Thursday, March 27, 2014

Added Capabilities

I have recently added some new capabilities to my blog including search capabilities, and translate capabilities for those from other areas of the world.  I have also standardized the blog more to the norms of other sites visited.  If there are any other changes that you see that might be wanted or appreciated let me know and I will seriously consider them all.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Memories in Taylorsville

The home I lived in the most while in my youth was the home in Taylorsville Utah.  Most of my memories come from this home and they are plentiful.  I want to talk a little about some of these memories.

Some of my biggest memories are digging holes and trying to make an underground castle like in Voltron.  Riding our horse and pony, playing with the goats and butting heads with them, collecting eggs from our chickens, and other experiences with our dogs, and cats and other animals.  Pole vaulting, high jumping, running track and jumping hurdles, riding skateboards, sledding down hills, and bouncing on the trampoline.  All of these are cherished memories and things I look back on with happiness and joy.

This post may not get many hits, but I want the record for my family, and for me it is nice to look back and think about this time of my life.

I will expound on a few of these memories in no order, just as they come to my mind.  I remember sledding down a pretty steep hill we used to go to in the winter since we could get some great speed on it.  The down side of this hill was that at the bottom of it was a ditch.  We had to either get enough speed to jump it, or we had to stop before we got to it or we would get soaked by the frozen water.  I remember getting soaked and having to head home freezing, because of this ditch.  The hill was still our favorite place to go sledding.  There was a little home at the top and to the left of the hill where the owners of the property lived.  I tend to remember them not really liking us being on their property to sled.  I think they were afraid we would get hurt.  I can see why they would have felt that way now that I am older.  At the time as a youth it was an annoyance to try to avoid.  It also kind of added a suspense to sledding there.

I remember we used to have our trampoline out in front of our house and we would jump off the roof and onto it and then do flips off of it onto the ground.  (Maybe I should keep these stories hidden from my children until they are older).  We would do all kinds of tricks and I think we got to where we could do doubles and other fun tricks on the trampoline, after jumping off the roof.  Well one time we got very daring and decided we were going to move it out onto the basketball court behind the house and jump off the two story house next to ours to get more height. Our babysitter decided to go first and she jumped off the roof, unfortunately she went through the trampoline and hit the pavement below.  The good news was the trampoline broke her fall before she hit the ground and she wasn't hurt.  The downside we couldn't use the trampoline for quite some time again until we could replace the mat.

Another fond memory is that there was a large field behind our house after going through our corral and jumping a fence there was a much larger field and ditch back there.  This is not the story I was going to tell, but since it is on my mind I am changing directions.  We used to play in the ditch quite often and there were a few water pipes that went underground.  I remember we used to take a big breath and then go through the water pipes until we surfaced at the other end, and could again breath.
As I look back on my childhood I am amazed I am still alive to tell these stories.  I was crazy!!! 

So to the next story, in this large field a person that lived about 8 houses down the bigger street from us was a pretty big time skateboarder (at least I thought so).  He built a half pipe behind his home in this large field and we would watch him do his tricks quite often.  I really wanted to do it and he let us on a few times, but most of the time it wasn't allowed and so we turned to other skateboarding.  We would skate down the pavement of the other side of the hill we would sled down in the winter.  We would get going pretty fast, probably 20-30 miles per hour, and our skateboards would start to wobble before got to the bottom of the hill.  One day as we were doing this I was most of the way down this hill and hit a rock and slid for quite a ways on the concrete.  My body was so ripped up from the crash that I had to wear gauze padding over most of my body for around a month if I remember right, and I don't think we ever skateboarded down the hill again after that.  We did talk about it and I even got tempted, but never did do it again.

This same hill had a very steep decline, and my father would sometimes take us off of it in the car or motorcycle at 40-50 miles per hour so we would catch air and get butterflies in our stomachs.  We would look down and see the valley below and feel like we were going to fall until we hit the street again and would slow down before the road ended down below.  I can remember a few things about this, but will simply say the memories were amazing, and I truly loved them.

