Guest Post: What’s in a Name—Evelyn Grace

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Our daughters Isla (6 yrs old) and Evelyn

I’ve been asked a number of times where the inspiration for Evelyn’s name came from so I figured it was time to write it down. The explanation for her first name is easy: she shares this name with her great grandmother, Evelyn Darlene Hargiss. It’s a beautiful name. The not-so-simple explanation is needed for her middle name, Grace. This name holds particular meaning for Michael and I as it is a name inspired by all it took to bring this beautiful person into the world and into our lives.

In December of 2015 Michael and I began feeling that the time had come for us to have another child—that there was, in fact, a child waiting to come into our family. Despite my many reservations and fears (products of a difficult first pregnancy and even more challenging postpartum depression/anxiety), we decided to trust the Lord and begin trying. In mid-March I found out I was pregnant, and a week later I entered the hell of hyperemesis gravidarum. For those unfamiliar with this disease, it is severe nausea and vomiting that afflicts about 1% of pregnant women. Unlike “morning sickness,” this nausea and vomiting is constant. For ten weeks I laid in bed, unable to keep any food down. I lost 40 lbs. The muscles in my legs atrophied, and were used as food by my body for the baby. Most days I had trouble keeping even water down, and spent quite a bit of time at the hospital getting fluids. My digestive system shut down. My kidneys were beginning to fail. The feeding tube they put in (horrible) just made things worse, so I took it out. I was dying. But I didn’t. As suddenly as the sickness began, it stopped. My nausea medication started working. I stopped throwing up. My body began the painful and frustrating process of recovering. Then about two months later, as my belly finally started growing and my body was stretching, the constant pain in my legs and hips started. The heartburn got worse. The insomnia set in. Constant discomfort and pain. Hormones coursing through my body making me feel like I was going crazy. And for as horrible as all of that was, for as often as I cursed my body and sometimes wished I had never gotten pregnant, I have never been so richly blessed or seen so many miracles.

I felt the Lord’s love in the combined faith of those who prayed on my behalf. I saw so much of the Lord’s love in my husband as he cared for me. When people would bring dinner over for Michael and Isla, I saw His love. When people would stop Michael in the hallway at church and tell him they were praying for us, I felt His love. When I would get text messages from friends and family letting me know they hadn’t forgotten about me and were praying for me, I felt His love. That love sustained me. It saved my marriage, and my life. It took care of Isla when I wasn’t physically able to. And it is bringing me back to health.

I feel my Heavenly Father’s and Savior’s approval and love now as I recover. I feel it when I am being way too hard on myself for not being able to do more—for not cleaning enough, not cooking enough, not playing with Isla enough, not being more patient with Isla, etc. I feel it when I get frustrated that my hips still send pain shooting down my legs when I put my pants on in the morning. I feel it when hormones overtake my mind and I feel crazy or depressed or intensely irritable, and They remind me that it won’t last forever. And then I feel it again when I realize I’m being spared from experiencing postpartum depression.

And that is why Grace. Because when I look at Evelyn, I am reminded that His Grace hasn’t just saved me. It saved her mortal life as well. It allowed me to carry her to term. It allowed me to have the most beautiful delivery and to experience some of the most profound joy I’ve ever felt as I saw and held her for the first time. I get to be her mother because of His love and Grace. And I get to keep on loving Michael and Isla and experiencing my life with theirs. This has been an exceptionally challenging period of time, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. And I never want to forget what happened, the good and the bad. Being saved by Grace doesn’t mean as much if you can’t remember or longer appreciate what you’ve been saved from.

Jessica Hargiss

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Free Food

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I’ve been reading the first five chapters of Mosiah. These words of Christ are pure and simple. They uplift me. They fill my soul with peace. I just can’t get enough!

He freely offers and provides a feast that never ends.

“And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free. There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives. …

“I say unto you, I would that ye should remember to retain the name written always in your hearts, that ye are not found on the left hand of God, but that ye hear and know the voice by which ye shall be called, and also, the name by which he shall call you.

“For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?”

Always

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Photograph by iStock/Thinkstock

 

It’s late, but I like to pretend I’m still young, so I’ll share some of my thoughts. :)  I am tired though and I know from experience the consequences of unwisely choosing to begin a work week without adequate rest. I’ll keep this brief.

“I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.”

Today was a good day. Our bishop gave an incredible talk in church about doubt, faith, weakness, and grace, among other things. I needed to be taught and hear these principles.

