lessons learned.

I just feel the need to write.  I'm not even sure of or how to express all my feelings but they need to be recorded.

After the cardiologist discovered last week that my carotid arteries are 50% blocked, I have an MRA today.  The ultrasound didn't show plaque.  I can't help thinking it has something to do with weakened artery walls- and that it's something related to my dad's AVM or my mom's aneurysm.  In any case, my initial reaction was one of hurt, dismay, fear, etc.  I thought 'here we go again' (with another big trial).  I felt embarrassed  that perhaps I brought this upon myself and that if I'd only faced up to my food addiction sooner.... But no sooner had I had that particular thought, the thought clearly came to my mind (and again as I write this) 'I'm not trying to punish you, I am trying to save you!'  How often do we see trials and tribulations as difficulties, inconveniences, or punishments & consequences?  Yet so often they are opportunities for growth and learning- for saving ourselves in an eternal sense.  Even when faced with consequences of other's agency or simply of a mortal life (because God doesn't 'inflict' everything on us)- we are promised that, if we ask for it, all these things will be made good and for our experience.  That's such a wonderful promise and I know it to be true as I have experienced it many times in my life.  I have struggled and endured trial after trial, always seeking to see the lesson.  However, sometimes that isn't immediately clear.  Even so, I have found that when I faced with seemingly insurmountable difficulty or trial, if I take it before the Lord and ask him to turn it for good, then I am more able to turn my life over to Him- putting my will in His hands.  This has always had the best outcome.  Not only that, but it is the only way to overcome fear, for casting out fear can only occur with a welcoming of faith.

This past year has been filled with many trials of faith, but also much growth and change.  As I struggled with physical therapy for my brain injury, I couldn't see the point of it all.  I felt broken and helpless.  It was a big inconvenience that affected my ability to be a mother and caused, at least to me, additional stress for my kids and husband.  So often I asked why.  I received a priesthood blessing at some point that told me I would be healed in due time and blessed me with patience.  Those were not the words I wanted to hear.  I wanted to be healed right then and there and I had the faith that I could.  But that was not God's plan and I needed to put my trust in Him.  I thought he was 'inflicting' this on me to 'make' me learn something.  I understand now that He very lovingly saw a less painful opportunity to teach me and help me grow with lessons that would sustain me in the coming months and trials ahead.  As I turned my life to Him and asked Him for that blessing, I allowed that to happen.  He wasn't going to force a lesson on me or just 'use' me to teach someone else a lesson.  During the course of the physical therapy, I would feel like I was taking 3 steps forward and 2 steps back.  I would break down in the middle of a session, crying.  J was usually my therapist and was so wonderful.  He explained to me that my body had healed itself wrong (by compensating) and that in order for it to heal correctly it needed to first be broken down- much like a broken bone that heals on its own before first being put in the right place and has to be rebroken.  Therefore, things were most certainly going to get worse before they got better but I needed to trust him that they would get better and that he would show me how and be there to help me every step of the way.  Wow- can we cay parallel to life?!  So many times in the last year I have seen the truth of that from an eternal perspective and returned to that lesson for strength and comfort.  I also learned in a very physical way about how we need to push ourselves to do hard things we may not want to, but that going more than we are able does us more harm than good.  That was a hard lesson for me to learn, as I've always felt I just needed to be strong and push through things.  I thought that if I just pushed myself harder then I would heal faster (and be done with this trial/inconvenience faster).  I learned that the opposite was true and that if we trust in the one who knows what they are doing and trust in the timing of it all, believing all would be well in due time, then that would happen- and we wouldn't make ourselves sick in the meantime.

I have had to draw on these lessons time and time again over the last year as I have worked through and with the disclosure of being married to a pornography addict, the realization of my own addictions, and facing a chaotic past filled with turmoil and abuse- with the resolution to be the transitional generation.