Another memory I will write about is when I was breaking my horse.  We had a tree out in our field and we would sometimes climb it or swing on the branches.  In this memory those branches ended up being my enemy.  I was riding my horse and he decided he was not wanting to be ridden at this time, but I wanted to show him I was in charge and got on and rode anyway.  We went around the corral a few times and then he headed for the tree and ran right under it and ducked clipping me right off his back with one of the lower hanging branches and I ended up on the ground with the air knocked out of me.  I suppose I was lucky to not have gotten hurt more.

We used to high jump and pole vault out in our corral as well and that was where we would jump hurdles, and run. and dig holes...  One day while we were out pole vaulting I decided to raise the bar and go for a new high.  The bad thing was that we didn't have real pads behind the bar, we only had a few old mattresses, and not only did I clear the bar, but also cleared the mattresses and landed on my back on the hard ground of the corral.  I honestly thought I was going to die, I think it took me around 30-45 seconds before I could catch my breath.  To me it seemed like 5 minutes.  I had enough time to stand up once I realized what was going on, and run toward the house in pure panic.  I remember thinking I would die because I couldn't breath.  After climbing over the fence my breath finally caught and I ran to my dad sobbing.

Perhaps I will share more experiences from this time in my life in another post, but for now I need to wrap up and save them for later.

A taste of the stories are getting attacked by our billy goat, our mean rooster, preparing chickens, raising rabbits, and some memories with our dogs (dog getting pulled down the river).

Hope everyone enjoyed this post, if so let me know and I will gladly read and reply to your comments.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Trial by fire... When our house burned to the ground.

The next big item I think I should write about in my life was when our house in Taylorsville burned down, and we pretty much lost all of our worldly goods.  There have been a few times in my life where I have lost most of my worldly possessions, this is the first I remember.  I will also touch on another as I write this blog entry.

When I was around 9 years old we lived in a house in Taylorsville Utah.  I have more of my memories of my youth in this home than any other.  I will write an entire blog entry at some point on some of the memories of this home and the multiple experiences I had there, but for now I will just touch on some I didn't plan on putting into that post.  My mind is flooded with memories and they vary from catching dragonflies and spiders and mice, to stepping on nails, to blowing up watermelons, hanging out in the root cellar behind our house, skateboarding down the hill by our house, sledding, catching catfish in the Jordan river...  It seems I could likely write a full post of memories just looking back.

That being said Some of my greatest memories were that I excelled in scouting and earned every award I possibly could as a cub scout.  We had many pictures, and all the things that come with having lived in a home for years.  So back to the story...

One Summer day as we were out playing we had started the BBQ grill and it was getting hot and ready to cook with, while we played.  We had a back storage area behind our house that we filled with excess papers from our paper routes and would take them to be recycled from time to time in order to make a little extra money, we probably had at least a few truckloads at the time of the fire.

We had some struggles with some of our neighbors over animals and other disagreements.  Some that stick out the most is our horse getting out of it's corral, and people being annoyed at us (the children in our family) being all over around the neighborhood.  I am sure there was more than this, but these stick out to me.  I also remember one of my uncles came over to our house to beat up my father, and my mother hitting him with the broom until he left.  At a minimum it can be said there were hard feelings going around. 

The day the fire happened, I saw one of our neighborhood boys jump our fence and run to his house.  I headed into the yard wondering what was going on and the BBQ grill was tipped over onto the newspapers behind the house.  We tried frantically to put out the fire but it spread far too quickly and the home burned to the ground, before the fire department showed up and put it out. 

We cannot say for certain that the neighborhood boy had tipped over the grill, and at this point it doesn't really matter.  There was a breeze that day, and we determined that day that whether there was malice or not we were not going to push after it.

On the downside, I lost almost all pictures of my youth and everything we had as a family.  For a while it was pure shock.  I just didn't know what we were going to do and everything was gone.  We moved to another home and moved on with our lives, and from the experience I truly learned that you can lose all of your worldly possessions and still make due.  We were very grateful that all of our family was safe and nobody was injured or harmed.

