Monday, April 2, 2018

We've Moved

Hi friends,

Silently Surviving Souls has now moved to

All blog posts and new features can be found there!

XOXO, Ally

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

When Righteous Desires Don't Go As Planned: Anonymous 2

Another anonymous post about addiction.
This writer is a twenty-something mom of 2. She loves being outside, going on adventures, cooking, and trying new things. She is all about being real. She works hard to be real and authentic, and she hopes, that by her doing so it will help others see that they can be too. Her story is not anywhere close to what she imagined it would be. She hopes that, someday, she can put her face on it, but for now, she has chosen to remain anonymous for the sake of her family. There are a lot of misconceptions about her family's struggles. The only way that she can change that is by shedding light on it. So here she is shedding just a bit of light.

I am the wife of a recovering pornography addict. I hid, alone, carrying this pain in my heart for 3 years. Before we were married my husband and I had talked about pornography. He told me that it was a past issue and it was why he left on his mission later than most. He also told me that he had taken care of it. I believed him.I told him that as long as he was honest with me I was willing to work on anything with him. Throughout our first 3 years of marriage, I would occasionally find something he missed when trying to cover his tracks or he would even mention a random slip up. We would talk about it briefly and then move on. I thought I was being kind and supportive by withholding the pain I felt from him. I knew he hated this part of himself and I didn’t want to hurt him more than he already was. We thought we could handle these relapses on our own. It started happening more frequently and we ended up meeting with our Bishop in October of 2016. There we learned about the church’s addiction recovery program and a new, to our area, family support group. We both decided to attend our respective groups.

Part of my husband's recovery work was to make a full inventory of all experiences with lust, pornography, and any sexual acting out. He shared this inventory with me, leaving out the explicit details, per my request. This revealed that he had been lying the whole time. Things were worse than he had led on and everything that I had previously known about was either lies, distortions, or half-truths. This day was one of the worst days of my life. His poor choices and deceit blew up our marriage’s foundation and left a gigantic pit. I curled up on the ground and cried for a week. It was unbearably painful to think that my temple marriage was fraudulent, my covenants were obsolete, that my 1st daughters baby blessing was invalid and any other blessings my husband had given were void. He had never been in recovery like he claimed. Our whole relationship had been poisoned with lust, objectification, deceit, and shame. After that, I became consumed by my own shame. "How could I not see this? How could I be so foolish?" I’m not enough for my husband, I became increasingly self-conscious about my post-baby body, I had past experience with an eating disorder and this triggered those feelings and urges again. It was shame city and nothing good comes out of shame. (Shame… I could go on and on about shame/shame culture… Real life-changing truths there… Brene Brown is an expert on shame. Look her up!)

The aftermath of this event left me with something called Betrayal Trauma. (Finally having a name for what I was experiencing was SO validating!) It mirrors many symptoms of PTSD. I experienced triggers regularly. I.E. Walking through the mall, my husband's new female coworkers, when he is running late without communicating, when we are separated for a trip, the beach, watching TV, something he says, or even just sitting on the couch. In the beginning, I was triggered multiple times a day; each time sending me right back to that soul-crushing day he finally disclosed everything. I quickly found myself in a crazy panic. I wanted to track everything, go through every history log, get rid of every piece of technology we owned, and somehow lock him away from the world. This would remove all access to pornography and our problems would be solved. Then I would snap out of it and feel crazy for feeling crazy. It’s not rational but it is normal to experience those feelings of betrayal trauma. (This is all about to controlling things so you can feel safe again.)

I had tried for years to figure out how I could fix my relationship with my husband. I believed that it was my fault that we had issues; he let me feel that way, and would sometimes shift the blame to me just to protect his addiction. The truth is I couldn’t fix it, I didn’t know the real problem then. Pornography changes the way that you connect with other people. My husband didn’t have the ability to connect with me in the way that is needed for a healthy marriage. He needed to rewire his brain to see souls with bodies instead of just seeing bodies. Repairing our relationship requires both of us to first heal ourselves and then work together to fill in the pit. So the last year and a half has been spent focusing on myself. I am also a mom so that added to the challenge but putting my own healing at the top of my priority list was the best thing I could have done for my family and myself. It also meant letting go of my husband’s recovery. I know what he is like, and how he treats me, when he is in real recovery and when he is not. That is the only thing I (should) pay attention to recovery wise. I cannot tell him how to recover or control if he even chooses recovery. I can only choose what I do. So I choose me, I choose to find peace and healing regardless of what my hubby chooses. Because I am enough, I am worth it, and it is what Heavenly Father wants for me.

It has been a year since that pit of despair ripped open and while we have a lot of work left to do, I can see a purpose in my pain now. In fact, I have reached a place where I can be grateful, not for the trial itself, but for the lessons I have learned through this trial. I am more empathic than before. I have a clearer view of the plan of salvation. I have more compassion for others and myself. I expect and demand the respect that Heavenly Father wants me to have. My priorities are more in order. I can extend charity to my husband in a more Christ-like and genuine way. I understand now that Christ-like doesn’t mean "without conflict." I know there is a difference between forgiveness and trust. I am able to put my self out there and be seen for who I really am. The things I have learned have touched every aspect of my life. The whole horrible truth had to come out so that I could really heal and so that our relationship can, someday, be repaired. My triggers days are farther apart now. When I am triggered I know what to do and I can stop them before the urge to control everything takes over. Don’t get me wrong, it is still very much a rollercoaster of emotions the pain is still there but it eases with time and recovery work. The trust will take years to rebuild the sadness of that can be overwhelming but now I know where to go with those feelings, I have a support system, I communicate with them and my husband. Instead of vigilantly patrolling my husband, I vigilantly work on my own healing and helping others heal. The darkest days I thought would consume me have passed. I can see the beautiful light starting to shine through, and I know with time, commitment, and most of all the atonement, the light can fully illuminate the darkness.

