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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Our Father Knows

I have been meaning to write for a long, long time. The last six months have been full of life changes, big and small. First of all, I am excited to announce to those who do not already know that I have gone back to school! I have been thinking about going back for years, but something always seemed to hold me back. In early July, something just nudged me and before I knew it, I was meeting with advisers, transferring credits, filling out paperwork, declaring a major, and registering for classes! I transferred my credits from Weber State University to Utah State University, and I have been accepted into their Professional and Technical Writing program. If all goes according to plan, I should graduate in May of 2017! I'm not positive what I will do after that, but I've always been interested in a career as an editor or as a grant writer, and this major will prepare me to do either of these things. I have loved every minute of being back in school, and I am learning amazing things! I just finished up my first semester back, and even with my crazy, busy life, the Lord has helped me get A's across the board! I am so grateful for a Father who magnifies our capacities and blesses abundantly!

While going back to school has been a positive and exhilarating change, there have been some really hard developments for our family as well. On the weekend of November 20, Tyler and I were in Park City celebrating our 15th anniversary at the beautiful Washington School House Hotel. It was a magical weekend. On Saturday, I began noticing that Tyler was acting strange. He was haunted by an unquenchable thirst, and a constant need to relieve it. We decided to come home from our trip early; on the way home, he drank almost 100 oz. of fluid and wanted more. (It was only an hour and a half drive!) I knew something wasn't right. He stayed home from church the next day. On Sunday night, as he was sleeping, I noticed that his hands felt strange. They seemed to be drained of life; they were skin and bones and ice cold. The skin on his arms looked like elephant's skin, and it looked like he was losing muscle tone. It's hard to describe that part, but it was rather shocking.

The next morning, he seemed to feel a little better, so he went to work. I started looking things up online, trying to figure out what was going on. I found out about a condition called hyponatremia, or water intoxication, and decided that that must be what Tyler had. He had been drinking tons of water to help him lose weight and control his appetite. I just figured that his fluid intake had gotten out of hand. He texted me at 10:00, and asked if I could come pick him up from work at lunch because he was feeling too dizzy to drive. When I picked him up, I told him that he needed to limit his fluids. We went to the grocery store and he bought yogurt to cool his parched throat. I called my mom (a retired nurse) and told her what was going on. She also thought it sounded like hyponatremia and told us to "quit messing around" and get to the doctor and emphasized that it is a potentially fatal condition. I called our family doctor's office and was told that they had no openings, not even for emergencies. We then decided to head to the ER. By the time we got there, Tyler's symptoms were progressing rapidly. His head was on fire, he was becoming more agitated, and his speech was slurring. He became manic in his speaking as well and was beginning to make less sense. We started to register, then when they saw how he was acting, they took him back immediately. They ran all sorts of tests. Our time in the ER was frightening and is still a little bit of a blur. At one point, they took him from me to go get x-rays. As I sat there, I heard the ER doctor talking on the phone with a specialist at McKay Dee hospital (I didn't know what our diagnosis was yet). He was describing a 36-year old male patient and asking if he should order a life flight transport. Right then, I crumpled. Tears of desperation and fear sprung to my eyes and the room began to swim. A thought entered my mind that I should ask for Russ to be with me (Tyler's father who passed away in 1998). I did pray for his presence. Instantly, I was calmed. I somehow knew that Tyler would receive the help he needed, and that everything would be all right. After another fifteen minutes or so, the doctor came in and told us that while Tyler was starting to develop hyponatremia, they were more concerned with his blood sugar, which was an incomprehensible 892. Normal blood sugar should be from 70-130. People with blood sugar over 400 are at risk for going into a diabetic coma. They said that they could not believe that Tyler was still conscious and coherent (more or less). We had no idea that he was diabetic. He had lost 55 pounds in the effort to be healthier, so it was a blow to him psychologically. We went from thinking "Hey! Here we are getting healthier and taking care of everything" to "We have a chronic disease" in a matter of seconds. They guessed that he had had diabetes for years, but since he is a healthy, average weight, active guy, we never suspected it. They reassured us that diabetes, though it has quite a stigma, is primarily a genetic disease, which in some cases may be postponed by diet and exercise, but they explained, sometimes it's just in your cards no matter what you do to prevent it.

They swept him away to the ICU, where he stayed for three days. After that, he was moved to a regular hospital room for another day. The time in the hospital was spent meeting with dietitians, educators, and doctors, learning about insulin, monitors, etc. It was a time of grieving for both of us; we grieved Tyler's health, we grieved the simplicity of life before this challenging diagnosis. I was pulled between my responsibilities at home with the kids, and my desire to be with Tyler as he faced this Goliath. Most of all, I was scared. You see, I have been at risk for diabetes for years. It has always been a concern for me. I am overweight. I am unhealthy. I am the one who was fighting back this disease. Not only did I feel bad that Tyler was the one who got it, I also felt an immense pressure to do everything in my power to ensure that I wouldn't also find myself in his shoes. As I began to consider the financial strain that this expensive disease was sure to place on our family, I felt frantic. I am not diabetic, thank goodness. But I am still trying to make sense of my eating disorder, to find the drive and divine assistance that will help me to change my own life. Now, I feel so much pressure regarding my health, that it is a very heavy and difficult burden.

When Tyler was able to come home from the hospital, on the evening before Thanksgiving, there was a sweet, almost tangible spirit of peace and gratitude in our home. It was almost like the feeling that comes to a home following the birth of a new baby. Our husband and daddy had been protected. He could have died. He should have been in a coma. He should have had internal damage to his organs. But he didn't die. He wasn't in a coma. And his organs are completely healthy. He and I both felt the power of these miracles. We were able to enjoy his being home as a gift--a second chance at life. Everything was different and we knew it. Our perspective, especially going into the holiday season, was so keenly focused on our Heavenly Father's love for us and His mindfulness of our situation and our family's needs.

I wish I could say that we still have that spirit in our home, at least that strongly. We still have a renewed appreciation for life, health, and family, but now we are beginning to see the more immediate and temporal implications of living with this disease: the cost of insulin, of testing supplies, and of course, the staggering medical bills that are now showing up in the mail. I am so very grateful that we have good insurance. After Tyler lost his job, he went uninsured for about six years. And though our bills are high, we see that as a major miracle. I don't know how everything will work out, but I feel very strongly that it will. Our father knows our situation and He knows our hearts. He will clothe, feed, and bless us, as He always has. It's going to be all right.

A few weeks ago, I was at the doctor's office for a procedure, and when the nurse asked me if I was experiencing any depression or anxiety, I lost it. LOST IT. The weight of ALL of it just filled my little troubled heart and spilled out everywhere. I was a mess. It was extremely embarrassing! At that moment, I knew that during all these years of hard things for our family, I had been having anxiety, and I never realized it. The doctor came in and talked to me about it, and we came up with a plan, which is working very well.

Whew! So as you can see, we Walton's never settle for boredom!

Yesterday, I was reading my scriptures and trying to decide on a verse to ponderize for the week, and I ran across this little gem: ""For your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him." --3 Nephi 13:8

I love this verse!  Do you know why? Because I absolutely know it to be true! As my heroine, Marjorie Pay Hinckley put it: "I love the Lord. I know this is His work and that He is at the Helm. I have seen too much to ever deny it. He lives. He is truly my Father, and the Savior is my Savior in every sense of that word. If I can just be one more voice to say that God lives and that this is His work, I will be satisfied."

