abuse, addiction, betrayal, divorce, infidelity, repentance, Spiritual

Next to Murder

In my experience, when a man has betrayed his wife and family and his addiction has been discovered the overwhelming response of those in positions of help and authority has been to encourage the betrayed wife to reconcile with her husband, no matter how grevious the betrayal has been. In the church, leaders are told not to even so much as suggest she leave her husband. I am so dismayed by this. I understand the hesitancy to counsel for a divorce, but this is a sin next to murder in seriousness and the only sin that Jesus, himself, said rose to the level of a divorce.

Alma 39:3-5

And this is not all, my son. Thou didst do that which was grievous unto me; for thou didst forsake the ministry, and did go over into the land of Siron among the borders of the Lamanites, after the harlotIsabel.

Yea, she did steal away the hearts of many; but this was no excuse for thee, my son. Thou shouldst have tended to the ministry wherewith thou wast entrusted.

Know ye not, my son, that these things are an abomination in the sight of the Lord; yea, most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost?

I am shocked that this is not taught more clearly to women who come to church leaders for counsel in the case of adultery and infidelity.

It seems that the church policy has been to ignore this very clear doctrine in favor of the social construct of reconciliation. I know that the Church is not condoning this, but individual Church Leaders seem to be taking matters into their own hands. Instead the betrayed spouse is encouraged to deny her own feelings of intense betrayal in favor of forgiving the unfaithful husband without any assurances from him that he will get into recovery for his issues. Nt only that, but infidelity and cheating is considered abuse! The number of times reconciliation is pushed on the betrayed wife is stunning! Women all over the church and from all walks of life are being encouraged to suffer more abuse silently in support of a porn or sex addicted husband. I knew several women in my support group that had been supporting thier husbands in their addictions for 20 years! I could not see myself doing this. I would not allow myself to wither and die on the vine while he indulged in his addictions for decades. After all, I had no idea how long he had already had this problem in his life. It would be impossible for Church Leaders to know either.

In a return to solid doctrine, Church Leaders should teach that the woman with an adulterous husband has no obligation to remain with him. Indeed the scriptures are clear on this issue;

“In the Book of Mormon, Korihor taught the people of Zarahemla that there were no absolute moral standards, only “foolish traditions … which lead you away into a belief of things which are not so” (Alma 30:14, 16). In his devilish line of reasoning, people might pursue any earthly gratification without fear of punishment or guilt…”

“Anyone choosing to embrace immoral thoughts and deeds instead of hearkening to the Savior’s commandments is to be barred from his kingdom (see Gal. 5:16–211 Ne. 15:33–34).”

“Sometimes we limit our own progress by thinking of minimum expectations as maximum goals. “Thou shalt not commit adultery” is the minimum expectation the Lord has of our conduct towards each other. The higher, celestial law is: “Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else.”

“And he that looketh upon a woman to lust after her shall deny the faith, and shall not have the Spirit; and if he repents not he shall be cast out” (D&C 42:22–23D&C 63:16). (reference to talk.) The Lord clearly sees this as serious. I do not believe that he would have his daughters suffer this kind of abuse in the favor of his sons, but that is exactly what appears to be happening, maybe even unintentionally.

I don’t pretend to want to, or need to, tell the Church what they sould or shouldn’t do, doctrinally or by policy. But I can address what I wish would have been done for me. Women who find themselves in my position do not have any frame of reference for what they are up against, so its a natural step for her to seek counsel from her Church Leaders, which is what I did. I was encouraged over and over to reconcile. It was even suggested that I needed to be forgiving and understanding of him and his feelings. He did a good job of convincing Church Leaders that I wasn’t supportive of him in his recovery eventhough he had done nothing to prove he was even doing recovery work. Therapists and experts call this secondary abuse. Victim blaming and shaming is a real problem. Too many Church Leaders, in their efforts to help the addict, blame and shame the real victim, the wife. To make this more complicated, addicts are very good at blameshifting back to the wife. Church Leaders often fall for their mixed up narrative. You will hear things like, “if she had been more supportive, I wouldn’t have needed to seek someone else.” Or worse, “if she took care of my needs in bed, I wouldn’t have to go to other women.” For a betrayed spouse, these accusations are nearly unbearable. Because the Church Leader does not have a basic understand of the denial tactics of an addicted brain, they will often believe him over her, effectively cutting her off from much needed support and help.

Reconciliation nearly cost me my life! Church Leaders want the eternal family to stay intact. I wanted my eternal family to stay intact! We all wanted to save the family, everyone but my Cheater! We all had the same goal and we thought we were all on the same page, reconciliation. But the Cheater continued to cheat without regard for anyone or anything. I would find out about 6 more affairs during the period of time that we were supposed to be reconciling. Even the professionals were tricked into believing his sincerity. So how do Church Leaders and Mental Health Professionals deal with the lies and treachery of the addict brain?

If I were ever to find myself facing this again I would want the following to happen;

