Monthly Archives: October 2015

Ponderize 10-25

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Jeremiah 17:10

I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.

 

God knows our heart. He knows what is within us at our greatest depths, he sees behind any excuses and justifications that we make to ourselves in attempt to validate things we know deep down are not right, he knows every little inner lie and deception…..but he also knows our struggles, our weaknesses…..and our strengths, efforts, goodness, and love. He knows it all. There is nothing that we can hide, even if we try to conceal it from our own selves.

“I try the reigns”….possibly indicates that we are tested in some way according to what he sees within us. We may be tested due to lessons that we are seen as needing to learn, or given trials to evaluate our weaknesses and whether we can overcome them. He knows what tempts us, what our past failings have been—thus it is likely the things that we most struggle with that will be used to test our faith and loyalty… as well as to grow them. Tests are not meant to be easy. In life we do not give children simple tests designed to cater to their strengths, and what is effortless for them…but rather tests are an instrument to make one work, learn, improve, be challenged etc….so too does Heavenly Father likely examine us, and test us via what he knows our weaknesses to be, and where we need to be refined. He may also test us to see weather we choose him, or instead take paths towards temptations … which could lead us to adversity, and even harsher lessons if the “test” is failed.

“And give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” This indicates that Heavenly Father gives to us according to what he sees within us, as well as what choices we make, how we live, how we treat others ( and likely whether we choose Him, follow the teachings of the gospel etc…). Depending on the results, what is given could be blessings/ rewards…..or it could just as well be tribulations, and negative consequences due to caving to temptations, weaknesses etc… or even having dark elements within. We might even be tested multiple times in the same form until we “pass”, and then can be given greater things. It can be compared to driving. Do we just hand kids keys to drive? No. We teach them, and put them through challenge courses….and ultimately test them to see if they are ready to have that kind of responsibility and reward. If they fail the test, then they get put through the same challenges once again until they prove themselves ready, worthy, and responsible enough for greater blessings (in this case, the ability to drive). This could be said for anything precious we wish to achieve or receive. We typically want to see someone grow, and prove that they are ready to be entrusted with something that is a treasure, thus we do not just casually drop things in the hands of someone who has unsolved issues that could cause destruction on whatever ( or whoever) that blessing is. So, shiny temptations ( based on what is seen within us) may be dangled in front of us to see if we run off the path to grab for them, or if we are strong enough to stay on the path/ His plan, and prove both that we trust Him, and that we are ready to be entrusted with greater, true blessings.

To some it may sound like God is cruel to test us, put us through trials…make us have to reap the consequences of wrong choices etc….It may even look like punishment…. but really, it is all about love. It is about helping us to grow and overcome the issues that he sees within us. Without lessons and trials, without being made to face what most tempts and challenges us…. we cannot grow, or move closer in his direction, let alone be entrusted with precious things and privileges. Additionally, we are given what is needed to grow our faith, to help us see clearer, be receptive to the Spirit etc….none of which is something we just instantly come by. Sometimes it is through straying, or failing tests–seeing what it is like not to be on His path, in His light….that we learn the greatest lessons….. thus another possible reason why our greatest weaknesses and temptations are used in our “tests”….so that we can learn first hand what is truly “right”, and where we should place importance in our lives and choices. Ultimately, we are here to learn, grow, and choose if we desire to follow His plan–thus we are given the experiences individually tailored to help us to achieve those things.

At times, it may help us to remember that he knows what is within us, down to our utter-most bottom layer— it could encourage us to examine our own selves closer, and be more honest with ourselves… and the things we may need to improve on and change. It becomes harder to uphold inner justifications, and any “pretending” we may do to convince ourselves (or others) of things….if we pause, and think, “What would Heavenly Father say about what is inside of me on this matter? Would he say that my justifications are true…or would he see them as a means to hide truth….” Often, that could hold very crucial answers for us, and help us to see more clearly, and make better choices for ourselves….especially if we are in the midst of being given an important test unawares.

 

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Ponderize 10-19

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My scripture of the week was Psalm 37: 7

Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.

The first line is pretty explanatory. We should put our faith in Heavenly Father, and wait for his answers, his timing… and trust that doing so is what will keep us on his path. Essentially, we should resist the temptation to take things into our own hands out of impatience, or lack of trust.

” Fret not”…How I read it, we should not stress ourselves over anyone who prospers, or seems to have accomplished gain via their own “wicked” ways/ methods. I think that it also indicates that we should not worry about the apparent lack of someone having negative repercussions ( or “punishment”) for achieving things for themselves in ill-begotten ways.

