Saturday, April 22, 2017

Blaming God - From Anger to Faith

The first time I was angry at God I was personally stunned by the emotion.  It seemed that I'd always had a deep and convicted faith so I couldn't understand how I allowed myself to get to a place of true anger with God.  How could I be mad at the only person who could really fix my problems (even if He wasn't going to fix them right now)?

But I was broken.  I was hurting.

I had lost 3 babies.

In a row.

I was a good person; I was making good choices.  But there were people in the world who didn't want their babies, I thought - "Why couldn't someone who wanted babies have a chance to get them?"  (Looking back however, I realize that thought in and of itself was pretty judgemental.  As one of our favorite family therapists pointed out, "No one actually says, 'I want to be a Meth addict and lose my kids.'")

Well, ironically - now I have children coming out of my ears.  I have 4 in Heaven, and I'm up to 6, now on Earth - my husband and I have both biological and adopted children (well almost adopted).  And lucky me - now I'm sitting here wondering how on earth God thought I could handle all of this.  Of our 6 kids, 2 of them have special needs, but they're the "invisible" kind of special needs - the kind where people just look at you and your kids like you're completely unfit to parent when their meltdowns are out of control...we have the "RAD" and "Autism" and "SPD" and "ADHD" and "Speech Apraxia" and, and, and.... 

God and His plans for me feel a little crazy once again.  Or else I'm the crazy one, and He's just humoring me?  I may never know.

But back to when I was mad - I was so hurt that I couldn't hear Him speaking the words to heal my pain.  It was 9 years (N-I-N-E) before I could hear Him and actually believe Him when He told me - "Your kids are okay - they're with Me right now.  You're going to see them again someday."

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So fast forward - I had reconciled my anger with God and decided it was a bad emotion. I would avoid it at all costs.

Until recently in the last year when our family was exposed to kids with trauma.  Their trauma rubbed off onto everyone else in the family causing something very real called "Secondary Trauma". 

Amid the mountain of struggles, I couldn't find or see that seemingly inspirational ball of light that He had promised me at the beginning of this particular journey, so I had to deal with anger all over again. Where was the promise when all I could see was the mess?  The anger started with the people closest to the situation who "caused" my kids' problems, and the people before them or around them, and then the anger shifted to myself who chose to take it on and affect all the other kids in then family, and then I eventually blamed the One who put me on this path to begin with.

The methodical shifting of the anger I felt from every bad thing that ever happened to my kids eventually landed right back at the One I had decided I'd never be mad at again.  HOW DID I LET MYSELF DO THAT AGAIN? 

But this time something has been different.

I can't quite pin-point what it is.

Maybe I'm older and have more experiences so I just know better now that He's going to answer me, so I'm trying to listen better through the pain.

When it all boils down I think that God is trying to teach me that He is the One who is in control.  He really is at the helm.  No matter how badly anyone or everyone involved has messed things up (in my life, in your life, or in anyone's life), He is there.  He actually knows the end from the beginning, and He is trying to guide us if we will just try to listen. Even if we're not listening well, He's still got this under control. No matter whose choices did what to my kids and to my family, He bought it ALL with His blood.  No matter how inadequate I am to be this mom of this many kids, He paid for it, so that's why He is the One who can help me.

Honestly, it really is all His fault, and it's all really in His hands.

That doesn't mean we don't have to feel what we need to feel so we can move past it.  That doesn't mean we can just wave a magic wand and rush the healing of our children.  That doesn't mean that a bunch of crummy things weren't along the path to get us to this place, and it certainly doesn't mean we're even close to out of the woods, yet.  But knowing that GOD is in control helps me in shifting the anger that comes...because it does.  Each time my child has a physical or mental "disability" from choices of others, I have to take the anger and move it.  Putting it all on God is actually something that helps me to forgive others.  "Forgive them, for they know not what they do."  Or rather, "Father forgive them for they had no idea how long lasting or how far reaching the consequences of their choices would be."  And "Heavenly Father - I'm actually in this big giant mess because You thought I could handle it, so please, I beg for You to show me and make me able."  And "Heavenly Father, I have no idea what I'm doing, so please tell me what to do and help me find the right path." 

What I'm really trying to say is that sometimes being mad at God is the very thing that can help you trust in Him.

So if you have a reason to be angry with God, maybe the Lord is trying to tell you through all of your fears and sadness and anger, that you're just a half-step away from understanding His grace and glory.  If it's all His fault now - just wait until He fixes it!  You wouldn't actually be mad at Him for not fixing it yet, if you didn't know DEEP DOWN that He can. You likely have a true hope that someday He will make it better, but maybe you're just really mad that it's not better NOW.

And you know what?

It's okay to feel that way.

He bought that with His blood, too.  He actually understands every feeling you've ever had.

So just wait for Him.  Keep doing your best, and do what you can, but trust that He's in control.

Somehow - someday - every problem will be fixed.  He will wipe away all tears from all faces.  In this life we've blamed our pain on Him, but how beautiful when ALL of the peace, all of the healing, will be because of His glorious name.

In that day we will be eternally grateful that He is the One to blame.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Shame Culture vs. Mormon Culture

Is SHAME CULTURE part of your congregational experience at church?

Are you so caught up in the details of what's right and wrong (like the Sadducees and Pharisees of old), that you don't truly know who your Savior is?

Are you so busy trying to save the world that you've forgotten the beautiful message that JESUS HAS ALREADY DONE THAT?

At church we learn that we're supposed to be good, or rather, we're good because we're there, right?

Wrong.

In going to church every Sunday, have you gained book smarts about the word, but haven't come to KNOW it in the way God intended you to?  You may have a temple recommend, but are you still one of the 5 foolish virgins?

These are all questions I have been asking myself since my recent awakening (click here).




WHAT IS SHAME?

Some individuals are more sensitive to shame than others.  Some have an alert internal sensor on what shaming is and that it's not right even from a young age.  They're the kind of people who will NOT be manipulated into doing what's right - they need to know for themselves, and they need to choose for themselves.  I used to be a bit judgemental of this kind of a path, but I am now firmly of the opinion that this is okay and even essential for many - without questioning, how will they ever KNOW who God is?  Or without questioning how will they come to know who they are?  I believe we should not shame others for questioning.