  • Those in positions of authority would encourage me to separate from the addicted adulterer until he puts together a plan to provide safety and how he is going to regain trust. Then they need to work with him to put together that plan and monitor his progress. Its not the wife’s job to check up on him.
  • During this time of separation I would have been encourage to protect myself financially. Addicts who have no intention of stopping will hide and lie about the couple’s finances, he might even be anticipating an inevitable end and start liquidating or hiding assests. I would suggest a legal separation. When you discover cheating of any kind there are two people to call – a therapist and a lawyer. Protect your finances now. If you reconcile, great! If you do not reconcile, the separation agreement will become a template for a divorce agreement. A separation agreement does not mean you intend to file for a divorce. The addict will accuse you of that, but if he does that is a red flag. If he loves you then he will gladly support and protect you.
  • Give him a time limit to coming up with an addiction recovery plan. I gave my Cheater one year, it ended up being 18 months. If they are not willing to do it in the time frame that works for you then they are just not willing. Period. Recovery is all about putting promises into solid, measurable actions. If you need him to see a counselor, attend 12-steps, visit with the Bishop weekly, and attend church, to feel safe with him again then when he does those things he will be building trust. Trust is earned in this case. At any rate, you will not be strung along for infinity with no end in sight.
  • I would not move back in until he does the plan for a minimum of 3 months.
  • If you are experiencing multiple D-days, he is not coming clean with his behaviors, and he is continuling to lie to you then you will know he is not serious about reconciliation. Its time to come up with an exit plan. Those supporting you should be encouraging of that.
  • Have a legal mid-nuptial agreement drawn up. Should he do everything that you ask and you move back in with him and reconcile, you want to protect yourself from further cheating and abuse. YOU need to come up with a plan of what you will do if he should cheat again. HE needs to agree to it. Be sure and tie this to some consequences that will sting enough to be a deterrent to any relapses or slips. Again, see a lawyer for this. (He will also be willing to pay your legal fees.)
  • I would have my Church Leaders, his Church Leaders, my professionals, and his professionals back me up on the above actions. The addict needs to know that he is in serious peril and he needs to make good on his promises, or cut you loose.

Too much is at stake for the Addict to minimize the situation and convince others that this “is no big deal!” It is a big deal! It is a divorcable offense and a sin next to murder in seriousness. The reason this is called a sin next to murder is because he murders the souls of his wife and children! His very soul and salvation is at stake, not to mention his marriage and family. It would be great if everyone concerned treated it with the correct level of seriousness.

The Cupcake Warrior

Be Sweet, Stay Strong

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?

prayer

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!

betrayal, Choices, divorce, My Story, Spiritual, The Other Woman

Oh God, Where Art Thou?

If you are friends with me on Facebook, then you know that my Cheater got married  last week.  If you are not friends with me on Facebook… SURPRISE!

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Are you as surprised as I am?  Because he didn’t tell me or his kids.  He just went off and did it. So much class, that one! Obviously he didn’t think of me or the kids or how we would take it. That makes sense, because he obviously wasn’t thinking of us when he was cheating either!

I am shocked, but not shocked. He has made soooo many poor choices over the past two years, why not another one?  There are thousands of reasons why he shouldn’t have gotten married so fast.  The biggest one is that he is an addict and this is a rebound!  But it is my understanding that this is so typical of addicts.  1) They cannot live without someone telling them that they are ok and there is nothing wrong with them and 2) They want to prove to themselves and the world they are not the problem.  “See world, I found another spouse so fast, I must not be the problem! Somebody loves me enough to marry me!”  I give it 3 months. Nobody should be surprised.

I have had so many emotions swirling around, at hurricane force, inside me this past week.  I run the gambit from, relief to intense pain, similar to what I felt when I first learned of his betrayal. I am angry and sad.  I feel like screaming and laughing, all at the same time. But mostly I am relieved!

He got MARRIED!  What an idiot!

Eventually, I will process it all and sort it out.  But for now, I am still a mess. Here is why:

Do I even need to explain why?  Some things just don’t need words.

One thing stands out though – I AM FREE!  This is not my problem anymore!  He is not my problem anymore!  He is somebody else’s problem!! I can walk away and dust my hands feet off of him! Not my circus, not my monkeys! SHE now has to deal with his crazy!  And oh man, she is in for a rude awakening when she finds out just how crazy his crazy is! I sort of feel sorry for her.  Sort of. Some people are just willfully stupid and they deserve what they get. Some choice bite you in the butt because you put your butt in between the bars of the Lion’s cage! Mark my words, I will be telling you all about it before the next 3 months are over!

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Now, I know, he will NEVER get his act together.  He is NEVER going to change.  He isn’t interested in becoming a whole person.  He thinks he is just fine the way he is.  So that… is that.

I also know now that I do not EVER want him back. E-V-E-R!  He is no longer the man I married and he has proven that he isn’t likely to “come to himself” again in this life.  At the rate he is going, he doesn’t have enough time to fix any of the things he has done.  He doesn’t deserve me.  I don’t want him.  I really thought I would never be able to say that – but there it is. I don’t want him. He killed whatever feelings for him that I may have had. His new marriage has made all of that painfully clear. I mean nothing to him.

I have been living in my own denial.  I really believed he would get his act together and come back to me!  I actually believed that our 38-year marriage meant something to him and that eventually he would wake up and remember that! Addicts are not the only ones who can live in denial – victims do too. I was “denialing” it all over the place!  My bad.

All those months I spent praying for him to get a clue, begging the Lord for him to see his addiction and come out of denial, begging the Lord to help put our family back together, asking for an “Alma the Younger” experience for my ex. Pfft. They were prayers that were wasted.  Someone told me not to waste one more prayer on him and that it was time to pray for and focus on me.  I like that.  That first night after I found out about his marriage, I went to say my prayers and I seriously couldn’t think of what to pray for!  I had been praying so hard for him, I had completely neglected me.  I am fixing that right away! Just in the past few days my prayers have become infinitely more meaningful and peaceful. I am sure the Lord is glad He doesn’t have to listen to my incessant begging too. We are all just happier this way.

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One bad feeling that has surfaced again, is feeling abandoned.  I have been abandoned so much in my life by significant attachment relationships that it is hard not to feel that Heavenly Father has abandoned me too.  All the old, “why did this happen to me?” questions kicked in with a vengeance.  Followed quickly by, “God, do you even know I am here?” I have serious abandonment issues.

I understand the lament of Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail, “O God, where art Thou?

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O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?

 How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries?

 Yea, O Lord, how long shall they suffer these wrongs and unlawful oppressions, before thine heart shall be softened toward them, and thy bowels be moved with compassion toward them?