As I have mentioned in previous scripture-posts, patience seems to be a virtue (and skill) that frequently appears as something that is required of us to develop in order to be closer to Heavenly Father, and receive guidance. Patience builds our character… it tests our loyalty, trust, endurance, faith….and helps us to have greater appreciation and gratitude for the guidance, and blessings that we are given. However, patience can be difficult. It is easy to feel forgotten as time passes, especially as we watch others around us achieve what we so desperately long for. It can seem unfair to wait and obey, while we watch others gain, and achieve things through questionable methods. We may see those people as happy, and reaping-in great rewards that are denied to us….and then feel further slighted when they appear to be able to employ “wicked” means without any consequences. Seeing this may cause some to be tempted to cease “resting in the Lord”, and instead follow the example of those who appear to get it all without having to pay for their actions.

The thing is, we cannot see beyond the surface. We have no way of knowing the true situation of others– how happy they really are, how long things will last for them, or what the end result of their actions will be. We only see a small fraction of the story, and have no way of conceiving what their journey is, what their lessons to be learned are…..and what Heavenly Father has planned for them. In some cases, people may not even have awareness that they are doing something wrong. However, those of us who do have awareness may be held to a greater accountability if we step away from the path, and grab forbidden fruits ( per se).

Ultimately, we are supposed to look beyond immediate wants and desires, and look towards a larger, eternal picture. We should resist the urge to juxtapose our situation against the circumstances of others…. especially if it tempts us to become impatient, and abandon what we know is the “right way”—it could lead us in directions not really meant for us. Waiting, proving our trust and loyalty…..is what keeps us on the path that He intends for us, and towards eternal goals and blessings. Straying, and using other means may seem to result in immediate fulfillment of desires, but they very well could be temporary, rather than ever-lasting. It is all about keeping perspective on the big eternal goals, rather than the tiny, immediate mortal ones.

“Ponderize” Challenge.

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The challenge/ goal is to pick a weekly scripture and ponder it, memorize….etc…. Essentially it is a way to work at scripture mastery in small doses that will add-up over time.

  Last week I chose Galatians 5:22-23, and just thought I would share my “ponderizing” on my blog before I move on to a new one for this week.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”

  Firstly, “fruit of” indicates that these are the qualities that result for/ are in those who are led by the Spirit. To me, this is a list of fundamental Christ-like attributes, and thus it makes sense that following promptings from the Spirit would help us to develop characteristics that emulate Christ’s example. When we are open to the Holy Spirit our perspective changes, we face challenges and struggles in different ways, our knowledge and understanding can be expanded, we are more likely to feel a sense of calm, and we tend to be more aware of, and loving towards others. Essentially, following that guidance, and establishing firm anchors….brings out the best qualities in us, and strengthens us to withstand struggles and temptations.

Love– Love is not just a feeling that we have for those who are close to us, but rather a way of living… a light inside of us that we can put into everything we do, and share with everyone. It is giving of ourselves purely to give ( without expecting anything in return).

Joy– I do not think this word is used to describe someone who will always be joyful and not experience hardships…..but rather the opposite. It is the ability to still find gratitude in times where things may seem bleak, and being able to see light within darkness.

Peace–Peace is the result of being calm within. We have peace when we our honest with ourselves, live our truth, and when we have a sense of direction and purpose.The first two help to open us to the guidance of the Spirit, which in turn steers us on the right path. Peace comes when we are able to let go, trust, and let ourselves be led….rather than when we try to force things via our own understanding and desires.

Longsuffering–Patience.That oh-so-difficult-P-word that is likely one of the most difficult things for humans to master, and yet it is often the most crucial element to gaining and achieving the things of greatest worth and value. We tend to want things NOW. We want to grab that food and gobble it up, we want to jump straight into the deep-end of the pool, we want to have our love story, we want to quickly build our dream house……. when in reality? If we eat food without giving it proper time to fully cook, we will get sick. When we jump into anything too fast before we have gained the skills to “swim”….we will drown. If we do not wait for the love story God has intended for us, we could end up miserable with the wrong person. If we rush and build a house quickly… it will not be solidly built, will have missing elements… and likely will crumble. Essentially, patience is at the heart of everything truly worth having. When we are led by the Spirit, and have trust… we will have the peace needed to help us endure the wait, and to resist the temptations that could cause us to stray in the wrong directions.The need to rush and push things does not come from the Spirit, and goes against one of the greatest things we need to learn. Longsuffering/ patience is what is listed as being the fruit of the Spirit…..but, no where in the list does it say willfulness, haste, disobedience, or defiance ( all antonyms of “patience”).