To those who are hiding or living this struggle: There is hope. You are not alone. The pain and fear you feel are real and valid. It is NEVER your fault. Please know that this is not just the addict’s story, but also your own. You have the right to share your story and to change it’s ending. I encourage you to reach up and reach out. Up to God, and out to your bishop, a local/online support group, or a trusted friend. Know that not everyone knows how to respond to these situations. My prayers are with you. You deserve help. You deserve healing.

To everyone else: Don’t judge and think before you offer advice. Spouses and addicts are still children of God and are worthy of love. My husband a good person with very, very, poor coping mechanisms, as it is with many other addicts. That can be changed. Let them change.

These are some resources that continue to significantly help my husband and me on our recovery:

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

When Righteous Desires Don't Go As Planned: Destiny

I officially met Destiny at an Early Returned Missionary Conference that she told me about via Instagram. I am so grateful she told me about it because so many blessings have already unfolded from meeting her and going to that conference. I am so glad I got to meet her. She is radiant and doing so much to bless others' lives!
Destiny grew up in a speck of a town called Paulden, Arizona. She had the privilege to graduate from Academia Juárez in the Mormon Colonies. Her time in Mexico sparked her travel addiction over the last ten years, attending branch meetings on nearly every continent. She had the sweet blessing to serve two missions, one in Budapest, Hungary, and the other as an online Indexing Support Missionary. She had the miraculous opportunity to write "Home Early...Now What?" to help other early returned missionaries. She keeps busy as a social entrepreneur and is currently writing her third book. Her Instagram is @ldsnomad.
I remember coming home early from my mission and struggling when members would say, "the Lord protects His missionaries."

I couldn't help but wonder why, in my perspective, I hadn't been protected. Why did some missionaries have miraculous healings in the field, but I had to come home despite all my prayers, priesthood blessings, and righteous desires?

These questions pulled at my heartstrings for a long time after my return.

It was back in 2009 that I was called to the Hungary Budapest Mission. I was absolutely ecstatic! My parents had both served missions and I had grown up listening to their stories of preaching the gospel, walking until their feet ached, teaching families prepared to receive, and even my mom's story of when a little boy peed on my mom's head from a second story of a home. I just could not wait to have my own stories like theirs!

As I neared the end of my time in the MTC, my health acted up for the first time in my life. I was sent home to see if we could find some answers. When the results came back clean, all symptoms had disappeared, and I had proven myself in physical therapy. I was re-assigned to the Hungary mission again. I was told I would fly back to the MTC the next day. I had never really unpacked, so packing was a cinch!
When I arrived in Budapest, I was assigned to the most incredible trainer and we were sent to the city of Pest. The first weeks were absolutely incredible. We got rained on, my feet had blisters, we rarely taught past the first lesson, and we prayed for the Hungarian's hearts to be open to the gospel. It was hard, but I was in heaven! It was the mission I always wanted and I was extra grateful after my short stint at home.

At some point, though, I started having significant health problems again. I had no idea what was going on, but I knew that if a miracle didn't happen soon, I'd have to go home. My trainer was wonderful - she saw my heart's desire to continue working even when I wasn't feeling well when it definitely would have been safer if I just stayed at our apartment.

Eventually, my health became so serious that I went to live in the mission home for a week. When even complete rest did not help, my mission president said I would go home in the next day or so. My incredible trainer called as many members as she could and asked them to visit the mission home the night before I left so I could say goodbye. I cannot think of a kinder gift she could offer.
I do not remember much about the flight home and next to nothing about the 12-hour drive home with my parents. The next few months were a blur of doctor visits and unanswered questions. My emotions were "off" most of the time because it hurt too badly to think about the mission. I felt like my relationship with my Heavenly Father no longer existed and I struggled to find any kind of peace.

Where was the protection He promised? I often thought that I had let my Heavenly Father down; that there were Hungarians who wouldn't hear the gospel because "I couldn't cut it."

And to add insult to injury, I found that not only would I struggle with physical problems during this time, but also with mental and spiritual problems. I am so grateful for those family members and friends who supported me and provided me with the spiritual opportunities to keep me moving forward.

The experience of coming home early is different for every person. For me, it took a long time before I was able to talk (or even think) about the mission. Vital steps in my healing (even though they were sometimes painful) were:
1. Doing indexing online for Hungarian names
2. Volunteering at the MTC with future Hungarian missionaries
3. Rooming with one of the return sister missionaries from the mission
4. Hanging out with Hungarian mission RMs at BYU
5. Serving as an online Young Church-Service Missionary for 9 months
6. Working for the Church in the Priesthood Department and having many opportunities to share my experience with coming home early
Each little step in my healing has been a direct result of my Heavenly Father's constant love and my Savior's Atonement.

I have been able to speak with 100s and read the stories of 1000s of early RMs. My book was a wonderful culmination of 9 years of miracles (both large and small).

My desire has been to try and do what the Lord told Paul to do, "when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren" (Luke 22:31-33). I have the opportunity nearly every week to talk with and support other missionaries who came home earlier than they expected.

Never in 9 years would I have thought I could reach the point in my healing that I could use my experience for good. That is Jesus' Atonement. That is Heavenly Father's love.

