Wednesday, July 15, 2015

From the Ruins



From the Ruins
By Heather Larson (2015)

Let us reverence the hallowed zeal
Breathing in our bones;
Intrinsic and primal, waiting to be stirred.
And yet we hesitate and let our glances dart away -
Possibly fearing that same piercing moment,
When eyes meet
And barricaded hearts crash down.

We build the sanctuary anew
And house our sacred fears
Within an impenetrable vault
Built from the ruins of us both.


 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

"The Principle on Which the Government of Heaven is Conducted"



So often we don’t understand the plans and designs of God, but if we listen and do as He asks, all will be well for us. 

 “That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another. God said, ‘Thou shalt not kill;’ at another time He said, ‘Thou shalt utterly destroy.’ This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted – by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed. Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire. If we seek first the kingdom of God, all good things will be added. So with Solomon: first he asked wisdom, and God gave it him, and with it every desire of his heart, even things which might be considered abominable to all who understand the order of heaven only in part, but which in reality were right because God gave and sanctioned by special revelation.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith)

To put our trust in anything else besides God and the direction He gives us goes against the government of heaven and distances us from our personal relationship with deity. I have at times felt impeded in my spiritual development as I face the cognitive dissonance between what I am told by an institution vs. personal revelation and conscious. In trying to discern between what is of God, and what is of man, I have to rely on the evidence given in the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Every time I decide to follow what I know the Lord is telling me, I feel those fruits of the spirit. I feel peace, hope, confidence, and more. I see the Lord’s hand quite clearly in guiding me. When I fall back on heeding men rather than heeding God, I end up despairing and lost. So I know I have to follow my Lord no matter what, even if it doesn’t make sense to me. 

God will direct His children individually; we just have to trust Him and not anyone else. If we truly have the desire to have a personal relationship with Him, and grow in light and knowledge, and to become more like Christ, then we have to trust in and follow the revelation He gives us for our own lives. We can only trust in God and God alone. 

“For when men receive their instruction from Him that made them, they know how He will save them.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith)

following my path

Friday, May 22, 2015

Finding The Flow



Have you ever felt like life is an uphill trudge? Like you’re swimming against the current, not really getting to your destination? I know I’ve definitely felt like that at times, many times in fact. And I’ve pondered on it for some time, and thought of all the people I’ve known who have just seemed to naturally found the flow of life. Perhaps it isn’t life that is fighting against us, but it is we who refuse to believe that life, God, the universe, or what have you is trying to carry us in its current towards our divine destination. We just have to stop thinking we KNOW more than what that divine current is trying to tell us and just go with the flow. 


Our inner spirit and our God will often try to tell us to just go with it; to let our destination unfold before us. God will try to guide us, we just have to listen. Everything in this world testifies of its creator and the divine plan. If we watch the way water naturally flows down a hillside, we notice that water always takes the path of least resistance. It doesn’t fight its way up a hillside; it naturally flows downhill with the law of gravity. Maybe our own lives are supposed to flow with the natural laws just as easily, but we being out of tune with the divine order of the universe try to fight against it with our own reasoning. We can just go like water taking the path of least resistance. When we feel the resistance lessening, we realize we have found our flow. I don’t think the path of least resistance means easy, but I do think it means that it feels more natural and right (or intuitive). So why do we fight it?


In the Lectures on Faith, we are told that when we have knowledge that the course of life we are pursuing is in accordance with God’s will for us, then we grow in faith, confidence in God, and can partake in joy:


An actual knowledge to any person that the course of life which he pursues is according to the will of God, is essentially necessary to enable him to have that confidence in God, without which no person can obtain eternal life…Having the assurance that they were pursuing a course which was agreeable to the will of God, they were enabled to take, not only the spoiling of their goods, and the wasting of their substance, joyfully, but also to suffer death in its most horrid forms…Such was and always will be the situation of the saints of God, that unless they have an actual knowledge that the course that they are pursuing is according to the will of God, they will grow weary in their minds and faint;
This sounds like flow to me, or similar to the path of dharma. Deepak Chopra explains dharma and the path thusly:


Struggle appears to be against others or against yourself, but in reality it is always against dharma. In dharma there is no struggle…Choosing your own dharma determines completely how happy, successful, and loving you will be in your lifetime…By the standards of our culture, this is a startling statement, for we believe in randomness, accidents, and unforeseeable influences. We do not believe that spirit is constantly responding to our vision. On the path, however, these random elements are a mask. There are no accidents in spirit – everything happening around you is a reflection of your current spiritual state. If your spiritual state is confused, anxious, and doubtful, then there is limited power of dharma operating in your life. You are detached from the natural laws that are meant to uphold each person from birth to death…Dharma is a subtle, flexible, ever-changing guide, always sensitive to the next step that is meant for you and no one else. (The Path to Love)

When we just let go and let our life flow with the natural order it was intended to, we flow naturally through the path of least resistance, with the path of dharma, and we can know that we are living our lives in accordance to God’s will. If you’re not sure that you are living your life according to God’s will, ask Him in prayer. Do you feel like you’re constantly fighting an uphill battle? Then just let go of your ego and let God place you in the natural flow you’re supposed to be in. Can it really be that simple? Try it and find out. Don’t limit yourself by becoming corralled by man-made doctrine and traditions. God works in mysterious ways and sometimes our own ideas prevent us from hearing and understanding His will for us. The most amazing peace and confidence and trust in God does come when we choose to follow His will for us. He will let us know what is best for us, and doing His will becomes the path of least resistance because it is the natural flow for our lives. We can then live confidently and joyfully even amidst hardships because we have divine knowledge that Lord is on our side. There is truly no greater joy then knowing you are on a path that pleases God. So stop swimming upstream; let go and let God.

just go with the flow



Tuesday, May 12, 2015

What Matters?



One thing we all know for certain, and that is that we will all one day pass from this life into the next. If we are lucky enough to have lived through several decades, we will likely have accumulated a lot of stuff - from photo albums recording memories, to pots and pans, to cars and toys, to diamonds and designer handbags. Stuff. We may also accumulate accolades, diplomas, awards, certifications, and more; all just pieces of paper saying “Hey, I did this or that; I know something about this or that.” Does any of this really matter when we face our God and show Him what we have done with our time here on earth? 


My personal opinion? What really matters is that we have cultivated a character we will be comfortable bringing home to our God. When we stand before Him and our Savior, what will they see? Will they pat us on the back for our degrees, awards, cars, wealth, status? Or will we stand ashamed at all the time we wasted in not refining our character to be like Christ? All of Christ’s teachings pointed at loving and serving others, taking care of the flock, loving and serving God – not always an easy task given our naturally selfish mortal natures. But, there is so much beauty and wonder and ecstasy to be found when we accomplish even just small moments of pure altruism and selflessness; and we can feel the Lord’s approval in those moments.



I want to be like my Savior, yet I am so imperfect and mortal, given to selfishness and all those other human qualities. Yet we have a model to follow, the perfectly unselfish Jesus of Nazareth. In Matthew11:29-30, Christ invites us to yoke ourselves to Him and to learn of Him. By making covenants, we yoke or join ourselves with Him in accomplishing His work. But lately I’ve thought more about this “yoking” and what it means for me. I want to become like Christ, I want to develop those attributes of pure love (agape) for my fellow man, but being human I am not perfect at it yet. So I need the Lord’s help in accomplishing this. I can “yoke” myself to Christ by remembering that He will absolutely help me in accomplishing righteous desires. He will walk along side me and teach me how to be like Him. He will remind me when I’m being impatient with someone, when I am thinking unkindly of someone, or when I am neglecting service to others. He will show me through scripture and through the whispering of the Spirit how to act and how to love others. It is then only up to me to follow Him and do my part, bearing my own weight in pulling the yoke; and He promises to be there alongside me every step of the way.