It is going to be OK. Before Tyler lost his job seven years ago, I thought that losing a job would be the worst possible thing to happen to our family. But it wasn't. In a way, it has been a beautiful thing for our family. And before Tyler was diagnosed with diabetes, I thought that receiving a diagnosis like that would be the worst possible thing to happen. But it hasn't been. It has been a beautiful reminder of what is truly important in life, that this life is fleeting and fragile, that every breath is a gift from a loving Father, and that families can do hard things together. We can do hard things! Now that we are managing his blood sugar, we are finding, to our relief, that his condition, at least for now, is just one little corner of our world. I know that we are going through this because we are supposed to go through this. Things are working out. And I know that they will continue to work out. For that knowledge, I am grateful. God is truly at the helm. Thank goodness for that!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Lead Me, Guide Me

These last few weeks have been some of the most challenging of my life.  I was contacted three weeks ago with a job offer for the agent who took over the office that I used to manage.  She offered me any hours I wanted to work, and a pretty attractive salary.  No matter how I looked at the offer, I would have to leave Baby Bennett with family or with day care for at least part of the time.  But the offer was a good one, and heaven knows our family needs the money. I needed to get back with her within 48 hours.  It was absolutely exhausting, draining, and consumed my days and nights.

I decided to spend some time in the temple.  I went through the session, then sat in the celestial room for a long, long time.  In fact, I had the audacity to tell Heavenly Father, "I'm not leaving until you tell me what to do."  The voices of the world and voices of human logic seemed so loud and clear:  "It is your duty.  It is an offer you need:  an offer you can't refuse."  The voices of peace and spiritual comfort and clarity came much, much more softly, and required a whole lot of soul-searching.  But eventually the answer came that day:  "Kristen, not now.  Now, be a mommy.  Just be a mommy."

In my mind, I can almost see some of my readers scratching their heads, perhaps wondering:  "Wait, haven't we already been through this?  Didn't you already make this decision a year ago?  Why are you doing this again?"

Well, yes.  I did decide to come home last year, after months of praying and dreaming.  But since then, I have always wondered if that was a logical thing to do.  Spiritually, it felt right, but Satan certainly has a way of testing us, doesn't he?  Especially in our extremities, financial and otherwise.  So it comes down to this:  I don't know where the answer lies, but I am choosing faith once again, choosing to travel through these trials without purse or scrip.  It's a trying path that I'm taking by choosing to be a full-time mother, but the vistas are grand, the rewards are immediate, and the lessons come daily.  I pray that things will work out somehow, whether in expected or mysterious ways.

I have more very important decisions in my life at this time, which I also prayed about in the celestial room that evening.  One is still quite sacred and fresh, so I will ponder it in my heart for a bit longer, but I am feeling confident that God is mindful of me, though at times He veils His answers so I can develop my faith more fully.  I guess I'll keep you posted on those things when the spirit prompts me to share.

For now, I share my gratitude with you.  I am grateful for a Heavenly Father who allows me to grapple with my problems and personal decisions, so that I may retain the knowledge and faith thereof for eternity.  I am grateful that life is hard, for that is how I grow, how my spirit is strengthened, and how I have the opportunity to develop a relationship with the Savior.  That is how I develop compassion.  That is how I find clarity.  The voice of the Holy Ghost is more than just a warm fuzzy feeling.  It is the comfort of my very own Savior, my "true eternal friend."  His voice guides me, directs me, and leads me along, in a beautiful and perfect way, when I am willing to live the commandments, and when I am willing to ask for direction.  I need that direction every hour.  I need it every minute.  I pray that I will always trust the promptings I receive, never discounting them because of the world's logic, or because I am not in tune enough to recognize them.

On traveling without purse or scrip, artist Liz Lemon Swindle wrote: 

"Early in His ministry, the Savior called His disciples to go forth and preach his word. These were largely fishermen with little money. They must have worried how they would provide for themselves and their families as they left to go and preach. Calming their fears Jesus said, 'Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses… for the workman is worthy of his meat.' – Matthew 10:9-10

The Savior, nearing the end of his life, could again sense the fear growing in his disciples. He reminded them, 'When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye anything? And they said, Nothing.' – Luke 22:35

We live in times of great uncertainty when the necessities of life seem harder to come by and where the burden of providing for our families seems heavier than in days past. [I am reassured] that although the road may be rough, when we walk with Him we need not worry for in Christ we lack nothing."

View Liz Lemon Swindle's beautiful painting: "Without Purse or Scrip" here.

I know that there are great rewards in store for those who leave comfort behind and place their hearts in the center of God's will.  I wish to do that very thing.  All of my days.

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Order of Things

I have been thinking a lot lately about a story Gordon B. Hinckley told about his discouraging first few months of being a missionary in England.  Many of my LDS readers have probably heard the story.  Things were not going well at all for the young elder.  Persecution was rampant and his self-esteem was low.  He felt guilty for "wasting" his family's meager wages on a mission which was proving to be unfruitful.  He was depressed, exhausted, and feeling pessimistic about his ability to do any good for the people.  He wrote home to his father, explaining his frustrations and expressed his concern that he was wasting his time and the family's money.  A few weeks later, he received a response from his father:  "This is my advice for you:  forget yourself and go to work."

I feel that way now.  I am sorry that I have to deal with this extraordinary trial of being obese, and with compulsive bad habits that lead to poor health.  Addiction is a beast, I'll tell you!  But, I know that I need to somehow turn my heart somewhere outside of my own struggles to be a better servant to others.  I need that ministry mindset to help myself heal.  It's hard to do, when my own struggles are always on my mind.  I think that while my desires to improve myself and my health are worthy desires, I also need to be aware of others who suffer more than I do.

The world gives a different message.  Most self-help books out there teach Maslowian principles of taking care of yourself, your own basic needs, your own comfort before ever reaching out to others.  This is a true principle of course, that you have to take care of yourself to be completely available to help others, but what the world doesn't really teach, is that by reaching out to others, even within our own extremities, we can find great levels of healing and self-discovery.  By losing ourselves in the service and concern for others, we truly are able to find ourselves.  I have found this in the past, and I feel the call to revisit that mentality as I try to get back on track.

Many times lately, I have heard the pithy saying that the word JOY stands for Jesus, Others, Yourself, and that that is the proper order to follow with our priorities, but I have never completely agreed with that premise.  It's a half-truth because by loving others, we are simultaneously loving Jesus AND ourselves.  When the gospel is lived correctly, there is no need to even think about what order to follow.  We live for others, and by so doing, we show reverence and love for our Savior, and also find healing in our own lives.  It can be a beautiful thing.  I have been blessed to feel this a few times in my life, particularly when we were struggling financially right after Tyler lost His job.  To be able to serve others when our whole world seemed to be falling apart was the most therapeutic thing we could do, and I craved for opportunities to help others.  I had never felt so much humility and gratitude than I did when I was able to offer a mite of service during some of the hardest years of my life.

Still, it all starts with developing that fire of desire by way of a healthy, vibrant testimony of the gospel.  And as a healthier, lighter individual, perhaps I will be an even better servant and disciple.  Feeling good is definitely a motivator!

Anyway, my thoughts are all over the place today, and this post may not make any sense at all, but I would like to forget myself a little more in the next few days and focus on helping others for a bit.  I know that it will be a wonderful week of self-discovery and worship.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

On Being Genuine

I just read one of those talks that has the power to change lives!  I really don't think that my voice will add much to the beauty and verity of President Uchtdorf's counsel, so I will post the passages that resonated with me the most. They are all from his recent address at the priesthood session of the April 2015 General Conference which can be found here.

"In the late 18th century, Catherine the Great of Russia announced she would tour the southern part of her empire, accompanied by several foreign ambassadors. The governor of the area, Grigory Potemkin, desperately wanted to impress these visitors. And so he went to remarkable lengths to showcase the country’s accomplishments.

