What Fighting The Darkness Within Has Taught Me

Life is to be learned from constantly. There is a constant battle we wage daily against the darkness that surrounds us and lives within us. Sometimes we are witnesses to battles fought by others. More often, we are the ones fighting.

Here is where I hope my words can capture what my heart has seen.

I have learned that in order to fully heal, the wound needs to be exposed out loud. It is frightening to share things that have hurt us or the choices we have made, but it is necessary. There is a powerful catharsis that takes place when we verbalize what is in our hearts.

We CANNOT go through life alone. God places people in our lives that help us. It is their gifts and abilities that He has given them that allow them to help us…if we let them. We are all those people and have the ability to bless the lives of all around us.

As much as we pile strength and positive thoughts on top of an underlying lie we haven’t exposed, it always manifests itself one way or another. These lies limit us, holding us back from those things that we want. They need to be exposed and our hearts need to be healed.

Fear is the ultimate destructor of our ability to heal. When we are afraid of what others will think of us or we are scared of the reprocussions, we do not do what it takes to heal. FAITH is the ONLY way to heal. Faith gives us courage to open up and know that in spite of everything, we are going to be much better off on the other side.

Looking back will never allow you to move forward. In fact, it is a lot like Lot’s wife. Every time we look back and give emotion to the past, part of our hearts turn to salt. It is essential to learn from history, ours especially. It is even more vital that we take what we learn and MOVE FORWARD. Dwelling on past mistakes gives the darkness power.

Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are constantly fighting for us. They give us the strength to face the darkness, expose its lies, and move forward. Only they can heal us completely. And they are always ready when we reach out to them. They give us the weapons we need. They bind up our wounds and heal us. To Them WE ARE EVERYTHING.

I am grateful to learn. I am grateful for every experience in my life that has taught me these valuable lessons. I am grateful to KNOW whose I am. I am grateful to know that I can change and become.

Will You Choose Me?

Have you ever had a question that you asked over and over again and the answer was never there? Yet, somehow you knew there is an answer so you keep asking the same question?

I have a lot of these types of questions, but one has been on my mind more often than the others.

With so many things in life, I have sought for a deeper, spiritual purpose and meaning. I feel that God is so intricately involved in our lives that everything has a lesson, blessing or growth attached. It is simply up to us to seek.

I also am acutely aware of the dual nature of life. That everything has its opposite. As much as I would love it all to be good influences and spiritual, I know it is not. I know that that there is an adversary whose main goal is destruction. So as much as I only want to know the beauty, I have to understand the dark too at some level.

There are mornings I wake up and I know there is something off. It has nothing to do with how I wake up and everything to do with that spiritual sense that lets me know it is going to be one of those adversarial days.

Today was one of those days.

I hate waking up and feeling this, and I appreciate it at the same time. Even if I don’t fully acknowledge it, at some point in the day I will realize what is happening.

Today it was the incessant voices whispering doubt, frustration, anger, impatience, and sadness. I wish they were quiet, but they aren’t. It seemed like whenever I was able to shut one down, 10 more came to whisper. After battling for a while I began to question my reactions, the purpose of it all, and if I am handling it in the right ways.

So there is the question I have had… When these days come, and I spend all day battling (and honestly losing some of those battles), I ask, “am I doing something wrong?”

At a lot of levels, I understand that this is part of the mortal journey. That those who are fighting the hardest to return to God have a lot of these days. That when there is something coming chaos reigns. Even knowing this I still ask if I am doing something wrong.

Tonight as I asked that question a quiet voice came into my mind and heart. It asked a question in return,

“Will you choose me?”

In that instant, I thought about the ways I have handled these situations. I thought about the prayers I have said, the moments reading His word in the scriptures and from His prophets, the workouts I have done, the moments I gave in, and many other reactions.

“I need to know if you will choose me, and this is one of the ways I can know.”

Do I choose Him or do I choose something else? Do I turn to Him in these moments or do I turn to my phone, social media, etc? Do I look to God and Jesus Christ for strength to battle or do I look to escape?