 O Lord God Almighty, maker of heaven, earth, and seas, and of all things that in them are, and who controllest and subjectest the devil, and the dark and benighted dominion of Sheol—stretch forth thy hand; let thine eye pierce; let thy pavilion be taken up; let thy hiding place no longer be covered; let thine ear be inclined; let thine heart be softened, and thy bowels moved with compassion toward us.

 Let thine anger be kindled against our enemies; and, in the fury of thine heart, with thy sword avenge us of our wrongs.

 Remember thy suffering saints, O our God; and thy servants will rejoice in thy name forever.

~Doctrine & Convenants 121

I spent almost two hours talking to my sweet Sister about my sadness and pain on Friday. She was awesome.  She just listened.  And she said she didn’t have any answers, but she loves me. You couldn’t ask for more! No judgment.  No advice.  Just listening. One of the things I told her is that I felt God has abandoned me!  I feel like he is punishing me, like he thinks this is my fault somehow.  I know that isn’t true, but it is how I am feeling.  This is my own Gethsemane and God has withdrawn Himself from me.

And then the tender mercy came on Saturday morning as I woke up to Libby licking the tears from my eyes.  I had been crying in my sleep again.  That happens to me a lot. I wake up crying.  Through my tears, I read a text from a long time and very dear friend.  I don’t hear from her often, but when I do, it is profound.  She is one of those people who just “get’s me.” She knows what I need before I even know the problem.

“I read this article this morning and felt inspired to share it with YOU.  I know it’s been a hard week but please know you have friends seen and unseen praying for you.  Love you soooo much.” Yet Thou Art There, Elder Neal A. Maxwell

When she says “inspired,” I know that is the truth.  She studies the scriptures early in the morning and prays for guidance on who and how she can help that day.  What is clear is that the Lord sent her to me with a very specific message.

I already knew this talk.  I read it again and listened to the video. I read Elder Maxwell every chance I can.  He is my favorite!  I get my intellectual and spiritual feasting from him and Elder McConkie.  Between the two of them, they come up with everything I could ever need to hear! I love these two men.  They deliver the gospel, straight up, without the fluff.  I don’t want to hear stories or fluff, just doctrine. I wish they were still here.

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Several things Elder Maxwell said stood out:

“This same special assurance can see each of us through all the seasons and circumstances of our lives. A universal God is actually involved with our small, individual universes of experience! In the midst of His vast dominions, yet He numbers us, knows us, and loves us perfectly (see Moses 1:35John 10:14).”

Even though he knew he had been called personally by a personal God, Enoch wrestled with feelings of personal inadequacy (see Moses 6:31). Enoch also wept over the human condition, but he was told, “Lift up your heart, and be glad; and look” (Moses 7:44). If Enoch had not looked and been spiritually informed, he would have seen the human condition in isolation from the grand reality. If God were not there, Enoch’s “Why?” would have become an unanswered scream of despair!


Significantly, the consequences of misused human agency were explained to Enoch: mortals had been given a commandment to “love one another,” yet those then had become a people “without affection” who “hate their own blood” (Moses 7:33).

At first, Enoch refused “to be comforted” (Moses 7:44). Finally, he saw God’s plan, the later coming of the Messiah in the meridian of time, and the eventual triumph of God’s purposes. Enoch saw how the throne of God features justice and mercy (see Moses 7:31).

We, too, can “refuse to be comforted.” We can wrongly charge God with that large portion of human misery which is actually caused by mortals’ failure to keep His commandments. Or, like Enoch, we can be intellectually meek enough to look and to accept the truths about God’s being there and about His personality and plans.


Deity called Samuel, Mary Magdalene, Saul, and Joseph Smith by their first names (see 1 Sam. 3:4John 20:16Acts 9:4JS—H 1:17).

Macro-love with such micro-manifestations!


Without the revelations, however, the answers as to the why of our existence and the why of human suffering would elude even the best intellectual excursions:

“Behold, great and marvelous are the works of the Lord. How unsearchable are the depths of the mysteries of him; and it is impossible that man should find out all his ways. And no man knoweth of his ways save it be revealed unto him; wherefore, brethren, despise not the revelations of God” (Jacob 4:8).

The ultimate human questions are really the “why” questions! The gospel is positively “brim” with answers to the “why” queries concerning human purpose. Gospel truths are the vital integrating and ordering truths, not only telling us of “things as they really are” but also “as they really will be” (Jacob 4:13).


Conscience permits the Lord to be there, whether in early warnings or final warnings. He gives us a flash of insight or a twinge of remembrance, pulling us back from a precipice or prompting us to do good. Conscience can warn that we are only falling further behind by insisting on getting even. Conscience warns us not to sink our cleats too deeply in mortal turf, which is so dangerously artificial.

In a hundred ways, Deity will always be there, just as Enoch testified, including in our suffering.


Wives and husbands whose lives are shattered by the betrayal of a deserting spouse may feel forsaken or drenched by injustice. Yet they, too, can know, “Thou art there,” by responding to Jesus’ invitation, “Come unto me, all ye that … are heavy laden” (Matt. 11:28).


To those of you who so suffer and who, nevertheless, so endure and so testify by the eloquence of your examples, we salute you in Christ! Please forgive those of us who clumsily try to comfort you. We know from whence your true comfort comes. God’s “bosom” is there to be leaned upon.

Jesus’ promised peace is a special form of rest amid unrest. Even when other things are in commotion, His disciples can still stand (see D&C 45:26, 32). His disciples know the Lord is there in latter-days. “I am he who led the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; and my arm is stretched out in the last days, to save my people Israel” (D&C 136:22).

We can confidently cast our cares upon the Lord because, through the agonizing events of Gethsemane and Calvary, atoning Jesus is already familiar with our sins, sicknesses, and sorrows (see 1 Pet. 5:72 Ne. 9:21Alma 7:11–12). He can carry them now because He has successfully carried them before (see 2 Ne. 9:8)!


Yes!  He is there!  Even when you cannot hear Him yourself, He sends his comfort through the words and deeds of others.  Oh how grateful I am for righteous and faithful friends! Thank you for this tender mercy. God does know I am here and he hears me!

