Friday, September 16, 2016

Ruminations and revelations......

I know, I know......where have I been?!!

Well, the truth be told, I have been managing some very deep and personal emotions over the last year or so and I have not been and am still not ready to process them in public.  Life of course, has carried on.  We have done many fun and important things....life is still good.
copyright:  Karen Larsen photography
The processing however, has been super slow.  Its not a bad thing.  It just is what it is.  I can't make it go any faster, even though I would like it to be done and over with.  It is a process and I am in the middle of it.

I have come to a few revelations recently.....now they are really not new, but my understanding of them and ability to apply them....that is new.  Here they are:

1.  I am not responsible for other's feelings.....not their reactions.....or the meanings they attach to my behavior.  If they really want to know what is going on in my head and my heart, then they should probably just ask me and not make assumptions and allow those assumptions to hurt their feelings.  Their hurt feelings are not my fault, even if their hurt feelings are attached to my behavior.

2.  When I respond with Christ-like love, compassion, and kindness to their misunderstanding and hurt feelings, things work better and I am more in control of my emotions.  When I let my anger, hurt and frustration rule my response to their ridiculousness, we all lose and it gets ugly.  Kindness is the key.  My husband gave me a necklace for Christmas.  It is a simple silver key.  I wear it and remind myself that kindness is the key particularly when I am feeling vulnerable to respond in the 'natural Carin' way instead of the Christ-like way.

3.  Christ focuses on others, even when He himself is hurting.  Today in seminary we studied Matthew 14 where the Savior learns of John the Baptist's beheading.  Did you know that was his emotional place when he performed the miracle of the five loaves and two fishes?  Did you know that there were five thousand MEN that he fed with those five loaves and two fishes---that there were women and children there too?  He probably fed over 10,000 people......when he himself, just wanted to be apart from everyone and mourn the loss of his beloved cousin and the forerunner of His ministry.  This particular story touched my heart more than I knew was possible.  So many times as a mother, I just want to run screaming from the room and say, "I am sorry you have all of these needs....I need a moment to attend to my own sorrow, or stress or whatever."  Christ would not respond that way.  He looked on the multitude with compassion and when the disciples said, "It is late, let us send them away...." Christ said, no....and then took care of them, regardless of His personal pain.  I want to be able to respond like that.

4.  The Savior is patient with us.  He waits for us to figure it out and then gives us further insight or something else to think about.  I have come to a place recently where I, in a small measure, recognized emotionally what I gave up when I left my parents and siblings to go to BYU.  It is a normal thing for college aged kids to go off to college after graduation right?  Well, things were not normal at my house when I left.  My mother had just left our family and left all six of us kids with my dad.  My dad wanted me to stay home and take over for my mother and help the family in this time of crisis.  I knew however, that their ship was sinking and no amount of effort I could put in was going to save it or keep it afloat.  I knew that if I didn't leave when I did, I would spiritually sink with the boat.  I left them, children and all, to save myself spiritually.  In order to do that, I had to distance myself so far emotionally just so I could survive in my new environment and not mourn the people and things I left behind.  I chose God, over my family.  Most of them have still not forgiven me for making that choice.  They likely never will.  I am finally looking back at what I left behind and mourning for those people and relationships.  Now, I am not reliving that, just recognizing the sacrifices that were made and mourning those losses, so I can allow my Savior to heal me, instead of having them buried underneath 30 years of life.  Functionally, I am cleaning out the closet and finding some nasty stuff in there.  As I came to that realization, the Spirit's gentle whisperings were "I need you to see what you have done in the past and recognize the strength you have within...."  I have the feeling I am going to need that knowledge in the near future.  I am not excited.......

copyright:  Karen Larsen photography
5.  The Savior asks us to do really hard things, but waits patiently until we are willing and able to do it.  I have been trying to drop 30 pounds for about 10 years......  I try and try and try but seem to have these emotional places that get in my way. (I think I have gained and lost the same 10 pounds 10 or 15 times.)  I have not been able to break through them to figure out the psychological reasons why I eat the way I do and cannot seem to maintain proper food intake to have the results I want.  Today during my scripture study, I had a major emotional breakthrough.  I think I understand why it has been so hard and I can see that without my new understanding of today, I have not yet been successful in years worth of effort.  I think I am ready and now I believe I am capable of actually dropping the weight and keeping it off.  Theory is always different than application and my new knowledge is theory.  There will still be some 'falling off the wagon' as I learn to apply the new knowledge.  I will struggle.  I will make mistakes.  I will have some failures.  But as I keep moving forward, I will also have more success than I have in the past.  I need to be patient with myself and not beat myself up because it is a process and it is hard and it is new.  I can do it, with His help.