I also learned that people are generally good and want to help those that are struggling.  I believe we received most of our needs through the kindness and donations and help of others during this time. 

I will write shortly about one other time in my life when I lost everything as far as worldly possessions are concerned.  This is not nearly as dramatic and was at least to a degree my own fault.

I was around 18 or 19 at the time and had amassed quite a large video collection as well as  many other items from my life.  Some of the most precious were my trophies from martial arts competitions and the electronics I had bought.  That being said I was in a rather precarious situation in my life and was living in Georgia.  I had fallen back into some of previous struggles and was not the man I needed to be to put it simply.  I had at least in part returned to church activity, but was with the wrong crowd and still really struggling.  I will write a few posts about this period of my life at some later point.

To make a long story short I was contacted by my parents who were living in Arizona at the time and they offered to take me in.  I couldn't take all my belongings with me across the country, so I ended up leaving them with friends, and by the time we could go back for them, many months later they were no longer where they had previously been.

There are a number of things I learned from these experiences, and the first is that worldly possessions hold very little to no importance when it comes to the grand scheme of things.  It is very hard to lose them especially at the time, and often I would wonder how I would ever recover.  However now both experiences are just memories and there is very little I miss from the possessions.  In the place of those items however is a strong understanding that it is more important to be kind and loving and patient than to have nice things.  That it is far more critical to learn to be humane than to seek revenge or to let hate fester and destroy happiness.  I learned that often times we put our trust in the things we have, rather than the people we are and can become.

I have often heard elderly people say it's just stuff, when a beautiful object is broken or damaged by a child, and I know that perspective came at a cost.  I am grateful to have gained these perceptions earlier in life than some.  They have blessed and strengthened me and others when hard times come, and have built an appreciation for the people in my life that mean so much.  I am grateful for the chance to lift others and help them in their times of need.  I have learned more of the perceptions of a loving Heavenly Father that only wants to build us up and help us become like him, and help us attain his attributes in our lives.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Sexual Abuse. Impacts on perception. Turn to Christ.

I am going to post about some of the sexual abuses that happened to me as a child and how they impacted me and some of my perceptions.  As others come to understand this side of my life they come to understand more of me and why I take many of the stands I do in my life.

I know a number of others who have gone through sexual abuse and these are some of the darkest and worst struggles faced in this world.  Before I start the Lord says that he values the chastity of women and the purity of women and children, in many places.  In Jacob the Lord states through the Prophet Jacob, "For I, the Lord God, delight in the achastity of women. And bwhoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts." (Jacob 2:28)  Chastity is valued of the Lord greatly and for this reason the Lord says, Whosoever looketh upon a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery in his heart.  This applies equally to men and children as well.

I was very young the first time I was sexually abused.  I may have been abused before my first memories, and likely was, but I will start at my first memories.

I first remember being sexually abused a few times in the home of one of my aunts by her daughter(s).  I explicitly remember once in the bathroom downstairs, and once in one of the bedrooms upstairs.  I do not know how extensive this was or on how many occasions it occurred, but I remember the home well.  We went there often through my childhood and into my youth, and would go to go swimming or to stay with their family.  I also think on this because one of those who sexually abused me at this time in my life later came back to me and apologized for doing so.

The next time I remember being sexually abused was by one of my relatives that stayed with one of my grandmothers.  She became our babysitter and often would take me aside to perform sexual acts with her of varying sorts.  These were quite varied and extreme in many cases, and occurred regularly over a number of years, from my first memories, until I was at least 6 or 7, maybe even 8 or 9.

The point of sharing this is to helps others to understand that to me these were very normal and the thought of the sexual actions that took place were regular.  They were not looked at as out of the ordinary or even a bad thing.  I actually believed these actions were how a person showed love. I was often told you don't talk about them because they are special to the people they were with, so until I was 13 or 14 I never talked about any of these things with anyone.  I believe signs were there, but they were likely overlooked since they would have been my norm, and common to me throughout my life up to that point.

