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Feeling Resurrected

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If you are Christian, you probably have a pretty good understanding and strong belief in resurrection.  After all, it was Jesus Christ who made it possible for all of us to be resurrected, our spirit and our body reunited again after death, in a glorified form, never again subject to the sickness and pain brought about because of the Fall of Adam and Eve.

But, have you ever actually thought about how it would feel like to be resurrected? Personally, I’ve never given it much thought. But I know people who think about it quite a bit. Even long for it. I’ve heard elderly people talk about how much they look forward to having a youthful body again. I’ve heard bald men mention that they will someday have their thick wavy hair back. I’ve listened to women commiserating about their wrinkles and varicose veins say throw in a comment about the perfect body they will someday have.

So just try to imagine for a moment what it will really FEEL like to suddenly have a perfected body. You could see with perfect vision. You could walk and run with agility. You could hear things that have long been silent to you. You would feel a strength and sureness of body that you might never have experienced before.

When you are suddenly able-bodied, you might be filled with a desire to try something that you have always felt too inadequate to try in the past. You would no longer feel self-conscience because you are too fat, or thin, or short, or misshapen, or feeble.

Can you imagine those feelings? Can you imagine how good that will feel?

Well, guess what.  Just as Jesus Christ enabled us to someday feel rejuvenated about our physical bodies, Jesus Christ has also made it possible to have those very same experiences in a very real, but spiritual, sense when he atoned for our sins.

The spiritual pains and defects from which we suffer can be taken away from us through repentance and coming unto Christ, just as surely as our physical pains will disappear at resurrection.

Yes, it would be nice to have perfect eyesight. Like many people, I am beginning to know what it feels like to have my eyes grow dim with age, to not be able to focus on things that used to clear. That’s a physical thing.

Unfortunately, I also know what it’s like to have my spiritual eyes dimmed by sin. To slowly lose focus of what is right. To be blinded by what the world has to offer.

And then I’ve also felt how repentance has brought my life into focus and I’ve experienced being able to see and understand spiritual things in with a new clarity, like putting on eyeglasses for the first time.

Maybe your hearing isn’t as good as it once was. And it’s not Just that things aren’t loud enough. It’s that you just can’t hear certain tones anymore. Or some peoples’ voices sound like mumbles. Again, physical problems.

I’ve had years of pride take away my ability to hear the spirit, to hear the love and concern in the voice of my brothers and sisters who wanted to be there for me.
And I can testify of the way repentance allows me to begin hearing my Father in Heaven’s voice all around me. In acts of service, in the beauty of nature, and in answers to my prayers.

You might know what it is like to feel weak. Maybe you see others lifting things that you can’t, or opening jars that you can’t budge.

I know what it feels like to be spiritually weak. I’ve avoided the fellowship of church folk because I didn’t feel like I belonged among righteous people. I’ve felt like my prayers were bouncing off the ceiling and were never heard.

But listen to me, the Atonement has allowed me to feel spiritually strong and close to my Father in Heaven. I have felt the strength of my Priesthood as I worthily gave blessings of healing and comfort that have left me physically drained but quickened by the Holy Spirit.

You know that feeling you imagined earlier of wanting to try new and difficult things with your resurrected body? I have felt that same way when I allow the love of God into my life. I know that when I allow the atonement to work in my life, I have the desire to try things that I’ve felt inadequate to try in the past. I don’t feel as afraid to fellowship a new family at church. I feel more comfortable talking about spiritual things and blessing the lives of others.

No, I’m not any more perfect than I was when I turned my back on God. But I feel reborn. And I am learning to allow myself to feel God’s love for me. Christians aren’t perfect, but they are forgiven. And there is a change that comes over you when you feel that.

Since I’m on the subject of imperfect people, I’ll share with you an experience I had a few weeks ago. I was having lunch with a cousin who hasn’t attended church in decades. The subject of religion came up in the conversation as I was talking to him about what keeps me busy.

When he was young, he had been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He knew their standards and recognized how many of them didn’t follow them. He said, “I just can’t stand all the hypocrites in church. I remember there were people in my ward who smoked during the week. There were alcoholics. Some of them were hateful and dishonest people. If you are going to do those things, you shouldn’t go to church.”