6.  Each of us has to learn to rely on our Father in Heaven.  I recognized this morning that in all of my life, my Father in Heaven has put people in my life who have been able to provide me with the emotional support I need.  I have always had someone there who fed me emotionally.......until recently.  In the last few years, all of those people have moved away from me.  I have not really been able to talk with anyone regularly about the deep troubles in my heart.  I have had to learn to pour them out to my Father in prayer.  It is never usually one great big long prayer.....but lots of teeny prayers throughout the days.  It is hard sometimes when I do not feel supported or fed.  But He never leaves me hanging.  Like Peter when he was walking on the water, every time I get to the point where I just can't do it by myself and I am starting to sink, I call, and He reaches out to me.  He pulls me close and lets me cry and gives me enough encouragement to dust myself off and try again.  Which leads me to my last point......

7.  I can trust Him.  I do not trust anyone.  I allow people to participate in my life to an extent.  But I have never trusted most of them with all of my heart.  I have been hurt emotionally too many times by people who are suppose to protect me and love me.  It is an every day work and effort for me.  Every Day!  He wants me to share my best self with people.  I don't yet.  Because I know people are going to hurt me.....He is asking me to let others in.  I am afraid they will ruin the curtains and jump all over the furniture and graffiti on the walls of my soul.  I keep them at a distance, so they cannot do that to me.  He reminds me that even if they do those things to me, He will heal me.  He will always come.  He will never let me go.  Only I can let go of Him, but He will not let go of me......EVER!  He is God.  He cannot lie or He would not be God.  I can trust Him to take care of me, even when no one else will.  This has been the hardest doctrine of all to apply.  I forget it daily and need to be reminded.

I cannot believe I am writing.  I have not wanted to look that deeply into my soul but these things have been running around in there for quite a while.

I love teaching seminary!!  My class is GREAT this year!  We went from a class of six to a class of 16---pretty regularly!  We have 21 on the rolls and only one student has not shown up at least once.  I feel that is a huge success!  And we are at the point where the class talks together and communicates with one another.  We have seven sets of siblings, which provides its own unique challenges.  But we are working on it.

Now that I have ventured into my soul, maybe I will update you on real life in a few days.....maybe not.  I may still have more things to think about without putting it out on the blog.  But we will see.

Until then, just know that I know Jesus Christ heals.  He is real.  He knows you personally, all of you---heart, sorrow, sin, thoughts, beliefs......all of it.  You do not have to hide from Him.  He knows where you are anyway, so you might as well just face yourself in the mirror, acknowledge where you are, and decide to do what you need to to be who you want to be.
copyright:  Karen Larsen photography
It is so freeing to be true to yourself, especially when that truth is in line with His Truth!  Have a great weekend!


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Healing....

copyright: Karen Larsen photography
I had the impression that I needed to call my mother today.  That is fine.  I haven't spoken to her for a few months.  I made the call and we spoke.  We ended up speaking about things when I was a little girl.  I just rattled off some of the things I could remember:

  • Sitting in my mother's bedroom on her bed while the hailstorm poured outside of our house.  Eventually, the hail destroyed our front room window.  There was glass and hailstones all over the front room.  We never felt scared though because we were safe with my mother.
  • My brother setting the field on fire during a very dry Texas summer.  He went to the fire station to be scolded on being more safe with fire.  Instead he got to turn on the fire truck lights and slide down the pole.  I was so jealous, I considered lighting the field on fire.
  • My other little brother got his heel caught in the spokes of one of my parent's bicycles when they put him into the child seat and rode around.
  • My grandmother in Oregon made me a teddy bear for Christmas because I was living so far away from her.  I remember sticking my fingers through the wrapping paper and feeling his fur.
  • Throwing up outside of my mother's bedroom door, in the middle of the night, because I was sick.
  • The scorpion falling off of the ceiling and into my bowl of cereal.
  • Hiding and crying in my bedroom closet because my mother lost a baby and it was a boy and I wanted a sister (I already had three brothers at the time) and didn't think God loved me or was listening to the desires of my heart.
  • Jumping the fence on the side of the house and getting my shirt caught on the cap of my tooth.  When I jumped down, the cap came shooting off.  I searched in the grass for what seemed like a long, long time but couldn't find it.  Late that night, my mother noticed, asked me about it, I feigned ignorance and she was sure that I had swallowed it without knowing and insisted that we go to the hospital and x-ray my stomach looking for it.  It was in the grass on the side of the house.  I never told my mother, until I was married with many, many children.
  • Catching lizards and climbing trees.  One day we even caught an armadillo!  That was a great day!
copyright: Karen Larsen photography
As we were talking, it came up that I had spoken with my father on Father's Day.  We discussed my grandparents' accident and how it has and did affect my father.  My father actually shared some of his feelings with me that Father's Day.  My mother was surprised.  Then she told me some things about my grandparents and my father that I didn't know.
  • My grandfather visited bars every night after work.  My grandmother would send my father to the bar to bring my grandfather home, almost every night.
  • My grandfather didn't think that my father was capable of very much or that he had the skills necessary for helping him.  
  • My grandparents built a house.  My father was a plumber and had been taught to do that and some electrical work, and building skills by my uncle who was a contractor.  My father offered to help his parents with the work and save them some money.  Grandpa didn't think Dad could do it and hired a contractor instead of accepting my father's offer for assistance.
  • My father won't accept responsibility for anything being his fault.....my brothers struggle with the same thing.  On the flip side, the women all accept more than their fare share of responsibility, even for things that are not their fault.
  • My mother tried to get my father to attend counselling for their marriage.  He wouldn't go and said there wasn't a problem.
  • My mother tried to get my dad to go on a second honeymoon.  My dad wouldn't do that either.  Part of the reason was because the money came from my grandparents' estate.
As we continued to talk about my dad and the things my mother knew that I had no clue about, my understanding and compassion toward my father grew.  I recognized how hard life must have been for him.  How unloved he must have felt and probably does feel.  His brother and sister rarely talk to him.  His parents are deceased.  My mother left him.  He feels like I abandoned him also, and many of my siblings can only handle so much of his toxicity before they have had enough and need some space.
copyright: Karen Larsen photography
Over the last year, I have learned a lot of things about my father that I didn't know.  The information is helping to change my perspective of who he is and where he is and what are realistic expectations to have of him.  I am more capable of managing conversations with him, especially when he says something intended to hurt me.  I can let the comments roll off, and even better, I can place appropriate responsibility for behavior where it lies.  I can take what is mine, and I can give what is his back to him without accepting what isn't mine and without being mean or hurtful.  Those skills have been invaluable in building something between us.  

The Lord has given me time and space to develop into a person who can manage some abuse and then appropriately place it back where it belongs without doing harm.  Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the doctrines of the gospel, I am more capable of properly handling negative emotion and abuse, without it affecting me like it used to.  I am healing.  Hopefully, I will be able to share some of those things with my father, and he will be able to heal also.

The other miracle that happened in our conversation, was that for the first time, my mother admitted that she had made bad choices that hurt her family.  In all of our conversations in the past, she has not expressed what happened in those words, where she said, I did this, and I shouldn't have.  That is healing to me as well.  I don't need her to apologize.  I just have wanted her to recognize that her decisions affected the rest of us and she was in control. She could have made a different choice.  Now, she can completely repent, heal and let go.  

I am so grateful for the principles of the gospel!!  How amazing they are when we live them and allow them to penetrate our hearts and become a part of who we are.  I am so grateful for Jesus Christ and His example of how to treat people who do wrong to us, and shows us how to forgive and then gives us an opportunity to practice!




Sunday, June 26, 2016

Believe.....

copyright: Karen Larsen photography
With all of the desperate needs in the world, I struggle to believe that I deserve to have certain blessings in life.  A few weeks ago, I read (on CNN because that is the only place I ever read the news) how Venezuela was having rolling black outs because their major source of electricity to power their state is a river and because of the drought, their river is all dried up.  For a while, it was just an hour or two a day, now it is days in a row.  Businesses are shutting down because they cannot keep running without electricity, so people are not working as much.  They showed a typical home, with all of the electronics we have....stereos, computers, stoves, air conditioning, television, lights.....all just sitting there because there was no electricity to power their appliances.  Can you imagine how uncomfortably hot and nasty it must be in a South American country without air conditioning?  I can't even think about it.  I am completely spoiled here in Northern California when we all think we are dying of heat when it hits 75.......if ever.

