you can ground yourself to it and stand immoveable. It is not just suffering through our challenges. And it is not a white-knuckle experience.  Enduring to the end is actually the process of coming unto Christ and being perfected in Him! I cannot white knuckle it through life!  That is not for me.  But I can, and want, to Come unto Christ!

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Muscle Memory

Earlier in this talk I mentioned muscle memory.  That was for a reason.  We cannot get to the “default of faith” without consistent practice. Practice really does make perfect!

When my son, Brent was 4 years old, he told me he wanted to learn to play the piano.  I told him that if he took piano lessons that he would be required to practice thinking it would deter him, I made practicing sound horrible. After all he was only four.  But he was determined to learn to play so he agreed. Now we all know a four-year old had no idea what he was getting himself into, but nevertheless, I hired a piano teacher (Heavenly Father) who I paid to teach my son piano lessons. (Jesus) Because I paid the debt to the piano teacher, I could require something of my son in return – practice. But does his practice pay me or the piano teacher back?  No, not really.  Practicing is how the child shows appreciation for the indescribable gift of piano lessons. But it is still a debt he can never repay sufficiently.  I figured out that over the course of time I paid over $15,000 for piano lessons for my son.  If any of you have heard him play then you will agree that the price was well worth it!

By giving my son piano lesson I was also giving him the opportunity to live his life on a higher level and in this case, to earn some money in return by teaching others to play. For me, the joy is not found in getting repaid, the joy is found in seeing my gift being used and to watch my son improve.

In his talk, “His Grace is Sufficient”, Brad Wilcox says;

“But don’t you realize how hard it is to practice? I’m just not very good at the piano. I hit a lot of wrong notes. It takes me forever to get it right.” Now wait. Isn’t that all part of the learning process? When a young pianist hits a wrong note, we don’t say he is not worthy to keep practicing. We don’t expect him to be flawless. We just expect him to keep trying. Perfection may be his ultimate goal, but for now we can be content with progress in the right direction. Why is this perspective so easy to see in the context of learning piano but so hard to see in the context of learning heaven?”

“When learning the piano, are the only options performing at Carnegie Hall or quitting? No. Growth and development take time. Learning takes time. When we understand grace, we can, as it says in the Doctrine and Covenants, “continue in patience until [we] are perfected” (D&C 67:13).

And so it takes practice.  Lots of it. Playing over and over, until we get it right, until it becomes a part of us, until we are changed, and until it become second nature. This kind of practice creates a muscle memory so that when we are scared or distracted or hurt or suffering during the most important performances of our lives, we can keep going, because we have done it before, and because we have done it before, we know that, when it really counts, we just do it by heart.  It becomes our default button, because of consistent practice, over time.

So when the test is big and eternity hangs in the balance, and the afflictions come, as they surely will, our actions will respond by heart, because we practiced faith! So, even if you are only the low bar standard, you can still have faith to move in the right direction, step by step, because when it comes to faith, slow and steady does get you across the finish line.

After all, Brothers and Sisters, as my family will attest, if I can do it, anybody can.

The Cupcake Warrior

chocolate cupcake warrior

Be Sweet, Stay Strong!

Becoming, Coping, Spiritual, Trauma Recovery

Unpacking the Scriptures

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Scripture Journaling is nothing new.  However, it was new to me.  It is one of those “good things” that has come to me during this experience. The Lord knows what I need, when I need it.  I believe he sent this as a gift to me right now because he knew I would need it so desperately.  I have always been committed to serious scripture study, but like everyone, my dedication to it waxes and wains according to my circumstances. Sometimes I am just better at it than I am at other times.  Let’s face it, life sometimes just gets in the way.

But, right now, I am in a place that scripture study is vital and necessary for my survival.  It is as important for my spiritual and emotional wellbeing as breathing is to my physical wellbeing. Never in my life have I so desperately needed to feel connected to my Heavenly Father.  To hear His voice, to seek His will for me, and to feel Him near me, have never been so critical to me as they are now.

In the first year of this journey, I read my scriptures, but it wasn’t helping me.  I wasn’t feeling anything.  I was too panicked, too anxious, and too flooded with emotions that I couldn’t feel the delicate feelings of the divine. During my greatest hour of need, I felt totally and utterly abandoned, even by God.  Everything was so dark when I desperately needed to feel the light.

And then along comes Amy.  Amy is a long time friend that just seems to resurface when I need her the most.  She just seems to know.  Out of the blue she contacts me to attend a long weekend at a women’s retreat.  I will always be grateful for friends who listen and respond to promptings of the Spirit.  She told me that she was inspired to reach out to me and that I needed to go to this retreat.  The funny thing about trauma is how humble it made me, and desperate to feel better. I agreed to go even though my anxiety was on overdrive.  Meeting new people at that point was NOT in my wheelhouse. Even at my best, this is a struggle for me. But I was in a desperate place.  Desperate times call for desperate measures, right?  I went.

It was Amy’s class on how she studies the scriptures that impacted me the most.  Can I say, “It changed my life?” Is that too over-the-top?  Well it did!  I can’t send you to a retreat, but I can share with you what I learned.  I hope it will also impact your life the way it did mine. Nothing about it is revolutionary.  It’s not new!  But the way it was presented, that changed me. It connected me back to my Heavenly Father and gave me back the access to his Spirit and Power in a very dramatic way. If you feel disconnected and distant from God, this may be what you need.

