Learning My Worth By Abiding in Christ

I have struggled with rejection, negative thinking, and a low self esteem most of my life. My parent were divorced when I was a child and I too have experienced divorced. I have been abandoned abused and I have felt totally worthless. Over the past few years I have learned through scripture study and the still small voice that my worth is not based on my determination of myself. 1 John 3:20-24 says:

“For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things…And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.”

Knowing this, I re-focus my thoughts on Christ and this helps me have an eternal perspective. I suddenly remember my potential and understand that I am much more valuable. I can hold my head higher and remind myself of who I am but most importantly who’s I am! I am a daughter of the One who created the moon and stars. Scripture says,

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Esphesians 2:8-10)

As I have reminded myself of these things, my fears of rejection melt away. I no longer see myself as a failure. My faith grows as I abide in Him. As I follow His commandments, I see myself become stronger and more like Christ.

In his last talk at the April 2017 General Conference Robert D Hales tells us what disciple of Jesus Christ is. He says:

“What does it mean to be a disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ? A disciple is one who has been baptized and is willing to take upon him or her the name of the Savior and follow Him. A disciple strives to become as He is by keeping His commandments in mortality, much the same as an apprentice seeks to become like his or her master.
Many people hear the word disciple and think it means only “follower.” But genuine discipleship is a state of being. This suggests more than studying and applying a list of individual attributes. Disciples live so that the characteristics of Christ are woven into the fiber of their beings, as into a spiritual tapestry.”

I think its very important that we remember who we are. We may have to remind ourselves daily and maybe more often. These characteristics that Elder Hales talked about come by way of abiding in Christ. How does one abide in Christ? Christ tells us in the book of John:

“I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit… If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.”

Christ asks us to abide in Him and we will bear much fruit. We learn from Paul about this fruit in Galatians 5,

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”

Although these attributes are attained through abiding in Christ, we are human beings and sometimes its harder for us to maintain this spiritual state of being. For example, after I have cleaned all the crayon marks off the walls at our house and the next day our precious little finds girl a broken crayon and draws pretty little pictures everywhere — this allows me to choose. Do I choose to get angry or do I choose to have patience and see this as an opportunity to grow? Sometimes I get angry and I yell out of frustration. When this happens I immediately recognize it and the Spirit lets me know that maybe this wasn’t the best way I could have handled the situation. That’s when I repent and try to do better.

I know that my worth is unshakable and that the Father loves me beyond measure. There is is nothing that I can do or think that will separate me from His love. Paul also says in Romans 8,

“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Knowing this keeps me going. I choose to follow His commandments because I love Him. I love that I am that valuable to Him. In return He blesses me with strength to endure day to day. I testify that understanding who you are and how much your Creator loves you helps you be a better disciple of Jesus Christ. Knowing that I am His, helps me have a better image of myself. My mind is set on Him and I can focus more on His plan for my life. Being His disciple. I know that anyone can be a disciple of Jesus Christ. And I know that as we abide in Him, the Spirit will guide us to be better disciples.

It’s Time To Encase Your Jagged Pill With JOY

The Hurt

He is so still. Snuggled up to him in bed, I gently put my hand on his back and wait. I wait to feel him inhale and exhale to make sure he is still alive. He is. My heart is broken for my husband who had been unwell for so long. He was 33, in the prime of life and working as an R&D scientist, when an experiment at work went wrong, leaving him in constant, unsolvable, untreatable, unbelievable pain.

Friends watched our two kids so I could take him to see specialists all over creation, hoping to find some kind of relief for him. Now three years later, not one of those twenty-two doctors, quasi-doctors, or pseudo-doctors has been able to help.

The amazing thing is he hasn’t complained. Not a peep. Ever. He can’t drink water, eat food, sit up straight, stand up straight, bend over, or walk without some level of discomfort. Every morning, I know when he’s waking up because he lets out a sharp gust of breath, telling me the pain woke up too, also ready for a new day. It is his constant companion.

When it first happened, I was doing the best I could to take care of our two kids (neither was in school yet), handle all the responsibilities of the home (including what I would definitely consider the “man chores”), and keep him alive. My own emotional pain increased as I watched him go from a fit, endurance cyclist to an emaciated shadow of himself. I was often overcome with worry, grief, and what-ifs. One of the stealthier what-ifs quietly hovered around the thought of becoming a widow. Months went by like this. He still wasn’t any better, and I was becoming threadbare.

I found myself falling in and out of anger. I was angry that this had happened. I was impatient for God to answer our prayers and just heal him already. Please?? Then I became despondent as more time passed and I realized that this might not just be a short-term detour. This might be the tour.