I used to think it was best to understand God's word and learn from the mistakes of others and to just be believing - without questioning.  Maybe that can be argued to be best when it comes to topics like doing drugs, but it's not the best method when you apply it to everything.  And it's important to remember that all is not lost if someone you love has tried something like drugs.

Through trauma parenting, I'm learning that manipulating someone into doing what's right, or shaming them into doing what's right is not only the wrong method to choose, it DOESN'T EVEN WORK, no matter how much you wish it could.  I am also learning that even if you have a non-traumatized child who responds with "positive" results from shaming & manipulation, it still doesn't make that method right.

Honestly, I've never thought in depth about what shame can mean until the effects of past trauma on someone I love showed me.

It's real.

It's CRIPPLING.

When our child purposely seeks negative attention to trigger cycles of shame, we have to drop it - drop the shame.  We must show NO EXTREMES IN EMOTION.  We're getting better at it with practice, but at first it felt so hard because it's different than parenting in any other scenario I've ever faced in the last (almost) 10 years.  I've been thrust into a journey of finding out what shame is (both blatant and subtle), because if I don't come to know what it is and what it isn't, MY FAMILY WILL NOT SURVIVE. 




PLACES WE FIND SHAME CULTURE

Can shame culture be found in politics?  Absolutely!

Do Conservatives shame other people?  Yes, many do.

Do Liberals shame others?  I have seen it.

Is shame culture present in the family you grew up in, or the one you're currently raising?  Maybe.

Can shame culture be found in the Mormon church?  Yes - I can only speak for where I've lived, but at times it can be found in those congregations.  Over the years I have been a part of it or contributed to it, but I am currently working on my awareness so that I do not do that to myself or others anymore.

Can shame culture be found in other churches?  Yes - I have a friend named Tiffany who does so much for the "Without Walls" church.  One of her recent posts said, "People in the church have no problem gossiping but we can't get them to witness... 🔥👊🏼 Isaiah Saldivar bringing truth!! BOOM! #wearewithoutwalls"

This post showed me that people in their congregations are experiencing the same kind of obstacles that hold us all back from God.  Gossip is part of shame culture.  Are they preaching shame culture?  No, they're speaking against gossiping, which is a good thing to do, because gossiping is harmful, and they're lamenting the way it can get in the way of knowing God & being able to witness of Him.

So here's the nitty gritty:

Is Mormon Culture also Shame Culture?

What I have come to understand is that there are many Mormons who live in a fog of shaming themselves (that was me) and shaming others (sometimes it happens without realizing it).  Those very same imperfect people go to church (because church is not for perfect people) and sometimes they give their spin on the doctrine with their opinions when they raise their hands as they're trying to make sense of the Word.  It is possible for the people who live in shame culture to do damage to others, and sometimes that damage is a factor that pushes people away from going to church.

But when it all boils down...for those who are wondering if Mormon Culture in and of itself is Shame Culture, the answer is NO.


WHAT IS MORMON CULTURE?

Mormon Culture is...

...lifting up your neighbor through visiting teaching and home teaching - checking in on each other and serving, shopping at Down East Basics because they have cap sleeve tanks, celebrating Pioneer Heritage whether or not you have pioneer ancestors, being obsessed with Family History, magnifying a calling (even if you have never done it before), knowing way too many Disney quotes, building temples to give our best to God, prosylyting about the Book of Mormon, engaging in public speaking from a young age by sharing talks or testimonies, inviting others to learn of God, participating in or attending church plays/pageants/or community events, centering your life around God and Family, "mourning with those who mourn, and comforting those who stand in need of comfort."

Some silly parts of Mormon Culture is demonstrated in movies like "The Singles Ward", and it is also found in the drink menu at Sodalicious - I never knew you could sum it all up on one menu until I went there and all of my teenage and college age years came flooding back in an instant - "Boy Scout" "Amen" "Eternal Flame" "Civil Marriage" "NCMO" - I have never laughed so hard!

And this post would not be complete if I didn't mention that Mormon Culture is also about Jell-o - there is such an uncanny connection at least in the United States to Mormons and Jell-o.  My brother's catchy, original, and melodious tune is even now running through my head from Sunday dinners...he sings the words "Jell-o Salad" with an operatic musical theater voice, and it cracks me up every time.  I have to join in with my own refrain.  Irresistible and cheesy, but it brings us together.  Families and Jell-o can be forever. ;)




LETTING GO OF MY OWN SHAME, AND BREAKING FREE FROM MY DEPRESSION

I'm 32 and I've been going to church every Sunday that entire time.

For a large part of that time I've also been trying to sub-consciously earn my salvation.  I didn't think I was. I thought I knew my Savior.  I thought I understood Him.  But the way I understood Him was actually blocking who He really was.

I thought that living a righteous life in and of itself was what would help me to know God.  Maybe in a way all of my good choices led me to Him, or maybe it prepared me to to know Him, but what I know now about God is that He loves me when I'm broken.

And what I know now about repentance is that it's not a one item at a time kind of thing.  It's really important, I have found to LET IT ALL OUT and lay it ALL down at the feet of the Lord.  A friend encouraged me to pray out loud and say every negative feeling I was experiencing, then focus on what I wanted to repair, and then focus on gratitude.  I was told not to stop talking until it was all out - no matter how big or how small, no matter how recent or old the things were that I needed to get out.  You know what happened?

I was praying out loud for 2 hours.

TWO HOURS.

I had SO MUCH I was holding on to.  I had so much pain. I had been living a "perfectly" righteous life (when you're a Mormon, that looks a lot like attending church every Sunday, reading your scriptures regularly, and praying always, paying your tithing, being temple worthy, and serving in your callings), but I had never TRULY put it ALL down at the feet of the Lord.

I always would focus on trying to repent of one thing at a time.  I'd work on it between Sacrament meetings and I would think little by little I was getting closer to God.  Maybe I was closer to God because of it, but I was still trying to be "good enough".

