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The Portal to Progression

With God, through prayer, all things are possible, and without prayer we lack the power to progress. Prayer is the portal to progression. As Elder Kevin W. Pearson taught: “Without prayer, there is no possible return to the Father. Without prayer, repentance, forgiveness, and the cleansing power of the Atonement are unattainable. Without prayer, sufficient faith to understand and keep the commandments is impossible. Without prayer, the necessary spiritual power to avoid temptation and overcome trials and adversity would be unavailable.”

Read the full article here.

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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

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

 

The Roots of Addiction

I’ve been working on Steps 8 and 9 recently, which include forgiving others and seeking forgiveness for all the wrongs I’ve done throughout my addiction.  It’s been very difficult for me… much more difficult than I had anticipated.  Working these steps and recalling so many painful memories has directed my thoughts towards a question that I think both addicts seeking recovery and their loved ones have contemplated at least once:  “How could an honest addict ever relapse?” 

I can only share what I’ve learned and am learning, so I don’t pretend to have all the answers.  I think there’s more to this question than what I’m about to discuss; but I think the following still merits consideration.  It’s helped me, at least.

This is from an article written by the folks over at the Sexual Recovery Institute.  It’s titled, “Sex Addiction: An Imperfect Path to Recovery“:

“While recovering alcoholics do the work to avoid taking a drink, and recovering drug addicts do the work to avoid using their substance of choice, the work a sex addict must do is different and possibly more complicated. [Sex] is a part of our lives simply by virtue of being human….

Working with oneself around sexual feelings, urges, and triggers is an important part of recovery and may well take a lifetime. In fact, it is not unheard of for people to continue to have patterns of addiction even after libido diminishes or sexual function fails; the root of sexual addiction is almost never about sex…” (emphasis added).

The article contains a few incongruities with the gospel of Jesus Christ (which I attempted to filter from the above excerpt), but I like the key points it makes.  I think this sentence especially deserves attention: “…the root of sexual addiction is almost never about sex.”

From what I’ve learned about addiction, the aforementioned principle applies to any type of addiction.  “The root of eating addiction/disorders is almost never about food.”  “The root of drug addiction is almost never about drugs.”  “The root of alcohol addiction is almost never about alcohol.”

The LDS Addiction Recovery Guide shares the following insight:

Your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs are actually the roots of your addictive behaviors. Unless you examine all your tendencies toward fear, pride, resentment, anger, self-will, and self-pity, your abstinence will be shaky at best. You will continue with your original addiction or switch to another one. Your addiction is a symptom of other ’causes and conditions’ (Alcoholics Anonymous [2001], 64)” (Step 4, p. 21, emphasis added).

What are the “causes and conditions” that hide behind addiction?  I think they vary and depend on the addict.  No two persons’ lives are the same, and neither are their challenges or weaknesses.  For myself (based on what I’ve learned so far), my weaknesses of anger, lust, self-will, fear of rejection and abandonment, a warped sense of self-worth, and a genuine craving for acceptance and love all combined to make me a prime candidate for sexual addiction.  To be honest with myself, my past decisions to view pornography and indulge in inappropriate physical relationships also led to my addiction. 

But why did I ever attempt to use pornography to numb my ill thought patterns, nurse my depression and anguish, or distract myself from misguided beliefs about myself and others?   Why would anyone ever think to use alcohol or drugs or sex to self-medicate in order to handle life’s real problems and pains?

My experience has been this: My recovery from addiction began when I started working the 12 Steps.  Why?  Because the 12 Steps help me discover, examine, and cope with my real problems… the ones that lurk underneath my addictive thoughts and behaviors; and most importantly, they help me do so while wholly relying on a Power greater than myself.  Those real problems—my thoughts, feelings, and beliefs—were conceived in the fog of sin, the despair of depression, and the pains of a mortal life impacted by imperfect people, including myself. 

Facing these underlying problems is painful for me.  It involves digging up memories that I purposefully buried with my addiction.  It involves recalling hurts and pain and horrible experiences that I would much rather try to forget with distance and distraction.  I can only speak for myself, but I think this is one reason why recovery can be so difficult for an addict, and why an addict who is honestly seeking recovery can still be susceptible to temptation and prone to relapsing.  It’s not that the addict isn’t sincere.  It’s not that the addict doesn’t want it badly enough, or hasn’t considered the consequences, or isn’t trying hard enough.  It’s because recovery is painful.  It can be a grueling, bitter, even traumatic process, and it isn’t the same for every addict.  That’s why I’m learning that I simply cannot do it alone.  I am incapable, in fact.  I need my “Higher Power,” to quote the original AA 12 Steps.  I need my Savior, Jesus Christ.

Being an addict in recovery also has its rewards.  Today I’m more free of my addiction than I’ve ever been.  I can feel it.  I enjoy life more.  I feel more.  I have better relationships with my wife, my daughter, and my God.  I understand the Atonement of Jesus Christ better.  And the scriptures!  I feel like they were written just for me… just for an addict seeking recovery and salvation from addiction.  Thanks to my Heavenly Father and His Son, I now have hope.

Jesus Christ himself explains and promises:

“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27, Book of Mormon).

statue of Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ – statue