My reply to him was the same thing I say to everyone who uses other people’s weaknesses as an excuse to not follow God. It’s a response that I’ve developed through years of my own struggles with imperfection. I said, “So by your reasoning, nobody should ever join a gym unless they are in perfect shape. Fat people shouldn’t go to the gym until they are thin. Weak people shouldn’t go to the gym until they have big muscles.”

My friends, Church is our Spiritual Gym. If you are weak and out of shape, this is the place for you. Jesus Christ has atoned for you. Don’t wait another day before you come to him and let him make you stronger.

No matter where you are in your progression, no matter if you are wallowing in the filth of the world, you can lift your dirty hand out to the Lord and he will lift you and make you clean.

In the January 2014 issue of the Ensign magazine, Deiter F. Uchtdorf wrote:

“At times in my life I have spent sleepless nights grappling with issues, worries, or personal sorrows. But no matter how dark the night, I am always encouraged by this thought: in the morning the sun will rise. With every new day, a new dawn comes—not only for the earth but also for us. And with a new day comes a new start—a chance to begin again.”

Now, There might be a few people reading this who have been working out for years in your little gym called Church. You feel like you are spiritually strong. You have made a lot of progress. You should be proud of how far you have progressed!

However, now is not the time to look around in contempt at all of us out-of-shape people, us weaklings, those of us with disabilities. It isn’t time for you to shake your head and question why we are so slow in our own progression.

Now is the time for you to become a personal trainer. Now is the time to help us, and show us, and teach us.

If nothing else, please be that voice that calls out, “you can do it!” while we struggle.

In the May 2014 issue of Ensign Magazine, David A. Bednar testified:

The Savior has suffered not just for our sins and iniquities—but also for our physical pains and anguish, our weaknesses and shortcomings, our fears and frustrations, our disappointments and discouragement, our regrets and remorse, our despair and desperation, the injustices and inequities we experience, and the emotional distresses that beset us. The Son of God can reach out, touch, succor, heal, and strengthen us to be more than we could ever be and help us to do that which we could never do relying only upon our own power.

I promise you that someday you will enjoy the blessings of a perfected body because Jesus Christ prepared the way for you to be resurrected. And I know that you look forward to the celebrating you will do that day.

But I also promise you that right now you can begin the process of becoming perfected in Christ. Following the Savior will bring a joyful celebration to your soul as you come unto him and you will feel spiritually renewed and strong in a way that transcends the physical limitations of your mortal body.

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Socrates quote

Socrates quote

I have found this to be absolutely true. To really change, I must always look forward, and never look back.

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December 17, 2013 · 10:33 pm

True Hunger

Are you hungry?  

What are you hungry for?

If you are like me, when you hear those questions you start going over a mental list of food options to decide which one will best satisfy your cravings.  Italian food? Chinese? Steak? Mac and cheese?  What sounds good?

However, I am beginning to realize how often I confuse physical hunger for something else entirely.  There are some feelings of emptiness that are only masked by food, and never fulfilled.

I was at a restaurant a few days ago and noticed there was a long list of dishes on the menu under the category “Comfort Foods”.   The mere fact that we have foods we eat to comfort us proves that we are expecting food to meet more of our needs that just physical hunger.  

I weighed well over a hundred pounds when I entered kindergarten at the age of 5 years old.  Obviously, there was some kind of emptiness I was trying to fill inside myself.  Some might argue there must have been some kind of emptiness inside my mother that she was trying to fill by overfeeding her infant.   (Either opinion works well as an illustration for this discussion, so don’t get sidetracked by finger-pointing.)  My parents had attempted twice to adopt children before finally adopting me.   In both of those cases, the birth mother changed her mind and took the child back, leaving my mother devastated.  So when I came along, my parents were understandably afraid to get emotionally attached to me out of fear of being crushed again.  My grandmother once told me that when I was six months old she had to insist that my mother start bonding with me.  she told her, “If you knew that child was going to die in a few months, and you would only have him for a little while, you would cherish the time you had.  So you just have to love him, even if he won’t be with you forever.”