Finding out about the extent of DH's addiction and the lies in our marriage led me to visit a counselor with the desire to not be a victim and to stop the trend in the family of women being victimized.  She led me to participate in an intensive recovery group called SOLE- Survivors of Life Experiences.  It was a group for women who'd survived trauma of many kinds, often abuse.  I didn't want to go initially.  I felt it didn't apply to me or that I wasn't 'that' bad.  But the Lord testified to me in more ways than one that this was where He wanted me and I would be blessed for going.  The SOLE experience was literally life-changing.  I learned how I had developed coping behaviors and thinking patterns as a means of getting through and surviving my life.  Having been used by so many others it was hard not to see God as doing the same to me.  Having a father who only seemed to love and approve of me when 'perfect', I felt like God loved me and yet had a checklist he was keeping that if I didn't' live up to, I didn't' have His full approval and love.  As I went through the program and prayed for humility, I felt more broken.  Much as my body needed to be broken to heal correctly, my soul no needed to be.  How grateful I was to have learned that lesson for it was easier to do so in that environment and gave me the strength and hope in the next.... For I truly felt more broken than ever!  The miraculous thing was that as I went through this experience I found that I was able to feel the love of my Heavenly Father.  To really feel it.  I had always known He loved me and had indeed felt His spirit and love- but this was a far more intense and personal experience.  It's like the veil has become a bit more thin when I choose it to be- and what a joyous feeling that is!  I'm sad that I since haven't done as well, been as consistent, at striving for that and allowing for that...but such is the struggle of mortality and each second of every day is a chance to start anew.  I feel like the Lord has testified to me many times this past year of His love for me.  He has validated my every feeling (never leaving me feeling guilty for having a negative one).  He has graced me with His presence, simply being at my side at times.  He has cheered me on and fought for me.  He has allowed me to experience the companionship, support, and encouragement of my mother life I've never known.  He has opened my eyes wide to all kinds of things- blessings, weaknesses, sins, graces, miracles, and lessons.  For those things I am so unbelievably grateful.  Living life with your eyes opened is like being in the temple when they turn more lights on- you don't realized how dim it has been until you suddenly have more light.

I went to the St. George temple a couple weeks ago for the first time.  The opportunity presented itself and I had tot take it.  I'd been feeling for some time a strong need to go to the temple (though not for any particular reason) and the Las Vegas one had been closed for cleaning.  No sooner did I walk in the door than I was overcome by a tremendous feeling of love, like I had never before experienced.  I was taken by surprise because I didn't feel like I'd been lacking that feeling and wondered what the purpose could be for Him choosing to fill me so greatly at that time.  I reasoned that it was because I was also feeling the love, joy, approval, and presence of my mom.  I was also planning to work through steps 4 and 5 of the ARP & PASG groups- where you make a searching and honest inventory of your life and then disclose it.  I thought "Heavenly Father already knows all these things about me- everything past and present, in the open or hidden by shame- yet He loves me this much, with this intensity."  That was a very powerful experience and very freeing.  I came to realize that it is His love (which is felt by faith) that dispels fear and grants power.  It really is love (in the form of experiencing God's love for us) that conquers all.  Not only that, but the Atonement happened because of love- Christ loved us all so much that He was willing to go through that for each and every one of us.  Wow.

So back to now.... Experiencing that intense feeling of love opened my eyes and softened my heart, allowing me to really feel again the depth and sincerity of my love for DH.  With all we've been through in the past year, that is a tremendous gift and one I had prayed for even when receiving validation that if I needed to leave that was okay, for I had done my part in my marriage.  But to feel those same intensity of feelings felt on our wedding day was truly a wonderful gift.

So I have this MRA today and I can't help feeling that my life is about to change in a very real way.  That all these lessons and experiences over the last year have been leading up to this.  And I'm grateful for that.  I'm grateful to have the experience of learning and growing line upon line and precept on precept.  I'm grateful to have learned the value of one step at a time and trusting in the Lord.  I see great love and care in all He has been with me through in the past few years.  I see His face smiling at me with nothing but love and acceptance, in spite of all my weaknesses and shortcomings.  I didn't always feel this way.  I no longer see Him as just allowing bad things to happen to me or as inflicting things upon me to teach me a lesson.  He loves me.  I got a priesthood blessing last night in preparation for today.  Really, it mostly said a lot of things I'd been praying for and I felt liek a lot of it was for DH's benefit as he was the one giving it.  I was told of the love people here on earth and in Heaven have for me.  I was told that those on the other side of the veil would be with me.  I was encouraged to draw on and remember these things- this love & the love of my Heavenly Father as I put my life in the Lord's hands (something I'd been praying for though not in quite so literally a sense).  I was encouraged not to be afraid and to trust God.  I was told that I'd had a difficult and hard life, having gone through so much already in such a short time.  I guess it was nice to have that validated.  I was blessed to be strong in body, mind and spirit.  I feel like something big is coming but that the Lord wants me to know He loves me very much and has given me and my family the tools necessary to get us through this.  I just will need to remember and draw on that regularly.  I guess that's why I felt the need to write all these things down.  It's easy to fear the unknown and to think of all the possible bad scenarios- particularly when you've experienced so much of that.  But the only way to overcome that is by trusting God, loving Him, and allowing yourself to feel His love for you.  He may only be concerned on an eternal and spiritual perspective (though I think He is concerned for the physical and temporal as well) but "I am saving you" is the thought I had and continue to have.  How and what that entails- well I guess that's up to him. ;)

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