I will also share one other experience along with these others.  When I was around 8 or 9 years old I went to stay with an aunt for a few weeks in Southern Utah.  While I stayed with her and her family there was an occurrence where I was again with a cousin (different than the others up to this point) and experienced sexual abuse at this point.  Where she not much older than I and a relative I may have at this point already have considered this a sexual situation rather than abuse, because I completely consented and at this point rather enjoyed the experience.

The point of this post is two-fold first I want to point out that when a person grows up with certain circumstances they consider them typically normal and regular.  I believe this to be the case with all forms of abuse and addictions as well.  Second, when these types of perceptions are imposed upon a person especially from infancy or early childhood, they deal with them for an extremely long time, if not forever. 

I believe people can over come the past.  To go beyond this I believe a person can overcome anything from their past with one exception, and I will not go into this here.  I will say it is extremely rare and most likely none reading this will ever deal with it, or even have exposure to it. 

A person can change their behavior and beliefs and actions.  Many of the emotions and desires and appetites that come are far harder to overcome, but can also be overcome similar to how any addiction is overcome.  Remnants of the experience forever remain with those that are affected to some degree or another even in the best of cases.

I also believe strongly that Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ often allow terrible things to happen for a number of reasons.  One is free agency, and to allow justice to be fulfilled.  The one I want to focus on is that trials and tribulations build us up and allow us to become strong, and in some cases exceptionally strong. 

I despise sexual abuse in all its forms.  I also understand that in some cases the abuser is just as addicted or acting out of habit as much as any other addict.  I know the struggles of sexual abuse (and other sexual addictions) are some of the hardest things in the world to overcome.  In fact this goes for physical and mental abuse as well.  I have gone through many of them.  I have overcome smoking addictions, and drinking and other bad habits, and multiple forms of abuse.  I have some level of comparison to how difficult these addictions were to get over.  For me the sexual addictions I faced as a result of my circumstances were by far harder to overcome than any other addiction I faced in my life.  I can truly say they will likely be something I deal with throughout this life, and the same goes for other abuses.

Although these situations led me through many of the most difficult struggles I have faced in life, I am extremely grateful for them.  They gave me insight into the heart of man that I otherwise would never have gained.  More importantly they helped me gain a relationship with my Heavenly Father that likely could not have been obtained in any other way.  I believe the abuses I faced were meant to strengthen me so I could become the man the Savior needed me to be in this life. 

I have been told on many occasions through the spirit and by others that understanding these things has been a strength and support to them.  I hope and pray others who face similar or even different struggles can find this same comfort and the same strength I have found.  And more importantly that their resolution will be in Christ and his infinite atonement.  That is where my greatest growth and forgiveness and relief have come from.

For more information on this please feel free to comment.  I will gladly discuss anything written here and even talk personally with those who would like as possible.  That being said, I will likely not go into much more if any more detail of the abuses that took place.  Though I remember each of them clearly the purpose of this is not to expound on abuse, but to give comfort that anything we face in life can be overcome by turning to Christ.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Learning to work... Learning to play

As I have discussed in previous posts money was often a struggle for my family as we grew up.  This post talks about the work I did with my family, and how it helped for a portion of my youth to overcome this burden.

Starting at a young age, probably around 3 or 4 I remember getting up in the middle of the night as my parents would get newspaper routes and fold papers and then take them out and deliver them.  I remember watching TV early on and still remember some of the shows which included "Captain Kangaroo", "Leave it to Beaver", and "The Andy Griffeth Show".  Around these ages I also started learning to fold newspapers and to help where I could to get things ready so my father could go deliver them.  A few times I was also able to go with him and deliver newspapers.

Little did I know that newspapers would be a big part of my life through portions of my youth. 

There were years where my father worked other jobs, these varied from working in the oil fields, to laying foundations for homes, to framing, and other jobs he could get.

Besides those years newspapers played a part of my life until the time I was10 or 11.  I remember as I got older that I started getting up at 1 or 2 in the morning and I would go pick up papers with my father and my little brothers.  We would fold them as we drove and my father would throw them.  We got more and more routes and eventually we were delivering newspapers to a chunk of the Salt Lake Valley.  We later picked up routes on I believe it was Wednesdays and Thursdays, but I don't remember for sure.  But I get ahead of myself.