I have no idea if or how this early experience affected my adult attitudes or my relationship with my parents.   However, I can tell you a few things about myself that may or may not be related.   When I was a child, I was terrified to be alone.  If I woke up from a nap and found myself alone, I would scream in horror and go running through the house looking for someone.  I couldn’t even deal with the THOUGHT of someone being left alone.  If I was watching television and a character in the show was left alone, I had to stop watching.  Even when the Scooby Gang would split up to look for clues , I would panic and cry. 

Yeah, I was a mess.

But I outgrew that, thank goodness!  By the time I was in High School, I was a loner who preferred to avoid crowds.  In my 20’s I spent most of my time alone and loved going to see movies by myself.

Unfortunately, I am starting to understand that I never actually outgrew those feelings.  I simply learned how to medicate them.  I learned very early that food helped those feelings.  As I got older I found other substances and behaviors that could medicate my feelings of loneliness, fear, anger, frustration, and longing.  Eventually, I had so successfully masked those feelings that I didn’t even know they existed inside myself.   But if I tried to remove any of those “medications” from my life, those feelings would rear their ugly heads, and I couldn’t wait to stuff them back down with anything that would make me feel better.   These medications became my addictions and I found myself approaching my 40’s as a 485-pound alcoholic, pill-popping, sex-addict.  

And yet, no matter how much I tried to feed my hunger, I wasn’t satisfied.  I was like the example of the man in the scriptures:

…even as unto a hungry man which dreameth, and behold he eateth but he awaketh and his soul is empty; or like unto a thirsty man which dreameth, and behold he drinketh but he awaketh and behold he is faint, and his soul hath appetite; (2 Nephi 27:3)

My soul had appetite, but I didn’t even know what I was craving.  But whatever I was filling myself with, it wasn’t bringing me satisfaction.  At some point I had to do as Enos did and turn to the Lord.

And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens. (Enos 1:4)

The hardest part of the recovery process is becoming honest.  Honest with yourself and with others.  Addicts will do anything to avoid looking inside themselves to discover those issues they have been trying to run away from for so long.

When I find myself being drawn toward addictive behaviors, I have to stop and ask myself what it is I am actually craving.  It is amazing how difficult it is to admit when I am craving company, interaction, healthy touch, venting of anger, creative expression, sleep, stress relief, etc.

Most people think of addicts as selfish people who only care about their own short-term desires.  The truth is that many of them became addicts from ignoring their own needs.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. (Matthew 5:6)

Addiction recovery is a process of discovering what it is that you truly crave.  What is your True Hunger?

So I ask for your honest input, no matter how difficult it maybe be.  Comment and tell me your experiences.

When you seek comfort food, or drink, or addictive behavior, what is the comfort you seek?  How do you find true satisfaction?  And what is your journey like?

 

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The Crippling Voices of Criticism

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“You used to write?  I didn’t know that.”  That’s what my close friend said to me last week.  And it got me thinking…

The truth is, I did used to write.  I used to write for fun.  I used to write as a way to connect with people.  Teachers and professors used to tell me I was good at it.  An English professor took me aside once after reading a story I had written for an assignment and told me, “You are a writer. You will always be a writer.  Even if you never put another word down on paper, you will still be a writer inside.”

I used to write stories for friends.  I loved making them laugh.  When friends were away on church missions or at school, I would send them stories with characters based on people we knew as a way to keep them posted on the happenings at home.   I wrote a long story for my Singles-Family-Home-Evening group, which I would share with them as a serial, one chapter at a time.  

I decided to take all of those chapters and put them together to make a book.  It wasn’t something publishers were interested in because it was really only meant for my friends.  However, with modern publishing technology, books can now be printed one at a time, as they are needed.  I discovered there was a division of Random House that offered this service and it wouldn’t cost me a dime.  People could buy the book if they wanted to, and the publisher would just take a large cut.  Did someone say free?  Perfect!

So I put together two books this way.  Now friends could buy nice copies of my stories.  The problem was that other people bought the books, too.  And the books weren’t ready for that.  They were little more than rough drafts.  No editor had ever worked on them, and all writers know that a good editor is just as important as a good writer, maybe even more so, if you want a book to be good.

My books weren’t ready for strangers to read them, and neither was I.   