On numerous occasions throughout the past few months I’ve had reason to doubt why God would give me these trials. I’ve felt overwhelmed by fear that I would lose my wife to this pregnancy, or that we would lose our new baby, or that I would lose them both.

This kind of trepidation was new to me. Before recent events, I couldn’t fully understand the depth of doubt inherent in simply fearing for a loved one’s life. I know that fear now, and it is powerful! But by the grace of God I have gained a testimony of principles more powerful than fear. I want to share my testimony with you.

Many times in the last few months I have felt moments of distress and even anger. I’ve also felt sudden surges of joy and peace. I have learned that life guarantees the former. Disquietude, fear, uncertainty—these are inevitable, and I anticipate I’ll get more than my fill of them. I think we all will and do.

The moments of comfort and reassurance came too. They came amidst my roller coaster of imperfect faith as I struggled to place my trust in a painful plan. As the trial extended over several weeks, a pattern emerged and the Lord mercifully showed it to me. He showed me something I didn’t expect.

I’ve learned that I shouldn’t feel guilty for experiencing doubt. Undoubtedly, doubt is a good thing to experience. Doubt gives me the chance to exercise my faith. Without doubt, I would have no cause to trust. In fact, without doubt I could never learn to trust.

With that concept in mind, I’ve learned that my faith cannot exist without doubt. Indeed, what is faith but an open admission of doubt coupled with a determination to trust?

Like many principles of the gospel, this one seems a paradox to me. But it is true nonetheless. And just as assuredly as life brings pain and suffering, faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement brings relief, peace, and even joy. It always brings these things!

I know this is true because I am living it! When I place my faith in my Savior, when I share my doubts and fears with my Father in Heaven, They always encourage me. Always!

When I seek guidance and wisdom to know how I can better care for my wife and children, They always give it to me.

When I ask for Their blessing that I will do my job well during these trials so that I can provide for my family, They always give it to me.

When I sincerely plead for forgiveness after losing my temper and patience, They always give it to me.

When my trials scare me and I feel discouraged by my imperfect and weak faith, and I think that choosing to move forward in faith would not make sense… when I pray for faith and help to move forward anyway, They always give it to me.

“Therefore, ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; for he that asketh, receiveth; and unto him that knocketh, it shall be opened.”  – Jesus Christ, 3 Nephi 27:29

I am a witness of God’s love for His children because I know He loves me and my family. He teaches me this repeatedly, daily even. I can depend on His every word. The more I choose to trust Him instead of my doubts, the more He shows me just how trustworthy He truly is.

These trials are hard, but they no longer feel impossible because I know the Lord is with me.

“And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.

“And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions” (Mosiah 24:13 – 14, emphasis added).

 

Babies and Valleys

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My wife and I recently learned we’re having another child. I wanted to scream for joy when she told me (which I did after we ended our phone call). I love being a father and I’ve wanted to have another child when the time was right. Apparently the time is right!

My dear wife suffers immensely during pregnancy. I won’t go into details but suffice it to say the doctor has officially diagnosed her with a rare condition. It’s so rare, in fact, that literally 1% of pregnant women experience it. Her suffering pains me. Between the pain, drugs, and dehydration, she’s left bedridden and unable to care for herself in many ways.

As I care for her, I find myself experiencing my own suffering. It pales in comparison to hers, but I understand it’s just as real. I feel lonely. I miss my friend and life companion. I struggle to balance my family’s needs with my own needs, work, and cleaning the house. My daughter needs more attention than I can give. I see her suffering and it pains me. I wish I could do more for her and Jess.

I’ve never felt so much weight on my shoulders. I’ve never felt so stretched. As our family’s trial continues I find myself wanting to turn to my addiction more, and I find myself depending on the Lord more fully and more willingly. I would be lost without Him. I have felt His sustaining hand daily.

I want to be a good husband for Jess and a good father for Isla and I can’t do either without taking care of myself. Making time for my own spiritual, emotional, and physical health has proven essential to my ability to move forward.

These trials have called on my best faith. Trusting the Lord’s plan for my family, trusting that this pain and suffering is for our good if we remain faithful, and trusting when I wake up every morning that He will get me through the day has been a difficult and continual decision.