I still have days when I wish I had a "normal" mission simply because it would have been an easier road in some ways - but now I am able to better judge my mission on the content and my desire, rather than the length of my service. And I would not change what I have learned about the Atonement, about grace, and about why this life is as hard as it is.

I know He is aware of my heart's desires. And I now know that the Lord did protect me as a missionary, just in different ways than I expected. He protected my fragile testimony through this growing experience. He protected my heart through the terribly low points. I know the Lord truly does "protect His missionaries."

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

When Righteous Desires Don't Go As Planned: Danelle

I met Danelle at my Galentine's Day Event. We were talking a little before the speakers spoke and she mentioned her struggle with infertility briefly and we connected on Instagram so I could talk to her more and share her story. We share a common goal and I love that!
Danelle is a wife, Target enthusiast, chocolate addict and champion of kitchen karaoke! After years of struggling with infertility, she was left feeling hopeless and alone. In her efforts to find a connection with others experiencing trials, she discovered a love for writing and shares her journey on her blog Her message is one of hope, faith, and growth. She believes we are all connected through heartache and once we understand that, we can really start to heal. You can also find her on Instagram @wecallitajourney.
Our journey with infertility started almost five years ago. Even writing this now, it’s hard to convince myself that so much time has passed. I don’t like to admit it because hindsight is 20/20 and I might sound crazy but I think I always knew this trial would be a part of my story. Countless times the Spirit has touched my heart reminding me these simple words, “Your heart has been prepared for this.” At times my journey has left me feeling completely broken and worthless but through the cracks, I have felt the warm light of my Heavenly Father’s love. These experiences have been heartbreakingly beautiful and I am finally in a place where I can find gratitude for the journey.

I was married at 19 to an incredible man. The plan was to finish school and have a million babies! Okay… not a million, but we agreed to six! It’s easy to look back and feel ridiculous for how naive we were with family planning. We would talk about names and how far we would space our kids. We even went as far to say how many boys and how many girls we would have… [insert facepalm]. As if we ever really had a say in the matter. (If we’ve learned anything it’s how out of control we really are in all this.) I think about all those times we would panic because we thought we were pregnant and the timing wasn’t following “our plan” [insert facepalm]. All those times we joked about NEVER having kids after seeing one screaming at the grocery store. And lastly, I think about all that money we spent on birth control in the beginning only to find out we were “childproof” all along! If only we knew then what we know now.

I can honestly say for the first six months of trying, it was a relief we weren’t getting pregnant. I guess it’s like they always say, you’re never REALLY ready to have a baby. I think we spent the rest of the year praying that it would “accidentally” happen so that we didn’t have to take responsibility for the timing. After one year of trying we were frustrated with a hint of denial that there was indeed a problem.

I still remember that surreal moment of walking into a Fertility Clinic for the first time after almost two years of trying and thinking, “How are we here?! How are we THAT couple? I’m too young to be dealing with this!” We met with the Dr. and had a plan. We followed the instructions so precisely that it literally drove us crazy! So many tears were shed with that first fertility treatment. At the time I was putting my husband through his Master's program so it took all our savings to pay for our medications and procedure. Surely the Lord would see how great our sacrifice was and He would bless us with a baby. When we finished the procedure, the nurse told us, “From this point forward, we assume you’re pregnant so no alcohol or hot tubs etc.” During that two week wait for our pregnancy results, we assumed we were so we were being cautious and realistic. When the results finally came and we heard the news that we were not pregnant we were so devastated that we realized how much we had actually believed this was a “sure deal.”

As time went on we tried several more procedures, all ending with failed attempts. Each leaving us a little more bitter, broken, and guarded than before. At one point our Dr. suggested we might be great candidates for an upcoming fertility study. If we were a match, we would be able to try a more aggressive (and much more expensive) approach at no cost for us. It felt like an answer to our prayers. Surely this is where our journey would end! It would all come down to one blood test level. Because I was young and otherwise healthy, there was no reason to think my levels wouldn’t be where it needed to be. Before our blood test, we fasted and prayed. We told our families and THEY fasted and prayed. We went to the temple and then prayed some more. Clearly, the Lord would hear and answer our prayers! The bloodwork came back at a level JUST under what was required and we were left again feeling angry and hopeless.

At this point, my faith in God and in prayer had been shaken. It felt so obvious that my name was not on His priority list. I didn’t know what to pray for anymore. I could no longer get down on my knees and continue begging him for the same thing over and over again. Because I valued my relationship with God, I was scared to ask Him for the things He wasn’t giving me. It would risk me being angry with Him when things didn’t pan out and I did not want to be mad at God, although I think He can take it. For a long time my prayers would sound like this, “Dear God, I’m here. Amen.” At one point I told Him He could put me through this but I was going to kick and scream the whole way. After that, it felt as though His arms embraced me and said, “You can put up a struggle but it will be easier if you don’t. Let me change you.”