So as I kept striving for the ideal I became harder and harder on myself.

I was so hard on myself, because I was NEVER enough. Nothing I had was good enough, either, because even though I knew I had the types of things that are supposed to make you happy, I was waking up unhappy every single day.

EVERY DAY as soon as I opened my eyes, my first thought was, "I'm not happy."

There were a few factors going on at once to cause this: 1) I developed a thyroid condition after my 3rd child and have been working with my doctor to maintain chemical balance ever since - I have thyroid medication and a regimen of daily vitamins to help with this.  2) I have been under some extreme stress.  3) I was viewing the world with a lens that was contributing to my depression.

When the ideal of righteous living becomes your whole purpose, you're actually never going to be good enough.  You're going to be depressed.  I know, because I was.

But what was amazing about experiencing and accepting my own shame is that while it felt excruciatingly painful, it also felt so freeing at the end.

I can honestly say praying this way is different than what I was doing before, and I can say that I am learning what it means to have a personal relationship with my Savior.  I have not seen His face, but I know without a doubt in my mind that His grace is eternal, and when I am able to accept His grace, it allows me to walk in His Spirit, and that Spirit is the kind that motivates me to WANT to make right choices...not make right choices because that's what you're supposed to do to know God.  The way I am viewing EVERYTHING is changing because His Spirit is changing me, and it feels so much better this way...it's a way I had never known before.  And I know I have so much more to learn about walking in the meekness of His Spirit and having peace in Him.

One thing I have been learning about getting past shame is that to get rid of it, you have to move past what is right and wrong, and somewhere in the middle find what is.  Right and wrong still exists, and making right choices is still important, but when you're able to come to terms with "WHAT IS", you're able to accept it.  And when you can accept it; that's when you're able to let go of the shame.  I was beginning to see this in some small ways and was able to see some small progress with the kids, but until I was able to understand what it really meant on my very own personal level, I could not actually help my children through it.

It is important for each of us to experience on our own the Savior's love, and grace, and that He suffered FOR OUR SHAME, and that's why HE IS ABLE TO TAKE IT AWAY.

If you seek Him, you will find Him.

When you find Him, you will KNOW Him. He will bring you peace in a way you've never felt before (even if you've been going to church your whole life or even if you haven't).  And when you know Him, it will change you, and He will heal you.   He wants you to have this hope and peace in Him, whether you feel you deserve it or not, because He loves you, and He wants to turn the pain you've experienced into joy and wholeness.

I know it is possible because He is healing me of my depression, and making me aware of my anxiety.  The Lord is showing me what God's love and grace really is.

You don't have to be perfect to know God.  When you come to know God, in time, He will make you perfect, because you will be perfect in Him.

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 OTHER RELATED ARTICLES:  Mental Health and Being Mormon by Dr. Alan Bradford, My Awakening,  Blanket Statements with the Atonement,

OTHER HELPS FOR DEPRESSION (Thanks, Jeff!):  Take an Epsom Salt Bath & send all of your vocalized negative thoughts into the salt and down the drain - if they come back remember that you washed them away, Visualize a color as you move from negativity to gratitude and let it all out - see if your color changes (my happy colors are yellow and blue - like the same color of the sunrise), See a counselor or life coach, Do breathing exercises - in for 4/hold for 7/out for 8,

Music that helps me:  Magnify by We Are Messengers,  Rise by Danny Gokey, Speak Life by TobyMac
 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

My Awakening

I grew up in a bubble.

I didn't think I did. I thought I had problems...like when all my friends were busy on the weekend and I felt left out.  I thought I knew how to live and love. I thought I knew what life was about.  I thought I understood success and the model to achieve it.  (EXCEPT...TO ME, part of "success" included having a perfect Husband/Wife/Bio-child family WITH NO REAL WORLD problems.  It hurts me now to even say this out loud.  It makes me sick that even sub-consciously that particular goal or definition of success was hidden underneath everything else I did.) 

Then my husband and I were MOVED by indisputably miraculous events & timings to become foster/adopt parents.

The entire process of becoming licensed seemed to change my life at the time. (I have many posts written but they remain un-posted, as the journey to "get there" at the time was some of the most trying I'd ever faced, including a deep personal conflict of self realization on my path along with the clash of outside opinions or warnings.  I knew I was doing the right thing, and didn't have the words to help anyone else FEEL what I was FEELING.  "Come what may"... & "No matter what"... Doubts from myself and others were expressed, but I knew I couldn't back out.)

Then the kids moved in.  And they brought their trauma with them.  And it rubbed off onto the other 6 family members.

....Trauma is something the vast majority of the people in my "bubble" don't seem to understand...the ones who really know what I'm talking about are the ones who have lived trauma....

There's so much to say, but the most important to say is that at time it's felt like hell. (Except when I prayed and told God that it felt like hell, and He promptly said, "Hell is worse.")

It's flipped my whole world of parenting upside down.

I've never had to work so hard to be a Christian in my entire life.  EVER.  Especially not in a 24/7 sort of way.  And then I realized - I wasn't as Christian as I thought I was!!!!!

My friend Trey posted something on facebook that got me thinking...if I remember correctly, it said something like, "You're not Christian unless you bear a cross."

(Photo credit - Pinterest)

For the first time in my life I'm truly learning what it means to bear a cross, but it's not because of me or anything I've done.  I'm also learning more intensely, how Jesus bears our personal crosses for us, if we'll let Him.

When you're fatigued and depressed and facing the biggest mountains you, your spouse, and your kids have ever faced -- you're in it with them and when their trauma BECOMES YOUR OWN TRAUMA, and you live and breathe it, and all you can do is be in survival mode from moment to moment....  That's usually when someone says to you, "You're doing the greatest thing for these kids."  Or they say, "You're saving them."  I usually stare blankly for a moment as I try to process the shocking words, and internally I have screamed, "WHAT DO YOU MEAN?!  I'M NOT DOING ANYTHING!!! NOTHING IS WORKING!"  I have also screamed inside, "TRYING TO SAVE THEM IS HELL, AND NO MATTER WHAT I DO, THEY DON'T WANT TO BE SAVED!"  In fact these kids never asked to be saved.  Their "saving" is often a loss to them and a reminder of what they'll never be able to get back - some of the dearest and precious things in their hearts - their bio family, and it doesn't matter how good or bad their bio family was, and it doesn't matter what kind of trauma they experienced there, the loss is so deep inside.