The Call

And then a phone rang. Would it be possible for me to meet with Bishop on Wednesday? Of course. Not being dullest knife in the drawer, I knew a new calling was waiting. What I had not expected was to be called as the Gospel Doctrine teacher. I can understand why most people aren’t thrilled about receiving a relatively intense calling during an already difficult time. It can seem overwhelming when there is already too much to stress out about. But, despite what was going on in my life, I immediately accepted. I would not allow doubt to sit down and order an appetizer.

It was the best thing that could have happened.

First, here’s what the calling does not do: It doesn’t allow my husband to eat homemade chicken pot pie—his favorite food in all of creation. It doesn’t decrease his pain in any form or fashion. It doesn’t keep my children from constantly squabbling. It doesn’t take me on dates because my husband couldn’t leave the house, even as birthdays and anniversaries came and went. It doesn’t do the dishes.

Here’s what it does: It takes my jagged pill of adversity and encases it in peace. I choose to take the work God wants me to do and do my real, actual, bona fide best. I throw myself headfirst into the scriptures to prepare each lesson. I shut off Netflix, put my fiction books in a stack to the side, ponder rather than rock out when I exercise, read from the manual, read the scriptures, read other sources, and don’t stop until I am satisfied with the result. I channel my best mental and spiritual energy into understanding the doctrine well enough to teach it clearly and to try to teach it in a way that makes those particular points of doctrine important, necessary, and beautiful.

And The Rest

My spirit is fed and energized as I work to prepare my lessons. I find I have fresh strength straight off the vine to put one foot in front of the other, to do the dishes for the 27th time this week, to be the tree my two little squirrels need to climb up, to be resilient enough to suspend my own emotional needs that my husband has become incapable of meeting, to handle coming home and finding him fighting off unconsciousness on the floor. Three years into this plot twist and his health issue has remained unchanged. I, however, have not.

Does this mean I have overcome my part in this story of adversity? I don’t know. Maybe that is the wrong question to ask. The verb often paired with trial, adversity, etc. is “overcome.” With “over,” there is an intrinsic and implicit understanding that the way is up. And after quite some time living with this gut punch, I have noticed that the view from where I am now standing is considerably different from the view from where I started. This adversity has changed my altitude. Up.

As an avid couch-sitting mountain climber (there’s not a Mt. Everest documentary on Netflix or YouTube that I haven’t seen), I know that high-peak climbers have to spend time within certain elevations to acclimatize their bodies before continuing up to areas that require greater strength, stamina, and skill. At first, I felt like my husband’s health challenge was surely a Mt. Everest-y trial for our family. But as my altitude began to change, my perspective also increased, and I saw that this was only one feature on a larger mountain still. This adversity is a skills course intentionally placed in the path and designed to help me and my family acquire, increase, and improve skills we need to survive the conditions ahead.

Like with real climbers, resting and acclimatizing are essential to making spiritual gains. Paradoxically, as I work to magnify my calling, my spirit rests. In the Old Testament, entering into “God’s rest” was synonymous with being in the presence of God. And being in the presence of God happens physically (more or less) by showing up on His doorstep at the temple to do temple work. It also happens when what I’m working on invites the Holy Ghost to come in without knocking.  When I need His presence—His rest—the most so I can keep going, He mercifully gives me the spiritual work to find it. I find it in synthesizing scriptures, I find it in preparing for my calling, I find it in service to others, I find it in playing the hymns on the piano, I find it in sharing clippings of my testimony on Facebook for all the digital world to read, I find it in strengthening someone else through kind words, I find it in temple work, family history work, and my family’s history-making work. This work—His work—brings me rest because through it I am sanctified, quickened, and healed.

Today is the day to encase your jagged pill with joy. Not just any kind of joy, but the joy of Christ. The joy of Christ is found in the emulation of him. Take your burden and wrap it with service, love, acts and words of kindness, staying true to the light in you by keeping the commandments you know the best you can, offering forgiveness, surrendering grudges, putting an arm around the lonely, praying for your friends, praying for people you can’t stand, verbalizing your gratitude for someone to that someone, strengthen the faith of another by filling an unmet need. The burden is still there, but you can no longer taste it. You taste the juicy sweetness of the fruits of the Spirit. You collect a crate of joy fruit for yourself and everyone in your life. This fruit will sustain you on your journey as you ascend the mountain of the Lord.

I know that I will find His rest someday at the very top of the mountain and stay there in His presence forever. Come with me.

