Sunday, April 28, 2019

A post about overcoming challenges and Arches. Not sure if they go together but oh well.

Something I've been working hard at is to be emotionally and mentally strong enough to "handle" the challenges that come my way. Two 1/2 years ago when I started my online college degree the stress was too much for me. The pressure of getting deadlines finished, studying for tests, and writing papers while also caring for our four small children was more than I could take.

I started experiencing such a sudden overload of stress at the time that anytime even the simplest of things didn't work out would result in major depression and desperation. For instance my child spilling milk on the table would result in overwhelming tears, my car not starting was a complete catastrophe, my dog escaping the yard would have been the catalyst of the day to throw me into a deep, dark depression.....and so on. None of this was either healthy or helpful in my life so I quit college. It was a major disappointment for me, as I assumed it was college that was causing all my problems, not me that needed major help. However, as time went on I realized that it was me that needed major help. 

As I prayed for answers God led me to know that I could do all the things I wanted to do but I had to overcome some major mental obstacles that were blocking my mind from moving forward in my life the way I needed and wanted to. I realized that I couldn't live out the rest of my life hiding away from stress. 
When things get too stressful I have a tendency to  withdraw from my husband, withdraw from people around me, and focus solely on my negative,  ruminating thoughts. I become a solitary island, where nobody can bother me or hurt me because on my island I can hyper- focus on myself where nobody else's problems will affect me and where outside stressors can't come in. Here on my lonely island I can hyper-focus on my eating habits, I can hyper-focus on losing weight, I can hyper-focus on cleaning the house, organizing my stuff, getting rid of  junk,  a Netflix TV series, and especially I can hyper focus on all the things I wish were different in my life. 

However, none of this is healthy when you are part of a family system, especially as a pillar of strength for growing children that depend on your ability to show up for them each day-- to lead them, guide them, and direct them in how to overcome obstacles and stressors in their own lives. And none of this is healthy when you are in a married relationship that requires consistent love, nurturing, and  care to keep it growing and evolving into the part of the system that is the strongest and most reliable.  Families are hard, but they are a beautiful thing if they are nurtured and cared for. 
So, I realized that if I wanted my own little family to be the strong, unified group that we are (it's a work in progress), and if I wanted to strengthen my marriage (also a work in progress), and If I wanted to face the stressors that not only come with facing hard things but also with day-to-day living, I needed to figure out how to overcome my personal hangups in life.
And I'm so glad that I did. It'as been a long road to self discovery these past 2 1/2 years, and not to mention over $1000 dollars worth of therapy later, but it has been life-changing and necessary, and I believe God has blessed us with the means to receive this help, especially since our insurance really stinks. And God has blessed me to be open to receiving this help because He knew I could change and He knew I would need to be stronger in life so I could bless my family. 
I was led to doing EMDR therapy, a type of therapy for people with post-traumatic-stress-disorder. It changed the way my brain perceives hard challenges and stress. For instance say something like losing my phone at Wal mart, which in my old post-traumatic-stress brain would've suddenly triggered panic and I'd start to hyper focus on past traumas and bad experiences from my teenage years, now my brain just gives a nod to my lost phone. It acknowledges that my phone is lost, that it sucks that my phone is lost, and that's it. No self-battery or negative  thoughts about how I can't keep it together, or how I'm such a loser for losing my phone, or how my lost phone reflects every thing I'm failing at in life. No withdrawing into myself and pushing out the world. Now It's just a lost phone, and that's it. I can get another one and I'm still a good person.

This PTSD therapy I did has prepared me for, not only for lost phones, but for some really hard challenges that have come my way since then. I've always been under the impression that I can only handle so many hard things at once, but turns out I can handle a million hard things at once. Not because I want to but because that's just the way life is. Hard things seem to come all at once and really BIG, and if I hadn't been doing this therapy and trying to overcome my hangups I would be drowning right now. I mean, I am sorta drowning--it hasn't been easy, but I've noticed a HUGE change within myself that I am handling things way better than I did before, that I am still treading water and pushing myself whereas before I would've let myself sink by now.....into despair, depression, sadness, loneliness, and withdrawal. But I am here! And I am doing it. I am showing up for my family, showing up for my responsibilities, showing up for myself, and doing hard things I never thought possible. 