A few days ago, I read about how Argentinians are missing work and school to stand in line to purchase food.  Adults are eating only one meal a day, or skipping a day of food so there is enough food for the children.  And the children aren't getting enough food either.  The economy is collapsing in Argentina and the people are suffering, especially the children who do not have enough nutrition to be growing properly.

And then of course, there are the horrible atrocities happening across the globe with sex slavery, ISIS trying to establish a global Shariah law, famine in various lands, and the natural disasters that occur all over and kill people and make them homeless--even just those things in our own communities here in the United States.

I attended a city council meeting this week because Speedy needed to be there for a class.  Our gas taxes have been paying for the street sweeper.  Our city council has outsourced that to the garbage company here in the area.  Of course, that is going to make our garbage prices rise (I am not speculating...that was part of the discussion at the meeting.....).  And they approved doing a study to see how much our sewer and water prices should rise.  Of course, they are not going to return our gas taxes.  The city has other plans for that money.  So they plan on raising our rates for these services, and they have our police department clearing out the homeless population instead of being available for things like traffic accidents and burglaries.  We had a friend in an accident, who rolled his car and sat unconscious, upside down, for 15 minutes before the police arrived, in traffic.  But we are sending three to four patrols through the homeless population area each day.  What is wrong with us?  If you are going to raise my taxes and my rates, I don't want to pay them to the garbage man and the sewer people.  I want that money to go to the police and the people who are actually helping our homeless population.  How about hiring some of those people to sweep the streets so they have a job and can house their families?  I need to write a letter to our city council.....I know, I know.....I will get to that.

But with all of these bigger problems (much bigger than the stresses that I have), I struggle to feel like I deserve to have a life with a lot of material blessings and plenty of monetary resources.  I want all people to have food, shelter, love.  I want that for every person across the globe.  And when so many have so little, I feel undeserving of asking or having more.

For the first time, in a long time, my husband took me out to dinner.  We just got Chinese take-out and went and ate it at the beach.  Why did we do it?  Because for the first time in our married lives we are finally out of credit card debt.  Now, just so you have some kind of a perspective, Drew and I have never purchased anything that cost more than $250, in all of our married lives. We have purchased one car that cost $2,000 for which we made $50 monthly payments....seriously.  That is the only car we have ever purchased.  We have never purchased a new TV, a bed, computer, or furniture that we have needed to pay more for than $250.  Isn't that crazy?  So it is not like we have been spending our money for things of no worth.  We have used it to buy shoes, fix the car, or go to the dentist, or purchase necessary clothing---by that I mean a pair of pants here or there---not wardrobes or even seasons of clothing.

We are not out of debt.  We still have student loans we are working on.  And we do not have a mortgage.

The Lord has been trying to help me see that contrary to the way the world works, His desire is that all of His children have everything that He does.  He wants everyone to have enough clothing, shelter, food, and love too.  He does not want some to suffer and have nothing and starve or freeze, and others to have everything.  That is not His program......it is how unrighteous stewards have managed the resources that are available.  There is enough on the earth for all of us and more.  The Lord has provided that.  As an all-wise, all-knowing, all-loving Father, He does not want some of His children to have more than others.  He desires all of us to have everything we need and much of what we want.  How do I know?  Well, scriptures like this:
copyright: Karen Larsen photography
D&C 104:17
 17 For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, prepared all 
things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.

Matthew 5:45
45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh 
his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

Matthew 6:25-34
 25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life,what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat,and the body than raiment?
 26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
 27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
 28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
 29 And yet say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
 30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, ye of little faith?
 31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat?or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousnessand all these things shall be added unto you.