At first I was amazed that people who weren’t my friends would actually take the time to read a story I wrote.  I got a fan letter from a man in Costa Rica, for heaven’s sake!   But then the criticism started.  At first, I could explain away the negative comments.   “There are so many spelling errors.” (Of course there are. It’s just a rough story.)  “How dare you portray a Bishop of our church in such a negative way.” (If you don’t think Church leaders have faults, you haven’t been around many of them, and you will someday have a harsh awakening.)  As the criticisms piled on, I couldn’t explain them away fast enough.  

I suppose there are some people who would have developed a thick skin from this, but I didn’t.  The callouses never formed.  I was left with tender open wounds.  

Those books became an embarrassing symbol of my lack of talent.   I stored away the outline of the novel I’d been working on and I stopped writing completely.   Most of the times  I would try to write anything, the words simply wouldn’t come.   On the rare occasions when the words came, I would rewrite and erase the same sentences over and over again, each time declaring them to be terrible.  My life as a writer was over.

I took up painting.  I loved painting!  It was fun!  I’d paint pictures for friends and family.  I was told I was pretty good.  Then I entered some paintings in contests and they were rejected and criticized.  I didn’t paint again for weeks.  I probably never would have painted again if I didn’t have to teach students.  Even now, I don’t paint for fun anymore.  I paint to earn money, but the fun is gone.

Do you see a pattern here?  I do.

Whenever I find something I am good at and enjoy doing, I let the trolls of the world criticize me until I can’t find the joy in it anymore.  

A couple of months ago, I was cleaning my parents house and I ran across a copy of my book.  I tossed it in the trash without even cracking the cover.  I couldn’t look at it without feeling sick to my stomach.

However, finding that book sparked enough curiosity to make me look online to see if my books were still for sale.  Sure enough, The Junction and A Shadow From the Past were not only selling, but available for Kindle as well.  With a few clicks, I found myself at another site looking at reviews of my books.  And I was stunned by what I read:

A Shadow From the Past is a fun story. Classic tale of boy who comes home and battles his past. The LDS background is just that… background. It doesn’t play a big part in the story, but it would be enjoyable for Mormon readers. Nothing really objectionable for younger readers. Overall, it reaches the level of a good book, but there are parts of this book that are truly magical and unforgettable. It’s a heartfelt book. For those parts alone, this book is worth reading.

 

The Junction is a very interesting story. It’s unlike any other LDS novel I have read. The author isn’t afraid to show the realities of mission life. This isn’t your typical rose-colored view of mormon missionaries. Yet it isn’t critical of the church or negative — just realistic. It’s an easy, fun read. It’s good to see something like this come out of the LDS community. I would compare it to Brigham City in style and feeling.

Okay, when I say I was stunned, that is not an exaggeration.  I had convinced myself that there wasn’t anything good that could be said about anything I’d ever written.  But here were a couple of people who actually enjoyed reading those books!   

Look, I know there are always going to be people who find fault in what I do.  I also know that constructive criticism can help a person grow as an artist.

In his book, “Look at the Sky”, George D. Durrant tells the following story:

     I recall the first art class I took, way back in my early college days.  It took all the confidence I could muster just to enroll.  I knew that everyone else in the call would be Leonardo da Vincis and I’d suffer much self-inflicted humiliation as I compared my meager abilities with theirs.

      I did my first painting for the class in watercolors.  It turned out a little better than I thought it might when I first put the paint on the paper.  Even so, I was shocked and filled with fear when the teacher announced, “I see that most of you have completed your first painting. So let’s all put them up here along the wall.  When they are all in place we will criticize one another’s work.”

     I thought to myself, I didn’t know I’d have to put my picture up to be criticized.  If I had known that, I would have never taken this class.

     But having no choice, I reluctantly put my picture on the far right of the display.  I hoped that the criticism would begin with the pictures on the left side and maybe the class time would end before it was my turn.  Or I hoped at least they’d use up all their criticisms on the other paintings before they got to mine.

     As the discussions of the first few paintings were taking place, I didn’t say anything about anybody else’s efforts.  I hoped my silence would indicate that I had no desire to criticize their work, and then, if they were Christians, they wouldn’t say anything about mine.