I've had people say, "This is taking a toll on you.  Surely God wouldn't want this to happen to you or to your kids (implying bio kids)."

Well, let me tell you, HE ABSOLUTELY DOES!  I KNOW HE DOES, BECAUSE HE PUT ME HERE!  And you know what?  MAYBE HE WANTS YOU TO DO IT, TOO!  In regards to trauma rubbing off some onto my bio kids, this is so far the hardest thing they've ever done, too, and you know what?  They still have it pretty good. While trauma of any sort (primary or secondary) is nothing to be reveled in or encouraged, I feel that if my bio kids will allow it, they will understand the GIFT they're being given - a gift in their young age to be able to empathize with others in a way that wouldn't have been able to come if I kept them 100% in a bubble.  I know that IF God has a plan for me to do this (which He does as He is the one who put me on this path), THEN He absolutely has a personal plan for them to get through it, too!

Sometimes the adoption world is like the weirdest Twilight Zone experience - often, people will glorify what adoption is, but not many actually know what it actually means to live the life.

You literally have to LOVE and EXPECT NOTHING WHATSOEVER IN RETURN.

Easier said than done.

My cousin Tiffani has FIFTEEN kids...and 11 of them are ADOPTED.  I honest to goodness have no idea how she does it. People would tell her, "You're saving these kids."  And she would say, "Actually they're saving me!" 

She's also the one who recently told me to quit grieving over the "loss" of my "perfect little family", and to drop to my knees and pray multiple times a day.  And I DO (I thought I had been doing it before she told me to, but obviously it was not enough).  Wherever I am standing in the house in my brokenness, when it's too much - in the middle of their screaming fits, I fall to my knees. And I pray.

Even after I took some kids in, I could not understand how on earth Tiffani could say they were saving HER and genuinely mean it....

UNTIL I got to a place where I was so broken, so frustrated with everything, so lost on how to even parent because NOTHING I'VE EVER DONE WITH MY OTHER KIDS WORKS WITH THEM.  It wasn't until I'd experienced Secondary Trauma myself and could see more clearly what happens to people when they have trauma that I could start understanding.   

My friend Jeff (a dear friend who has experienced Primary Trauma in hard ways) said to me, "You're not saving them.  You're just giving them a different path. And it looks like they're providing YOU therapy."

Then he very compassionately offered advice to help our family get through the trauma - mostly encouragement to let go of the negativity & suggestions on how to do that, and he also gave us lots of reminders to take it one day at a time. "Time has a way of healing all wounds," he says.  He would know.


So anyway, here I am today.  Four months into our life change.  And I have a message:

My mind and heart are awakened in ways I've never experienced before!

I never ever want to return to the person I used to be.

I believe I was an inherently good person with good intentions before, but the ignorance of that person I used to be was making me sick.  

Literally. Sick and full of intense disdain...

First my disdain was directed at others within my bubble who couldn't possibly understand trauma or trauma parenting for what it is.  But I woke up this week and I found the root of this disdain - it was disdain for myself in my former state...from many years ago when I had a circle of many friends who were experiencing very difficult struggles.  They desperately needed someone to understand them, but no matter how much or how deeply I cared about them I couldn't help in anyway whatsoever, because I was so much in the bubble of a perfect life that I could not relate to them, empathize or sympathize appropriately, or even offer any advice or help to pull them out of the hell they were experiencing.  It still hurts my heart to think about those times -- it makes my heart hurt that my ignorance kept me from helping anyone else find true healing.

But the Lord is good, and in my own recent phase of hurting, He sent me people who knew personally what I was facing and who knew how to overcome it. He sent me people who could help me in the same ways I so desperately wished I could have been able to be there for them when they were suffering.  How sweet (and cruel) life experiences can be.  Both depression and joy can be painful in a way.

I have been waking up to painful truth.  Ugly truth.  Sometimes truth that is so ugly I cannot bear it.  But somehow the TRUTH is setting me free.  And I am finding ways to move beyond it, to accept it, to forgive myself, and to let go, and I am finding it in my heart to be grateful.  I love being grateful!

I am learning how to live one day at a time.  I am finding peace in the struggle.  Real and internal peace that is pulling me out of a deep depression and back into the light of day.  But the difference is that this time in the light of day I'm not so ignorant (not that I know everything, and even what I've now experienced sort of could be described as "seeing through a glass darkly").  But I have walked so far into this path that I can finally say I CANNOT ever be the same. And that in itself makes me SO HAPPY!

It's not just that I don't WANT to be the same as that person I used to be, but I literally am so far into this life changing experience that I now CANNOT ever be that person I used to be.  It feels so good to know that I will never go back there...if I do regress at all, at least I know it can never be completely...and that gives me hope in the future and my ability to do this.  I can do this. I CAN do what I've been asked to do, and I know that each member in my family can, too.

I can say that I have finally been born again.  In a way I've never been born before.

It's a true awakening or enlightening -- it's still happening and I'm still learning.

What would you do if I told you that a person who doesn't necessarily believe in God (at least in the way that everyone tends to define God) is the one who showed me or explained to me rather, what it means to truly repent of your sins, pray and meditate out loud, forgive yourself (accept grace), and be able to move forward in faith and wholeness by meeting God in a personal way?  This is what I've been seeking for a long time.

:)

Maybe don't be so surprised about all of that.  I am not surprised about it in the least any more, because I believe that the Lord is calling all of His children home, and that He knows how to speak to us individually and with purpose no matter who we are and where we've been.  He knows how to help us find healing when we need it the most, and His love and power can surpass all of our understanding.  When He heals us, it motivates us to do good and be the best versions of our selves that we can possibly be.