There is help out there for everyone who needs it. The self-improvement industry is huge right now and for a good reason! People have realized that they can be happier, more resilient, have more joy and and peace in their lives, and do very difficult hard things by following the footsteps of those who have gone before them or learning from experts who study the human mind or both. There are so many resources out there to improve and I'm not afraid to use them. 
However, I do believe in praying and being directed to the resources that will work for YOU and help you improve the best in your own life. Over years of self-discovery I've found that I do really well with the RIGHT therapist, not just any therapist. When I found Andrea, I knew she was the one to help me change my life.  
I've also found that when I listen to life-coach podcasts like Jody Moore, I take what applies to my life and leave the rest. Not everything she says is gospel. It's okay to pick and choose what you need to apply to your life,  even in small doses. 
I've also found that there are some really good self-help books out there, and some lousy ones. Choose wisely.
 I've found that listening to my inner gut is the most powerful. If my friend kindly invites me to a yoga class but I feel that sprinting up a mountain would be better for me that morning, I'm going to say no thanks and sprint up that mountain. Knowing what my mind and body needs when I need it is crucial. 
How I use my time is crucial. It's ok to say no to people and things that don't serve you. No I don't want to play volleyball once a week, no I don't want to join the PTA, no I don't want to run a 5k right now, no I'm not interested in attending your jewelry-selling party, no I can't help with YW camp this year, no I can't babysit your kids...and so on. You're not saying no because you are selfish, you are saying no because you simply can' and you need to leave time, energy, and space for the things that matter most in your life. There will be other times when I will say yes to many of those things, but not right now. Not when I am finding the balance to show up each day as a mother, wife, student, scout leader, gym daycare worker, friend, ministering sister, and all the other hats I wear throughout my week .  
I've also found that medical intervention has blessed my life. I never wanted to be on medication but the mental stability and emotional clarity I've experienced would argue otherwise. Medication is a modern miracle and a blessing to those who need it. Anyone who says otherwise has not experienced clinical depression.
My faith also helps me immensely. Christ is my rock and foundation and I turn to Him for answers constantly. And He constantly answers them, which is a beautiful thing to have. 

I'd say for anyone who needs to change their habits or their hangups or their mental health or the way their brain interprets the world, or whatever it is that is holding you back from living life to the fullest, pray to find the resources that will work for you. Pray to find the answers you need through the people and things that can help you the most. I am living proof right now, as I am working towards my college degree, raising my four beautiful children, being married to my amazing husband, and wearing many other hats, that I can do hard things (even things I never wanted to do like college algebra and raising a child with social anxiety and clinical depression). I have to remember to stop and remind myself how far I've come because I am doing pretty awesome.

We went to Arches National Park for Spring break. It was magical. I'm just going to post what I posted from my Instagram account:
"To say we had a wonderful time would be a massive understatement! Family camping for us Is a special time, a sacred time, a time to bond, create forever memories, and love each other even more. ♥️ I also had a pretty huge and powerful spiritual AWAKENING while I was there, as I received some answers to my prayers that I've been needing to hear. The native Americans revered arches as sacred portals to the past and future. I really felt the spiritual nature of this place as contributing to my inner desires for answers at this time, however I don't think I need to drive back here to receive the spiritual awakening that I received, I just think God was waiting for me to ask the right questions at the right time. 😀 This time was at 3 a.m. while I was restlessly walking around staring up at the bright moon, looking out over this amazing landscape from God. I couldn't have asked for a better moment to awaken to new understanding."