     But the clock moved so slowly and the discussion so rapidly that with five minutes remaining, all eyes except mine focused on my work.  My insecurities made it so that I could not muster the courage to look up.  As everyone looked at my painting there were several seconds of silence.

     Then I heard a girl’s voice.  In a quiet, kindly tone she said, “I like the sky.”  Those four words gave me a small feeling of confidence.  I lifted my eyes and looked up at the painting.  To myself, I said, By George, that is a nice sky.

     From the other side of the room, a fellow spoke up. “but he has go the foreground all fouled up.”

     In my mind I responded, Why don’t you look at the sky?

     And then I thought, Next time he won’t be able to say such a thing, because next time my foreground will be as good as my sky.

Why can’t I be more like George D. Durrant?  Why can’t criticism give me the determination to be better and prove them wrong, instead of just giving up and losing all confidence? 

What if I had continued writing?  What would I be like now, having an additional 15 years of writing experience under my belt?  I can tell you one thing, if I had kept writing, my close friends wouldn’t be saying, “You used to write?  I didn’t know that.”

 I looked for that old outline of a novel that I stored away all those years ago.  I found it and skimmed through it.  Guess what, it was pretty good.  But I don’t know how to write it anymore.  I self-edit to the point that nothing comes out.

So here is my question to you, dear readers:  How do you do what you do?  How do you writers get the negative voices out of your head?  How do you artists ignore everyone who says you are no good?  How do you creative people go on creating when people tell you your creations are worthless?  How do you not give up?  How do you continue enjoying what you do?

I really want to know.  

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Be Not Moved

http://alfoxshead.blogspot.com/2013/01/be-not-moved.html I love this so much. All I can add is AMEN

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Remembering a dear friend

Last week, someone who was very close to me lost her long-time battle with poor health.  Her father called right after she passed and told me that she had requested that I give her eulogy.  I was honored, and a little confused why she wanted me to do it, rather than a member of her family.

In the days before the funeral, I contacted her family members for information and stories from her childhood.  It became clear to me why she wanted me write her eulogy.  A few of her family members wanted to use this event as a forum to air grievances and point fingers at others.

It made me sad.

I found it difficult to write the eulogy because I felt so depressed as I thought my friend living in a family full of resentment and hard feelings.   However, as I pondered on it, I was struck by the thought that perhaps it would be difficult to find a family that DIDN’T have a lot of lingering hard feelings festering just under the surface, waiting to burst out at the slightest opportunity.  And a death in the family is surely something that will bring feelings to the surface.

Finally, with just a few hours before the funeral, I forced myself to sit down and write.  I focused on how my friend had impacted my life.  I told about just a couple of the times when she sent my life moving in different direction, a better direction.

I left out the more personal stories, but I still feared that what I wrote was too much about me, and not enough about my friend.  So I asked my wife to read it and let me know what she thought (something that I almost never do, because I don’t like people knowing what I am going to say before I say it.)  She felt it was a nice tribute.  I printed it, and didn’t didn’t look at it again until I was standing at the pulpit. 

As I spoke, I left out a few things and changed some of the wording, as the Spirit dictated.

In honor of my fiend, I’m going to post most of what I wrote.  

This experience has inspired me to work harder on healing the relationships in my own family.  I challenge you to think about what might be said about you after you are gone.  But more importantly, think about what affect your passing will have on those you leave behind.  Have you helped them to live in a healthy environment so that your passing will bring them closer together, rather than tear them apart?

I have known Jacki most of my life. And even though I have the honor of standing up here today and sharing a few of the ways that she has touched my life for good, I know there are hundreds of others who could share stories that would equally or better illustrate the impact Jacki had on their lives.

 

I have found two great benefits of funeral services. First, we get to remember the life of someone who we knew well. Second, and maybe more importantly, we get to discover things about them that we never knew, and it feels like we are meeting them all over again.

 

Today, I get to share some things about Jacki that many of us never saw and only her family remembers. And then I’d like to share some ways that Jacki helped me. And those stories might be new to even her family.

 

Jacki was born in Sacramento on March 7, 1950. If you have had a chance to see some of her childhood photos, you might have noticed that she was a character from the beginning.