It wasn’t until more recently that I have seen the beauty in brokenness. I have truly understood the “refiners fire” and that God is good. I guess I always knew that truth but it has meant so much more now that I’ve experienced it first hand. God has not blessed us with a child yet but He has molded and shaped us both into people we never knew we could be. I have found strength I didn’t know I had and courage I never knew was there. I have felt a deeper love for the Gospel as I cling on to every word in the scriptures and every song sung at church. I have felt God’s love for me more in the last few years than I have at any other time in my life and for that, I am eternally grateful. The heartaches are still there but it hurts less often and each day I relearn how to find gratitude and see God’s hand. I know this will be a lifelong pursuit and I guess that’s why We Call it a Journey.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

When Righteous Desires Don't Go As Planned: Catherine & John

I met Catherine and John at the Ogden Temple. I work there and they came to volunteer and we were cleaning the bathroom so we had all night to chat. As I was getting to know them, one of the questions I asked was if they had kids. They told me they lost twins and a little girl, but what truly impressed me was that they said it with hope and faith in their voices. They then proceeded to tell me how they don't look at it as a loss but as a beautiful future to look forward to raising their children. I was in awe and knew I had to ask to share their story.
John and Catherine got married in May of 2015 and currently live in Utah. John grew up in Utah, Idaho, and Oregon. He is 27 years old and graduated from Nyssa High School in 2009. John won many local tournaments in wrestling and he loved it all through out high school. After high school, he served a mission in the Bangkok Thailand Mission, and after his mission, he studied supply chain management at BYU Idaho and graduated with his Bachelor's in 2016. He currently works in the IT department of his company. Catherine grew up in Layton, Utah and graduated from Layton High School in 2010. She enjoyed dancing from age 3 up until college. She was on a competition dance team all throughout junior high and high school, and also enjoyed coaching. She served a mission in the West Virginia Charleston Mission. After she returned home she studied at BYU Idaho and graduated with her Bachelor's in University Studies with a minor in Marriage and Family. She is currently a homemaker.
The following is from their blog. Catherine's perspective is first, and then John's.

God Has A Plan: Our Story
I am writing our story now because it will be easier for me to remember all of the details that I don't want to forget and hopefully it can help someone else. Everyone's stories are different and we all have different struggles and trials that we will have to go through. I believe, though, that as we share our stories and our lives with others that it brings people closer together. I know that I have been blessed by blogs that women have shared about their struggles and stories so I hope that mine will be of some help to someone else.

It all started June of 2015 when John and I decided that we should get off of birth control and try to start our family. We both had received promptings from the spirit that this was something that we should do. In my mind, I thought then that having kids would be easy, right? Well, it wasn't. Every month I would hope in my mind that the pregnancy test would come out positive so that we could start our family. It was a tough 14 months of always wondering when it would be my turn. We found out I had some health problems in April 2016 and I was going to go see an endocrinologist in September.

Well, everything changed when we found out I was pregnant on August 16, 2016. I had just come home from Bear Lake and was feeling super nauseous and it didn't go away for a couple of days. I thought it was just heat exhaustion but I thought, "what the heck, just take test." I was shocked as I saw the plus sign and found out that we were pregnant. I called my husband and we were so excited.

When we went to our first appointment after our trip to Thailand on September 12, we were excited and even more surprised to find out that we were having twins. I knew the chances were high coming in because my mom was a twin and her twin had twins. I just didn't think that it was going to be my first. We were worried about my recent health problems but pregnancy does crazy things to your body and it actually leveled out my hormones that we were worried about in the past.

As the weeks of pregnancy went by I would try and mentally prepare myself for what my life would be like with two twin babies. I was preparing myself for the change of life. I knew it was going to be the hardest thing that I would ever do and that my whole life would change. I had all of the lovely signs of pregnancy such as nausea, constantly having to use the restroom, sore back, heartburn, having to find new clothes to wear with my growing belly, exhaustion, etc. I will admit that some days were hard but now looking back I wish I would have just lived in the moment and not taken those things for granted.

We were ecstatic when we found out at 18 weeks that we were going to be having twin boys. We started talking about names and putting up cribs and getting ourselves ready to be parents. I had so much joy when I would go to my appointments and watch our babies move and hear their strong heartbeats. One of my most prized memories is being able to feel them both in my tummy.

Everything changed on November 29, 2016. All day I had been feeling sharp pains and cramping in my tummy. It was different than the Braxton Hicks that I would feel from time to time where my belly would get really hard. I didn't think much of it because it would only happen two times in an hour and last for 10 seconds. In my mind, I thought it could be round ligament pain or Braxton Hicks or dehydration so I just went about my day. Later in the evening, it started to get worse about once every 20 minutes. From around 10:30 pm until 2:30 in the morning it was happening every 10 minutes. I went to the bathroom and found a pinpoint of blood in my urine. I knew something wasn't right. I woke John up and I called my midwife and she told me to go the hospital.

We ended up going to the hospital and the nurses took us into our first room where we got checked out. We got a urine sample and they tested my temperature and my blood pressure. They hooked me up to some monitors and watched the babies heartbeat. The nurses were surprised that they were able to get two strong heart beats with twins at 21weeks. We knew babies were healthy and that calmed my nerves a bit. They got the urine sample back and thought that I had a kidney infection so more tests were going to be done. I had some relief with that and thought everything was going to be okay.

When one nurse decided to check my cervix she knew something wasn't right. They brought in another nurse for a second opinion. As she felt my cervix they both got concerned looks on their faces. I was dilated to a three or a four and they could feel the amniotic sac. My mucus plug had come out and babies were preparing for labor. The nurses talked with the doctors and were waiting for what should be done. They started hooking me up to I.V's and put a catheter into my bladder (which was a terrible feeling). They put me with my head up in a diagonal position so they could take the weight off of my cervix. They told me I was going to be in the hospital until delivery and were going to try and keep the babies in until at least 24 weeks. They were hoping that the muscles of my cervix would relax and labor would be stopped.