For part of the journey, Catherine floated down the Dnieper River, proudly pointing out to the ambassadors the thriving hamlets along the shore, filled with industrious and happy townspeople. There was only one problem: it was all for show. It is said that Potemkin had assembled pasteboard facades of shops and homes. He had even positioned busy-looking peasants to create the impression of a prosperous economy. Once the party disappeared around the bend of the river, Potemkin’s men packed up the fake village and rushed it downstream in preparation for Catherine’s next pass.

Although modern historians have questioned the truthfulness of this story, the term “Potemkin village” has entered the world’s vocabulary. It now refers to any attempt to make others believe we are better than we really are."

"[If He were here], what the Savior would want to know is the condition of our heart. He would want to know how we love and minister to those in our care, how we show our love to our spouse and family, and how we lighten their daily load. And the Savior would want to know how you and I grow closer to Him and to our Heavenly Father."

"I am here because I desire with all my heart to follow my Master, Jesus Christ. I yearn to do all that He asks of me in this great cause. I hunger to be edified by the Holy Spirit and hear the voice of God as He speaks through His ordained servants. I am here to become a better man, to be lifted by the inspiring examples of my brothers and sisters in Christ, and to learn how to more effectively minister to those in need.

In short, I am here because I love my Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ."

"Whether your testimony is thriving and healthy or your activity in the Church more closely resembles a Potemkin village, the good news is that you can build on whatever strength you have. Here in the Church of Jesus Christ you can mature spiritually and draw closer to the Savior by applying gospel principles day by day.

With patience and persistence, even the smallest act of discipleship or the tiniest ember of belief can become a blazing bonfire of a consecrated life. In fact, that’s how most bonfires begin—as a simple spark."

"So if you feel small and weak, please simply come unto Christ, who makes weak things strong."

"My beloved brothers in Christ, the God of Creation, who breathed life into the universe, surely has the power to breathe life into you. Surely He can make of you the genuine, spiritual being of light and truth you desire to be."

"Artificial discipleship not only keeps us from seeing ourselves as who we really are, but it also prevents us from truly changing through the miracle of the Savior’s Atonement."

"The Church is not an automobile showroom—a place to put ourselves on display so that others can admire our spirituality, capacity, or prosperity. It is more like a service center, where vehicles in need of repair come for maintenance and rehabilitation.

And are we not, all of us, in need of repair, maintenance, and rehabilitation?"

“God resist[s] the proud, but give[s] grace unto the humble.”

"The greatest, most capable, most accomplished man who ever walked this earth was also the most humble. He performed some of His most impressive service in private moments, with only a few observers, whom He asked to “tell no man” what He had done.15 

When someone called Him “good,” He quickly deflected the compliment, insisting that only God is truly good.16 Clearly the praise of the world meant nothing to Him; His single purpose was to serve His Father and “do always those things that please him.”17 We would do well to follow the example of our Master."

"[I pray that we will] strive for a far greater honor: to become humble, genuine disciples of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. As we do so, we will find ourselves walking the path that leads to our best, most genuine, and noblest selves."

Beautiful, beautiful, hopeful words.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Back to the Basics

This morning I listened to Elder M. Russell Ballard's address, "The Greatest Generation of Youth" from the priesthood session of the April 2015 General Conference.  Though I wouldn't necessarily consider myself a youth, I found many of the high notes of his address quite helpful and timely as I reset my course to good health and increased spirituality.  I especially loved the following quote:

"The Savior of the world came to understand each of us individually by experiencing our dashed hopes, challenges, and tragedies through His suffering in Gethsemane and on the cross.  He died as one final act of love for us and was buried in a new tomb on that fateful night."

I have felt the weight of dashed hopes and challenges lately, as I deal with the pains and discomforts of gaining all my weight back.  It stinks.  The other day, I received a "helpful" and well-meaning comment about my weight that later brought me to tears at my bedside.  After a good cry, I was able to take a few deep breaths and realize that the comment was offered out of love and concern and that offense wasn't intended.  I thought about the advice, and by grace, I was able to examine the advice and find something useful in it.  It was a good reminder that I should never aspire to change habits and self out of fear, anger, resentment, or revenge.  Change should be the offspring of submission, humility, and an underlying desire to better serve God.

Another thing I enjoyed about Elder Ballard's talk, was the fabulous checklist that he provided for prospective young missionaries.  I have been thinking about the basics lately, so this list is a great jumping off point for that inner dialogue and self-reflection.  Here is the list:

1.  Do you search the scriptures regularly?
2.  Do you kneel in prayer to talk with your Heavenly Father each morning and each night?
3.  Do you fast and donate a fast offering each month?
4.  Do you think deeply about the Savior and His atoning sacrifice for you when [partake] of the sacrament?
5.  Do you attend your meeting and strive to keep the Sabbath day holy?
6.  Are you honest at home, school, church, and work?
7.  Are you mentally and spiritually clean?  Do you avoid viewing pornography or looking at websites, magazines, movies, or apps that would embarrass you if  your parents, church leaders, or the Savior Himself saw you?
8.  Are you careful with your time--avoiding inappropriate technology and social media which can dull your spiritual sensitivity?
9.  Is there anything in your life you need to change and fix?

Though this list was intended for young men, I found a few areas in my life that I need to improve.  Another great resource for this self-reflection activity is Alma 5, so I think I will spend some time reading there this week as well.

I have also been thinking about going back to the basics with my health.  Last time I found myself on the right path, it started with a simple decision.  I had had a physically uncomfortable evening visiting another ward's new beginnings program with the stake.  This discomfort propelled me forward.  Looking back on that experience, these are some of the rudimentary steps I took that helped me get started:

1.  No eating after 8:00 pm
2.  Exercise every day, at least ten minutes.
3.  Track everything I eat.
4.  Weigh in every week.

It's not much of a list, but that's how I started.  As I solidified these good habits, I was able to add more.  I think there is part of me that operates with an "all or none" mentality.  If I can't be perfect at maintaining good health, I shirk from taking care of myself at all.  Obviously that doesn't make any sense.  I need to work on that all or none thinking and allow myself to be imperfect.  I love this quote that I found on Pinterest the other day:

"We must have the courage to be imperfect while striving for perfection."  --Patricia R. Holland

I also loved this little gem:

(image courtesy scratchpaperstudio.com)

So here I am.  It's not where I want to be, ultimately, but that's ok.  There's beauty here, too.  My being here is a sign that I'm willing to learn and grow.  It's a sign that I obeyed promptings to bring another baby to Earth (no small thing!).  It's a sign that I am seeking a change of heart.  It's pretty much a sign that while I'm not perfect, I'm still pretty awesomesauce.  And that's that.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

He Suffers With Us

This morning I've been thinking deeply about HOW I can work towards my health goals with a full purpose of heart (see yesterday's post), especially given that I seem to find energy and motivation in short supply these days!  I'm always comparing now with last time I lost weight and was wildly successful.  These comparisons are starting to feel unhealthy, and not unlike when I compare myself with others.  True, I can learn a lot from "last time", but I am a different person now than I was then, and I have had struggles and experiences since then that have helped me to develop into the me of today.  By always saying things like, "Why can't I be like I was then?" or "What is my problem?" or "Why is it so hard now?", I'm really becoming stuck in the past.  The truth is that I HAVE gained all of my weight back.  I can use the experiences and successes of "last time" to learn and grow, and hopefully propel me forward, knowing that I did receive aid from Heavenly Father.  But when I put a negative spin on my struggle TODAY, always comparing it with yesterday's successes, it leaves me feeling depleted and defeated.