 34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
copyright: Karen Larsen photgraphy
And who could forget King Benjamin?  Mosiah 2: 10-26
10 have not commanded you to come up hither that ye should fear meor that ye should think that of myself am more than mortal man.
 11 But am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind; yet have been chosen by this people, and consecrated by my father, and was suffered by the hand of the Lord that should be ruler and king over this people; and have been kept and preserved by his matchless power, to serve you with all the might, mind and strength which the Lord hath granted unto me.
 12 say unto you that as have been suffered to spend my days in your service, even up to this time, and have not sought gold nor silver nor any manner of riches of you;
 13 Neither have suffered that ye should be confined in dungeons, nor that ye should make slaves one of another, nor that ye should murder, or plunder, or steal, or commit adultery; nor even have suffered that ye should commit any manner of wickedness, and have taught you that ye should keep the commandments of the Lord, in all things which he hath commanded you—
 14 And even I, myself, have labored with mine own hands that might serve you, and that ye should not be laden with taxes, and that there should nothing come upon you which was grievous to be borne—and of all these things which have spoken, ye yourselves are witnesses this day.
 15 Yet, my brethren, have not done these things that might boastneither do tell these things that thereby might accuse you; but tell you these things that ye may know that can answer clear conscience before God this day.
 16 Behold, say unto you that because said unto you that had spent my days in your service, do not desire to boast, for have only been in the service of God.
 17 And behold, tell you these things that ye may learn wisdomthat ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.
 18 Behold, ye have called me your king; and if I, whom ye call your king, do labor to serve you, then ought not ye to labor to serve one another?
 19 And behold also, if I, whom ye call your king, who has spent his days in your service, and yet has been in the service of God, do merit any thanks from you, how you ought to thank your heavenly King!
 20 say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice,and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another—
 21 say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breaththat ye may live and move and do according to your own willand even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.
 22 And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.
 23 And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.
 24 And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you.And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be,forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?
 25 And now ask, can ye say aught of yourselves? answer you, Nay. Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; yet ye were created of the dust of the earth; but behold, it belongeth to him who created you.
 26 And I, even I, whom ye call your king, am no better than ye yourselves are; for am also of the dust. 
These scriptures help me to know that our Father in Heaven is a loving and gracious Father who desires His children, all of them, to have the things they need and to be treated kindly, justly, and with respect.  That is not the reality for most of us.  It is the ideal.  Why?  Why is life like this?
copyright:  Karen Larsen photography
Elder Alexander B. Morrison asks the same question:
Troubles, great and small, seem to be the natural lot of mankind. In our darkest moments, we may agree with Macbeth’s declaration that life is “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” (William Shakespeare, Macbeth, 5.5.27–28). However, the scriptures and God’s prophets teach us the fallacy of Macbeth’s bleak philosophy and help us recognize that what we call life is gift of galactic dimensions, treasure beyond the counting, time to prepare for the next steps in our eternal journey.
In Alma 34:32–33  we read: “For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea,behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors. … This day oflife is given us to prepare for eternity” (emphasis added). Helaman told his sons Nephi and Lehi, “And now my sons, … [my]desire is, that ye may … lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven, yea, which is eternal, and which fadeth not away; yea, that ye may have that precious gift of eternal life, which we have reason to suppose hath been given to our fathers” (Hel.5:8).
bear my witness that life is a gift, unfolding day by day, and, yes, it is sometimes full of sound and fury—but signifying everything. At this season of gift giving and gift receiving, this season of rejoicing in the great gifts that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have given us, it is most fitting to ponder their greatest gift of all—the gift of life.
What, then, is the meaning of life? What are its central purposes? Can they ever be identified and understood by mortals? These are questions which in one form or another have occupied the time and attention of thoughtful men and women throughout the ages. 
He suggests four reasons for life on earth:
1. To gain a body
2.  To be tried and tested
3.  To become like Jesus Christ
4. To establish our eternal families.
Regardless of our circumstances, these are central purposes to all of us who live or who have ever lived on Earth.  We all have the opportunity to forgive others, become the spiritual master of our temporal flesh, to learn to treat others kindly and justly even in the face of persecution and judgement.   And many of us, as we come to know who God is and what He expects of us, will have the opportunity to create eternal families as we become worthy to enter His holy temples and take our families there to be sealed eternally.  
The trick is to believe that these things are possible for us and then to act in faith on the hope that we will one day, regardless of our circumstances, achieve these blessings that He has promised to all those who will obey His voice and keep His commandments, which includes receiving all that the Father hath....
copyright:  Karen Larsen photography
D&C 84:33-38
33 For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.
 34 They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abrahamand the church and kingdom, and the elect of God.
 35 And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord;
 36 For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me;
 37 And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father;
Have a great Sabbath...and believe that the Lord loves you and desires you to have all He hath...if you are willing to do what He asks.