Some battles I have definitely chosen escape. Running away in my mind through mindless games, murmuring, isolation and idleness. As much as I want these things to take away the battle, they only leave me feeling empty and lost. There is usually a momentary relief, but it is very fleeting.

Then there are the days when I silently pray for strength (it comes), read His word for peace (it comes), get out and exercise for perspective (it comes), reach out to another to help (it comes) or write for cleansing (it comes).

As much as I would love any one thing to help me overcome, it is always the combination of many choices that chase these adversarial situations away.

Will I choose Him? That question is answered every moment of every day. Will He choose me? That question has already been answered. It is up to me to make the choices that will allow me to see His choice.

Limiting God

Sometimes I truly hope I can express what is going on inside. As much as I want to be able to translate the feelings of my heart and the lessons I am learning into words, I find I am not as skilled as I would like to be. Refinement comes through action, so here we go.

Last week I had a gut check of faith. Acting on inspiration from Heaven, our family has sold our home and purchased a spec home in another town. It will take a few weeks for this home to be completed, so we are staying with my kind parents in the meantime. After all of the chaos of packing and moving, we settled into their home and the stillness settled in. I am learning that I do not do well sitting still.

My mind started to race and think about why we were moving and doubts began to creep in. The adversary is quite skilled because these thoughts didn’t feel like doubts, they felt like legitimate ideas. One idea would lead to another and to another until my mind was racing and I had forgotten all of the miracles that had led us to where we were buying our home. Fear set into my heart and I could not see my way forward.

After a sleepless night, I found myself on a car ride with my husband where I shared all that was going on in my heart and soul. He patiently listened to all of my concerns and never once told me that I was wrong. Instead he took me out to the house we are buying. To be honest, I did not want to be there. I had truly convinced myself that it was not where we were supposed to be, so it was the last place I wanted to be.

He found a bucket, put his jacket on it (he is a true gentleman) and sat me down. Through inspiration from God, he reminded me of everything that had happened to bring us there. We had offers on two other homes, but neither worked out. We were NOT going to look for a home in this particular town, but it was the only one we liked. New construction/spec homes were never anything we considered, yet it was the one that felt the best. After we put an offer on it, all of the paths began to open to get us there. It truly has been one miracle after another. He told me to rejoice and let God show me why we are supposed to be there. It will always be a special moment to me.

After a good amount of sleep, my heart was healed and I began to see things as they are.

I had allowed fear to take over and hold me back from an amazing adventure and opportunity for our family. Rather than using fear to drive me forward, I had let it hold me back. We have never been able to see the whole reason for why we have moved in the past, because the experiences have shaped us one at a time. I had forgotten this.

I realized that my fears and doubts limited the power of God in my life. They had became the barriers that restrained inspiration, joy and strength that would drive me forward.

Yet, the moment I turned to Him and Jesus Christ through prayer and talking to my husband, they were right there. There wasn’t a hesitation on their part. It was as if they were waiting for me to invite them to help me take down the walls I had built.

In moments of reflection, I see how much their power was limited because of me. Rather than submit, I chose to let fear to take over. In fear, I felt defeated, overwhelmed, tired, impatient, weak, defiant, stagnant.

As soon as I let Them in, I began to feel creative, hopeful, peaceful, receptive, powerful, centered.

Which led me to the question… Are there more places in life where I limit God?

Yes.

The power comes in recognizing them to overcome. It takes courage to face the walls we have built with our fears and doubts. It takes more strength than we have to tear them down on our own. The incredible moments come when we accept help and allow His power to manifest in our lives. It is always humbling to see how much He knows us and loves us.

Who Am I Feeding?

I remember reading the tale of the two wolves that live inside us. One wolf is all that is negative. He is the one that engenders anger, greed, fear, jealousy, inferiority, and resentment. The other wolf is all that is GOOD. It is joy, confidence, strength, love, humility, truth, compassion, and peace. The wolves constantly battle. As in all battles, the stronger one prevails. Which one is victorious?

It is the one we feed.

The battles within us are greater than anything we see in the world. Our souls are constantly bombarded with thoughts, ideas, and reflections of those things that are meant to pull us down and forget WHO WE TRULY ARE. Some days the bad wolf wins a lot of ground. And other days the good wolf is triumphant and powerful.