  Additionally, patience is not just about waiting for good things to develop and come to us– it also describes the ability to endure difficult things without complaint. It is holding to our truth, and our faith at times when pressure and temptations try to break us, and seek to block out the voice of the Spirit. It is the willingness, and ability to wait out the storm without jumping from the ship.

For me, it brings to mind how we respond to the behavior of children. When a child whines, demands, and keeps asking us over and over for something ( lets say ..a cookie)….do we just hand it to them? No, typically we refrain in order to help teach them that it is not acceptable behavior, and to help build their character and appreciation. If they try to steal a cookie prematurely, we likely withhold giving them any more until they learn and improve. We even test them to try to help them build patience—and see if they are ready for the responsibility of greater things. In reverse…. when a child is patient, polite, and does not try to force, or manipulate what they want….we reward them. We feel proud of them, and are maybe inspired to give them an extra cookie, or even a really big one covered in sprinkles…. due to their willingness to wait without complaint. So patience is a key element in those who are open to the Spirit…and thus, allowing it to guide us towards greater blessings than anything we could achieve through our own means.

Gentleness–Kindness. Being soft, gentle, compassionate…towards others. The ability to be kind even when others are cruel—not letting corruption sink in, and harden our hearts to the plights of others. The Spirit often works through us to help others in need, or to give them messages…so those who are open are likely to be seen as having this kind of quality.

Goodness– Doing what is right. Putting the needs of others before our own. Striving to improve ourselves, learn, and grow into being the best versions of ourselves possible….Using Christ as our core example. Again, its is about maintaining those things despite any battering rams that come to our gates.

Faith—Trust. For me, faith is another word for trust. It is trusting that there is purpose behind things, even if we cannot see it in the present. It is trusting that Heavenly father knows what is best for us…(even if it does not include the things we desire)….it is trusting that we are loved, and watched-over, even when we might feel alone.Trust is what also helps to make us receptive to the Spirit….and in turn, the results that unfold, and the things that eventually connect…. help to build our faith as we step forward and face new challenges.

Meekness–Meekness is not just about being humble. It is about being teachable, and obedient. It is putting aside personal desires, and having self-control in favor of being willing to follow the teachings of the gospel, and promptings from the Spirit. It also is about being patient….which is not surprising, because patience is a theme that connects in so many ways.

Temperance—Self-control. Self-restraint. The ability to resist urgings, desires, temporary pleasures etc….Basically, the things that can lead us astray from teachings, and eternal goals….as well as build-up walls against messages from the Spirit. It is about controlling sexual desires, selfish ambitions, retaliating in anger….anything that weakens us, and pulls us in a direction that does not lead towards God. Temperance is having the ability to withstand the pull and attraction of temporary shiny bait offered in the now, in order to achieve eternal happiness and rewards. It also circles back around to patience—being able to wait for what matters most, no matter the amount of time, or trials that may have to be endured through the process. If we let our desires and cravings take the wheel, it is not likely we will be willing, or able to hear anything that goes against those things that we want—-thus, we become closed to the Spirit, and will face the consequences inherit to straying. So, the ability to control ourselves, and keep larger, more important goals in sight ….also aids in keeping us open, and willing to be led by higher promptings and guidance that will lead us towards what we need most.

“Against such there is no law”–I think this means just what it says.There are no laws against any of the listed qualities. They are all noble attributes that result in goodness and love….self-improvement, compassion to others, and reaching our highest destination. It is a recipe list for the core ingredients needed for living a Christ-centered life, and being receptive to go where the Spirit leads.

The Story Behind Obesity That We Cannot See.

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The Story Behind Obesity That We Cannot See.

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I am going to be brave with this entry, but I feel it is for an important reason. We as a society are so casual at finding humor in those who are over weight (as is seen with countless memes, videos, comedians etc…), when really it is anything but funny. Many who suffer from weight issues have contributing factors to their circumstances– be it medical conditions, medications, or mental health. My own weight and body struggles stem from experiencing childhood abuse, and battling the Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that resulted. I over-ate in an attempt to fill inner emptiness, and soothe pain. It was my comfort source.

I share this in an attempt to both soften, and broaden perspectives when we look at others. We do not know their situation, or their story.

In hindsight, I now realize I have always seen food as comfort, a special commodity….a reward….thus why I have also always had a little extra packaging. This too has roots in childhood. Food was not always available, so I gained kind of a distorted relationship, and value of it. It is hard to break the ingrained programing that says I have to eat everything (even though I am full) because it cannot be wasted, and it may be a while until I get a chance to eat again. In middle school, my sister and I worked in the school cafeteria despite being on the free-lunch program. We discovered that they would let us have extra portions, and sometimes we could even take home things like left-over chicken sandwiches. Now, as an adult….I still struggle with the food “hoarding” mentality, and thinking of it as something special to have.