As I've been pondering more in depth how the Lord lives and how He loves me I have come to know Him in a closer way.

I finally feel free.

I finally feel awake.

I finally feel alive again.

I'm waking up happy.  That's something that literally hasn't happened to me for over a year.

And because I know and feel in a whole new way, I KNOW that the same kind of healing can come to my spouse & kids no matter what we face together in life, and I know it's a type of healing that can happen to anyone who is open to it.

I am achieving happiness and inner peace in a way I have never found before, but the trick is that it hasn't come by trying to achieve - it has come by complete surrender to God in my brokenness, and the honest acceptance of ugly truths that have been within myself (not just one sin, but MANY, including the sins of clinging on to embarassments, self-hate, deeply personal inner judgement, and holding on to the shame & regret of things that I need to repair) and because of this process, a new bi-product of gratitude is opening up within my mind and soul.   It literally feels good all over.

I can say that in a very real and personal way I am finally accepting the grace of Jesus Christ and I am learning how to forgive myself and literally LET GO.  I'm putting things in the Lord's hands in a way I've never done before.  

I can tell you that the Lord has personally healed me.

This is my Awakening!

It's still fresh, so there is a part in my heart and soul that is terrified I will lose these feelings of happiness and peace.  So if you're a praying person, please pray for me that I can always know my Savior and His love in this beautiful way that helps me be FREE.  If you haven't found this for yourself, start praying that you will find it, too, and don't ever stop seeking UNTIL YOU KNOW you've found it!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Blanket Statements with the Atonement

(These thoughts were written a few days before the "My Awakening" post, after a deep discussion on the topic of trauma and healing through Christ.  I was also writing these thoughts a bit in frustration, and I am not an expert exactly on all of what trauma means, but I do know that at times it feels like an impossible venture for people with trauma to find healing, and it is true that some of them have so much trauma it can't be healed in this life, and those are terrible situations.  But I do believe that healing is possible for everyone through Jesus Christ, and that it can even come in this life for most, but my purpose in this post was to get out all the thoughts on my mind and it helped my own walls and misconceptions about mental illness change.  I really believe that people who struggle with mental health are working so hard...so very extremely hard, just to stay sane and function.  I also feel  that the more they need is compassion, and the less they need is extra stress and judgement on how they need to deal with themselves.  Be there for them - let them know they can do it - have faith in the Lord and His timing, and take it one day at a time.)

2/17/17

The Atonement is not exactly like a magic wand (well actually, it could be argued that it is, one of my 4 year old's says that it is, and I can absolutely see that argument).  What I'm trying to say, though, is that I used to be one of the "instant" and "quick" believers in The-Atonement-Can-Fix-Anything Group of people.  And you know what?  There is some truth to that, all depending on the WAY you're looking to apply the Atonement.  There are MOMENTS where the relief comes instantly in prayer and the peace can stay for a while...all depending on the circumstances.

But for the most part, and especially considering some of the experiences we've faced as a family over the last couple of years, I am now MORE on my nine-year-old son's side with His view of the Atonement.  He bore his testimony last week:

"I know that Jesus can do ANYTHING for us...so long as it's necessary."

Everyone in the congregation smiled at his honest little 9-year-old wisdom, but there's no getting around the truth of what he said.

The "so-long-as-it's-necessary" part of his testimony just happens to be the harsh reality of the phrase, "Thy WILL be DONE."  It happens to be one of the reasons Christians are left having "fear and trembling" before the Lord in any given circumstance.  The Lord CAN fix it, but will He see fit to do so in this moment or is He going to let you learn a lot of lessons along a grueling ride?

That's actually the part of religion that I believe most atheists have an issue with.  It seems to me that most people could believe in a God who is loving and kind, but not in a God who would knowingly allow terrible things to happen to good people.  "That would be an interesting person and not one I would follow," is what an atheist friend told me.  I've pondered his statement and the way I see it is that really there IS a "God of Heaven", and a "God of Earth".  The God of Heaven is the one we want to follow, and the God of the Earth right now is the one who wreaks havoc...he's the one who makes this earthly experience feel hellish, and he's the one who tempts us.  Someday Jesus Christ is going to come and take his rightful place as the God of this Earth and he's going to heal everyone and everything, but in the mean time, Satan is the one who is guiding everyone astray, and inspiring criminals to keep criminal-ing.  So it's my opinion that even atheists agree with Christians if you look at it from that perspective.  Satan is a creep, and there's no way I would actually want to follow Him - He's absolutely an interesting person to take pleasure in the sufferings of all the people who come to earth, and I certainly don't want to follow that god either.

But then the juxtoposition is this - and another reason atheists would probably still have an issue with the God of Heaven - why would you want to follow a God who would let you go down to earth and be subjected to the creepy/jerky God - why wouldn't he intervene if He could?

That's where the faith really has to come in, because God - the REAL GOD - the Rightful God did intervene, and He's saving us from the terrible things of this world, but the problem is that HE DOESN'T GRANT INSTANT HEALING FOR EVERYONE OR EVERY PROBLEM RIGHT NOW, so that's what tries faith - because sometimes living in a cruel world leaves a life-long mark on you that you have to deal with.

So anyway, let's talk now about sexual abuse.

Our bodies are pysiologically created to have particular brain mechanisms and responses.  Trauma and abuse actually REWIRES the neuorpathways in your brain.  Trauma and abuse really can RUIN you. It really can ruin someone's life, and it really can ruin their whole life.  Trauma and abuse CAN be overcome, through therapy and consistency.  Relying on the Atonement for Spiritual health is ESSENTIAL in overcoming it, but you can't just say, "Oh, well, that's what the Atonement is for," and completely invalidate everything that the victim has been through, and everything that they go through every single day of their life.  I also feel that their anxiety and depression cannot entirely be left up to them and how much they did or didn't handle their trial correctly, but that message gets sent a lot to people who struggle with trauma.  So they can kindly say - it's terrible having to deal with this kind of "brain damage" caused to me at the hands of another, but thank you very much for passing judgement. I also know that their flashbacks and trauma triggers have nothing to do with themselves and how well they have handled their trauma or how they have not dealt with it appropriately.  Let me say that again - THEIR TRAUMA TRIGGERS HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THEM.  You cannot make a blanket statement like, "Oh, well if they would have just done X, then they would have been strong enough, and you cannot say that , "Well, since they did Y, then that's on their head."