I fear that I’ll relapse. I fear that I’ll fail in my responsibilities at home and at work. I fear that my failures will exacerbate my family’s suffering and add to their burdens. Most of all I fear that I’ll relapse, and that such an event would trigger an overwhelming avalanche of doubt and pain for my wife and me.

As I seek to trust in God, I am intrigued by the principle of grace. I know grace is real because I’ve felt it. I’ve felt the complete draining of my body and spirit only three hours into a Monday, followed by the encouragement received in that moment upon praying for help, and later the astonishment of reaching the end of the day with the sudden realization that the world is still turning, I didn’t yell at my daughter as much as I did the day before, and I didn’t turn to pornography.

I’ve been studying the ink out of the scriptural accounts of Alma’s people and Limhi’s people in the Book of Mormon. This has been a topic of study for me since my fifth month serving as a missionary, but not so intensely important to me as it is now.

I want to understand why the Lord paved the way for Alma and his people to obtain freedom from suffering and bondage, and why He helped and ultimately delivered King Limhi’s people as well, but noticeably not in the same manner. I need to understand why.

The Lord mercifully continues to teach me and answer my sincere questions despite my impatience and doubts. In some moments I even feel angry with Him. Yet He remains ever ready to comfort and succor me, to run to my aid in the very moment I turn to Him.

I do feel that these trials are for my good and the good of my family inasmuch as we faithfully endure them. I’m trying to take it all one day at a time.

The Lord is my Shepherd.

The Lord is my Shepherd;

I shall not want.

He maketh me lie down in green pastures.

He leadeth me beside still waters.

He restoreth my soul,

He leadeth me.

He leadeth me;

I shall not want.

 

The Lord is my Shepherd.

The Lord is my Shepherd;

I shall not, I shall not want

Thou prepares a table before me

Within presence of mine enemy,

Thou anointest my head;

My cup runneth over, runneth over

I shall not want.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil;

I will fear no evil For thou art with me;

For thou art with me!

Thou comfortest me; I shall not want.

 

The Lord is my Shepherd.

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.

Surely goodness and mercy

Shall follow me all my life,

And I will dwell in the house, the house of Lord,

Forever, forever, forever, forever.

I shall not want. I shall not want, I shall not want.

— “I Shall Not Want,” a song based on Psalm 23

 

“By the Light of Grace”

Click here to get a free copy of “By the Light of Grace.” I just ordered one for myself and I’m looking forward to reading it.

The author’s name is Sidreis. She shares her personal experiences as an LDS woman in recovery from a sexual addiction. Her blog posts (bythelightofgrace.com) have helped me through many a despair and doldrum. In fact, reading her blog inspired me to start my own.

Her book is free for today.  Kindle only, but Amazon has a free Kindle reader app for any device out there.

Michael

Sponsorship

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On 10 February 2014, I met my sponsor and began my journey with arpsupport.org. My sponsor has been a tremendous help to me. He’s helped me apply the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ to meet my needs and fill my soul. My God is rescuing me from my sins,  addictions, and weaknesses. He is changing me and my life. I would not enjoy these blessings today if it weren’t for my sponsor.

Matt over at EmbracingPowerlessness.com offers an insightful analogy to help explain why we addicts need a sponsor, aka support person. It’s a great read. Plus, it references Star Wars, so at the very least we know it’s high quality. :)

Today I became a sponsor. I am afraid. I am inadequate. But I know in my heart that my God will enable me to do this. Through His grace, I can do all things. Because of Him, I can testify of the healing and delivering power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. And I want to help. I want my brothers to know that they’re not alone. I want them to experience the Lord’s grace as I have.

May God bless me with the faith and power to do this according to His will!

Threads and Pennies

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For years I watched the thread of hope dangling above my head—the hope that recovery could happen for me. I tried repeatedly to grab it and hold on for dear life (literally) only to grow weary of my white knuckle grip and fall. After a few hundred falls I dared not attempt to hold on anymore. I was too afraid of more heartbreak and disappointment. This time around, however, feels different.

Tomorrow will mark one hundred days of sobriety for me. The 12 Steps are working!