There is so much power in finding and knowing who we are.

Like most teenagers, I didn’t know who I was. I fed the wolves inside me whatever was in front of me. Never being intentional, just what was there…good or bad. As a result, I struggled with confidence, friends (not really having very many), treating my body as I should instead of using it as a tool, sadness, feeling unworthy to have good things and real love, and the list goes on and on. I had moments of good things, but they came when I was surrounded by good people, reading a good book, and serving others. I am grateful for these brief moments of light.

With the wisdom that comes with age, I see that my lack of intention and focus on the good, truly left me in a place that I COULD NOT SEE THAT I AM A CHILD OF GOD. I could not see that because I AM HIS, I am worthy of all the good in life, I am a powerful beast, I am beautiful (even those days, you know what I mean), I am everything I want to be.

The more I focused my eyes and heart on God and Jesus Christ, the more my heart began to heal.

They are the only ones who could heal me. No amount of therapy could. No amount of well-intended words could change the internal dialogue. No amount of doing things that ‘made me happy’ could.

I had to open the door to them. I had to put myself in those places that allowed their love to pierce my stony heart. It had to be me.

It still has to be me.

There is truly a battle that goes on EVERY DAY. Some days I feed the bad wolf. I know it because sadness, frustration, loneliness, negative self-talk, emptiness and despair all take over my thoughts and actions.

But the days I feed the good wolf through creativity, work, exercise, reading uplifting words, serving, and productivity, I gain a greater understanding of who I am.

In that understanding is power, peace, knowledge, hope, strength, love, a hunger for more, energy, and so much more.

I believe that all of our souls crave this. They thrive on all of the good that comes from knowing we are here for a higher purpose. The only way for this purpose to unfold is by tapping into the goodness of God and Jesus Christ. It is turning away from those things that leave us uncomfortably numb, that don’t provide anything but escape, that causes us to turn inward.

It takes a lot of effort to do this and turn towards the goodness. Yet, every time I have done this, my efforts have been greatly rewarded.

I am sure the battle between the wolves will continue.

It is who I choose to feed that will determine who wins today… and every day.

 

Forward Is Moving

There are days on the trail that are more educational than others. Today happened to be one of those days. Due to a series of events, I got off to a really late start to my run. Thankfully, because I waited, the sun decided to emerge and warm everything up. It is not every November 14th that I get to run in a t-shirt. I will take these days as long as I have them, because I know they are short-lived.

There is a place in the run that, no matter how many times I run it, the incline is almost too much. By the time I reach the top of the Clay Pit, my lungs are on fire and my legs feel like lead. Every day I push myself 5 to 10 steps further than the day before. Sometimes I make it. Sometimes I don’t.

For a long time it would frustrate me that I didn’t seem to be making gains in my strength and endurance on this particular portion of the trail. I would think to myself so many negative thoughts that would definitely increase the incline and difficulty of the next hill to conquer.

I realized that all of this focus on gains, strength and negativity was ultimately drawing much-needed energy and enjoyment. It is this way in life too… the more I focus on gains, power and allow negative thoughts to rule my mind and spirit, the less energy and desire I have to reach outward and lift others. I have learned that where I focus my energy will determine if it is renewed or stolen.

Living in a world that has a great tendency to look for weakness and exploit it makes it easy to give space to the negative energy-sapping sources. Stepping out of this world and allowing Jesus Christ to create within us the person He knows we are meant to be is challenging, yet very rewarding. His ultimate goal is to give us the strength, path and means necessary to change and become.

On one particular place I found myself struggling to keep moving forward. It is truly a mental battle that strengthens me each time I step foot in the mountain. All of the sudden, the sound I have given to my son’s texts chimed on my phone. Normally I don’t stop to check them, but this time I did.

“Love you too!!!”

The mere fact that my beautiful 16 year-old boy would take time out of his day to tell me he loves me melted my heart. He does this often. He is a gift. Those three words boosted my energy, giving me the strength to finish the climb I was undertaking.

Another climb was daunting and challenging me…my daughter’s text chime rang through.

“Hi!!”