 But maybe the whole world needs to look at these issues in a different light.

I'm not saying that victims have no accountability in finding a way to function and heal so they can move on - they have got to find it within themselves to find new habits to overcome their triggers so they can have a functional life.  And absolutely they have got to find it within themselves to forgive, but you also cannot expect them to forgive instantly, because you don't know what damage has been done to their body by the trauma they've been through.  Maybe they can find it in their heart to forgive, but then the next day someone in the mall walks past them wearing the same scent as their perpetrator, and guess what?  Their mind has been triggered, and they are back to the trauma - they are unsafe again, they feel the shame that they didn't cause, they feel bad, they feel scared, they are back in that moment, because that's how our brains were made to function.  And so then they have to find it in their heart AGAIN to forgive, because it's like their suffering all just happened anew!  Maybe this is what the Lord was talking about in forgiving someone seventy times seven - because when you've been traumatized, what they did to you happens in your brain THAT MANY TIMES, and it's hard, and it's wrong, because their moment of selfishness has ruined your life or at least what your life used to be, and that had nothing to do with you.  The fact that your mind takes you there again also means there's nothing wrong with you - your body was made that way, and it TOTALLY STINKS.

When compared to the general population, we know a person who has downsydrome has some "issues" that will never be overcome in this life.  Does that have anything to do with how strong that person is or isn't?  Does that have anything to do with the Atonement - well yes, the Atonement and Jesus' sacrifice can technically fix downsyndrome, but their healing from downsyndrome in this lifetime has nothing to do with if the individual believes enough or not - the Atonement will actually never fix their Downsyndrome until the Resurrection.

Mental illness needs to be understood with the same non-judgment.

I know that the Atonement can heal trauma and mental illness, but not always completely in this life.

I know that Christ is still the answer, but individuals who have trauma to overcome cannot just call on the name of Jesus and be saved instantly - they have to call on His name daily, sometimes hourly, and on bad days, they have to pray for help every MINUTE, because He can ease the pain, but it comes back.  The reason it comes back has nothing to do with the Atonement, it has everything to do with the physiology of the brain.  And most times praying won't fix it - years of therapy, sometimes medication, and TIME can help victims overcome.

When Christ comes, I really do feel like the Atonement will feel like a magic wand, but for where we are here and now, the Atonement takes a lot of time, and it's not fair to anyone to just say, "Oh, well, that's what the Atonement is for" in a way, and with a tone that passes a type of judgement on the victim that just makes them feel more worthless and more like crap because of things that they literally cannot control - such as flashbacks and trauma triggers and even damage that has happened inside their brain.

So maybe this is where atheists "GET" something that maybe a large part of the Christian world doesn't seem to understand - there are a lot of things (it would appear) that Christ doesn't actually "FIX" (at least not immediately).  This is something that tries the faith of many Christians across the world. There is no immediate magic wand for victims of abuse.  That's the true, hard-cold-truth of the tragedy.  And then to see the Christian world pass judgement on each other in heartless ways invalidating the tragedy of what's actually happened to that person's body and mind makes belief in a God who is supposed to "fix" everything to be something they can't actually believe in.

Honestly, I don't blame them.

I used to make blanket statements about the Atonement and the way it heals people in a really ignorant fashion, and the ignorance of that person I used to be is something that I literally cannot stand.  It makes me sick in a way.  I'm grateful I didn't have childhood trauma - I'm extremely fortunate, but people who have not been through trauma need to also open their minds, pull up their sleeves, stop passing judgement, and get to work in a way that helps them understand what life is really about.

Life is not about having your perfect family life with only your biological children who have no problems.  There are a lot of problems in the world.

Life is also not about fixing problems immediately and having a quick fix solution to every problem.  Some things simply just take time because that is how our bodies are made.

Hopefully I can be a more compassionate or understanding voice in the Christian world when I proclaim my beliefs in the WAYS the Savior can heal us.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Obamacare - Threatening My American Dream

June 2016

My husband and I have been facing this struggle for 8 months, now, but we've been mostly quiet about it on social media and here.

For 11 1/2, almost 12 years of marriage, we've been working towards and dreaming of purchasing a home to raise our kids in.  So when you're faced with losing everything you've built up together (financially speaking), that's not something you necessarily want to plaster all over the Internet for the world to see.

It's extremely personal.  It's terrifying.  It's humiliating.

And while we all know the eternal truth that "money isn't everything" (and you could transfer this concept to "buying a house isn't everything"), we also know that there are strings attached to earning a living - REAL strings called TIME, that rule your life.  If you're strapped financially, it means time away from your kids so that you can provide for them.  It means they grow up before your very eyes, but you were too stressed and worried about about how to sort out the financial upheaval that you missed some of the joy along the way - maybe all of the joy along the way on the really bad days.  It means your trial is so big it that every where you turn,

all you can see are closed doors,

regrets,

and darkness.


You know that what truly matters is right in front of you, but because the situation that was thrust upon you is so much bigger than you know how to handle, you can't focus on what really matters.  You want to think about the ones you love and enjoy each moment with them, but you're being buried alive in the deepest pit you've ever been in.  All you have is a spoon to dig yourself out of the pit, but a dump truck just sent a fully loaded avalanche of soil on top of your head.  If you want to stay alive, you have to get out.  You want to get out right away, but there's no such thing as getting out of the pit overnight.  And while you're buried, you can't breath very well.  So that's why it's hard to focus on what really matters, because when you think you're going to die there, the only thing that seems to matter is getting out alive.


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My husband works for someone else, but gets paid on a 1099.  I teach private music lessons, and am self-employed.  When you are self-employed, you are responsible to figure out our own taxes and health insurance.