 

You Are Worthy, Right Now, In the Body You Have

I was stunned. How is a person supposed to respond to something like that? I smiled weakly and muttered something about good genes and walked away. Rather than feeling flattered, I felt completely deflated.

If I had to do it over again, I’d probably do the exact same thing. I’m not good at face to face confrontation. But since I’ve been thinking about it for the last THREE YEARS, I should probably say something. And boy, do I have lots to say.

Because guys? “You are so skinny. I hate you,” is NOT a compliment. We can be better than that.

First of all, “skinny” means nothing. I know people of all shapes and sizes who are all levels of healthy and unhealthy. Tiny people who don’t take care of their bodies. Large people who have strength and stamina that I can only dream of. All bodies are different. If I tried to be as “skinny” as some of my friends, I’d be tremendously disproportionate (I’m six feet tall and they are not!) and definitely unhealthy. And if other friends tried to be as “skinny” as me, they’d be fighting an impossible battle with their genes and would definitely be unhealthy.

My being “skinny” is not the best goal. Healthy? Strong? Capable? Whole? Absolutely! But being skinny doesn’t mean a thing.

Because guess what: our bodies do not determine our worth.

Nor should the adjectives we use to describe our bodies make us feel more or less worthy.

I am tall. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? It depends. If you asked thirteen-year-old me, being tall is theee worst. Thirty-something-year-old me realizes it just is. I’m tall. There is no intrinsic value assigned to it; it’s just a word to describe my body.

It breaks my heart to hear women and girls call themselves “fat” in a tone of voice that make it synonymous with “evil” or “worthless.” It breaks my heart to hear their friends protest, “No! You’re so skinny!” as if that means, “No! You are marvelous!” As if “fat” is the worst thing a person could be. As if “skinny” is the only kind of person worth being.

News flash, y’all: Fat people are marvelous. Thin people are marvelous. In-between people are marvelous. All human beings have the potential to be pretty dang rad, no matter what their bodies look like. And quite frankly, we often have a lot more control over our capacity to be rad than we do over what size pants we wear.

Are you kind? Are you a hard-worker? Are you generous? Are you the kind of person who makes other people feel loved and appreciated? Are you bold and brave and willing to stand up for those who need to be defended? Are you trying to be a better person than you were yesterday? Then it doesn’t matter what size or shape you are! There are things you can do and gifts you can share that nobody else can.

You are worthy, right now, in the body you have.

We should never make assumptions about someone’s body. Never. Not about what it looks like. Not about any changes it has gone through. Our judgments, comparisons, and criticisms almost always come from a place of ignorance.

You see, my friend wasn’t wrong. I was quite thin. Within a few months of giving birth, I weighed less than I had in the more than ten years since graduating high school. Not because I was exercising and eating well and working really hard to lose my baby weight, though. Honestly, I wasn’t thinking about baby weight at all.

I was too busy dealing with yet undiagnosed postpartum depression and anxiety. 

Within a few months of giving birth, I lost nearly fifty pounds simply because I wasn’t eating enough. My depression killed my appetite and I was exclusively breastfeeding a large, hungry baby. The math is simple: I lost weight because my calorie output vastly exceeded my calorie input. It’s a wonder I was able to breastfeed as long as I did, because many women would have lost their milk supply if they ate as little as I did.

I really struggled with my body image during that time. All the external voices told me that losing weight was a good thing. My clothes were so loose I had to buy smaller sizes than I had worn since puberty. How exciting! I was more beautiful, more worthy because I was getting so thin!

The depression fed into that. “Nobody liked you until you lost all this weight. Maybe you should lose more, because you’re obviously still a loser. You’re a terrible mom and a terrible wife, but at least if you’re skinny you’ll be pretty.”

Deep down I knew that all of this was wrong. Depression lies. My worth is not based on my body. I wasn’t a loser or a bad mom/wife; I was just sick. I knew that. But it was really hard to believe it.

So when this person said, “You’re so skinny! I hate you!” what I heard was, “You’ll never be good enough and nobody loves you!” Those words crushed me. It has taken a long time for me to heal from those wounds.

My point is, you just never know. You never know what burdens people are carrying. Weight loss is not always a good thing. Weight gain is not always a bad thing. New clothes, a change in hairstyle, more or less makeup than usual…unless someone chooses to tell you why their body is the way it is, it’s just none of your business. And you really don’t need to comment on it.

There is no need to qualify a compliment.

Then there’s the problematic, “I hate you.”