 

Her sisters always joked about her having “middle child syndrome”. Jacki teased back by insisting that her youngest sister was always the favored one.

 

Jacki loved to rollerskate. When Jacki was a little girl, she didn’t have the kind of skates children have today. She had the kind that she would clamp onto her shoes and then tighten with a key. And she would spend hours roller skating up and down the sidewalks in her neighborhood.

Normally, a little girl of 6 or 7 years old rollerskating wouldn’t draw much attention. But at this same time, Jacki had developed a burning desire to be a cowgirl. And she had already taken steps toward being a cowgirl by wearing western attire, including cowgirl hat and cowgirl gloves, which she insisted on wearing at all times.
So she made quite impact as the rollerskating cowgirl in the neighborhood.

Jacki got a nice new bicycle for her 8th birthday… at which time she turned into the bicycling cowgirl in the neighborhood, because she was still wearing her cowgirl outfits.

 

Jacki loved to jump rope with her Grandpa McDonnell turning the rope for her. She loved her grandpa very much and he would take her to the park for the pony rides (a big treat for a budding cowgirl).

She attended at Hollywood Park Elementary, Joaquin Miller Jr. High School and graduated from C.K. McClatchy High School in 1968. She completed her Bachelor of Science degree from CSUS in Computer Science.

 

Jacki loved computers, and she was skilled not only in computer applications, but also in programming. Jacki never had the problem of being intimidated by the compute, as many people are. She always saw it as a tool to do things better, faster, and connect to more people.

Jacki began her career at Rainbo Bakery, and she worked there for 23 years doing various jobs, including: company dispatch coordinator for bread deliveries, accounting, and company supply coordinator for many offices in Northern California. To these other offices in California, Jacki quickly became known as the “GO TO Girl” in Sacramento if you needed to get things done.

 

Even though Jacki was committed to her work, she never allowed it to consume her life. Her priorities were always firmly rooted in her family, her faith, and her own personal development.

She never stopped learning new things and practicing and perfecting her skills. Jacki loved to knit, largely because it was something that she could do for other people.

 

She wanted to make sweaters and hats and afghans for everyone. She especially loved knitting baby blessing blankets for her great-nieces and nephews. She had recently started one for her newest great-nephew and was hoping to finish by his blessing.

 

In the kitchen, Jacki was always cooking up something new. She loved cooking shows on television and she had her favorite chefs that she just had to watch. And then she loved trying the new recipes.

I was fortunate enough to stop in to see her one day after she had tried a new recipe for BBQ ribs. Her parents talked about how good they were and I just had to try them. But Jacki wasn’t having any of the ribs.

 

There were many foods that Jacki couldn’t eat, but it never stopped her from cooking for others, and she found great joy in seeing others enjoy her cooking.

 

One of her specialties was Lemon Meringue Pie. She learned the secrets of perfect pie crust from her grandmother. And soon, her family could never get enough of Jacki’s lemon pies.

 

She took great pleasure in making her family gourmet meals, and it was always exciting for them to find out what she had made for them to enjoy when they would visit. Jacki’s parents especially appreciated and loved the meals she prepared for them. They say they will miss that

Jacki loved acting. She appeared in a few local plays and church produced roadshows. Her family is very proud of her accomplishments in this area.

 

Another of Jacki’s many hobbies were her potted plants. I got to go water some of them a few times when she was out of town. She loved to see the beautiful flowers outside of her windows.

However, just like the meals that she prepared but couldn’t eat herself, she couldn’t fully enjoy her potted flowers because she was allergic to the fragrance. She found a solution to this problem recently, and one of her last projects was to plant cacti in her little blue and white containers.

 

Jacki was fully committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. She loved the words of the prophets. She studied her scriptures daily. She amassed a huge library of every church magazine and reference material. And she knew where to find information on gospel questions. Family members and ward members would often call Jacki for stories and scripture references when working on a talk or lesson. And Jacki always knew just the right place to look.

 

I teased her once about not needing her collection anymore because the church has it all online and she should just get rid of it. She got a huge knowing smile on her face and replied, “No, they only have the stuff AFTER 1970.”