About an hour later I received a call from a doctor who basically told me he didn't think that I was going to be able to stop labor and that I would be delivering that day. They said they could try and stitch up my cervix but they didn't recommend it because of the health risks since I was already dilating. Another doctor came in and double checked my cervix and agreed with the doctor on the phone. I had what they called an incompetent cervix which means that my muscles weren't strong enough to hold the weight of pregnancy. They said there was nothing I could have done to prevent it and even if they had checked me a week ago they wouldn't have been able to tell.

I immediately felt peace. That morning when I first had started having contractions I had felt like I needed to pray that I would be able to accept whatever would happen with my babies. After the news, I, of course, had waves of sadness all day but I felt comfort and knew that God was with me. John was a great support to me and my parents were able to be with us all day which brought a huge strength to me. The nurses that we had were a tender mercy. One of the nurses, named Laurel, was actually good friends with my mom and delivered my younger sister Teresa. She always came by my side and answered my call light when I needed something. Our last nurse, named Kellie, was actually one of the sisters that John home taught when he went to the single's ward. The Lord blessed us with wonderful nurses who just wanted to help make our stay as comfortable as possible. I feel very blessed.

Once we knew that we would be going through labor and delivery they wheeled me to our delivery room for the day and prepared me for the epidural. I had been so nervous about it but it wasn't as bad as I thought. That was around 8 or 9 am. They gave me medicine to start contractions and to dilate me to a five. For the next six or seven hours we laid in bed waiting for me to dilate. It took a long time and I just sat there numb waiting. Finally, around 4 PM I felt pressure and felt the need to push and I knew that the babies were coming. We called my midwife and she came with the nurses and got ready for delivery.

Liam James was delivered first at about 4:30 PM. He was 14 ounces and 10 and 1/2 inches long. He died during labor. Kelvin Reed was born about 10 minutes later and was 12 and 1/2 ounces and 10 and 1/2 inches long. He was a fighter for about an hour. We watched his cute little heartbeat and saw his cute little fingers wanting to grab a hold of ours. When we would think he had passed his little heart would continue. He died around 5:45 PM.

We truly felt their spirits with us and are grateful for the time that we had with them. I had always really liked the name Liam and we had felt impressed to name baby A Liam. Later as we remember that the name meant "Guardian" and "Protector" we truly felt that he went first to pave the way so that we could spend some time with his little brother Kelvin. We don't know all the answers but we truly know these boys had a special bond in heaven and they will continue to be with each other and support each other until we meet them again.

After they were born we were able to hold them for as long as we wanted. We had a volunteer photographer come and take pictures of our little boys. They picked out little outfits for them to wear. They gave us many tangible things to remember our little boys. We had a support group come and give us resources to help with our grieving. We have received so much love and support from many of our friends and family and we are eternally grateful for the support system that we have.

Now that I am home and have been able to face that yesterday wasn't a dream I can grieve and ponder over things of an eternal nature. I don't know why certain things happen. I could sit here and be angry at God for wondering why I couldn't have had a miracle or why my deepest desire to be a mother has been pushed farther forward. It's always so tempting to ask why? Which I think is okay. It helps us to ponder greater things. What I keep remembering is how grateful I am to know that I am a daughter of God. I know that God loves me and has a plan for me and what I need. Since I know that I also have to accept that my two little boys also are Sons of God. They are His and He has a plan for them too and what they need. He gave me the opportunity to carry them in my belly and to give them a body for their own progression and growth. I am grateful that He is a merciful God and He allows families on earth to be forever. I will admit I am nervous to try and have children again. The doctors are very hopeful that I will be able to have children in the future. These babies taught me what my imperfect body is capable of and what I need to do to carry their future siblings.

Most of all I am grateful for my Savior Jesus Christ. This time of year we remember his birth and the purpose of why He came. Why a man who never did any wrong had to go through every type of pain for us? Why He gave up His life so we could have ours again? I am grateful for the resurrection and the Plan of Salvation. I am grateful for the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon, that teaches us these certain truths. I am grateful for the temple and that I can go and feel of my Heavenly Father's love and have a place that I can feel close to home.

A Father's Struggle
There's a lot of things that I don't know. I'm not sure why Liam and Kelvin had to die. Everyone likes to say that their spirits were just too precious to endure the trials of this world, that idea just hasn't ever worked with me. I'm planning on having other kids and they aren't going to be any less precious than Liam and Kelvin. I'm not sure if Heavenly Father just wanted them on the other side to do His work there, because I think that plenty of kids die due to the poor choices of other people and not necessarily due to God's will. I've never really been one to believe that every bad thing that happens, happens because God made it happen. I know that He respects agency and allows things to happen... but I think that a lot of the time trials are produced as people walk contrary to the will of God. I've heard the analogy that strong winds make strong trees and how opposition makes us stronger, but I think I see things just a little bit different.

I actually don't think opposition itself makes us stronger, the Atonement makes us stronger. Trees get stronger when they face strong winds because they have the opportunity to do so and that's what they use their God-given abilities to do so. But if I grab a piece of paper and tear it in half, the paper will never be whole again. In that way, I don't think that opposition is what shapes us, the use of our agency shapes us. Opposition provides the heat that softens the clay, and we can choose to respond according to Heavenly Father or the Adversary.