I know that one thing that really helped me get started "last time", was the concept of self-compassion.  I have been through so much in the last few years:  a major job loss, working outside the home, financial uncertainty, scrambling to arrange childcare so I COULD work, having a husband in school, having a husband work two jobs, etc.  And oh yeah, I almost forgot ... HAVING FIVE KIDS.  As I look back and think about all we have dealt with and overcome, I am filled with gratitude to Heavenly Father.  And I am proud of us.  My whole family has made sacrifices, but as a mother, I have been the glue.  I was able to hold things together (mostly) on the worst of days, and somehow we were able to navigate some pretty rough waters.  Some very, very rough waters.  So, here's the thing.  I need to forgive myself for gaining weight during this time, because who wouldn't have?  Seriously, I think I need to make some serious allowances for myself and realize that life is crazy hard sometimes, and that I was pretty much in crisis mode for much of the last seven years.  And it's hard to be amazing in every area when you're functioning in crisis mode.

With that being said, it really IS time for me to raise the proverbial bar regarding my health, realizing that I deserve happiness and health.  While I am the glue that keeps things together for my little family, it doesn't make sense for me to let myself fall apart.  I need to be healthy to be my best me.  I know that this is a righteous goal.  I want to be gentle with myself.  I want to allow my spirit to grow and improve at its own rate, and allow it to be gently led by a loving Heavenly Father.  Sometimes I want all the answers, all the results all at once, without realizing that the truths of the gospel and the applications of the Atonement don't always come so quickly.  The answers I seek aren't always available on demand.  Patience is very much a crucial quality when seeking divine aid and lasting conversion in all areas of the gospel.  At this point, I'm not seeking a quick fix for my obesity.  I know through years of struggles, as well as welcome relief, blessings, and triumphs, that a change of heart is the very best weight loss plan there is.  Self-help books, pills, surgeries, fitness programs, and diets, though respectively effective on some level, all pale in comparison to the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  Therein lays the most underutilized weight loss plan on Earth.  I truly believe that, though my life and choices have not always been a perfect reflection of that belief.

The real beauty of the Atonement is that the Savior truly understands us, wherever we are on the path to Him.  Whether we are at the beginning of our journeys, or well on our way, He knows how to succor us.  He "gets it" because He has LITERALLY been there.  He has felt the EXACT pains I feel:  the frustration, the worry, the doubts.  He felt that for me in the Garden of Gethsemane so that when I finally turn to Him in moments of near-despair, and fall on my knees in submission to His will, pleading for His aid, He could perfectly understand what that means and how He can best help me back.  It is always a beautiful thing to find a true friend who understands something that you are going through.  It is even more beautiful when that friend not only understands, but chooses willingly to go through that trial with you.  And the most beautiful thing of all, is when a Friend chooses to go through the darkness FOR you.  And that is what my Friend, even Jesus Christ, has done for me.  Literally, He has suffered this trial for me, so that I might not.  My choice lies in this simple decision:  will I accept that gift?  Or will I needlessly go through the pain that He so willingly bore in my behalf?  It sounds simple, and perhaps it should be.  But, as I make stupid decisions and sometimes even neglect the gift of the Atonement due to my own mental weakness or spiritual rebellion, He is still filled with ceaseless compassion.

In Mosiah 8:20, it says:

"O how marvelous the works of the Lord, and how long doth He suffer with His people; yea and how blind and inpenetrable are the understandings of the children of men; for they will not seek wisdom, neither do they desire that she should rule over them."

Sometimes I find a verse like this, that just CUTS me to the core!  I testify that He DOES suffer with us.  He has suffered with me countless times!  He has rejoiced with me.  I know that I have been blind at times.  And heaven knows that I can be inpenetrable and proud.  I have ignored wisdom many times, not desiring that it should rule over me in my life.  This enmity is what holds me back and I pray that the Lord will soften my heart and grant me wisdom.  I know that as I turn to Him, as my prayers ascend, and as I make good, deliberate choices each day, this softening will come.  I know that He will guide and straighten my paths, and for that knowledge I am grateful.  How full my heart is, knowing that He understands what I am going through, that He chooses to go through it with me, and that He chose to go through my trials FOR me.  I am overcome with love for Him.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Full Purpose of Heart

Hello, friends!  No, I have not fallen off the face of the Earth!  I am still here, plugging away and enjoying life as a busy mother of five!  Tyler graduated with his B.S. in Technology and Engineering Education from USU last month, which is AwESoMe, but the last few months have been crazy with him finishing up his degree and with me struggling with some personal life decisions.  I have been struggling to find "my place" at this season of life.  I am always wondering what I am supposed to be doing right now.  I had a little career budding in insurance, then was prompted to quit my job to come home and be a mommy, which has been a great blessing, but there are always little doubts that creep in, and I am always wondering if I did the right thing.  My quitting affected our family's financial situation greatly, so of course it's always tempting to jump back into the workplace.  I am trying to take each opportunity one at a time, and pray for direction and guidance as to if I should be solely a stay-at-home mommy, or if there is something that would be minimally intrusive to our family's needs, that would also help me to earn a little extra.  (And no, I'm not interested in direct sales opportunities ... been there, done that! ;)  Sometimes, I feel so much pressure now that I'm at home to be perfect at everything I do:  housekeeping, helping the kids with homework, meal planning, cooking, etc., because this is something I wanted so badly when I was a "career woman."  And now that I'm at home, sometimes I miss the fulfillment of having a challenging career.  I guess life is more about living in the present, and not wishing for what we don't have.  I WOULD rather be at home, but I think I forgot how hard it is to be a stay-at-home mom.  Anyway, hopefully my words make some sort of sense.  I feel like I'm rambling!

As far as my health goes, I'm really struggling there as well.  I have been back at Weight Watchers since October of last year, but I haven't seen much progress.  My heart, for whatever reason, just hasn't been in it like it used to be.  I guess part of it has been that I have had so many other things on my mind:  Tyler's schooling, kids, my career decisions, and life in general.  It's been hard to find that extra umph.  Though it's been a struggle, I am proud of myself for hanging in there while I try to find the intrinsic motivation I need.  Right now, I think I'm just not in the right head space.  I have been thinking lately about how I "got there" last time, when I was so successful and was about to lose over eighty pounds!  I truly believe that "the fire of desire" that I had before was a gift from God.  With that in mind, I have been thinking a lot about what I need to do to qualify for that aid once again.  Today, I was reading in Mosiah 6:

33 "But if ye will turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put your trust in him, and serve him with all diligence of mind, if ye will do this, he will, according to his own will and pleasure, deliver you out of bondage."

Reading this made me realize that I haven't really turned to the Lord with full purpose of heart regarding my health goals for quite some time.  This negligence runs parallel with my declining health and my increase in weight.  I think that when I was good at writing the blog, it really helped me stay focused and feel more of that full purpose.  I was better at seeking for answers and guidance from the scriptures.  Sometimes it's hard to put myself and my struggle out there for others to witness, but I always had the hope that by sharing my own story, I was helping others with similar issues.  So, I would like to start blogging more.  I appreciate all of my readers and I have not forgotten the support and love that you have given me through the years that I have shared on this blog!  You are incredibly awesome and I hope all is going well with each of you.

I recommit to the Lord, and to you all, that I won't give up on myself.  I know that I have a responsibility to take better care of myself, and I DO have the desire to get my health back on track.  I know that I can and WILL do great things as I put my faith in God and more fully utilize the Atonement of Jesus Christ to help me overcome weaknesses and I look forward to the time that I will again have my heart changed.  I know that He can and will deliver me out of bondage.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Inspiring Myself

Today I took a break from my usual Monday routine to sit and read my Facebook timeline.  I read back into the past, through all my successes and heartbreaks with weight loss, health, finances, etc.  As I read my own words, I was so inspired!  But the feelings of inspiration were bittersweet and it hit me for the first time that I have SO FAR TO GO.  Only I know how hard I worked to lose those 76 pounds.  Only I know how many hours I spent tracking, working out, and praying for strength and guidance.  This morning as I read through my feed, I felt a tremendous sense of loss.  I started bawling and I realized that I now need to muster the courage to do it all again.  I think that feeling this sense of grief was a healthy step in my recovery.  But, I really was encouraged by my positivity, especially during the hard times.  I would NOT consider myself to be back at square one because this time, I KNOW that I have a supportive Heavenly Father, a network of family and friends who are always cheering my successes (large and small), and that I have a deep and abiding faith and love for the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  Because I have walked this path before, and more importantly, because my Savior has walked this path before, I know that all things are possible.