“If you want to talk to God, pray.  If you want God to talk to you, read your scriptures.” John Bytheway

There are as many ideas and templates for scripture journaling as you could ever want. You will find everything imaginable under that sun. All you need to do to find what you need is to Google “LDS Scripture Journaling.” The method you use doesn’t matter.  It is the process.  So go find a method that speaks to you and use it. Really, all you need to get started is a notebook, notebook paper, pen and colored pencils.  I downloaded mine from The Redheaded Hostess (in case you are wondering).

I also started studying by topic.  That is what works best for me at this time in my life.  But you can study along with your Sunday School curricula or Seminary Class.  Study chronologically or jump around.  It doesn’t matter!  That is what I loved most about this – the flexibility to do what I NEEDED for ME. It’s not about the method, it’s about the process.

Set Aside a Sacred Time and Place

Once you have all the tools you need.  It’s time to get started.  The first thing that is important to set aside a time to do this.  Make an appointment with your Heavenly Father. It doesn’t really matter when, pick a time that works for you.  Amy suggested getting up early to study. Making this the first thing you do, shows Heavenly Father that He is a priority in your life.  She gets up at 5 am.  I can’t do that.  But if you don’t have time during your day to fit it in, going without an hour of sleep is probably your best option.  And as important as this is, it is a sacrifice worth making. If early morning isn’t your thing, don’t stress.  Setting a time, any time, will be acceptable to Him.

Remember, this is a sacred time, a date you have and keep with only Him.  In addition to a time, have a place.  Dedicate a space, with a prayer, to be a sacred spot that you connect with God. Once you have a place and a time, keep your appointment with Him. Everyday.

What is the price you will pay to know God?

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Start With Heartfelt Prayer

Just this one change in my study habits made a huge difference, but there is more! Start each study session with prayer.  Pray with real intent.  Pour your heart out to God in earnest prayer.  I have since added a meditation to my study that clears my mind to prepare me for prayer.  I close my eyes and focus on my breath.  Breathe deeply, in and out, count “one.” Breathe deeply, in and out, count “two.” And so on, all the way to 10. If I can get to 10 without my mind wandering, I am ready to pray.  If not, I start over.  Focus just on the breath, and clear your mind.

I also keep a prayer list.  I have a list of names of people and their needs. I pray for each one of them by name and for their need. I have also changed the way I pray for myself.  The scriptures teach us that God knows what we need before we ask it and that He is already working on the solution.  He is way ahead of us!  It occurred to me that if he is already working on sending me the blessings, shouldn’t I be grateful for that?  So instead of asking him for the things I need, I am already thanking him for the things I need, even if I have not yet received them.  Does that make sense? For example; if I am sick and need to feel better, instead of asking him to heal me and help me feel better, I say, “I thank thee for healing me from this cold and helping me to feel better.”  Because I know that He loves me, and knows what I need before I ask it, why shouldn’t I thank Him for the gifts he has already prepared for me that I have not yet received?  Isn’t this the very essence of faith?

Become His Disciple

Also, as I pray, I ask the Lord to help me be an instrument in His hands that day.  I want him to use me to bless the lives of those around me.  This is a mark of discipleship; to submit to His will and become His servant to bless those around me.  Praying to be an instrument to help others is also very healing for me. When I pray for this, I am listening to the promptings I get during my scripture study and writing down those thoughts that pop into my head in the margins of my journal.  I may not be studying anything that has to do with calling my sister, but if I get that thought, I write it down. Here is the key though – follow through!  If you get a thought, idea or prompting and write it down and then do nothing about it, the Lord will stop sending you the messages because He knows you are not serious about following through. Being a disciple means to have discipline.  Discipline yourself to be devoted and responsive to the Spirit.

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Unpacking the Scriptures

Now it is time to study.  I have to admit, my scripture study used to be boring.  I was studying, alright.  But I was putting too much pressure on myself. It wasn’t fun and it wasn’t instructive.  I was my own worst teacher. I love this idea of unpacking the scriptures. When you open a box, a gift or a suitcase, you take things out, one by one. Sometimes you unpack these things taking everything out looking at it one at a time.  We turn some thing we find particularly interesting, over and over in our hands to get a better look at it.  We delight in some things, and pass others by, only to find them just and interesting later on.  Some things are beloved and familiar.  Some things are new and exciting. We can do this with the scriptures as well.  Slow down.  Take the time to really look at a verse.  If you need to spend more than one study time on one verse to understand it better, do it!  Here are some ideas for unpacking:

  • Look up words you do not understand
  • Journal about how a scripture touched you or impacted your life
  • Memorize a new scripture each week
  • Take time to ponder ways a scripture applies to your life
  • Draw a picture or doodle to help you remember an insight
  • Underline scriptures that have meaning and make a note of why in the margins
  • Use stickers to make a point
  • Use LDS.org or the LDS Citation Index app to search for talks that used a scripture you are trying to understand
  • Go deep into a topic or single scripture, spend a year on it, if you need or want to. When I was YW President last year I spent an entire year studying everything I could find that related to the theme for that year.
  • Teach yourself the way you wish others would teach you! Make it fun, exciting and interesting to yourself.
  • Share what you are learning with others.

Leave me a comment below if you want to share your experiences with scripture study and scripture journaling.

The Cupcake Warrior

chocolate cupcake warrior

Stay Strong, Be Sweet!