Whenever I face a situation in life where there is something that I don't understand I try and focus on the common road or the things that I need to do no matter what. For example, whether God moved our children to the next world because he had a work for them to do there, or it was just a natural result of the fall, the route does not change for me. My job is to be the best example I can so that my boys can learn from my life, my job is to love my wife and care for her, to serve God and not waiver in the faith. That is the common road, so what I don't know becomes less important to me. That's always worked for me until I finally had a little bit of alone time the night after my boys died. Everyone was gone and I finally had a moment to myself, Catherine was tucked in and I didn't need to be as strong anymore. I went into the living room and was totally overcome with grief. I had a couple questions, and I needed answers and I knew that God could provide them.

Having a knowledge of the Plan of Salvation, I knew exactly where my boys were and I knew where they were going to end up. I have an idea of the caliber of people they are going to become, but I wanted to know how they were doing right then. When most people think of children arriving in Spirit Paradise I think we imagine their minds being unlocked and all of their memories restored. I believe that all men will eventually have their memories of the pre-existence restored, but it's hard to say when it occurs exactly. Perhaps it comes line upon line as we grow towards perfection just like everything else, but I'm not sure. I also know that people have the opportunity to learn and grow and accept the Gospel in the next life, and part of that Gospel is exercising faith which means there must not be a complete knowledge of things or else there would be no room for faith. I also know that my wife and I would have the opportunity to raise our deceased children during the millennium.

But with all of those things that I knew, there was one big hole of things that I didn't know. If my children can't remember the pre-mortal life, and they will be returned to me as an infant... then does that mean they are going to remain as an infant intellectually in Spirit Paradise until they are returned to me? The thought of my helpless premature sons not having their parents there to hold them, and not having the intellectual capacity to understand why is what sent me into my grief. Personally, I don't have anyone on the other side of the veil that I know and trust. I have grandparents there, but none that I ever associated with more than once or twice. I wanted to know who was going to be there caring for my boys and holding their tiny bodies while they waited for me to be there with them. And the thought of them feeling at all confused or abandoned just wasn't doing great things for my emotions. I am wired to provide and protect, but right now I couldn't do either for my boys.

I did pretty good throughout our stay at the hospital, felt at peace and was ready to be there to strengthen everyone else that seemed to be taking it a lot harder than me. My thoughts were constantly turned to my wife and the sweet sisters in my life: Sarah, Teresa, Jacqueline, Tara, and Lani... and how they were going to deal with the loss. I felt the need to make sure everyone was okay, and not because I was trying to run or hide or because I felt obligated to, but because I just care so much about them and the way that they process all of this. But when it was time to say goodbye to my boys, when I was holding them in my hands and preparing to set them in a cart and say goodbye, I couldn't help but think about all of the plans I had.

I loved being a missionary, I still do whenever I can, I was so excited to sit them down and role play missionary lessons. I wanted to teach them to love and serve and work. Most people that describe me would describe me as a hard worker, and that is something that I wanted to share with them. I was excited for twin boys because I could teach them so much more than how to teach the gospel and how to extend commitments. I could teach them how to work with a companion and to bounce off of each other as they work together to bring someone closer to Christ. I was gonna teach them to wrestle and never quit, to love their mom and respect women, to control their emotions and use the priesthood with power... all of the things that I have learned since I committed myself to Christ. And here I was staring at them, and knowing that they were going to go to the spirit world instead. It wasn't that I was losing those opportunities, it was not being sure if they would understand that this isn't what we wanted. As I stared at Liam I couldn't help but feel so proud of the man that he was, he looked so strong and able to do hard things. I felt like he could carry mountains on his back if he wanted to. I'm not sure what would have happened if Kelvin would have come first, but I don't think the process would have been quite as easy (just since his body was less mature). It may seem silly but it just really felt like Liam coming first was an act of courage that maybe they requested in Heaven so that everything could work better for everyone else. It was hard having his spirit pass before I could hold him, but I was proud of his courage none the less. Kelvin had the heart that just wouldn't quit. Nurses said he was gone twice and both times we still found his heartbeat. I was proud of the love that I felt he possessed as he fought to stay in the presence of his mortal family.

I have been writing talks and planning the things that I wanted to teach my boys for years. But I only had a few brief moments alone with Catherine and the boys while they were still in her belly to teach them everything that I knew. Just a few moments before things changed and they left her belly to enter this world, I put my hand on Catherine's stomach and tried to summon every ounce of priesthood power in my body. I counseled them to have faith and serve God with all their hearts. To love their mother and watch over her as they learned from her. I told them to watch her and use her as a guide for the type of person that they would marry one day as well... and I believe that they heard me. Later when they were born, Reed (Catherine's Dad) and I took them in our hands and gave them names and blessings. It was a sacred moment for everyone I think.

But at the end of the day, I still needed to know how they were doing and what they were able to comprehend. I found my answers in chapter 15 of the Teaching of the Prophet Joseph F Smith. A lot of the things I learned he said directly, and other things I had to draw connections and listen to my spirit. I'll let you read the chapter for yourself if you'd like to see which is which.

I know that their spiritual bodies reached a full level of maturity before they were born.

I know that in the spirit world their spirits continue to exist in that capacity.

I'm not sure if they remember the pre-mortal existence or not but I personally don't think that they do (at least not right away).

I believe that they have the ability to communicate even though they never learned a language on this earth.

I believe that someone is there to teach the plan of Salvation to them and that they will accept it quickly.

I believe that someone will teach them about us and who we are, and how much we love them, and I believe that they will feel that love and love us as well.

I know that they will be resurrected in those tiny bodies that we laid them down to rest in, and then they will grow towards perfection (and I think that it might be that way with all of us).

I know that the blessings given to them will be fulfilled, and I know that they will be alright.