Two weeks ago I joined Weight Watchers again.  Last week I got my First Five award!  It feels so good to know that I am on my way again.  I know how hard this will be, but I also know that being overweight is even harder.  I'm worth the effort.  I am a child of God, and I want to be healthy for Him.  I know that my desires are righteous.  I know that He loves me and is mindful of my desires.  I place myself in His care and I pray that I will be found worthy of His guidance and of His strength.  I know that without Him, I am nothing, and that with Him I am truly mighty.  As I read my timeline this morning, I saw that mightiness.  I am a fighter, a survivor, a warrior, and I will come off conqueror!  I know that there will be countless difficulties in my path, but the Lord will make the way clear for me.  I am back.  And He is my Captain.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Oh My!

Wow.  I'm not sure I can put into words quite why I have been away from my blog for so long.  First of all, I have this little baby.  He is wonderful!  My little Bennett is now nine  months old and as cute as he can be!  He's a little mop top with the biggest hazel eyes, the longest eyelashes, and the roundest little face.  Here's a pic (OK, so a few) to get you up to speed: 

He is my biscuit and I am smitten.  Anyway, the other reason I haven't written for so long is that I've been dreading having to report to my loyal readers, that I have been doing QUITE HORRIBLY with my health goals.  I have gained all my weight back.  Poo!

I am reminded that SELF-COMPASSION is key to personal betterment.  If I lost myself for a little while, in order to bring this little man to mortality, IT WAS SO WORTH IT.  He is here.  I am here.  And now it's time to get back to work.  I am feeling my heart girding up its proverbial loins, once again preparing to battle this Goliath called obesity.  I know that the Lord is prepared to assist me as I pick myself up and move forward in faith.  I am feeling excited about this opportunity.  Adventure awaits.  I am up for the challenge.

So here's what I am doing to reinvent myself.  First, I am making lotsa lists!  LOTSALOTSA!  Each morning, I roll out of bed, do the tuck and tumble so I land on my knees and I pray for HELP, DIRECTION, GUIDANCE, ENERGY, and PURPOSE.  Then, I get those kiddos off to school, come home, eat breakfast, make my list, listen to audio scriptures while doing a load of dishes and a load of laundry, then I plug away at that list all the live-long day and just try to get as many check marks as I can!  I have not yet figured out how to fit exercise into my day in a practical way because I am super busy just trying to get all the other stuff done, but I'll keep trying.  I have started tracking all my food on myfitnesspal.com, which is an awful lot like the tracker I used for Weight Watchers, but it's free.  I am doing pretty well at tracking but not so well at eating exactly what I should.  I have good days and bad days.

Did I mention that I quit my job about a month ago.  This was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made.  In my entire life.  Like, ever.  Why?  Because we really, really, really needed that money!  And now we don't have it.  Ouch.  But, I prayed about it, and felt prompted to quit.  I love that today in general conference, L. Tom Perry said:  "The decisions made by women today will be eternal in their consequences."

Every time I tried to ignore this prompting, I had to wonder to myself:  "If this is truly a prompting from the Lord, and I choose to ignore it, what is the price I will pay for my disobedience?"  Thinking of my children and how much I love them, I didn't even want to think about it.  Though it was SUPER hard to quit my wonderful, flexible, near-perfect job, I chose to obey.  Now, as we begin to really feel the financial pinch, I must choose faith.  Satan is working on me though, and the doubts sometimes fly.  I believe that I chose obedience and I believe as I "go and do the thing the Lord commandeth," that He will provide a way.

I want to begin this journey back on the right foot, so I am going to once again place myself in the center of His will.  I know that as always, He will lead me along.  And though I don't know where the path leads, I do know that I will get there.  I will.

Monday, January 13, 2014

A Baby Story...Continued

Well, he's here!  This pregnancy has been one heck of a ride!  The first trimester was filled with racing pulses, chest pain, difficulty breathing, and morning sickness.  The second trimester was much better, but filled with absolute exhaustion and more morning sickness.  And the third trimester was filled with worry, worry, worry!  I worried about EVERYTHING, but especially about the baby's blood sugar levels and about shoulder dystocia, a dangerous condition that my other son had, which led to a very traumatic delivery.  This little one was breech the entire pregnancy, so the doc and I also had to decide whether or not to attempt a vaginal breech delivery or whether to do a c-section.  In the end, we both felt good about the c-section and we scheduled one for 11:00 am on the 27th of December.

I was supposed to arrive at the hospital that morning at 8:00 am.  I set my alarm for 6:45 am to give us time to drive the kids to my brother's house in nearby Perry.  I woke up on my own at 6:30, however, with mild, but frequent and regular contractions.  Though I have had four children before, I was induced with each one, so I really had never had the experience of going into labor on my own.  As I put on my make-up, I found myself having to sit down and take breaks because the pain was getting more intense.  It was then that I realized that I needed to get to the hospital NOW!  I began shouting orders and we grabbed our disheveled children and raced out to Perry, then right back into town.  I arrived at the hospital at 7:45 and as I walked into the labor and delivery ward, announced that I was in labor.  The nurse smiled and sent my into a room to get into my dressing gown, then left.  As I waited for her to come back, I knew FOR SURE that this was the real deal and that there was no way I would make it until my 11:00 surgery.  The nurse and my doctor came back into the room to find me pacing, with one hand on my abdomen and one on my back.  Doc was about to begin his first surgery of the day, a hysterectomy, but thankfully, he decided to check me first.  When he examined me I was dilated to an eight!  Needless to say, our planned c-section turned into an emergency c-section.  I was strapped into bed and rushed to the OR.  Minutes later, our little man made his entrance, pink, chubby, hairy, and absolutely perfect!

As always, having a newborn in the home has been a major adjustment, but this time the emotions have been a little more raw: knowing what it took to get him here, how much I worried for his health and safety, remembering the months and months of efforts on my part to lose weight, recalling the doubts about our finances, then the moments of decision, of our choosing faith over doubt, and ultimately allowing the grace of God to bless us with this special and sweet little one.  I have tried to cherish every single moment with him, and I have spent hours in the dark, feeding him and staring at his beauty.  I feel so overwhelmed with gratitude and I thank God for the path that led this baby to our home.

I heard the most beautiful song the other day.  It was talking about how God heals us, but leaves the scars to remind us of His mercy.  I feel healed from so many heartaches, and I thank God for my new c-section scar:  a constant reminder of how much I am blessed.  I have a healthy baby.  I am not certain if our financial difficulties are over.  I have hope that tour situation is improving.  Tyler was offered his old job back and recently began working there full-time again.  I definitely feel that this change is, at least in part, a reward for our desire to be faithful.  I know that there will always be trials, but God will lead us in our futures, as He has led us in the past.  I know that I will never regret my decision to answer the call to become a mother again.  Life is so amazingly good.  My cup runneth over!

Sunday, January 12, 2014


He's here!