We really did have a magical time at Arches! I was able to hike up to Delicate Arch twice, once with my family and once the following day by myself. It blew me away both times, mostly because you don't realize how massive it is. It looks so tiny on the Utah license plate, then when you get up there it's this towering, 60 foot tall giant, but the most beautiful giant. I was impressed...again and again, and this wasn't even my first time seeing it!

Here's a bunch of other photos I took! Already can't wait to go back!
 Hiking on the Landscape Arch trail
 Landscape Arch:

 More Arches

 We're Utahns now-the hat proves it.
 Four boys in their element:
 Z loved to play on this "lizard rock" when he was four. We had to go back and climb on it and pretend to be lizards. 

 The Arch behind our camp sight near the amphitheater
 Campsight #22 aka our home for 4 days:
Hiking with Mally. He was hilarious. He kept needing lots of breaks. He kept holding his shorts up to cool down his legs. He took off his shoes at one point and went barefoot. He liked having a hand to hold or a shoulder ride. 
Water break: 

 Sand dunes:
 I promise they were having fun....

Til next time, Arches!

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Preparing for General Conference

This past Saturday evening I was asked to prepare a 5 minute talk for the next morning on how to prepare for General Conference which is coming up this weekend, April 5-6. I was delighted! The last time I was asked to speak in sacrament meeting was 4 years ago (aside from bearing my testimony some fast Sundays) and I was happy to prepare a little something for our congregation. After I sat down, of course, I thought of all the things I forgot to include, and all the things I meant to say but didn't because of time constraints, but overall I think it went  pretty well. General Conference is something that I have grown to love and look forward to, and my testimony of it's awesomeness grows even bigger every 6 months when it comes around again.
I threw away the paper holding my notes, but here's the gist of what I said:

First off, I love General Conference. I love that every 6 months we get to stop what we're doing and listen to the inspiration and revelation from our Heavenly father through our living Prophet and Apostles and other church leaders. I love that we get to feel the spirit so strongly in our homes as we listen and watch on TV's, computers, or whatever devices we can access. This past General Conference I felt the spirit really strongly testifying to me that President Nelson truly is a prophet of God and that this is Christ's true restored church on the earth today. The powerful spirit I felt was more than I was expecting for some reason. It was almost electrifying and overwhelming to me to realize the spirit could be so powerful just by turning on the T.V. to watch General Conference. I was really grateful for that witness and testimony which allowed me to open my heart and mind to all the amazing truths I would hear that weekend. 

In preparation for General Conference we make sure our children know that General Conference is important to us as a family and is "what we do" as a family. We talk about it coming up, we talk about how important it is, and we talk about how we're going to spend the weekend watching it.  Growing up I remember watching General Conference off and on as a kid but it wasn't something we did regularly. By the time I was a young teen I didn't understand the importance of why I would sit and watch a bunch of old dudes talking for hours. It seemed boring and counterproductive (basically I would rather be surfing). However, as a young adult I started attending General Conference again with my Latter-Day Saint friends from BYU-H and was simply blown away by the beautiful and profound gospel truths I was hearing. I immediately felt joy and happiness that I was able to gain the wisdom and insights again but also a profound sense of  loss for all the years I missed out, for not understanding what blessings come from participating in GC. And, it's not just a bunch of old dudes talking, there are some amazing women, too, plus inspirational music from the Tabernacle Choir.