My sweet girl randomly will text me during the day to say Hi. She too is a gift from Heavenly Father. Our conversations are generally short (except when she doesn’t feel good), but very sweet. Once again I was given what I needed to climb.

I realized that Heavenly Father has given us so many people to give us the energy we need to make it through a rough moment in life. There can be plenty of them and these moments seem to come in bundles. Having and being the kind of person that can lift is such a gift. I do not have a lot of close friends, that is not in my nature. Yet, the ones that I am blessed with are exactly who I need. I pray daily that I am who they need.

Coming out of the canyon, it was a lesson to me that forward is moving in the right direction. Some days we have all of the energy and capacity we need to conquer the hills life throws at us. Other days it is not there. How blessed I feel to know that on those days Heaven is just a prayer away and the answers come through so many beautiful people.

Submitting

Today I indulged myself a little bit by taking the time to read over my journals that I had written starting in 2012. This year will always mark the beginning of a sacred time in our lives. It is when Heavenly Father decided we needed to be taught how to fully rely on His love, mercy and guidance.

It is interesting what happens when everything that is perceived to be stable is taken from our lives. Many unimportant things and people begin to fall away and soon we see what is truly important. Our deepest desires begin to surface. The personality traits that we have buried deep begin to emerge… some good and some that need to be changed.

I learned quickly and repeatedly that man’s ways are NOT God’s ways. Man’s thoughts are NOT His thoughts. There were many things that I once thought important and vital for survival, however I realized were simply man imposed ideas.

And, I found out that giving our life over to God does not come without sacrifices at very deep levels. Submitting

These sacrifices have included pride, comfort, friendships, hobbies, time, pursuits, dreams and goals. I remember one point in our journey that I looked around and said to myself, “He has taken everything that I love to do from me. There isn’t much left of who I am and who I thought I should be.” I hate to admit, but I will, that these thoughts were not born out of humility, they were born out of frustration and impatience.

Many times during this season I have begged for the dawn to relieve our night. I have formulated plans that would propel us to the end. I have justified these thoughts and advocated our cause time and time again… yet, to no avail.

How grateful I am He didn’t shorten the growing season…even though it has been truly hard.

Submitting to His will has required faith in the little pieces of inspiration that aren’t long term solutions. Often we have had questions regarding a direction to take and the answers have given us just enough to move one more step, but no further. Once we had taken that step, we would find ourselves looking at a completely different path with a new set of questions. This type of journey has not been one of stability, only trust.

We also have found ourselves time and time again making decisions and acting on feelings that DO NOT MAKE SENSE. To anyone on the outside looking in, the choices we have made could be considered very irrational and a little (okay a lot) crazy. Yet, following the will of the Lord is rarely, if ever, going to make sense. I have looked to Noah for courage many times when Heavenly Father has asked us to build a proverbial ark.

I have also learned that fear, anxiety and frustration are poisonous to our souls, especially when we are doing our best to submit. Unfortunately, there are constant forms of discouragement that surround us. They whisper in our ears and minds those words of not enough, less than, not going to make it, not strong enough, and on and on. Failure and emptiness are the gifts they bring, leaving no support or strength in their wake.

I wish I could say that I travelled this path gracefully, but I cannot. I have found parts of my heart that are not pretty. I have found places in my soul that were dark and distant from Him. I have seen things in my mind that are shameful. And I know I am not done looking.

Maybe that is the beauty of it…at least I hope it is. For we cannot clean out what we have buried, hidden or turned our backs on. To submit ourselves to Him is to allow Him access to those things that do not allow us to be in His presence. The beautiful thing is, He draws our attention to them when we are ready to overcome (it is never when we think we are ready, it is when He knows we are).

I once thought I had not gained any courage, but after reading my thoughts from 5 years ago, I see that I can do things that used to scare me. I see that I can handle things that were once so overwhelming they would knock me to my knees. I know that it is through the Grace of the Atonement that I have grown stronger. I know it is only through constantly calling upon my Heavenly Father and Savior that I am who I am.

Submitting is a constant journey…one that I am grateful for.