UPDATE:  It turns out that the Ex was cheating on the new spouse before he married her!  He was cheating with another woman even several days after he got married.  How do I know this?  The woman he was cheating with contacted me because she read this blog!  Yep!  He cheats on his new wife.  This should be interesting.  Where’s the popcorn??

The Cupcake Warrior

chocolate cupcake warrior

Stay Sweet, Be Strong!

SaveSave

addiction, repentance, Spiritual

“Sorrowing of the Damned”

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Ephesians 6:12

As a member of the LDS church I have sat in Sunday School class and heard some short-sighted soul lament about the war chapters in the Book of Mormon. “Why do we have so many war chapters in the Book of Mormon?? I don’t get it??”

Anyone who has had to struggle with a loved one addicted to sex or pornography gets it! This is a war we are fighting! A war for the very hearts and souls of our loved one! We need the strategies of war to know how to fight against Satan and his insidious weapon! Be grateful for the war chapters! Read them as a guide for spiritual warfare and you will find great hidden treasures of knowledge in them.

Case in point:

The phrase “sorrowing of the damned” appears in the scriptures exactly once. In the Book of Mormon, Mormon: Chapter Two. The place that it appears is just as telling as the scripture itself.

Mormon was all of sixteen years of age. Very young, but he tells us he was a large youth and very strong. The scriptures also says that he was extremely righteous. So much so, that the people appointed him to be their leader, and the leader over their armies. At least the people had the good sense to recognize his capabilities.

These are the winding up scenes of the Book of Mormon. A great battle is about to take place between the Nephites, traditionally the good guys, and the Lamanites, traditionally the bad guys.  And the Lamanites are about to kick the Nephite’s butts, all the way to the seashore. They are losing, and losing badly. Driven from 3 cities, they are literally with their back to the sea, with no place to go.

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Mormon explains in Chapter 2:

“…and notwithstanding the great destruction which hung over my people, they did not repent of their evil doings; therefore there was blood and carnage spread throughout all the face of the land, both on the part of the Nephites and also on the part of the Lamanites; and it was one complete revolution throughout all the face of the land.”

The King of the Lamanites comes against them to do battle with 44,000 men. Moroni has 42,000 men. But he is able to pull off a win despite being out numbered. They were spared, for a short time. So the Nephites begin to repent! Mormon sees their sorrow and he is so encouraged because he knows the Lord will help them in battle, under any condition, if they are righteous. He is hoping his little army is having a change of heart! I’m not talking little sins here. They had been very wicked as a people:

“…for behold no man could keep that which was his own, for the thieves, and the robbers, and the murderers, and the magic art, and the witchcraft which was in the land.”

But it is not to be. The Nephites are sorry alright, but they are only sorry that they are dying! They are not truly repentant! (Does this sound like anything you are going through yet?)

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This is Mormon’s account in Chapter 2:

“12 And it came to pass that when I, Mormon, saw their lamentation and their mourning and their sorrow before the Lord, my heart did begin to rejoice within me, knowing the mercies and the long-suffering of the Lord, therefore supposing that he would be merciful unto them that they would again become a righteous people.

13 But behold this my joy was vain, for their sorrowing was not unto repentance, because of the goodness of God; but it was rather the sorrowing of the damned, because the Lord would not always suffer them to take happiness in sin.

14 And they did not come unto Jesus with broken hearts and contrite spirits, but they did curse God, and wish to die. Nevertheless they would struggle with the sword for their lives.

15 And it came to pass that my sorrow did return unto me again, and I saw that the day of grace was passed with them, both temporally and spiritually; for I saw thousands of them hewn down in open rebellion against their God, and heaped up as dung upon the face of the land.”

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What is the “sorrowing of the damned?” I became very curious to understand this phrase. So I turned to the words of the prophets. It appears 6 times in General Conference talks. Most of these talks deal with  the subject of Repentance and most of them are talks by Elder Maxwell. God Bless Elder Maxwell! He was a modern-day Mormon, and our addicted loved ones would do well to follow his counsel!

Sorrowing of the Damned Is…

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A Proud Heart – “In this rigorous process, so much clearly depends upon meekness.  Pride keeps repentance from even starting or continuing.  Some fail because they are more concerned with the preservation of their public image than with having Christ’s image in their countenances! (Alma 5:14) Pride prefers cheap repentance, paid for with shallow sorrow. Unsurprisingly, seekers after cheap repentance also search for superficial forgiveness instead of real reconciliation. Thus, real repentance goes far beyond simply saying, “I’m sorry.” Repentance, Neal A. Maxwell, October 1991

False remorse and taking happiness in sin – On a larger scale, for instance, the prophet Mormon at first thought his people were sorrowing unto repentance (see Morm. 2:12–13) Yet he soon discerned that theirs was not actually the sorrowing unto repentance but the “sorrowing of the damned,” stranding them in a “no-man’s-land.” Compare that episode to the prodigal son’s solitary working through of his own repentance; since his sorrow was real, he truly “came to himself” Luke 15:17 Sometimes we learn “by sad experience,” but sometimes not! D&C 121:39 Neal A. Maxwell, April Conference 2000

“Recognition is a sacred moment, often accompanied by the hot blush of shame.”