One day we will all return home to our Heavenly Father, what will we have to show for our time on earth? Our learning and knowledge gained will be a great thing to show, we can surely take that with us. Yet, I wonder what will we truly be more proud (for the lack of a better word) of, showing an omniscient God a few things we learned, or showing an infinitely loving God that we did all we could to develop the pure love of Christ within our own character. Is what we learned and gained more valuable than how we loved and treated others?



If we look at all of Christ’s teachings, it is not what we accumulated, what we know, or how perfectly we performed the requirements of laws and ordinances. If we do not love God and our neighbor by developing Christlike charity, we won’t have much to show for ourselves upon our Heavenly homecoming. It may sound like an impossible task to become as perfectly loving as the Savior is, but we don’t have to be perfect because when we just try and we yoke ourselves to Christ in that effort, His grace makes up the difference and by the miracle of His atonement we will one day find His image reflected in our countenances; an image of perfect love. We just have to make LOVE our priority.


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Constellations

Constellations
by Heather Larson (2000)

Fly over all of my lands.
As the ever-changing scenery passes over your eyes,
tell me what you see.
Traverse across the peaceful deserts.
Winds there move mountains of sand,
Like gentle whispers stir the soul.
Out here the stars are so many,
They drown you in light.

Fly over all my oceans, see into the depths;
It's deeper than you know.
The shallows break on shore of rock,
Attempt to erode the carbon core.
Bring your boat and sail the vast open;
The tides will bring you in.
The constellations out here are not of yours;
Navigate by them and lose yourself in me.



Wednesday, April 29, 2015

1 Year - Before and After



I’ve been going back and forth in my mind on whether or not to post this, but then I reminded myself of my intent to be more honest and vulnerable and in doing so perhaps I can help someone else. This is going to be one of the most open and honest posts I’ve written, so I ask to whoever reads this, be kind and understanding of what is my reality and my story. I still worry about being misjudged or misunderstood, as do all people struggling with weight and health.

On April 29th, 2014 I underwent Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass surgery to ensure a healthier, therefore happier, future. My journey in coming to that decision was a long process. Back in 2010, I went through my insurance company’s bariatric surgery program (3 months of nutrition and informational classes), but when my dad died in 2011, I couldn’t even conceive of making such a change as undergoing bariatric surgery. The aftermath of my dad’s death was too much to bear already. I couldn’t handle anymore change at that point in time. It wasn’t just the loss of him. One week after my dad passed, I had to put my 14 year old dog, my best friend, to sleep. She suffered from congestive heart failure. I miss her dearly every day still. Then my mom decided to move to Utah and within 5 months she was out of the state. I had to find a new place to live. Living situation after situation fell through and it was only 2 weeks before I would have to be out of where I was living until I found the place I am in now – a total blessing and Godsend. I have the most wonderful roommate and safe, peaceful place to live now. Then the reality of my financial situation at that time set in and I realized I had no choice but to sell my horse. And so, within 6 months of my dad’s passing, I lost him, my dog, my mom left the state, I lost my horse (my passion), moved into a new place, and got a promotion at work. The promotion was great, but a new layer of stress. To say I was just trying to survive from one day to the next would be an understatement. So now you understand why undergoing surgery for a major life change would have to be postponed.

I want to go back a little way in my struggle with weight and food, and the insights I’ve gained, in the hopes that it may help anyone. This is my story and my reality.