 

Jacki loved to serve, and she has served diligently in many callings, including primary teacher, Relief Society Teacher, Stake missionary, genealogy indexing coordinator and name extractor, among many others.

 

Of all her callings, Jacki said she got the greatest joy from her latest calling as Secretary in the Primary. She loved the children so much and felt privileged to help nourish their testimonies of the Gospel that she cherished.

 

In October, our ward had the Primary Sacrament Meeting Program. I got to sit next to Jacki right on the front row and watch as she followed every word of the script on the edge of her seat, giving a happy thumbs up to the kids after they delivered their parts or sang a song. She would coach them or reassure them if they paused or seemed scared. When it was over, Jacki gave a huge sigh and looked exhausted. She had given all the strength she had during that meeting, and she looked so proud and happy.

 

Jacki also taught early morning seminary classes to High School students. I was one of her students.

 

This was the first of many times that Jacki was instrumental in changing the direction of my life.

 

There have been a handful of critical times, when Jacki Larsen was clearly a tool in the Lord’s hand to swoop in and dramatically alter my life.

 

This first time was when I was 15 years old. I was silently battling depression and I didn’t feel like anyone knew I existed. One morning at six o’clock, after I was dropped off at the church for seminary, instead of going to class, I went into the chapel to be alone. I vividly remember lying down on one of the pews in the darkness alone and feeling the tears fall into my ears as I pondered taking my own life.

 

After about an hour, I heard the groups of laughing teens leaving the building. And I then I heard Jacki turning out the lights in the rest of the church. I expected that the next thing I would hear was Jacki locking the doors and leaving, because there was no reason that she would come into the chapel.

 

But then a stream of light shined across the ceiling of the chapel as she opened the door and looked inside. She shouldn’t have been able to see me lying there, but sure enough, I heard her footsteps approaching. I quickly tried to dry my eyes and Jacki seemed surprised to find me in there.

In her wisdom, she didn’t ask me any of the questions I expected would follow: “why weren’t you in class?” “What are you doing in here?”

 

In fact, she didn’t ask me any questions at all. To my shock, she sat down on the pew in front of me in the dark and just started talking about her own life. She just shared herself with me. She even made me laugh.

We sat there for an hour, and she was probably late to work, but not once did seem rushed or even to care what time it was. I left there feeling like there was someone who cared about me. That’s when Jacki became my friend. And that’s exactly what I needed at that time in my life.

 

Jacki was extremely proud of her nieces and nephews. She was interested in every part of their lives, and wanted to be a part of their activities.

 

She loved to travel. She was a wonderful travel companion for her mother and they traveled around the country, and Europe, and Australia.

 

When her parents went on their mission, Jacki took care of their house. She continued to do this when they moved to Elko, NV for 19 years.

During this time, the First Ward became her family in Sacramento. She loved her Ward family and was grateful to be a part of it.

 

While I was on my mission, Jacki wrote me faithfully to keep me updated on what was happening in the ward.

 

In later years, I fell away from the church. But Jacki wouldn’t leave me alone. She was a nag and she was stubborn.

 

She was also very tricky. She kept calling me up and telling me that she was hosting a Family Home Evening group and she needed me to be a part of it. I always refused.

 

One time she called me and said her group was going to meet and they were going to share stories about their missions. She needed me to come and tell about some of the spiritual experiences that I had.

 

I told her that I was not going to go to some family home evening with a bunch of desperate singles. She assured me that it wasn’t like that and it had nothing to do with setting up couples.

 

I finally agreed to go. When I got there, I discovered that Jacki’s “group” consisted of three people. Me, Jacki, and a girl I had never met before… And whom I ended up marrying.

 

Over the years, other people would come and go in Jacki’s group. Some of these people became my closest friends. Jacki’s home became the center of activity for many of our ward’s singles.

 

One evening while we were hanging out with Jacki, she mentioned that her house was right in the flight path of airplanes landing at Executive Airport. She said she was sure that someday something was going to fall from a plane and crash into her house. She said she heard that sort of thing happened all the time. She was very serious about it.

 

Naturally, the rest of us had a lot of fun over the next few months, sneaking over there in the middle of the night and sticking things in Jacki’s front lawn that looked like they could have fallen from an airplane, or a spaceship, or even a meteorite. Jacki was always fun to tease.