After recognition, real remorse floods the soul. This is a “godly sorrow,” not merely the “sorrow of the world” nor the “sorrowing of the damned,” when we can no longer “take happiness in sin.” 2 Cor. 7:10 Morm. 2:13  False remorse instead is like “fondling our failings.” In ritual regret, we mourn our mistakes but without mending them.” Repentance, Neal A. Maxwell, October Conference, 1991

Repenting because we got caught -Mormon teaches us that there will always be suffering and sorrow in sin, but to repent only because we feel bad or because we have suffered or because we are sorrowful does not show that we understand the goodness of God. (Robert D. Hales, April Conference 1992)

Losing the desire for righteousness  – “The absence of any keen desire—merely being lukewarm—causes a terrible flattening (see Rev. 3:15 William R. May explained such sloth: “The soul in this state is beyond mere sadness and melancholy. It has removed itself from the rise and fall of feelings; the very root of its feelings in desire is dead. … To be a man is to desire. The good man desires God and other things in God. The sinful man desires things in the place of God, but he is still recognizably human, inasmuch as he has known desire. The slothful man, however, is a dead man, an arid waste. … His desire itself has dried up” (“A Catalogue of Sins,” as quoted in Christian Century, 24 Apr. 1996, 457). Neal A. Maxwell, According to the Desires of Our Hearts, October Conference, 1996

Desensitization towards sin – “…fearful of the dawn, evil cannot stand the steady scrutiny of bright truth, nor can it endure the quiet reflections of soul-searching!

Thus the drumbeat of desensitization deadens the taste buds of the soul by responding illegitimately to the legitimate need for belonging and for love, as predators and victims sadly become “past feeling” (1 Ne. 17:45Eph. 4:19Moro. 9:20).”  Neal A. Maxwell, The Seventh Commandment: A Shield, October Conference, 2001

Conflicted feelings about sin – In its extremity, murmuring reflects not only the feelings of the discontented, but also the feelings of the very conflicted:

“Their sorrowing was … the sorrowing of the damned, because [they could not] take happiness in sin.

“And [yet] they did not come unto Jesus with broken hearts and contrite spirits, but they did curse God, and wish to die. Nevertheless they would struggle with the sword for their lives.” (Morm. 2:13–14.) Neal A. Maxwell, Murmur Not, October 1989

Men who are caught in these examples must beware! They are in danger of losing their souls. Bishops and Stake Presidents who counsel with them must be very discerning or they may, unwittingly, let these men fall short of godly sorry and true repentance. Addicts are used to lying. The conditions of their hearts cannot be seen simply though the addict’s words. Their hearts must be discerned by the Holy Ghost.

Wives need to be very discerning when it comes to their addict husbands, because they lie…a lot!  We trusted them throughout our marriage.  We want to trust them now!  But being too trusting can be very painful, especially on the wife of an addict stuck in denial. The lying they do is so difficult to deal with.  They don’t care if it hurts you. They are protecting themselves FIRST! The sad reality is the wife is on her own. This is why wives need counseling and support.  They cannot wade through this new swamp of deception alone.  They need a guide. For most of them, this will be their first encounter with chronic liars.

A Note to Bishops & Stake Presidents:

Bishops and Stake Presidents MUST be educated on the issues of addiction and pornography. They cannot sufficiently councel an addict without a basic understanding of pornography & sex addiction, especially when the tactics of denial are being used by the addict. Denial causes excessive lying so it is particularly important that priesthood leaders are in tune to the Spirit. More often than not, the addict needs to be referred to qualified, professional help. Please don’t think you can just handle this on your own. Trust me, you can’t. And chances are good that you will do more harm to the addict and his family if you try to handle this by yourself.

If you cannot readily recognize the difference between godly sorrow and the “sorrowing of the damned” you will need  some basic education. You can find resources to help you here and here. I have found that most men, as leaders in the church, are clueless when it comes to dealing with this issue. There needs to be better training, especially in meeting the needs of the spouse. Spouses are often overlooked in issues of addiction. And they shouldn’t be. The Church should be doing a better job in educating church leaders in the strategies on how to fight this new drug and help addicts find their way to godly sorrow and away from the sorrowing of the damned. Otherwise, they will end up like my ex-husband; faking his way through repentance. He was in leadership positions in the church his entire adult life. He knows what to say to sound convincing. He knows the buzz words. But if you listen with the Spirit, you will know his heart isn’t in it. Unfortunately, his lack of sorrow is also damning to his family because he can’t even see the damage he has done and no one is holding him accountable.

The Cupcake Warrior

chocolate cupcake warrior

Stay Sweet, Be Strong!

repentance, Spiritual

What True Repentance Looks Like

Last night I was studying my scriptures.  And as often happens to me, one reference leads me to another and I ended up on this General Conference Talk from October 2016: Repentance: A Joyful Choice by Dale G. Renlund.  I highly recommend it to you for a clear concise explaination of what true repentance looks like.  It is one of those moments when you know the Lord is guiding you to a place you needed to go and I definently needed to go to this talk. It was so validating.  I need that.

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Lately I have been struggling mightily over my Ex-husband’s failure to repent, at least he is not doing it in the way I have been taught to understand that repentance looks like. But everytime I mentioned to him over the past two years that he is not fully repenting, I am met with a constant barrage of accusations of being judgmental, critical, nonsupportive and mean.  These kinds of accusations can take a toll on a person after a while, especially when I am already so hurt, wounded, and shattered.  His failure to fully repent has left deep wounds in our family that keep getting torn open again and again.  He doesn’t understand that if he truly repented it would provide a healing balm over the entire family, especially me.

Instead we get resistance, subborness, and stonewalling. He ABSOLUTELY REFUSES to repent. It feels like he refuses to repent so he can prove he isn’t really an addict, that he just made a few “bad choices.” So he treats his repentance as such.  He expects to just say he is sorry and we will all forgive him and that will be that. This mindset, that what he has done is not that bad (minimizing) causes him to be astonished that I would have the nerve to divorce him, because why would anyone divorce a spouse that they love over a few “bad choices?” So he is able to rationalize in his mind that I am really the bad guy. He feels I bailed on him, not the other way around, which is really the case to any other rational human being.

Don’t get me wrong, he IS sorry.  But it the “sorrow of the damned,” not “sorrow unto repentance” or “godly sorrow.”  There is a huge difference. Just being sorry doesn’t cut it in the case of adultery and infidelity, not by anyone’s standards, and certainly not by the Lord’s standards.