I felt very blessed to find my answers so quickly. I believe that bad things happen in life, and when those bad things happen we will need the guidance of the Holy Ghost to teach us and tell us how to act. That is why it is so important to go to church and partake of the sacrament and to read the scriptures (especially the Book of Mormon) and pray every day. That is why we do those things so that His spirit will always be with us just like it says in the Sacrament prayer. Hard things happen in life, and when they do you're going to want His guidance. I am grateful for a father that helped me get started in the Book of Mormon as a 14-year-old boy, and for a prophet that challenged us to read it. The testimony I gained from that first completion of the Book of Mormon has completely carried me through every trial I have ever faced since.

I am thankful for a wife that I don't hesitate to invite my sons to learn from and look up to. I believe that all good things come into our lives by way of the Atonement, but they all come for the purpose of our eternal marriage... and I am grateful to be married to a woman like Catherine that makes me feel like I have already been given everything that my Heavenly Father has. I can't think of a greater blessing than to be with her and my children for eternity, and we're already there. It isn't some distant promise for me, it is already here. And I am grateful for a wife that has made that possible.

Everyone keeps asking what they can do, and it means a lot that they do, but I am happy to say that Christ already did it. The Plan of Salvation is set and the Atonement has been performed. Catherine's health is doing good so far, so we're doing okay. The only thing I would ask people to do is to love their families a little more. Read the Book of Mormon, say your prayers, do everything you can to walk uprightly before the Lord so he can be with you through the trials... because trials come. I would ask you to look out for others in need and share your testimony, do the things that you need to do and exercise faith in God.

I know that this Gospel is true. Jesus Christ lives, and because He lives so will my boys. Families can be together forever. The Book of Mormon is true, Joseph Smith is a prophet of God and he restored these truths to the earth. God is real. I hope that these things can find their way to another father, or anyone for that matter, that finds themselves in a place similar to where I found myself. And I pray that you can find strength and fortitude in Christ.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Galentine's Day: Self-Love Event Recap

I am pretty proud of myself for hosting my first event. It was great to meet new people, have a girl's night, and discuss how we can love ourselves, and others, more.
A HUGE thank you to Lauryn Ashli for making these invites. Here's her website:
THANK YOU to those who came! I am so grateful you did and loved getting to know you and hear your stories and perspectives. And thank you to Brenda Lindsay, Aly Peterson of Build Your Beautiful, and Alexa Jorgenson of Munchin' with Moguls for sharing your self-love ideas and wisdom. I'll add a summary of what each one talked about below, along with thoughts we discussed as a group.

These are some golden thought nuggets we talked about altogether:
•We have POWER as women that we can use to help us get through hard times in life.
•You never know what someone may be going through so give them the benefit of the doubt. We are all fighting our own demons.
•You can change the world through your daily interactions, not just here on social media.
•Everyone has their own book of life and we are all writing different genres. Our beginning cannot be compared to someone else's ending.
•It's ok to ask people for compliments when you need that boost, and then accept them for what they are! Let yourself be loved, don't reject it or feel guilty for needing it.
•Be happy for others' successes, good fortune, beauty, achievements, etc. and then tell them! Share the positive things you think about others.
•Focus on the things you do love about yourself. And tell yourself that you do look good in that dress or your hair does look pretty in that braid or your bod is super sexy in that swimsuit. Own it.
•There is a beauty we all have on the inside that we may or may not feel like sharing, and we don't need to feel guilty if we do or don't share.

Brenda told us about her trials in life: her house burning down when she was a few months pregnant with her second baby, then losing her husband at the end of that pregnancy right before she was due with her girl, and that same girl being raped by her son's best friend at 14 years old; from which she has developed an ulcer on top of suffering from fibromyalgia. She told us about the power we have as women and how special we are because women. We can do hard things and handle whatever life throws at us.
Aly opened up about her struggles with her self-image and eating disorder in high school. She had us do an activity where we rated certain aspects of our life (i.e. physical activity, family, education and work, etc.) on a scale from 1-10 on how satisfied we are with it and then we drew a circle with lines representing those aspects of our life coming out of the middle. Then we made tally marks based on our rating on the line and then connected the tally marks. So the end product was supposed to be a circle within a circle, but our circles weren't very circular showing lack of balance in our lives. Balance is always the goal, and realizing what aspects of our lives may be lacking is a good place to help us start achieving that goal.
Alexa talked about having a "get it girl" attitude - which is being happy for others' successes or hairstyles or vacations and cheering them on, remembering we are all at different chapters in our own books of life, and how the comparison game we all play is never going to go away but we can choose to be at peace with things we may not like about ourselves or continue to let them bother us - because they aren't going to go away.
Aly Peterson.
Alexa Jorgenson.
I was so busy setting things up and in such a hurry to take them down and be out of the studio on time that I totally spaced taking pictures of things. So these are all I got. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

When Righteous Desires Don't Go As Planned: Anonymous

This is my first anonymous post, and you will see why as you read. I highly respect this person for being brave enough to share her struggle and for protecting her ex-husband's identity. I am grateful for her example and faith in overcoming her ex-husband's addictions and affairs.

I chose to write this post anonymously to respect the privacy of others involved. I’m not here to throw anyone under the bus, I’m just sharing my experience and things I have learned. So, no bio or picture for this post, but hopefully a post that will help someone feel like they aren’t alone if they’re experiencing something similar. Although, I would be thrilled if everyone who read this couldn’t relate at all! Unfortunately, I’ve learned my experience isn’t all that uncommon and happens way more than we realize when we are experiencing it and feel so alone. I’ll also make a disclaimer that I know this is something men and women both struggle with, this post is just written from a wife’s perspective.