When you offer someone a compliment, even a misguided or meaningless one, and follow it up with a statement like that, you completely undo any kindness. The sweetest words followed by “I hate you,” become downright cruel. You built someone up just to knock them flat on their back. Nobody needs that.

Tearing yourself down doesn’t make a compliment better, it just makes it about yourself. Comparisons imply or create unkind feelings. Adding “I hate you!” to a compliment just reinforces the false idea that women are always in competition with each other. That one woman’s success is something to be criticized rather than celebrated.

THAT ATTITUDE IS SERIOUSLY MESSED UP.

Do you know how much more we can accomplish when we work together? Do you know how much better this world would be if people rejoiced in one another’s triumphs instead of tearing each other down?

Other people’s awesomeness doesn’t diminish your capacity to be awesome.

Stop acting like it does. Don’t hate people because they have talents you don’t, or opportunities you want, or characteristics you’ve always wished for. Try being happy for them instead! And then go be grateful for the talents and opportunities and characteristics you DO have…because, like I said before, you are worthy just as you are!

I know now–and I knew then–that this person had good intentions. She wanted to pay me a compliment. Her execution was awful, no doubt, but I don’t hold it against her. Even if her words said otherwise, she didn’t really hate me, and she just wanted me to know I looked nice. I’ve learned over the years that I am far less offended by people when I always assume positive intent.

However, good intentions can only go so far. Let’s all think before we speak. Is it kind? Is it uplifting? Is it necessary? Do we really need to say anything about another person’s body?

Probably not. Because it just doesn’t matter. Skinny is just a word, not an assignment of value. Bodies do not determine worth.

And, as Thumper taught us when we were kids: if you can’t say something nice, you don’t need to say anything at all.

 

*The original version of this post was first published at Real Life On Purpose.

Letting Go of Perfectionism and Embracing the Process

Did your math teachers ever require you to show your work? I remember it being written across the top of each of my tests during my 8th grade year: SHOW YOUR WORK! Even if we got the problem wrong, we were given partial credit for writing our process.

Somewhere in the years between then and now, however, things have changed. Maybe not for math teachers, but for the rest of society. Now, it’s all about BEFORE and AFTER. “Before this product I was ____ but look at me now!” If you watch a show like Fixer Upper they fast forward through the process, glossing over the demolition and nasty rat poop under the floorboards, then quickly take you to the magazine worthy (though not lived in) home. Other than Bob Ross, what artist do you know who showed their process? Other than close friends and family, who ever tells you that they’re doing therapy? When was the last time that someone who wronged you (intentionally or not) apologized and talked it out with you?

Perhaps our highly edited world has perpetuated the idea that change happens overnight, perfection is attainable and admitting our faults is unacceptable. But I’m gonna say that my 8th grade math teacher had it more right.

My kids need to see me fail, try again, fail, try again, fail, try again, etc.

My kids need to hear me admit that something is hard for me.

My kids need to see me get mad/grumpy and not handle things well, then apologize and try to work through my feelings.

My kids need to see me disagree with their dad and watch us work through our differences.

My kids need to see that I can still be gentle with myself when I’m not satisfied with my body/temper/cooking/whatever.

We shouldn’t be ashamed of being incomplete. Failure may be painful, but it doesn’t have to be shameful. It’s more important that our kids see our grit to keep trying than that they see our success. Successes are really just ‘rest areas’ on the scenic highway of our lives where we can get out, stretch our legs and take in the scenery. Most of our journey is a long road with flat tires, gas stations and traffic. But we can make it more pleasant with good company and by choosing to see the lovely scenery we pass through.

“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”

― Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heartfelt Advice for Hard Times

I’m learning that peace and anxiety can coexist. Gratitude and yearning can coexist. Happiness and stress can coexist. And if that wasn’t all strange enough… I’m learning that happiness doesn’t always feel happy. At least not in the expected ways.

Since everyone else is on their own highway with potholes as well, whats the matter with acknowledging that we are all hitting them? It seems to me that its easier to notice the blue skies or the mountain vistas when I don’t feel alone. “Showing our work” doesn’t mean advertising our weaknesses, it means relating to one another’s humanity and saying “me too!”

I yelled at my precious darlings.

Me too!

I’m worried about money.

Ugh, same!

I argued with my husband today.

Been there!

I often wonder if I’m “enough” and other times if I’m “too much”.

I hear you.

“Showing our work” is really just another way of fulfilling that baptismal covenant we made to “mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort”. It’s freeing to let go of perfectionism and allow ourselves space for our flaws…. space for our growth… space for connection.

*This essay was originally published at Christy’s personal blog, The Dispencery.