 “The word repent connotes “to perceive afterwards” and implies “change.”4 In Swedish, the word is omvänd,which simply means “to turn around.”5 The Christian writer C. S. Lewis wrote about the need and the method for change. He noted that repentance involves “being put back on the right road. A wrong sum can be put right,” he said, “but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on.”6 Changing our behavior and returning to the “right road” are part of repentance, but only part. Real repentance also includes a turning of our heart and will to God and a renunciation of sin.7 As explained in Ezekiel, to repent is to “turn from … sin, … do that which is lawful and right; … restore the pledge, … [and] walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity.”8

Crossroad in lavender meadow

“Never by simply going on!” This is exactly what my Cheater wants to do!  He just wants to go on  from here!  He refuses to go back to the beginning of he errors and working forward from that point.  This is the crux of the pain he has caused and is continuing to cause within his devastated family.  He had the audacity to tell my daughter last week, that he is moving on with a different woman, in yet another relationship, because ” HE DESERVES TO BE HAPPY!”  My daughter was agasted at his extreme selfishness.  Her response; “You took a baseball bat to our family and destroyed everyone, but you deserve to move on and be happy, while everyone else is left broken and bruised?”

Does this sound like real repentance to you? No. Me either.

He will tell anyone who will listen that he is repenting.  But he is not.  It is not possible to say you are repenting, and at the same time, continuing in sin. If he were truly repenting we would all be able to tell, we would all see it, we would all know it. He would change.  His behavior would change, his words would change, his countenance would change.  The righteous can clearly judge this mighty change of heart.  It is as clear as the daylight from the dark night. Elder Runland continues:

Yet even this is an incomplete description. It does not properly identify the power that makes repentance possible, the atoning sacrifice of our Savior. Real repentance must involve faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, faith that He can change us, faith that He can forgive us, and faith that He will help us avoid more mistakes. This kind of faith makes His Atonement effective in our lives. When we “perceive afterwards” and “turn around” with the Savior’s help, we can feel hope in His promises and the joy of forgiveness. Without the Redeemer, the inherent hope and joy evaporate, and repentance becomes simply miserable behavior modification. But by exercising faith in Him, we become converted to His ability and willingness to forgive sin.

All sorts of lightbulbs went on in my head!  My Cheater is just in “Miserable Behavior Modification.” He is trying to do this on his own, without help from anyone, using his own wisdom, and he is failing miserably.  He has not made his repentance real because he isn’t following the steps for real repentance laid out by our Savior in the scriptures.  With, what my therapist Home Teacher calls, “cheap repentance,” he will NEVER have joy. He can seek for “happiness” all he wants, but he will never find joy! This is the lot of the damned. No joy.

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Elder Packer explains:

“The Atonement leaves no tracks, no traces. What it fixes is fixed. … It just heals, and what it heals stays healed.”9

He continued:

“The Atonement, which can reclaim each one of us, bears no scars. That means that no matter what we have done or where we have been or how something happened, if we truly repent, [the Savior] has promised that He would atone. And when He atoned, that settled that. …

“… The Atonement … can wash clean every stain no matter how difficult or how long or how many times repeated.”10

“The reach of the Savior’s Atonement is infinite in breadth and depth, for you and for me. But it will never be imposed on us. As the prophet Lehi explained, after we “are instructed sufficiently” to “know good from evil,”11 we “are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death.”12 In other words, repentance is a choice.”

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We must choose to repent.  Stunning in its simplicty. Profound in its appliction! This was another place in the talk that struck me.  Hard.  A few months before I made the decision to divorce my husband I spent days in the temple, praying and seeking for guidance on what I should or needed to do next.  I had some very sacred experiences during this time, but one thing stands out above the others.  The Lord said to me, very clearly…”Your husband has not chosen you.” As I think back on this now I understand that the Lord was also telling me, “he has not chosen me either.”  My Ex did not, and has not chosen US; the Lord, his family and me.  He has not chosen any of us.  If he would choose all of us, everything for him would change practically overnight.  He would be a changed man, with “no more desire to do evil [to his family], but to do good [to his family] continually.” He doesn’t want to do the hard work of repentance, real repentance, so he believes it will be simpler to just walk away.  Not so.

Remarkably Elder Rutland list a few things that keep us from choosing to repent.  To my astonishment they were the same symptoms of denial! He says:

“We can—and sometimes do—make different choices. Such choices may not seem intrinsically wrong, but they prevent us from becoming truly penitent and thus preclude our pursuit of real repentance.”

  1. For instance, we may choose to blame others. But blaming others, even if justified, allows us to excuse our behavior. By so doing, we shift responsibility for our actions to others. When the responsibility is shifted, we diminish both the need and our ability to act. We turn ourselves into hapless victims rather than agents capable of independent action.13
  2. Another choice that impedes repentance is minimizing our mistakes... It would have been easy to say that there was no reason to repent. But minimizing our mistakes, even if no immediate consequences are apparent, removes the motivation to change. This thinking prevents us from seeing that our mistakes and sins have eternal consequences.
  3. Yet another way is to think that our sins do not matter because God loves us no matter what we do. It is tempting to believe what the deceitful Nehor taught the people of Zarahemla: “That all mankind should be saved at the last day, and that they need not fear nor tremble, … and, in the end, all men should have eternal life.”14 But this seductive idea is false. God does love us. However, what we do matters to Him and to us. He has given clear directives about how we should behave. We call these commandments. His approbation and our eternal life depend on our behavior, including our willingness to humbly seek real repentance.15
  4. Additionally, we forgo real repentance when we choose to separate God from His commandments…We should be wary of discounting sinful behavior by undermining or dismissing God’s authorship of His commandments. Real repentance requires recognizing the Savior’s divinity and the truthfulness of His latter-day work.

