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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.