 

Jacki always had a positive outlook about her health problems. Even while having cancer treatments, operations, and dialyses. She always felt she would get better. And she almost always did, until her heart just couldn’t pump anymore.

 

Her philosophy was: “You will always have pain but suffering is optional.”

 

Even up until the very end of her life, Jacki was helping other people. Me included.

 

Recently, I was going through some difficult things. Jacki could tell something was wrong. I got home from church a couple of weeks ago and I had an email from Jacki saying simply: “Spill it. I can tell something is wrong.”

 

So I told her. I would like to read part of an email that she wrote to me just four days before she passed away.

 

She wrote: “So what can I do? How can I help you? Can I make dinner for you and Dorene? Or can I make some meals for your folks? We should go to breakfast or lunch sometime soon so you can have someone to talk to. You know, with all I have gone through this year, I feel blessed to have seen ALL the blessings Heavenly Father has given me because of what I am going through! So someday I hope you will also be able to smile and be at complete peace, no matter what difficulties happen! I KNOW the Lord will help you in the form of a miracle! You are a faithful son of our Heavenly Father and I know He will help you. Maybe not right now or in the way you would like – but in the end you will see this is all a blessing!”

 

This is the kind of faith that Jacki had. We are all better for having crossed paths with this choice Sister. She was always an example to those around her.

 

No matter how sick she was, or however much pain she was in, she didn’t let it show. One thing about Jacki that many people will always remember is that whenever you asked her how she was feeling, she would smile and say, “Just Peachy.”

 

And that’s exactly what she was.

 

 

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Baby Steps

Hi.  My name is ________ and I’m an addict….

In recovery meetings around the world, held in churches, basements, offices, or parks, this is how people begin spilling their guts about what really goes on inside their heads.

There are reasons why those those meetings are anonymous.  Chief among those reasons is that most addicts share a fear that if anyone really knew them, really knew how they thought, what they did, how they felt, no one would accept them, let alone love them.  This fear consumes them and drives them into a life of secrecy and seclusion.

And addiction thrives in secrecy and seclusion.

For many people, recovery meetings are their first timid attempts to reach out and connect honestly with another person.  The anonymity and confidentiality provide a safety net for their fears of rejection and loneliness.

A blog is the last thing an addict would want to write.  Fiction? Sure.  Poetry? Maybe.  But a blog? An online public journal with my picture out there for the world to see? Oh, hell no!

So why would I, a long-time 12-stepper and recovering addict, choose to start this blog?  That’s a good question.  Let me think about that a moment…

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and I don’t care as much about what people think about me?  Nope, that’s not it.  I still have a big problem being a people-pleaser.

Maybe I have finally overcome my fears?  Nope.  I’m terrified.  And I’m still not sure if I’m actually going to push that ominous button at the bottom of this page that will publish this.

Okay, here is my official answer:  I’m doing this because I know what hopelessness feels like.  I’m doing this because I know how it feels to have my god-given agency taken away by addiction.  I’m doing this because I know there are countless people who think they are beyond help.  And I’m doing this to illustrate what recovery looks like, because most people have a false picture of what their life will be like without their addiction.

I’m also doing this because it is important to my own recovery and healing.  In fact, it’s right there in the program.

Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, share this message with others and practice these principles in all you do. (A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing, LDS Family Services)

“Those of us who have partaken of the Atonement are under obligation to bear faithful testimony of our Lord and Savior.”(President Howard W. Hunter, “The Atonement and Missionary Work,” seminar for new mission presidents, June 21, 1994, 2).

Honestly, this isn’t something I really want to do.  But I have a strong feeling that this is something my Heavenly Father wants me to do.  And I want to trust him.  I want to believe that He has something in store for me that I can’t even comprehend at this point.  President Ezra Taft Benson taught:

“Men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace. Whoever will lose his life in the service of God will find eternal life” (“Jesus Christ—Gifts and Expectations,” Ensign, Dec. 1988, 4).

So here I am, ready to click this little button and see what happens.  And I begin this blog in the same way I have been sharing about myself in weekly meetings for several years:

Hi.  My name is Wes, and I’m a recovering addict.

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