My Cheater has used all of these excuses, and others, to shirk his responsibilites to himself, to me and to his family to do the hard work of real repentance.  It is interesting that these excuses are also the behaviors of an addict in denial.

Instead of making excuses, let us choose repentance. Through repentance, we can come to ourselves, like the prodigal in the parable,16 and reflect on the eternal import of our actions. When we understand how our sins can affect our eternal happiness, we not only become truly penitent but we also strive to become better.”

When faced with temptation, we are more likely to ask ourselves, in the words of William Shakespeare:

What win I, if I gain the thing I seek?

A dream, a breath, a froth of fleeting joy.

Who buys a minute’s mirth to wail a week,

Or sells eternity to get a toy?17

My Cheater has a new “toy.” That will not bring him lasting joy.  True repentance will.  Healing the wounds of his family will.  Binding up our broken hearts will.  But he would rather play with his new toy instead of repairing a family he has spent a lifetime in building.  This makes no sense to me.

Elder Runland explains:

“If we have lost sight of eternity for the sake of a toy, we can choose to repent. Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we have another chance. Metaphorically, we can exchange the toy we so ill-advisedly purchased in the first place and receive again the hope of eternity. As the Savior explained, “For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.”18

My Cheater still continues to make bad choices, including refusing to do the hard work of real repentance.  It’s nice to know, I am not the only one who thinks so.

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The Cupcake Warrior

Be Sweet, Stay Strong!

addiction, betrayal, infidelity, repentance, Spiritual

Forgiveness for Adultery: Is it Different?

A family member recently told my daughter she wasn’t being forgiving enough of her Father. In the famous words of Indigo Montoya, “I don’t think that word means what you think it means.”

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This idea that we just have to forgive someone even when they are still in the throws of sinning against us, is a very common musconception and reveals that the person who is saying it has a lack of basic doctrinal understanding about when, where, how and why we forgive someone who has wronged us through adultery and infidelity.

Let me be clear about something: we must forgive everyone. That much is clear in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I understand this. However, some wrongs are easier to forgive than others. When someone breaks your favorite toy, it  is much easier to forgive that than it is when someone breaks your family.  Some wrongs need more time and space to forgive. And some wrongs require the sinner to repent or be cast out, by the church and maybe even his own family.

Doctrine and Covenants 42 is pretty clear on this:

21 Thou shalt not lie; he that lieth and will not repent shall be cast out.

22 Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else.

23 And he that looketh upon a woman to lust after her shall deny the faith, and shall not have the Spirit; and if he repents not he shall be cast out.

24 Thou shalt not commit adultery; and he that committeth adultery, and repenteth not, shall be cast out.

25 But he that has committed adultery and repents with all his heart, and forsaketh it, and doeth it no more, thou shalt forgive;

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26 But if he doeth it again, he shall not be forgiven, but shall be cast out.

This sounds to me like you get one pass in committing adultery from the church.  The 2nd time, no forgiveness is required. I might be wrong on this one, but after reading a few conference talks with this reference included, I don’t think so.

I hated it when my husband would say to me, “You are just too angry with me for me to repair anything with you. You haven’t forgiven me yet.”  Some idiot in his group told him I was like trying to hug a porcupine. So he used both of these things as excuses to not repair anything. He thinks there is no point, I won’t accept anything he would or could do, so why bother.

Except that the Lord REQUIRES him to repent, repair and restore to me what he took away.  That is why he should bother!  Of course I am angry.  He would not change, he still refuses to change, and he blamed me for his failure to do so. Wouldn’t that make you angry? Wouldn’t it make anyone angry?

Peter was pretty clear about how you treat someone who refuses to repent, repair and restore:

2 Peter 2:

14 Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children:

15 Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;

16 But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet.

17 These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.

18 For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.

19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.

20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.

21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.

22 But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.

Proverbs is very clear about what happens when a man commits adultrey and refuses to repent:

Proverbs 6:

32 But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul.

33 A wound and dishonour shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away.

And this one is pretty clear about requiring the innocent to withdraw from the man who refuses to repent!

2 Thessalonians:

24 For the hearts of many were hardened, and their names were blotted out, that they were remembered no more among the people of God. And also many withdrew themselves from among them.

25 Now this was a great trial to those that did stand fast in the faith; nevertheless, they were steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandments of God, and they bore with patience the persecution which was heaped upon them.

It seem pretty clear to me from my study on this topic that the Lord requires us to forgive, more for our own souls, than for the sinner.  However, it is not quite as cut and dried for adultery. If the adulterer is unrepentant and refuses to change the innocent are expected to withdraw from him in order to save themselves. The question then becomes, why? Alma gives us some insights…

Alma 46:

8 Thus we see how quick the children of men do forget the Lord their God, yea, how quick to do iniquity, and to be led away by the evil one.
9 Yea, and we also see the great wickedness one very wicked man can cause to take place among the children of men

Of course, those who continue to be rebellious, wicked and prideful still deserve our forgiveness, but it’s pretty clear that we are not required to continually expose ourselves to the influences of these sins.

D&C 64:

33 Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.
34 Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days.

35 And the rebellious shall be cut off out of the land of Zion, and shall be sent away, and shall not inherit the land.

I do forgive him for what he has done.  That was pretty easy to do, and it happened fairly quickly after the original offense.  What I have a hard time forgiving is what he has done since then.  I know I need to forgive him and I will, eventually.  It would be so much easier to extend that mercy if he would do what is required of him to repent, repair, and restore that which he took away. If he did the bare minimum in this regard all of our lives would change for the better.

Even so, I still need to forgive him for my own sake.  But it goes a long way with me to know that the Lord doesn’t expect me to continue to expose myself to his bad behavior while he is still in the depths of sin.  One thing my Cheater liked to bully me over was that I wasn’t supportive enough of him.  Of course not! He wasn’t repentant! The Lord expects me to protect myself from his persistent sin.  He refused to repent.  So I removed myself, and “escaped from him who lived in error.” You have every right and justification to do the same!