It is very common for people to turn to outside sources in an attempt to cope, distract, fill, soothe etc… when faced with trauma or mental health issues. It is how, and why, many form addictions. Drugs, alcohol etc… are things we obviously know are not good for us…. but the unique element with food, is that it registers as something “good” and “nurturing” that we can give to ourselves. It feels like doing something to take care of ourselves—all the more so when nothing else feels in our control, and like we have no other way to meet personal needs. “At least I can take care of, and do something good for myself by eating this big meal.” This is why it took me so long to see what I was doing to myself.

A big part of it for me was reaching the “over-full” state. I over-ate because the sensation of “fullness” was an attempt to distract from the emptiness that I felt that was not physical. I tried to fill a soul wound with food. I almost ate myself to death, and did not pay attention to what it cost me….because my focus was skewed. It was a reflex, something I was not even aware of doing. I told myself my physical state was due to other reasons. I originally put the weight on quickly starting in late 2002, and into 2003 ( when my PTSD was at it’s worst). When the flashbacks and primary symptoms of ptsd finally subsided in 2006, I “woke-up” to my physical state ( but still did not address the cause), and worked hard to lose a large amount of weight. While on a vacation in Florda in 2009, I almost died from a MRSA infection (they think I got it from a Brown Recluse spider bite), and when it proved resilient to antibiotics they had to remove the infected tissue, which left me with a deep open wound that took many months to fill/ heal. During the healing time I was not able to be physically active, and the weight quickly piled-on……but instead of battling it once I was better, I instead felt kind of defeated and overwhelmed, and slid back into old habits.

PTSD causes flashbacks. Flashbacks are the resurfacing of past emotions, memories, and pain….only it feels like it is happening in the present. It can come in many forms, such as sudden emotional surges and panic. Often flashbacks can attack through vivid real-seeming nightmares, or even be a from of “day-mare” that takes you out of the current reality. For me, I had both sleeping and daytime flashbacks, and they were like experiencing a complete time warp—I was once again a child, complete with thoughts, terror, helplessness….and I could feel all of the physical pain. I relived things over and over, and it was a massive storage. It was as if somewhere inside of me, a pause button had been released. The impact that it had on me in the present was the same as it would have been had it all actually been happening….I even sometimes felt “phantom” pain… it was like my body and brain expected there to be physical injuries. When attempts to get help had unfortunate results, I kind of curled-up into my old training, and habit of dealing with things in silence, and on my own. I did not want to burden anyone. I went through it all once again without anything to counter it. I developed a strong need to feel in control, and keep myself safe…. thus why I eventually distanced myself from most things, and people for some while….and reached for food in an attempt to comfort myself.

The second element to my weight struggles is due to how I relate to my body. I have never really felt connected to it. As a child I told myself that they were hurting my body, not me ( I want to make it clear that my father was in no way involved). I often felt trapped by my body, because it could be used against me. I won’t  go into too much detail…but things spanned many years, and multiple forms. Touch was something I grew-up associating with being hurt/ pain because it was all that I really experienced. I also had it verbally ingrained into me that I was ugly, stupid, disgusting, worthless….no one would want or love me etc….So, the result was very warped (and untrue) perceptions of my own self, and my body. I have never really been able to dance ( unless it is staged), because I tend to be wound-tight, and it is hard for me to let go and just move like that…I feel awkward, and just do not connect to myself physically in that way.

I have a memory of attempting to puzzle-out my place, and why I was treated differently than other children. I think I was seven. I remember thinking of the jewelry box that an aunt who had passed away had given me ( the kind with a little ballerina inside). It was something precious to me, so I made sure to keep it high-up and safe on my dresser, and always handled it with care. I recall thinking how when people value, or love something….they keep it safe, and are gentle towards it. When people do not care about something, and see it as being garbage….they throw it around, stomp on it….don’t care about what happens to it, or if it breaks. Last year, I came to realize that on some deep, silent level… I still believed that was true about my body. It can be hard to place value on, and take care of something that no one else has ever treated with love or care.

I had thought I had over-come things. I had thought I finally was able to recognize my worth, talents, strengths…..but a year ago I discovered that I still had not addressed how I viewed my body, and that was the reason why I was hurting it without really paying attention. In my mind, instead of being the gift that it is supposed to be, I tend to perceive my body as kind of a beat-up car or vehicle…. and assumed others see it that way as well. Additionally, because I re-experienced being small and helpless in the flashbacks, I actually originally felt a form of security and protection with the size that I gained…which fed into my needs I had back then to feel in control, and safe.