In our family today we watch General Conference consistently every 6 months because we believe that as we consistently participate in GC we can gain strength and unity as a family, gain testimonies of the gospel truths we hear, and teach our children the importance of listening to out Prophet and leaders. Consistency, and expecting everyone to participate, is key in preparing for General Conference. If General Conference is important to you, it becomes important to your family. Watching General Conference as a family is "what we do."
Another way to prepare for General Conference is to prepare for our young children to participate. It isn't easy for a lot of children to sit through General Conference and for many kids, it is simply impossible. It is eight hours of sit-down time, broken up into 2 hour sessions, but still, for many young families you really have to get creative.  I suggest printing off those LDS general Conference activity booklets. They help keep kids engaged with activities that help them to focus and pay attention to the speakers. There's GC themed pages to color, puzzles, BINGO, word finds, picture matching, etc to keep them entertained and engaged while listening. For the even younger crowd I always bring out the legos to keep their little hands busy as we watch, although sometimes they can be too loud. For the kids that simply can't sit still or stop talking, my husband and I take turns taking them out of the room, per session. So instead of spending two agonizing hours trying to keep a non-stop talker and mover quiet, one of us takes them to the park (or backyard or upstairs) or anywhere away from the TV room, while the other family members get to watch GC in peace and quiet, then for the next session we switch. This way, at least one of us can enjoy 
the session with the family, and then of course there are a million ways to catch up later on! 

This has worked out great for us in the past. I know someday we'll all get to watch GC all together as a family, but this is what works for now, especially with a four year old that never.stops.talking. :) It's really important to be patient with yourselves and make accommodations for your family for General Conference. Be patient as you figure out what works best for your family situation. For some families who are single parents or who don't have the support around GC that they'd like, be patient with yourselves as you figure out how to make the most with what you've got to work with. Don't be afraid to make the necessary accommodations you need while you figure it out. Any General Conference is better than no General Conference at all! And for those that can sit and watch uninterrupted for 8 hours, reveling in the power and awesomeness that is GC without little people interrupting you constantly, I am jealous, but I will get there someday!........
I am kidding because I do love watching GC with my little family. I hope they know how important it is to me and my husband and that they can feel the spirit more abundantly in their lives as they consistently participate and let the blessings of GC pour into their hearts and our home.

Watching General Conference is a choice. Nobody is making you watch it and nobody is going to check up on you to see if you watched it. Just like everything else in this gospel we get to choose if we want to reap from the blessings that are offered. We can also prepare by praying for guidance in understanding and receiving the things we need to know. As we listen to GC we can gain a better understanding of gospel principles, receive answers to questions and prayers, receive inspiration, and also receive a renewed determination to live the gospel and better follow Jesus Christ.

I am personally excited for this coming weekend's conference. I know that as we prepare for conference we can make it an enjoyable and fun tradition for our families, and even create a family culture around it that is consistent, accommodating, and long-lasting.

The End

Not in my talk but in my head right now-- I just wanted to briefly share that I am so grateful for this gospel. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a strength and foundation in my life that I consistently rely on. There aren't many more things important in this life than following my Savior and having faith in His plan for us. I am constantly in awe of how much He loves me and how much He consistently answers my prayers and gives me guidance in my life. I am in awe of the power and strength that comes from small acts of faith such as daily prayers and scriptures. The other day as I was reading my scriptures I suddenly received inspiration about something I needed to know that had nothing to do with what I was reading in the scriptures. But I learn through those experiences that God speaks to us through our simple acts of faith in Him. As I keep His commandments and stay close to Him, he stays close to me.
This world is full of so many opinions and choices and it's easy to get lost out there. Especially on the internet. I have so many friends (who are members of the church) that are really struggling with trying to know what is real and true. They are struggling with varying societal views, with newfound feminist views, with their political beliefs, with how to raise their children, with what others think about their religion, etc... It's all good and healthy and wonderful to ask questions as we establish beliefs and develop our faith and of course we all have varying opinions about how the world works, but when it comes down to it, what is real and true is in the gospel. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the light, and He will show us what is real and true as we follow Him. As we feast upon the words of Christ through the scriptures, as we get down on our knees and pray every day to God, as we keep the commandments, stay firm in the promises me made at baptism, and listen to our Prophet and apostles, Christ will show us the way. I believe this and I know this with all my heart. I have witnessed huge blessings and miracles in my life and through the lives of others through these truths. Why is it so easy to forget? Christ won't let us forget when we stay close to Him. This I know.

Now The End for real.