We look a leap of faith seven years ago when I quit working for the schools to be home more with my kids and would no longer receive tax with-holdings & insurance benefits.  But, you know what?  We've been okay - until last year when I was forced into using a bonafide Obamacare insurance plan from the Health Insurance Marketplace.

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NEVER DID I IMAGINE THAT OBAMACARE WOULD HAVE SUCH A PERSONALLY OVERWHELMING & NEGATIVE EFFECT ON THE DETAILS OF MY LIFE

THE SHORT STORY:


  • My Platinum Obamacare plan straight from the Health Insurance Marketplace was full of lies.  They acted in bad faith for the delivery & post-partum charges of my last child and it all came crashing down during the one point after 11 1/2 years of marriage where we finally had the hope an ability to begin the process of purchasing our very first home.

  • When you have money down on a home, your mortgage cannot close if you are a party in a lawsuit.

  • When you have money down on a new-build, you have an extremely long time to have your entire life and credit file scrutinized with a fine tooth comb, and the stress doesn't let up.

  • When the hospital is being mistreated by your insurance company, they can't wait for appeals, and they chase you for the money. If you don't pay them or can't pay them what they demand, they ruin your credit.  When they ruin your credit, you can't buy your home.

  • When you are self-employed and believe in capitalism, you have more hoops to jump through in order to even be able to make a living, let alone to be able to buy a home in this nation where socialism is trying to stomp out the last few remaining fighters who believe in liberty & free-enterprise.

  • When you have 4 kids, all you want to do is provide them a place where they can count on growing up and stability.

MY PERSONAL SOCIAL PROGRAM IDEOLOGY:

I am PROUD to be an American.  Perhaps I am more "proud" than I ought to be, as I have a major problem personally applying for or using government hand-outs.  In my mind, social programs are for people who need it.  I for one, don't WANT to need it. I will work my buns off, and run myself into the ground before I let myself need those things.  Part of that drive is also what fuels my ability to survive the rigors of being self-employed in a nation that passes law after law to stifle out the few remaining survivors who truly believe in capitalism.

THE BEFORE OBAMACARE BACK STORY:

My health insurance plan that I used during Baby #3, covered catastrophes, but not maternity.  So we paid for that child out of pocket.  We paid the hospital $4,000 for their 24 hour maternity package (and 24 hours means that you will definitely get kicked out of the hospital 24 hours after delivering...even if it's in the middle of the night - I left at midnight with my newborn) - BUT the package included medicine for the epidural.  Doctor's fees are completely separate, but I paid my OB his package pricing during the 9 months leading up to delivery, and I paid the anesthetist, pediatricians, and technicians separately.  By the way, if you pay for a baby out of pocket, everyone almost always has a discounted price for cash-pay patients who pay on the date of service or within 30 days.  Sometimes it's only a small percentage, but every little bit helps.  

With Baby #4, the method that worked for us before couldn't work now, because our premium payments for the same plan were skyrocketing, and even though it should have been grandfathered in despite all the changes enacted from the "Affordable" Healthcare Act, our options were no longer feasible - we couldn't pay the larger premiums for a plan without maternity and also be able to afford to save up the fees for the hospital in time, and because pregnancy was no longer considered a "pre-existing condition", we felt we would rather switch our plan to one that had some better insurance coverage and could give us peace of mind instead of paying the government fines for not having insurance on top of being a self-pay patient.  So I hunted around.  I found that the options and regulations of Obamacare have changed private insurance forever, making it more un-afforable than ever before, and it forced us to look into the Health Insurance Marketplace.

When you purchase health care insurance through the marketplace, if you are pregnant and your income falls into a particular range - not even the poverty level range - but a percentile sort of range above that, you qualify for free health insurance.  Cool, right?  Unless you're like me and feel like you don't need help, and would prefer to have the dignity of paying your own part of your health insurance premium, because you're a capable, hard-working American and that's what you do.  The Marketplace is designed to strip Americans of their pride, however, and if your application (estimated figures or true) falls into a category where you "qualify" for assistance, you are NOT ALLOWED the dignity of paying even a small portion.

So I did what any reasonably-insane, capitalism-loving, pridefully-hard-working American would do.  I made sure that my estimated A.G.I. was outside the range of qualifying for help.  After all, I was right on the edge with my previous estimations, I was hoping for a possible increase of business, and I also didn't want to imagine the horror of accepting a government handout because I imagined we'd be tracked and required to pay it back when taxes rolled in because it was possible we could end up making more than we had estimated.  Even if paying it back wasn't required (because the marketplace is so backup & disorganized  that I doubt they audit) I also didn't want my friends and neighbors or strangers in America paying for my health insurance through increased tax burdens when I knew full well that in my current situation I was capable of paying my own insurance premiums.

As we hunted the Marketplace, we first looked at the cheapest options with the least coverage in the Bronze categories.  But as I did the math, I realized that it would be better for us to go with this one particular Compass Plus PLATINUM plan - the monthly payments would be a stretch even with the $200/month tax credit to offset the cost, but in the end the deductible and out of pocket maximums had a cap that worked perfectly for our budget, and in the long run it made more financial sense to stretch ourselves every month with this plan to pay for the baby, so we switched plans.  Most of our general doctors, and all of our specialists were in the network.  So we moved forward.

Life was great, UNTIL a few months before my delivery, I accidentally found out that even though our doctors were all covered, the HOSPITAL ITSELF would be an out-of-network provider on my plan.  I was so confused and I couldn't believe it.  I was paying more than I ever dreamed of in my life on a monthly basis for this Platinum plan, and the hospital wasn't going to be covered?  But then I found a saving grace - there was a provision in my plan.  If you had a high-risk pregnancy, and that particular hospital was the only place your doctor delivered, and if you were in the 3rd trimester and couldn't switch, the hospital would be treated like they were an in-network provider and all would be well.  I filled out the forms by the deadline and was assured everything was good to go.  For some reason I had to call back and when I explained the situation, the worker explained to me that everything would not be good to go that way, and that I needed to request a "GAP Exemption".  I couldn't believe that had previously been hidden from me, and I resubmitted the paperwork, and Linda from coordination of care gave me a code.  I wrote it down, and she assured me that everything was good to go.  My doctor's office was also told we had done everything we needed to do in order to get the in-network treatment and Gap Exemption.  