As soon as I saw, and finally understood….I immediately went to work on changing things. I did not want to lose any more time, milestones, or opportunities to it. This last year for me has not just been about losing weight, it has been about re-structuring key things within myself…..namely how I view food, how I view my body…..and finding healthy ways to reward, and fulfill myself. Something about me? Once I recognize the source, and reason behind something….I learn from it, and correct it. Knowledge brings about self-awareness, and helps me to watch myself at times of risk etc….especially while I am still “re-wiring” myself. Its been a lot of work, but worth every step of the way. I like who I am becoming, and I look forward to finally reaching the weight/ size I am meant to be. I look forward to being healthy, and unrestricted in what i want to pursue.

For the record, I have faced things and owned my truth (it was needed to stop the flashbacks)….which is why I am able to talk about things more openly now (compared to the silence I maintained most of my life). It is also why I now can talk more about what is behind my weight issues, even though it is typically a very sensitive subject for most people. I decided that I am tired of having to hide everything, feel shame….especially when really, my struggles were a response to having experienced trauma caused by others. I would rather be open about it, and focus on feeling proud of what I have accomplished and improved for myself. Additionally, I have come to discover, that though sharing these things may not be comfortable for everyone, often it can be just what someone else needs to hear or see to help them not feel alone with their personal struggles.

I have interacted with many others who suffer from weight issues. I have seen so many stories of health issues, extreme stress, mental health battles, and even side-affects from medication. Though lifestyle choices are contributing factors, there often is so much more to it. I wish people would understand this when they see graphics and pictures with captions that make jokes out of people who in reality, have a type of illness.

Obesity is painful and debilitating. It physically hurts, strains, and damages the body…. and limits what you can engage in. Emotionally, it leaves you constantly self-conscious, and embarrassed to be seen. It isolates. People do not treat you like a person. They either look away and pretend you are not there, or they glare and stare. Some snicker, and point you out to someone else for them to have a laugh. They look into your cart to see what kind of food you are getting. You find it hard to get service, and once you do, they talk to you with the assumption that you have low intelligence. You are treated like you are someone of low status, and not worth giving time to. People let doors swing shut on you. You often feel invisible, despite your size.

I still am over-weight, and have a ways to go. However, apparently I am now in the “acceptable range”. People look at me, and smile. Doors are held open for me. My presence is acknowledged, and people say “excuse me”, or even ask me for help, or an opinion. I am no-longer talked to like a child. I even sometimes receive compliments. As nice as all of this sounds, it points-out how wrong our ways of viewing those who are obese are. I am still the same person that I was 100+ pounds ago. My IQ was in the 140’s then, just as it is now…..my degree did not disappear when I gained weight. My heart did not shrivel. And yet, the difference in treatment often makes it seem as if nothing else of worth about me could be seen when my package was larger. These are the kind of things that every obese person faces every day.

I make a point to look directly into the eyes of people, and smile. Obese, disabled, elderly….most especially. It is sad when I see a reaction as if they are surprised I am acknowledging them—that moment of hesitation while it sinks in before they smile back. That was me not very long ago.

Please try to look at things differently. Facebook, pinterest, youtube, commercials….everything is laden with making fun of those who are overweight. It isn’t funny. Someone wearing questionable things might hold some humor, but a person’s actual physical state should never be considered entertainment itself. This includes any kind of physical attribute or disability—I often see memes of pictures of people with unfortunate teeth, or other physical issues….posted as something that is humorous. They are still God’s children, and just because they are not physically perfect does not lower their worth as a person, nor should they just be seen as fodder for those more fortunate in those areas to use as amusement.

I am sorry if I seem to be ranting on a soap box. However, this article came about because I have seen a lot of memes used in groups, and pinterest pins that are labeled as “humor”. I have also seen recent news stories of grown women making fun of those who are larger than themselves, and hurtful statements being made in the media, and prominent online communities. It really has always made me shake my head, and it is kind of sad that it is only now that I am in the “acceptable range” that I feel I can say something about it. Our society has nurtured these kind of views, and I think most people just do not understand what it is they are laughing at. I shared my story to help put perspective on how there can be things behind the surface that you cannot see. To some, it might seem funny that someone is “fat”, and okay to laugh at them—but is it funny, and okay to laugh at someone who was a victim of abuse? Someone with an illness? Often it can be one and the same.

Love one another. Look past the package. The real value is what is contained inside. That is what is important, what lasts…. what we take with us. Beautiful souls are not required to have beautiful bodies….and sometimes beautiful bodies can have deceptive contents…..yet people seem to put more value on the outside, than the inside. It would be lovely if that could change.

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