The Cupcake Warrior

chocolate cupcake warrior

Be Sweet, Stay Strong!

addiction, betrayal, divorce, My Story, repentance, Spiritual

A Mighty Change of Heart

Tomorrow is it two years to the day that I learned my husband was having multi-affairs online.

Remembering this day fills my heart with pain so intense that it feels like my heart is in a vise grip.  Just typing this is giving me a full-blown panic attack.  Heart pounding, hyperventilating, and hot tears forming in my eyes.  I still can’t believe this is my life.  I had to file for a divorce I never wanted because he would not or could not choose me over his addiction.

Giving love

The choice of my heart will not choose me.  At this point, I shouldn’t care.  Why should I?

Nevermind that my Patriarchal Blessing practically describes him, our courtship, family life, and marriage. It might as well have his name written there.

When I was engaged to him, my parents, especially my mother, did want me to marry him.   (They listened to gossip about him from his teenage goofiness.) After having another argument with my mom over marrying him, I asked her if she had prayed about it.  She had not.  I told her I didn’t want to talk about this until she prayed about it.  A few days later she came to me with a strange question, “What does his mother look like?” His Mom died when he was sixteen so I never met her, but I had seen pictures of her. I described her to my mom.  It was then that the tears started.  My mom then told me that his mother had appeared to her in a dream and told her that she had “hand picked” me for her son and then she asked my mom to please allow me to marry him.  So you see.  I can’t say this was a mistake.  Our love. Our marriage. It was meant to be! It was not a mistake. Remembering this brings a flood of tears to my eyes. My heart can hardly stand the pain!

This is why I pray every night that my Cheater will have a mighty change of heart.  It is excruciating to be so helpless over the choices of another person.  Especially one you love so much.  I can do nothing.  Just pray.  So I pray he will finally come back to himself and then come back to me.

Praying hands on an open bible

“Therefore, repentance means more than simply a reformation of behavior. Many men and women in the world demonstrate great willpower and self-discipline in overcoming bad habits and the weaknesses of the flesh. Yet at the same time they give no thought to the Master, sometimes even openly rejecting Him. Such changes of behavior, even if in a positive direction, do not constitute true repentance.”  Ezra Taft Benson

I believe in miracles. I really do.  But sitting here, two years later, the miracle seems to be so far out of reach.

This week I learned that he isn’t even going to church now.  The Bishop hasn’t even heard of him. In a strange way, this is somewhat comforting to me.  He has lead me to believe that he was working to repent and get back in the church so he could move on with his new girlfriend. It hurt me so badly to know he didn’t want to change for me.  After spending 37 years of our lives together, he couldn’t be bothered to make any changes for me. That hurts. I guess he doesn’t want to change for her either.

This is an important lesson for me.

It’s not about me.

It’s about him.

The kind of change that needs to happen in his heart to make him a new man must come from within.  He can’t do it for me.  He can’t do it for our kids or grandkids.  He can’t do it for her or for any other person.  He has to do it for the Savior. He has to do it for himself.  A mighty change of heart happens with a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  It can happen in no other way.

I have been praying for this for two years.

I guess I will just keep praying.

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Alma 5:

 Behold, he changed their hearts; yea, he awakened them out of a deep sleep, and they awoke unto God. Behold, they were in the midst of darkness; nevertheless, their souls were illuminated by the light of the everlasting word; yea, they were encircled about by the bands of death, and the chains of hell, and an everlasting destruction did await them.

 And now I ask of you, my brethren, were they destroyed? Behold, I say unto you, Nay, they were not.

 And again I ask, were the bands of death broken, and the chains of hell which encircled them about, were they loosed? I say unto you, Yea, they were loosed, and their souls did expand, and they did sing redeeming love. And I say unto you that they are saved.

 10 And now I ask of you on what conditions are they saved? Yea, what grounds had they to hope for salvation? What is the cause of their being loosed from the bands of death, yea, and also the chains of hell?

 11 Behold, I can tell you—did not my father Alma believe in the words which were delivered by the mouth of Abinadi? And was he not a holy prophet? Did he not speak the words of God, and my father Alma believe them?

 12 And according to his faith there was a mighty changewrought in his heart. Behold I say unto you that this is all true.

 13 And behold, he preached the word unto your fathers, and a mighty change was also wrought in their hearts, and they humbled themselves and put their trust in the true and living God. And behold, they were faithful until the end; therefore they were saved.

 14 And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?

 15 Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you? Do you look forward with an eye of faith, and view this mortal body raised in immortality, and this corruption raised in incorruption, to stand before God to be judged according to the deeds which have been done in the mortal body?

 16 I say unto you, can you imagine to yourselves that ye hear the voice of the Lord, saying unto you, in that day: Come unto me ye blessed, for behold, your works have been the works of righteousness upon the face of the earth?

 17 Or do ye imagine to yourselves that ye can lie unto the Lord in that day, and say—Lord, our works have been righteous works upon the face of the earth—and that he will save you?

 18 Or otherwise, can ye imagine yourselves brought before the tribunal of God with your souls filled with guilt and remorse, having a remembrance of all your guilt, yea, a perfect remembrance of all your wickedness, yea, a remembrance that ye have set at defiance the commandments of God?

 19 I say unto you, can ye look up to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands? I say unto you, can you look up, having the image of God engraven upon your countenances?

 20 I say unto you, can ye think of being saved when you have yielded yourselves to become subjects to the devil?

 21 I say unto you, ye will know at that day that ye cannot be saved; for there can no man be saved except his garments are washed white; yea, his garments must be purified until they are cleansed from all stain, through the blood of him of whom it has been spoken by our fathers, who should come to redeem his people from their sins.

This is what a mighty change of heart looks like.  Anything else is just smoke and mirrors.

The Cupcake Warrior

chocolate cupcake warrior

Stay Sweet, Be Stong!