There came a point where we had more routes than we could possibly deliver by car in the time allotted so we started running routes.  Me and my younger brother (eventually brothers) would get in the car and we would have the younger boys folding newspapers while the older boys would grab the number of newspapers needed for a street and run the street while the car took another street and delivered it.  We got to where we were running side streets and meeting the car at the end of a street to start the next section of streets.  We would leave the tailgate in the station wagon down and we would hop on for the short stints in between routes.

This became a norm and we got very fast and very athletic, we could run straight for sometimes up to 6 hours, and on Wednesdays and Thursdays sometimes up to 16 hour days were spent in delivering papers.  I believe this was one of the most financially stable periods of our families life to that point and we started later in the process getting doughnuts or breakfast at the end of the runs.  We even started being able to buy some niceties.  For example I wanted a stereo and my dad bought it for me. and I even got an 8 track player for my room (boy am I dating myself). 

Anyway, these are some of the greatest memories.  Spending time with my father and brothers, seeing how fast we could get routes thrown and racing each other and even running alongside the car to see how fast we could get going in miles per hour. 

There are many other memories that go along with this.  Like getting chased by dogs, or dealing with Sunday papers. 

We learned to work hard and to play just as hard.  We learned that even when we didn't think we could do something if we put our hearts into it we usually could.  We learned that our bodies could get really strong and though we often would want to stop, we could make it through.  We learned that when you wake up in the middle of the night and your body is not used to it you can get really sick, and when you are you can still push through it.

We also learned that things get easier the more you do them.  That life has a way to build you up no matter where you may have come from. 

We grew strong as a family, and strong in our relationships to each other.  We came to trust each other and eventually my father would drop each of us off and we could finish whole areas of town, and he would just come pick us up after dropping off others.

Looking back I realize much of this work was behind the scenes very few people saw us, but we impacted many many lives.   We were at a very young age a great impact to the well being of our family and their is much good that can be done no matter how old a person is.  I am so grateful for these experiences.  They prepared me for many of my successes in sports and in life.

Elementary years - Kindergarten and part of first grade.

As a child I always loved school.  This post is about the first year and a half of school which I attended at a public school.  After that I was home schooled for much of my youth.

I have a lot of school memories:

  • Making Valentine boxes and giving valentines
  • I played chess and we had a school competition I really enjoyed playing chess
  • At a school carnival we had a karate studio come in and do a karate demonstration I first started karate after this
  • I really enjoyed singing and singing time and play time were some of my favorite school memories
  • In first grade we had our first reading competition, I determined to read the Book of Mormon as a 6 year old and was told I could count each chapter as a book.
  • Speech therapy
  • Like many children recess was one of my favorite times.

I will expound on these and just share memories in this post.  This is mostly just to have a record of some of my school memories and to pass that on.  For others who enjoy this it will simply be some interesting tidbits about my younger years.

One memory I did not put in the list but which impacted me and is a bad memory during this time was that during kindergarten I once had an accident and it was horrible to me.  We had a rule in kindergarten that we needed to wait until after the lesson to use the restroom.  I really had to use the bathroom this day and when the lesson was done much of the class raced to the two restrooms between the two kindergarten classes that shared a room.  As I waited in the line I was really struggling... and to make this short and sweet did not make it to the restroom before losing control.  I had to have my parents bring me a change of clothes from home and I sat in the restroom and waited for them because I didn't want to be with the class.  I do remember some mean comments after the fact and some bullying. 

The previous story kind of leads into my desire to defend myself.  I had always been taught not to fight and to be kind to everyone, my parents started to change their tunes though as I was getting beat up and bullied. 

Part way into the year we had a school carnival.  One of the strong memories that stands out is that I wanted to go on a hot air balloon ride with my parents, but we couldn't afford to go.  My family was sad about this, because they thought it would be a lot of fun. 