Life was great again.

Finally my baby was born.  It was MARCH.  We paid our deductible, and I enjoyed my hospital stay - it was so nice to not be kicked out at midnight with a newborn.

FOUR MONTHS LATER, I got a bill from the hospital.  $18,660 was due.  I knew it was a mistake, so I resubmitted it with the insurance.  It got kicked back.  So we resubmitted it again.  It got kicked back, and we resubmitted it again - each time the people on the phone saw the notes and I gave them the codes, and they assured me it was all a mistake.  But then we started getting nastier notes.  I knew it couldn't be true, so I called United Health Care.

Now it was October.  I was on the phone for FIVE HOURS.

I finally got transferred...

ALL THE WAY BACK TO LINDA in Coordination of Care.

For the first time since February, I got word that United Health Care had changed their mind.  They had paid the hospital like an in-network provider (coincidentally, they paid about $4000...interesting...that's the cash-pay patient price), and on the phone that day, they said they would no longer be paying the GAP...the GAP is the DIFFERENCE between what the hospital charges and what the insurance allows...the GAP was the $18,660, and the hospital wanted the money - they were demanding $500/month for the next 3 years.

I don't know about you, but I don't have an extra $500/month just sitting around.  I'm already stretched to my max, and we don't live lavishly.  I was so scared.  Not to mention, I had been paying over $1000/month in premiums, plus the deductible, and now I was also being charged 18 grand?  I would have been better off if I had had NO INSURANCE AT ALL!  Come to find out, though, all of this came crashing down JUST BARELY BEFORE the deadline to file an appeal.  It was interesting, because I didn't get any of these notices until AFTER the point that I could have filed for help from something like ACCHHS.  And I also wasn't able to get to the bottom of this until the deadline to appeal was almost come and gone?  I had 2 weeks to pull all my documents together and write the letter.  I found an attorney who works with bad-faith insurance cases, and he helped me formulate a letter that wasn't too long, but I had all the documents I needed, and I knew the appeal would work out because of the documents I had to prove the promises I was made by my insurance company.  That was one of the most intense 2 weeks of my life.  I could hardly breathe through the stress, and I needed life to stop so I could focus and pull my case together, but it's all a waiting game, and life doesn't stop for anyone or anything.

The story gets worse.  Also, during October, we had found ourselves suddenly home-hunting because we realized that the home-builders were out between 7 and 9 months, and we knew our lease would be up at that time, so amid the insurance & hospital confusion, we were house hunting.  We found one we loved and for the 1st time in 11 1/2 years put earnest money down on our first home.  It was so exciting, and life changing to finally be at this point.

In November we got word back from the insurance.  They denied the appeal, and so the hospital sent us to a debt collecting agency.

We had more on the line than we ever had had in our entire life.... 



January 2017
(That's where I quit venting and crafting this post...I was so sick of the battle.)

For the record, we're still in the battle, because legal battles are snail speed slow.

And also for the record, we paid our tithing, and the Lord's promises are true - he rebuked the devourer for our sakes.  Our home closed, and the day after I got a call about one of the pieces of the puzzle changing to the next status against us...which status (involving just a change of paperwork that the exchange sent) could have ruined the home purchase if it had gone thru a day earlier because it affected our tax documents & we would have had nowhere to live for a couple months until it would have been straightened out.

I know that the reason my husband and I were able to achieve this American Dream of purchasing our first home was by the grace of God ALONE, despite the oppression of a Socialistic Government trying to take over the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Happy Inauguration Day - I am grateful that Obamacare is a thing of the past, and like President Trump said today, we are going to now look to the future.  I am relieved even though the mess isn't over, I feel some of the shackles of Socialism are lifting.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Taking Time...Meticulous Time

During the Christmas holiday I was stressing out about getting a million-and-ten things done when I came across a bundle of necklaces.  I was in a cleaning and de-junking mode and all I wanted to do was throw it in the garbage.  Except...there was a shiny medallion in the middle of the bundle.  When you're a Mormon teenage girl - the amount of work you have to do to get one of those medallions is comparable to the Eagle Scout award the teenage boys work on.  Totally a different program with different requirements, but it's still the culmination of YEARS of effort.  Interestingly enough the program is called "Personal Progress".  I worked too hard for that - I couldn't just throw it in the trash.

So I sat down in a hustle during the bustle, and started to untangle the mess.

I actually prayed, "Please help this to not take very long."

The answer?

"Some things are worth taking time for."

I knew what that answer really meant...the necklace was just my hands-on example, but this wasn't about my necklace at all.  

It took me far longer than I wanted.  Each tangled chain took plenty of time, and of course the ones that came off first were the cheapest necklaces that I would have thrown away, but I couldn't throw them away - I had to pay close attention to them because they were holding down or tying up the part that was actually special.  I also noticed that there were chains wrapped a lot more tightly than they at first appeared to be, and even the main chain itself was knotted in a way that had to be ironed out.

I couldn't help but think of my kids - beautiful shiny children of God, tangled up in a mess - both inside and outside - they just need to get to a place where they can find the freedom they need to hit the ground running in front of them, but it takes time for the weight to be lifted off their shoulders.  It'll take time for all the pieces of their lives to go back into place. It will take time for them to be able to truly break free from the tangles that have hidden their beauty and the chains that have held them down.  Some of those tangles might run pretty deep, and might be more tightly wound around them than I'd like to believe.  We sort of want to pray that none of this will take very long and that it can all be fixed right now.  But it doesn't work that way.  We have to remember that we can't rush it.  I've got to remember that the best things are worth taking time for.

I wore my medallion for a few days - I felt freedom wearing it & hope for the future.  It reminded me of where I've been, and where I hope to go.  It reminded me of what I want for my family.  

All in time.