Born:  December 27, 2013
Time:  8:19 am
Weight:  8 pounds, 3 oz.
Length:  20.5 inches

Name:  Bennett Tyler Walton

We just LOVE this little man!  I will post more details later!  Much love, Kristen

Thursday, August 1, 2013

FOOD FOR THE SPIRIT -- Help from the Other Side

Several days ago I found a book, compiled by my brother years ago.  My brother is the king of family history and this book was a compilation of articles and life stories of several of my ancestors.  For a few years now, I have had the spirit of Elijah and have become increasingly interested in the lives of those who have gone ahead.  It started with my introduction to indexing, which I quickly found to be an addictive and productive hobby.  Then, when Tyler lost his job and our period of trials began almost four years ago, I began to feel more and more that there were loved ones on the other side of the veil who cared deeply for me and who wanted to be there for me.

When Bryan (my brother) first gave me the book, I showed little interest in it and unceremoniously shelfed it for later.  The past week or so, I have been reading each story, totally engrossed.  I am so impressed with my ancestors:  their faith, their character, their work ethic, their dedication to the gospel!  In fact, as I read story after story, I got to the point where I was beginning to feel overwhelmed at the goodness and fortitude coming from the pages.  I begin to feel frustrated that I fall so short:  why can't I be more faithful?  Why can't I be more self-reliant?  Why can't I be a harder worker?

Quickly though, the spirit calmed my heart and testified that I can benefit from the strengths of my ancestors.  Where I fall short, they can communicate specific ideas to me, which can help me to overcome.  And I also was reassured by the spirit that these highly revered loved ones were not perfect.  They had personal vices.  They had bad days.  They had sins.  They were absolutely human!  Knowing these truths has helped me to feel more connected with these wonderful individuals.  I hope and pray that each of them will feel invited to be active participants in my life as I struggle, rejoice, search for answers, and strive to overcome.  I can't wait to meet them oneday on the other side and thank them for the hope their valiant lives offer, and for the assistance that I know I have received in the past and will receive from beyond throughout my life.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Every one of us, and our families, can be armed with the power of God as a defense if we will but remain true to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and let the Spirit be our guide. Trials may come, and we may not understand everything that happens to us or around us. But if we humbly, quietly trust in the Lord, He will give us strength and guidance in every challenge we face. When our only desire is to please Him, we will be blessed with a deep inner peace.  --Bruce D. Porter


My heart is full, full, FULL today!  I am feeling the spirit so keenly this morning.  I have been focusing these last few weeks on starting my mornings with meaningful prayer and it has made ALL THE DIFFERENCE!  I have more energy, more direction, more purpose, and more passion for life.  Each morning, I do the tuck and tumble out of bed and land directly on my knees.  This is a good, good experiment!

I have been feeling so guided and loved.  I am learning that there is beauty in living day to day, not knowing all the answers, not knowing logistically how things will work out, just knowing that they will.  I feel protected and cared for by a loving Heavenly Father!  Things are falling into place and I feel that my future is bright.

I also have a wonderful, exciting announcement to make:  IT'S A BOY!!!!  We were able to find out the gender of our little bean last week and I am so thrilled that we will have another son!  (Matthew is thrilled as well; he's already making big plans to teach this little guy how to play Legos and about all the Star Wars characters).

I have so much to be grateful for in this life.  I am so humbled and honored to have been chosen to be a mommy in Zion to the four most beautiful children in the world, and to one more little prince on his way!  I am married to a worthy man who makes me smile and fills my heart with joy.  I have a beautiful home in a wonderful neighborhood.  I have opportunities that many women in history would have never dared to dream of.  I live in a free country.  I am allowed to worship as I choose.  I am blessed each day because of my relationship with the Savior, which is growing stronger and stronger as I strive to live His perfect example.  I am loved by a kind and gentle Father in Heaven, who trusts me to be an instrument in His work and glory.  I am blessed with countless tender mercies each day, which allow me to continually feel bathed in love.  I am so very blessed in this life and I know that as I continue to work hard to overcome my personal flaws and weaknesses, that I will receive innumerable blessings throughout eternity.  God is good.  So good.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

FOOD FOR THE SPIRIT-- Forever Families!

I am so grateful for the opportunity I have had the last few weeks to spend time with my family.  Three of my out-of-town brothers were in town with their families in June and July and it was so nice to spend time with them.  I have been thinking a lot about families and the purpose of the family.  I think that families are meant to protect each other during the hard times.  They are meant to stand up for each other!  They have been created to show us in this life, a glimpse of what heaven can be like.

We went camping last week with my extended family and it was wonderful to step away from work and just spend a few days connecting with the children.  Camping with family, though exhausting, always seems to remind me of what is truly important:  relationships.

My health is a little better, I think.  My breathing is pretty good and my oxygen levels are usually where they need to be.  When I start to feel winded, I try to sit and practice my breathing techniques.  I am not having any chest pain, which is so comforting and probably rules out an embolism!  My pulse is a little lower than it was.  I have another appointment this week, so hopefully the doctor will be pleased!  I also hope to find out what the baby is this week!

I love this stage in pregnancy, when I get to start feeling the baby move!  At times, I still feel doubts about finances/etc. start to enter my mind.  On Sunday, a speaker in sacrament meeting was reading 1 Nephi 3:7, a verse I've heard a million times:

"And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I awill go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no bcommandments unto the children of men, save he shall cprepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them."

As I heard this verse, it struck me with such power that I am doing what the Lord has asked me to do.  By showing obedience, I am entitled to God's help in raising this child.  I have to have faith that He will help us to provide for this child and that we will be blessed in many ways for choosing to heed this important prompting.  I am full of joy, knowing that the Lord stands willing and ready to bless my family extravagantly!  As I feel my womb (and my tummy!) stretch and grow, I also feel my spirit stretch and grow!  My resolve to trust God's will for my family is growing as well.  I am beginning to really see that His way is a better and more sure path!  And for that knowledge, I am so entirely grateful!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

FOOD FOR THE SPIRIT -- How Can I Keep From Singing?

The last few weeks have been interesting!  At my last doctor's appointment, I was so out of breath and I could also tell that my heart was racing.  I mentioned it to the doctor and he immediately tested my oxygen saturation which was 76.  It is supposed to be no lower than 90!  He told me in no uncertain terms that if it does not improve dramatically and quickly, that he would be ordering an MRI and possibly even an angiogram to rule out the possibility of a pulmonary embolism or other complication.  Later as I was talking to my mom, she mentioned that when she was pregnant with me (same age, also her fifth child) she developed congestive heart failure that lasted through her pregnancy.  I have been regularly testing my oxygen sats, and mostly they are behaving, but at times, the numbers are still dangerously low.  The doctor is watching me very closely and I am now considered high-risk.  Whew!

With all this comes exhaustion, difficulty breathing, and often feelings of anxiousness!  I attended the temple again last week when my brother was in town for a visit and I was struggling with my breathing to the point that I almost had to get up and leave.  I am so glad that my prayers were answered and I was able to make it through the session!  That night, my husband and dad gave me a blessing.  I was blessed with the ability to read my body's signals, and know what I should do to care for myself through this pregnancy.  I was also admonished to be patient and to be faithful and to put my trust in God.  I hope that I can hang in there and that my symptoms will be manageable throughout the next 22 weeks!  Any prayers for a healthy pregnancy would be greatly appreciated!

I am trying so hard to eliminate stress from my life.  I will be the first to admit that at times, I can be a little intense.  I am prescribing myself a daily dose of music and meditation, both things that I have found that I need in my life if peace of mind is desired. And of course prayer!  I have also been focusing on my morning prayers, which is something I have often neglected in the past.  When I pray, on my knees, each morning, my day is a little easier and it is also easier for me to recognize the Lord's hand!