  1. Honesty: I admitted that I, of myself, am powerless to overcome my addictions and that my life has become unmanageable.
  2. Hope: I came to believe that the power of God can restore me to complete spiritual health.
  3. Trust in God: I decided to turn my will and my life over to the care of God the Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.
  4. Truth: I made a searching and fearless written moral inventory of myself.
  5. Confession: I admitted to myself, to my Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ, to proper priesthood authority, and to another person the exact nature of my wrongs.
  6. Change of Heart: I became entirely ready to have God remove all my character weaknesses.
  7. Humility: I humbly asked Heavenly Father to remove my shortcomings.
  8. Seeking Forgiveness: I made a written list of all persons I have harmed and became willing to make restitution to them.
  9. Restitution and Reconciliation: Wherever possible, I am making direct restitution to all persons I have harmed.

(Obviously, I’m on Step 9. You can read the rest of the steps here.)

I read through these steps and their simplicity floors me. Make no mistake—I have done nothing to earn the precious gift of recovery! It is a gift. I don’t deserve recovery. I thank my God I don’t get what I deserve!

Continue reading

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Abide with me!

Abide with me! fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens. Lord, with me abide!
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me!

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day.
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away.
Change and decay in all around I see;
O thou who changest not, abide with me!

I need thy presence ev’ry passing hour.
What but thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?
Who, like thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Thru cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me!

Click here to hear the music.

Text: Henry F. Lyte, 1793-1847

Music: William H. Monk, 1823-1889

“Of a truth thou art the Son of God”

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Heavenly Father just helped me through a very powerful temptation. Almost two seconds (not kidding) after my wife left for her support group meeting tonight, the devil launched one heck of an assault on me. I felt overwhelmed. I am grateful to God for giving me the awareness to see what was happening and what my brain was doing: starting my ritual for acting out.

I have learned that transparency and honesty are effective tools for keeping the adversary and my addictions at bay, so I immediately prayed for strength and reached out to my sponsor. I also knew that sitting idly and silently never ends well for me, so I turned on some peaceful tunes and started doing bodyweight exercises in my dining room. That helped me stay connected to the Lord and remain mentally awake.

As I was exercising and praying I still felt the overwhelming pull of my addictions. It felt more like repeated tugging or yanking, really… like a tide of irresistible yearning, first subsiding and then consuming me with alarming strength. I felt so powerless. But the music and exercise were still helping me stay focused on the Lord and grounded in reality instead of being lulled into complacency or swallowed up in fear.

I continued praying, exercising, and texting with my sponsor until I felt a sudden peaceful invitation to kneel and pray. I stopped what I was doing and did just that. Immediately Heavenly Father lifted the burden of stress and fear from my heart and mind. I felt His calming assurance that He is with me and will not forsake me. I felt loved. I felt important to Him. The overwhelming pull of my addictions was gone.

I feel so relieved and grateful! My fear and anxiety have been replaced with peace and reassurance. Talking with my sponsor really helped; I can’t emphasize that enough. I think any addict attempting recovery can relate to the insanity of the addiction once it’s triggered… it’s like my brain and body go on autopilot, the plane nose-dives into an immediate spin and I’m watching it go down in flames knowing that there’s nothing I can do to stop it. It’s a terrifying feeling.

That’s addiction! I am powerless! Once my brain flips the switch to auto-pilot-addict I can’t stop it. That’s not a cop-out, that’s just addiction. A cop-out would happen if I leave out this next part: God is NOT powerless! God CAN stop it! In fact, He took over my burning plane. I wanted to act out, so I submitted my will to my Heavenly Father and pleaded for Him to do for me what I cannot do for myself, and He took control. He did that for me tonight and I feel so grateful to Him for always being there when I need Him.

“Nevertheless, the Lord God showeth us our weakness that we may know that it is by his grace, and his great condescensions unto the children of men, that we have power to do these things” (The Book of Mormon, Jacob 4:6–7).

I’m reminded of the account of Peter walking on water… the man walked on water! Surely he did that with the Lord’s power and not his own. I feel like the Lord just enabled me to walk on water. The storms, wind, and waves of my addiction and the devil’s power were upon me and I was so very scared, and just like Peter, I cried out to Jesus Christ, “saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught [me], and said unto [me], O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” That’s what I felt when I knelt in prayer tonight—Heavenly Father lovingly reminding me that I don’t need to be afraid of my addictions because He will always be there for me. I’ll certainly keep my distance (of course), but I can move forward with complete trust in God’s ability to save and strengthen me.

Just as He strengthened His disciples’ faith that night on the stormy Sea of Galilee, He has strengthened mine. And just as his disciples proclaimed on that ship with Him, I feel I can proclaim with them:

And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.  Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God” (The Holy Bible, New Testament, Matthew 14:32-33).