I think it’s easy for many people to say they would never stay married to someone with a pornography addiction. It’s easy to say they would never stay with someone if they had an affair. I was one of those people who “would never stay in a marriage if my husband had a pornography addiction or had an affair.” That is, until I was faced with that reality. And while in some cases a spouse may run for the hills immediately, that certainly isn’t the case for everyone. It’s one of those things you don’t really know how you’ll handle it unless you experience it for yourself.

I hadn’t been married long when I was home alone one night while my husband was at work and I had a feeling to check his internet history. I pushed that feeling aside, but when the prompting returned, I acted. I felt guilty for snooping because there hadn’t been any major signs of concern up to that point and I felt bad for obviously not trusting my husband completely, the way I thought I should. But it was then that my eyes began to be opened to a can of worms I hadn’t known anything about.

I found fake e-mail accounts, dating website accounts, searches for sexual encounters, and plenty of inappropriate images that are unfairly engraved into my memory. I remember immediately thinking there must be an explanation; someone must have gotten a hold of his computer! Deep down I knew better, but the denial ran deep and I didn’t want to believe the heartbreaking truth.

I’ll spare every tiny detail, but I confronted my husband and he admitted to just enough to make me feel like I knew everything. However, for the next few days we became more distant and in my gut I knew there was more. I was right; soon he admitted he had had a couple affairs and a couple other sexual encounters.

We separated immediately. I was one of those that said I would never put up with that. But when it fell into my lap, I knew I needed to feel like I gave my marriage 100% before calling it quits. This was someone I loved and it wasn’t as easy to give up on our marriage as I would have thought it would be after being so hurt. We were also sealed in the temple and I had made covenants and wanted to make sure I was doing the right thing… but knowing what the right thing was was going to take a lot of time, effort, and patience.

We went to counseling that focused on sexual addiction and met with our bishop often. After quite some time of trying to make things work, I learned that he was still on dating websites contacting women, creating different types of fake accounts that involved pornography, and that an additional affair had happened before we got married. At this point I finally felt like I had done everything I needed to do to feel like I could walk away from my marriage and be happy. He hadn’t been worthy to marry me in the temple and everything that ever appeared good in our marriage suddenly seemed like a big lie. I knew I would be happier alone than to stay in the unhealthy marriage I was in, and we were divorced shortly after. I knew it was the right thing when I felt total peace with the decision, when I had felt so much confusion before.

This experience taught me a lot about myself. It strengthened my testimony as I relied heavily on prayer, reading my scriptures, and visiting the temple. I learned how to trust my own judgment. Before I knew about his addiction, there were things that were red flags that I didn’t see as red flags. The way he would get offended so easily, or the way he would turn every concern I had back on me like it was my problem - like that one time I thought it was weird he had been messaging an old girl friend from high school about going to lunch sometime. Not a double date, but one on one lunch. He made me feel crazy for thinking this was not okay, and I ended up apologizing for “overreacting.” I wouldn’t have known these were red flags for an addiction until I learned about it more through counseling and there were other wives that explained similar situations. I have since learned to stand up for myself. I learned that Heavenly Father gives us trials and experiences to help us learn and grow in wonderful ways. I am a better wife, a better mom, a more understanding friend, and a less judgmental individual because of my experience. I’m not perfect, but I’m grateful I was able to change for the better in a variety of ways because of this trial.

I also learned that good people struggle. I know several people who have this addiction that I think very highly of. They have happy marriages because they want their marriages to last and they want to avoid pornography. A pornography addiction doesn’t make someone a bad or “creepy” person. It’s a true struggle and my heart aches for those who struggle with it, especially those who wish they didn’t. I learned that the pornography addiction had nothing to do with me. I think it’s easy for a wife to feel like she must be doing something wrong. I felt like if I looked better, or kept the house clean, or cooked dinner more often, that the addiction would disappear. But often, pornography addictions stem back from a long time ago, long before a wife enters the picture. I learned that it’s much more common than I knew. I was so embarrassed and wanted to keep his addiction a secret, but as soon as our families and some friends knew, we were surprised at how loving and kind people were. As soon as I felt like I had people to talk to and it wasn’t a huge secret in our marriage, a huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders and it felt good to have support from people I love.

Above all, I learned that the Atonement is real. It helped me to forgive and it healed my broken heart. It isn’t just for those who struggle with addictions, like pornography. It’s for spouses that are hurt by this addiction as well. I believe I would be bitter and resentful of a lot of things if I hadn’t had the Atonement to help me forgive, find peace, and see the blessings in disguise.

While my marriage ended because of this addiction, I’m confident that many marriages don’t need to. If both spouses are open and honest about their triggers and feelings and they really want their marriage to last, their marriage will last. Secrets grow and addictions can become harder to control. Satan knows this is a powerful tool to ruin marriages, so he wants us to believe that no one will love or support us if they know we or our spouse struggle with this. He wants wives to feel like they aren’t enough. However, I promise you that you do deserve better - whether that is leaving an unhealthy marriage, or staying in one where you set boundaries, don’t enable the addictive behaviors, and work on things together.

To anyone feeling like they are alone in a similar experience - you are not alone. Heavenly Father is aware of you and is allowing you to experience this to help you grow in wonderful ways. You are so loved. I know it’s not easy, but you are never alone and Heavenly Father can help you navigate this trial if you turn to Him and do your part.