For example, last week I misplaced $100 cash.  I have been looking EVERYWHERE for that money and have been just sick about losing it!  We are going on a camping trip with my family this week and that money was so needed!  After days and days of searching and worrying, I prayed about it yesterday morning, asking Heavenly Father to help me think of where it might be.  Last night I was reading to my daughter and the story told about a missing diamond and about all the characters who were searching for it.  Something in that story triggered my memory and I thought that I would go out to our car, which has been out of commission, and look there.  After I finished reading, I walked out to the car, looked to the right of the driver's seat and there was the money, right where I'd pictured it in my mind!  Thank you, Heavenly Father!

When life is hard, chaotic, unsure, uncertain, even frightening, I find my heart full of gratitude for the gospel of Jesus Christ.  It grounds me.  The relationships that I am trying to forge with my Father and His Son, my Savior, anchor me during my most troubling times.  I want to shout to the world that I know that they are real and that they know me as an individual!  I want the world to know that I have felt their love in my daily struggles!  I want to express to all who can hear (or read) my words that I am loved!  I am numbered!  I am a daughter of God!  I have always loved the lyrics to the song, "How Can I Keep From Singing?"

My life flows on in endless song

Above earth’s lamentation
I hear the sweet, tho’ far-off hymn
That hails a new creation
Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear the music ringing
It finds an echo in my soul
How can I keep from singing?

What tho’ my joys and comfort die?
The Lord my Saviour liveth
What tho’ the darkness gather round?
Songs in the night He giveth
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that Refuge clinging
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing?

I lift mine eyes; the cloud grows thin
I see the blue above it
And day by day this pathway smoothes
Since first I learned to love it
The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart
A fountain ever springing
All things are mine since I am His
How can I keep from singing?

Here is a link to a performance of this very special, very beautiful hymn:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5BDCWUfpsU

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

FOOD FOR THE SPIRIT -- A Spiritual Day

Yesterday was an incredible day!  I had the opportunity to attend a session at the Brigham City temple with my nephew and his family as he received his endowments in preparation for a mission.  The spirit was there in abundance.  I started thinking about my post from the other day about learning to love myself.  I wondered how I could do that...how to learn to really, truly love myself!  My answer came and the floodgates opened.  It occured to me that I can learn to love myself because the Savior first loved me.  He loved me before I was even born!  He loved me so much that He suffered for me!  He loved me so much that He provided a way for me to return.  Why?  So He could associate with me for eternity!  He loved me even though He knew that I would make countless mistakes in my life...mistakes that caused Him great pain.  Today, He loves me still.  As the enormity of these truths sunk in, I was unable to hold back the tears.

I realized that angels were truly present there with us in the temple.  My nephew Collin and I are related, after all!  Why wouldn't my grandparents be there?  And they were!  I could totally feel them there with me, and it was if they were all communicating with me, spirit to spirit:  "Kristen, we love you without condition!  We love you so much!  You can learn to love yourself!  You are so loved by so many!"

I received specific personal revelation in other areas in my life.  It was a spiritual feast.  In all my years of temple attendance, I've never had an experience quite so powerful.  It was so wonderful and I do feel loved.  I feel now that if so many loved me and love me still, I can learn to love myself a little better!  It is always so powerful and wonderful to feel love from beyond the veil.  So very wonderful!

Monday, June 24, 2013


"I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble."  --Helen Keller

FOOD FOR THE SPIRIT -- Learning to Love and Forget Myself

A few days ago, I was standing in front of the mirror in my bathroom, wearing nothing but my skivvies (sorry, Mom!), and I had a revelation of sorts.  I am OK with my body.  I'm not OK with the way I feel physically, but I'm OK with the way I look.  Sure, I'd like to be a few sizes smaller, a hundred pounds lighter, a little younger-looking, whatever, but in the meantime, I'm OK with the way I look.  So, why the low self-esteem all these years?  Why the desperation to lose weight, knowing full well that as shallow as it seems, it hasn't always been about health or quality of life as much as it has been about numbers and measurements?  Or about what others thought about me?  I realized that in the past, I needed and wanted to lose weight mostly for others, only secondarily for myself.  I have always had something to prove:  to my family, to my Weight Watchers leaders, to my friends, even to the blog readers following my journey online.  Have I ever truly, truly loved myself the way God intends:  without condition?  Or is my self-respect only present when I am tearing it up in life, completely tied to success as the world and others see it?

Last night I watched a documentary about Gordon B. Hinckley.  Since I was already an emotional basket-case after a fantastic day at church, the tears flowed freely as I watched this film:  a tribute to a truly great man.  He told the story of an experience he had as a rail manager, when a baggage car went missing.  He searched and searched for this missing car, while angry passengers waited for the solution of the mystery.  After a long and stressful hunt and several phone calls, he located the missing baggage car thousands of miles from its intended destination.  The rest of the train arrived as planned in New Jersey while the baggage wound up in New Orleans!  The problem came when a careless worker unhooked the car and changed a switch a mere three inches.  Three inches off course ended up leading the car on a completely different journey, a completely different path, and to a completely different destination!

After watching the film, I considered my own life and wondered what, if anything, was possibly setting me off course by merely three inches.  I decided that my not loving myself enough could definitely be leading me astray.  In a big way.  The more I thought about it, the more this thought made sense.  The spirit then confirmed to me that humility is much different than discouragement and doubt in my own abilities.  Humility is knowing that I do have the ability to accomplish ANYTHING, but ONLY with God's help.  Humility is accepting God's will for my life, then giving Him everything I have, trusting completely that my life will be so much more rewarding with His every day help.

I also love to hear about young missionary Gordon B. Hinckley who found himself in the field, feeling completely inept in every way, guilty for using his family's much-needed resources.  He was beyond discouraged!  He wrote to his father, expressing these concerns and received life-changing counsel back from his father:  "Forget yourself and go to work."  Elder Hinckley fell to his knees that night, and covenanted to the Lord in that moment of humility, that He would spend His life thinking of and serving others from that day forward.  And he did!  He spent the remainder of his days lifting others, serving others, providing for others, and leading others.  As he told this story, he affirmed that all good things that had come to him in his life could be traced back to that moment in his life.  He said that it was a turning point for him:  a day of decision.

I feel similarly discouraged and inadequate at times:  with finances, with my duties as a wife and mother, with my church callings, with my health, with my eating disorder.  I felt yesterday that the keys to healing are to forget myself and think more of others, to work harder, and to learn to love myself as God loves me.  I think as I find joy in the service of others and in doing many jobs well-done, this love and respect for myself will grow.

In the meantime, I will continue to study and live, growing and feeding my living testimony.  I am grateful for my sweet friend, President Hinckley and for his wise words which lifted me in a dark and discouraged hour.  He is still lifting others, even from the other side of the veil!

Friday, June 14, 2013

FOOD FOR THE SPIRIT --- Fan the Flame of Your Faith

I have been reviewing the addresses given at the April 2013 General Conference.  This morning I had the privilege of reading Elder Holland's masterpiece:  "Lord, I Believe".  If you haven't had the chance to read this gospel classic, please, please read it here:  http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/04/lord-i-believe?lang=eng&media=video#watch=video

Elder Holland's words, as usual, were exactly what I needed to hear this morning.  As He speaks about the man who came to his apostles, pleading for any help they could offer him, I was so touched by his honesty.  After the apostles were unable to help, he turned to the Savior himself, begging for ANY assistance, any lightening of the load which his family had bourne for so long as caretakers of a severely handicapped child.  His plea was desperate.  Then, when asked if He believed that the Savior could help, he firmly replied:  "Yea Lord I believe," then frankly and honestly added, "Help thou mine unbelief."

This story has always been one of my favorites in all scripture mostly because I relate to this man so much.  I have faith, but I am all too aware that it is imperfect and young and at times, even vulnerable.