 

 

Sometimes It Is Enough To Simply Believe

For the past 5 years the reality of faith within my soul has been tried, tested, refined, and strengthened…over and over again. It is one thing to read an inspiring quote that states faith will give us the strength we need to overcome and it is a completely different thing to believe and let faith take over.

believeI have determined that our lives have a unique plan and path. If we are living close to God, we can see that the path is one that is meant to shape our souls to become like Him. Sometimes it is easy to watch others on their paths and think that is where we should be. It can be so tempting to see their paths and think we should be there rather than where we are. In these moments anger, jealousy and frustration take root and create within our hearts doubt.

I have also come to realize that each of us on this path to Heavenly Father will be tried in our own crucibles that will break us down to the point that we feel like we are losing ourselves. Prayers that are uttered in our hearts or cried out in our souls will seemingly go unanswered. Every effort we give to move forward will be lost. Any step we take forward will result in a painful fall. Our hearts will break. Our spirits will yearn for relief.

Passing through these times in my life has brought every emotion imaginable, from hope to despair, faith to doubt, inexpressible joy to overwhelming sorrow, strength to weakness. The only balm I have found to soothe my weary soul is turning to my Savior, Jesus Christ. I KNOW He is there. I KNOW He knows me. I KNOW He loves me.

Yet, sometimes I doubt. Sometimes I don’t have the strength to look up and see Him. Sometimes I don’t even have the strength to call out His name.

In so many ways these times have left me feeling less than, unworthy and weak. How can I expect to have strength from faith if I doubt?

Last night as I read in the 3rd Nephi of the Book of Mormon my heart found peace. It is a time in their history when all of the signs that the Savior was to be born were being mainfest, testifying to the people He was coming. For anyone who had heard the prophecies, these signs were a renewal of hope. For those who chose not to see them for what they truly were, the signs were an opportunity to create doubt. Cunning words were spoken to destroy all joy and faith. It must have been exhausting to hold on to their faith as they were openly taunted and ridiculed. faith

As I read in verses 7-8 I looked deeper within the words:

And it came to pass that they did make a great uproar throughout the land; and the people who believed began to be very sorrowful, lest by any means those things which had been spoken might not come to pass. 

But behold, they did watch steadfastly for that day and that night and that day which should be as one day as if there were no night, that they might know thath their faith had not been in vain.

Here is what I saw…

I saw a people who had held on to whatever faith they had, watching for their Savior, feel the burden of belief and doubt take hold of their souls. What if? had crept into their hearts ever so quietly, creating within them feelings of sorrow. Yet, they held onto their belief. It was all they had. It was enough.

They watched. They held on. They did their best. Their faith was rewarded.

So it is in my life. Sometimes all I have is a belief that the fire will subside. Sometimes all I have is the belief that I can take one more small step. For the longest time I didn’t think that this belief was enough to qualify for the enabling power of faith. I know now I was wrong in that belief.

Sometimes… more often than I realized…it is simply enough to believe.

The Bridge

Towards the end of my trail run is a beautiful bridge that crosses over a little river running out of the mountains. It is one of my favorite places, because 1. it marks the final ascent on my run and 2. it has taught me many lessons about myself. thebridge

The bridge sits high up above the water. It is a very sturdy bridge made of solid wood and steel. There are no movements from the bridge as it is crossed, be it running or walking. Did I mention it is very high up?

Ever since I can remember, I have had a paralyzing fear of heights. There is no rush of happy adrenaline for me when I am high up, it is pure flight adrenaline. Some days I wish I knew what caused this intense fear, so I could overcome. For now, I will continue to live with it and learn from it.

The first time I crossed the bridge, I walked straight down the middle, my eyes focused on the other side. I counted my steps so that I knew I was making progress and would shortly be off the bridge. My fear of heights truly blinded me to the beauty that one sees and hears in that place. I could not look up to see the green trees nor see the river that was happily passing below. I simply survived that part of the hike, going and coming.

As I have thought back on that particular hike, I realized that fear truly blinds us to the amazing truths and opportunities that God has placed before us. Not trusting in the security of His love and our Savior denies us the ability to fully live up to our potential and see our incredible world.

Another lesson I learned came as I ran across the bridge the first time I conquered the trail running. On the other side of the bridge, I realized that I felt no fear. This moment was very powerful to me at this time of my life.