I grew up the youngest of four kids in an LA suburb. The small equestrian community was idyllic for an animal lover like me. We had 4 acres and a menagerie of animals. I learned to ride my pony, Midnight, before I could walk. I have some great memories of growing up on "The Hill" as we called it. There was a 9-year gap between me and my closest sibling, so they were all teenagers when I was growing up. The setting we were in seemed idyllic, but life was not always idyllic. I think many kids may have the same complaint that they felt that they didn’t receive the attention they needed; I definitely felt that way. I have a lot of memories of frustration as a child trying to get someone to pay attention to me and to the things I loved – like my riding or animals, or a nature program on TV. My dad traveled often for work, as I can remember, and when he was home he just seemed detached, uninterested, and unavailable; and my mom had teenagers to deal with. I’m not saying this to seem “woe is me”, it’s just my truth. I felt ignored and insignificant. When I entered Junior High, life became very stressful for my family. Life felt very unstable. So I resorted to food for comfort and to fill the void of love. Food could quiet the hurt and frustration and fear for a little while.

And that’s where a long struggle with emotional eating commenced. I saw doctors, nutritionists, a therapist, naturopaths, personal trainers, and other programs from highschool on into my late 20s. Ultimately, none of those things “fixed me”. I had to confront the internal demons first. I think the stripping of everything I loved away from me in the aftermath of my dad’s death was the spark to figuring out what was going on inside. I saw a counselor for a little while; he really helped me understand some things about myself. I found the courage to look into bariatric surgery again. Under my new insurance, I went into a 6 month class that would provide information about the different surgeries as well as provide nutritional counseling and behavioral therapy. It was an incredible program that really took an in-depth approach to what this major lifestyle change would be. At the end of the class, and with a lot of prayer, I decided that I would undergo Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass surgery. I felt the Lord’s hand in my decision, and He let me know it would be successful, but I had to do the work. The surgery would not be a cure-all, but a tool; and oh, what a great tool it has been.

So as of today, it’s officially been one year post-op. It's been the best decision I've made. I have no regrets. I’ve lost an entire person in weight. The change is incredible, but I still have to handle those old demons. They pop back up once in a while. I eat healthy and small portions now. I really don’t have much desire to eat the “wrong” foods anymore. I don’t eat refined sugar products at all and honestly don’t miss them. What I do battle is trying to find comfort and having trouble finding it. I sometimes turn to my friends, but I’m a relatively private person (ironically, this is part of the reason I’m blogging, so I can open up more – more like standing naked in front of you all). If I'm having a hard time, I tend to insulate myself for a while.  Who I often turn to is my Heavenly Father and Savior, Jesus Christ. In this last year, my relationship with them has grown in incredible ways. Ways I didn’t realize were possible before and that has been worth the entire struggle.

The healing that can take place with the help of the Savior’s atonement is real; it’s still in process though. I still struggle with my self-image. I realized I have to love myself first and be good with myself. I look in the mirror and I think, there’s a pretty girl, there’s a good person, but then doubt can pop-up just as quickly and bring me back down. To be honest, rarely being asked out on dates sometimes sparks the self-doubts - like, maybe I don’t see myself clearly. Now, I have a different set of concerns - such as, will my former struggle with obesity negatively affect the way someone I date in the future view me? Hopefully, they will see that I have overcome a difficult challenge and am capable of great things - hell, I worked a full-time job while going to school full-time to get my bachelor's degree and graduated with honors, I can handle difficult.

I often have to remind myself that no one else can validate me. My worth as a person is completely independent of what anyone else may think. However, let’s be honest, receiving compliments and attention is a good confidence booster. That’s why I try to do it more often for others; we could all use more of it.  At the end of the day though, I could receive a million compliments, but if I’m not loving myself first then that attention will do nothing for me. What I think about me is much more potent and valuable than what you think about me. And thinking good of yourself is not arrogance or narcissism, it’s valuing yourself. If you don’t value yourself, how can you expect anyone else to?

If you or someone you love is struggling with obesity and emotional eating, please don’t judge them. You don’t know what they are really going through. It has nothing to do with a lack of self-control. If anyone out there you know is interested in learning about their options with weight loss surgery, feel free to share this. I am happy to answer any questions and share my story.
the difference a year can make