As I was driving to work this morning, not knowing that this address was the next one I would be listening to, I was actually thinking about my faith and wondering about its strength.  At times, my heart is so strong, filled with faith, devoid of doubts or questions.  Then at other times, I feel very little.  It's probably a little bit of the pride cycle going on in my life.  Perhaps small choices I make are making the influence of the Spirit harder to feel at times.  Whatever the reason, at times, my faith still wavers.  Lately, I have been feeling very overwhelmed at the thought of becoming a mommy again.  Motherhood is already hard, with four!  How will I manage my day-to-day craziness with one more?  How will we make it financially?  The doubts at this stage, especially on hard days, are all around me.  I wish I could make them stop.  I pray that the Lord will grant me peace and allow me to feel more joy about this little one coming our way.  I desperately want that!

I love what Elder Holland said about HOW to show honesty in our weakness:  When problems come and questions arise, do not start your quest for faith by saying how much you do not have, leading as it were with your “unbelief.” That is like trying to stuff a turkey through the beak! Let me be clear on this point: I am not asking you to pretend to faith you do not have. I am asking you to be true to the faith you do have. Sometimes we act as if an honest declaration of doubt is a higher manifestation of moral courage than is an honest declaration of faith. It is not! So let us all remember the clear message of this scriptural account: Be as candid about your questions as you need to be; life is full of them on one subject or another. But if you and your family want to be healed, don’t let those questions stand in the way of faith working its miracle...

Furthermore, you have more faith than you think you do because of what the Book of Mormon calls “the greatness of the evidences.”7 “Ye shall know them by their fruits,” Jesus said,8 and the fruit of living the gospel is evident in the lives of Latter-day Saints everywhere. As Peter and John said once to an ancient audience, I say today, “We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard,” and what we have seen and heard is that “a notable miracle hath been done” in the lives of millions of members of this Church. That cannot be denied.9

Brothers and sisters, this is a divine work in process, with the manifestations and blessings of it abounding in every direction, so please don’t hyperventilate if from time to time issues arise that need to be examined, understood, and resolved. They do and they will. In this Church, what we know will always trump what we do not know. And remember, in this world, everyone is to walk by faith.

So be kind regarding human frailty—your own as well as that of those who serve with you in a Church led by volunteer, mortal men and women. Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we. And when you see imperfection, remember that the limitation is not in the divinity of the work. As one gifted writer has suggested, when the infinite fullness is poured forth, it is not the oil’s fault if there is some loss because finite vessels can’t quite contain it all.10 Those finite vessels include you and me, so be patient and kind and forgiving.

Last observation: When doubt or difficulty come, do not be afraid to ask for help. If we want it as humbly and honestly as this father did, we can get it. The scriptures phrase such earnest desire as being of “real intent,” pursued “with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God.”11 I testify that in response to that kind of importuning, God will send help from both sides of the veil to strengthen our belief."

I love this blog and now I know one reason why it is so helpful to me as I face life's challenges.  It is a place where I can express first my faith, then my doubts, in that order!  It is a place where I can acknowledge the ground I have already won.  I can (and often do), look back over past experiences and see the hand of God in the solutions that invariably come to me as I experiment upon my faith.  God has helped me move mountains.  Even though my faith is still small and imperfect, God accepts it gladly.  He blesses me extravagently!

I also love Elder Holland's mention of receiving help through our trials from both sides of the veil.  As I have turned to my fathers, learning more about them, their lives, their hopes and dreams, their stories, I truly have felt their influence on me.  The experiences I have been blessed with regaring my ancestors are precious and sacred and truly do bless me with strength and increased faith.

I bear testimony that I believe that this church is Christ's church.  I am so grateful for the knowledge that is beginning to fill my young heart as I implore and seek to do God'swill.  I am so thankful for His prophets who help me to find truth.  These truths bless my life immeasurably.  The Atonement has the power to bind up my wounds and make me whole.  It is for everyone:  the imperfect, the foolish, the proud.  I am thankful for the words of the Book of Mormon, which are an anchor to my proud heart, constantly reminding me of the need to turn my life over to my God.  I am grateful to the lovingkindness of a loving Father.  I am grateful and hope to be ever aware of the countless tender mercies bestowed upton me.  He is so good to me.  He blesses me disproportionately.  After all I can do to ever repay Him, I will yet be an unprofitable servant.  I am thankful that God has use for imperfect beings and that He has confidence in my abilities and capabilities.  That confidence in me is what keeps me going.  I offer these words as a humble testimony of His love, in the spirit of most sincere gratitude, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

FOOD FOR THE SPIRIT: Helping Equals Happiness

The last few weeks have been interesting.  Emotionally, I have been feeling a little depressed and grumpy.  I'm not sure why, but it's been hard to shake the feelings.  I should be happy that I am pregnant, that the baby is doing well, and that I have countless blessings.  Instead, I have been one million percent exhausted with first trimester fatigue unlike any I ever experienced with my previous pregnancies.  The fatigue has been debilitating!  Depression also feeds fatigue, so it's hard to say whether I'm tired because I'm pregnant, or because I'm feeling down...or both.  I have suffered from depression before and I certainly plan to talk to my doctor during my next visit and let him know how I've been feeling.  In the meantime, I am trying to get the rest my body needs, exercise daily, eat right, study the scriptures, and do those things that have helped me battle the blues in the past.  As in the past, I know the Lord will carry me through this.  It will be OK.

The other day, I found an old journal that I accidentally left at my parents' house.  It was fun to flip through the pages and read spiritual impressions I have received in the past few years.  The statement that touched me the most was very simple, yet the timing couldn't have been better for this moody mama!

"To find happiness, we should try to make others happy."

So simple.  I know that this is a correct principle.  After reading it, I went and scrubbed my little princesses in the bathtub, knowing that even the seemingly mundane acts of service I perform each day as a mommy are meant to bring me joy.  As I bathed the girls, creating magnificent hair sculptures with yummy-smelling shampoo, my spirit was immediately lifted.

Today, I read Mosiah 2, one of my favorite chapters in the Book of Mormon.  I love reading King Benjamin's counsel about serving others.  When I take care of my husband, my children, my neighbors, my visiting teaching sisters, my customers, even my enemies, I am serving God.  And I have found that the satisfaction that comes from serving others is often greater when only I and the person I am helping know what has transpired.  I hope to serve others, not to boast in myself, but to boast in my God, who has been so kind and good to me during my darkest hours.  I know that no matter how hard I work to become a better person, no matter how many loaves of bread or pots of flowers I deliver, or even how many people I help to convert to the gospel, I will still be an unprofitable servant.  I can never repay the Savior for what He has done for me.  The equation of atoning love will always be lopsided.  His sacrifice for me will always be more grand and more magnificent than anything I can offer in return.  I am so humbled that despite the many mistakes I have made and will continue to make, that I still can have never ending happiness if I live righteously.

Another of my favorite points in King Benjamin's address is that we will immediately see blessings come into our lives the moment we choose to step into the light.  Those blessings may be small at first, but they will come immediately.

President Uchdorf echoed this truth in his recent conference address:

"Isn’t it wonderful to know that we don’t have to be perfect to experience the blessings and gifts of our Heavenly Father? We don’t have to wait to cross the finish line to receive God’s blessings. In fact, the heavens begin to part and the blessings of heaven begin to distill upon us with the very first steps we take toward the light.

The perfect place to begin is exactly where you are right now. It doesn’t matter how unqualified you may think you are or how far behind others you may feel. The very moment you begin to seek your Heavenly Father, in that moment, the hope of His light will begin to awaken, enliven, and ennoble your soul."  ("The Hope of God's Light", General Conference, April 2013)

I know that God understands that some days are harder than others and that He offers the hope of the gospel to help during those times of darkness.  I love Him for that.