There have been many days that have felt heavy and very overwhelming. Uncertainty has cast a huge shadow over our lives and some days are downright scary. This fear is so acute when I feel like I do not have the ability to move, fix the situation or create what is needed to move forward. I lose sense of who I am and Whose I am.

Running across the bridge that day taught me that as long I am moving, trusting in the solid foundation of my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, fear cannot overtake me. The storms of uncertainty may rage and the sanctifying fires may burn, however I know I can overcome if I keep moving along the path They have given me.

changing treesA few times I have stopped my run and carefully walked across the bridge, taking the time to see, listen and feel everything around me. I have swallowed my fear, pushing it down to a place where it has little power over me. The sounds of the birds singing and the water gurgling fill my soul with pure happiness. Watching the trees change color and prepare themselves for winter is breathtaking. Feeling the warmth of the sun and the coolness of the canyon all at once is very renewing.

I learned that I have power over my fear. I learned that the creations of God are truly gifts to our souls, enabling us to become so much more. I learned that looking, hearing and feeling are imperative to recognizing how He works in my life. In all of our lives. I learned that He knows me, understands my fear and strengthens me as He teaches me.

This bridge has become a sacred place to me. It is a natural temple wherein I see His hand, feel His love and hear His voice.

 

Help Thou My Unbelief

There was a man who came to the Savior pleading for Him to heal his son. The one thing Jesus asked was if the man believed. The reply was that he did, however he didn’t feel like the belief he had was enough for the size of a miracle he was pleading for. He then asked the Savior to help his unbelief. Through his belief, humility and the great love the Savior had for him and his son, the requested healing took place and his son was made whole.

Today I have found myself in a similar situation.

Over the past 7 years we have been on a sanctifying journey, oneopenheavens that has repeatedly tested our mind, body and spirit. I have often wondered if there is something we did, a choice we made that made this journey necessary in our lives. I remember when our son was born, I had a lot of pride in my heart regarding different situations and people. The circumstances that preceded and followed his birth quickly stripped me of this pride and taught me that to truly rely on my Heavenly Father, I needed to have more humility. Those 3 years were some of the most challenging, yet beautiful at the same time.

Through the grace of Heavenly Father, I have come to know that this journey is not the result of anything I have done or left undone, it is simply a time for us to draw closer to Him, each other and our family.

Yet…

Today we need a miracle. Today I have knelt before my Savior pleading for this miracle.

And still I find myself feeling like my faith and belief are not enough for what we need. I find myself hoping that I am enough and that I have done enough. I too ask, “Lord help thou my unbelief.”

I don’t know what else to do, but pray, believe, and wait….

 

 

I Have To Believe

This morning as I thought about the future, it felt tremendously big. I began to look at where I am and the huge gap that separates me from where I have felt I need to be. For a brief moment, the gap started to overtake me.

And then, it was as if a whisper came into my heart, I heard, “You have to believe.” I have to believe

With these four words came a rush of the many things in my life right now that are so uncertain. The things that will define me one way or another, depending on how I respond.

Again, “You have to believe.”

A healing, strengthening power washed over my heart and spirit.

As I took a moment to look back in my life I saw the many times I gave myself an ‘exit’ by holding back part of my belief, wondering if the assured promises would indeed come. It is difficult to let go of these self-limiting thoughts and ideas, because of the perceived safety net they provide.

How is it that we doubt the One who will never, nor cannot lie to us? How is it we think we know more or have a better way? How is it that we shrink in the face of the very opposition designed to make us stronger?

Where I feel I need to be, and those things that I need to accomplish is far greater than where and who I am today. As much as I have desired to move towards this place, I find that I have not been able to as quickly as I would like. It becomes discouraging, and easy to allow the doubts to creep in. I need to remember it is a process.

I have to believe that He knows me better than I know myself.

I have to believe that He has a plan, that is more wonderful than I can imagine.

I have to believe that He sees a strength in me that I have never tapped into.

I have to believe that everything I have felt I need to accomplish, He has designed.

I have to believe that I will be defined by His love, not my imperfections.

I have to believe that I am His.