Another big memory from the carnival was that they had a few presentations.  There was a man that trained hawks and falcons and eagles.  He brought in a few and they flew around us in the gym and I always liked birds of prey since this time in my life.  I have often wanted to have a falcon or other bird even now I think that would be really awesome.

The last presentation I remember was a karate demonstration.  It was for dragon style kempo karate and because of the earlier events my parents found a way to get me enrolled.  I went for a while and they decided a closer studio would be better, so I started doing tiger style kempo at another studio and did that for a while as well.  At one point in first grade I remember a group of boys (they considered themselves a gang) would often pick on many of the children. 

One day they were chasing some children and I stepped in.  They started chasing me and I ran and then stopped and tripped the leader of this group.  He fell and got hurt and we both had to go see the principle.  I was commended for helping the other boys and this group got scolded.  The next day I was told the leader of this group had brought a knife to school and was playing to stab me after school.  My father came and got me on his motorcycle and we drove home together.  This was a rare occurrence since I normally walked and the experience sticks out for this reason.  The next day I was taken out of school and was home schooled until I went into a part year of 5th grade.

Now I would like to share some of my other memories of school and shed a little light on some of the things I enjoyed as a child. 

The first thought that comes to mind is going to speech therapy.  I believe I struggled to say my r's and so once a week I would meet with the speech therapist.  I believe we only met for one year.  Many things were done to help me, but the thing that stands out the most was that we used hypnotherapy at least for a little while.  I thought this was really cool and whatever we did worked, because I have no problems with speaking distinctly and clearly to this day in any manner.

I also remember we used to sing songs, a few of the songs I really like come from this time in my life.  "Why are there so many songs about rainbows...",  "Once there was a snowman...",  "This land is our land...", "Over the river and through the woods, to grandmothers house we go..." these are just a few of the songs we sang.  I think this was one of my favorite things to do was to sing. 

As I have mentioned previously we didn't have a lot of money and we struggled to do many things.  When we had Valentines day boxes that we needed to make for valentines day I made one at home as well as making each valentine for the class from colored paper and hand wrote each message to the members of the class.  I remember getting mocked for this, and often I was mocked for my clothes, the kids would say I was a DI (Deseret Industries) boy and talk about how their clothes came from normal stores.  I never knew much of a difference and don't think anyone could tell a difference, but it was just a part of my life.

I have always been one who got along well with teachers and loved learning new things.  I learned to play chess while in kindergarten and was a decent chess player by the time I was in first grade.  We had a chess club for the school and I was allowed to play with the club.  I really enjoyed this and was considered on of the better players.  We had a competition and I made it a way into the games until I was beat at the end of a round by a player because I missed a small move I could have made and beat myself up over it for some time.  Now I think it was a great learning point for me because I realized that everyone makes mistakes and learning from them is very important.

I will share two more thoughts and then I will wrap this post up.  In first grade we had our first reading competition.  I loved reading and enjoyed this very much.  I was one of the kids that went home and would read all the time, from school to bed and any break I got.  When the competition started I asked my teacher if I could read the Book of Mormon for my books, she thought this was an odd request, but decided it was above the reading level of most of the books the other children where reading and told me I could count each chapter I read as a book.  I committed to reading and finished the book of Mormon for the first time in my life during this competition.  I also read many other books.  I loved going to the library and read many books during this time.  Doctor Seuss was one of my favorites.  I remember finding a large book full of Doctor Seuss books and reading the whole thing.  When the competition ended I had read over 300 books and won the competition by over 100 books more than all the others in the competition.

This helped me early on to gain a great love for the Book of Mormon.  It also helped me understand the language of the scriptures early on so that as I read throughout my life I have been able to better understand what the prophets are teaching, without struggling with the varying language used.

The final memories I would like to talk about are those of being outside and very active.  I remember being very fast.  I was short and I was a lot like my son Joey is now.  I loved running and all things either sports related or playground related.  Monkey bars where a favorite and I would always try to skip more bars until I would launch myself into the air between bars to get farther.  My obsession with new and active things even went to where I would Spiderman up the brick walls of the school.  Using my fingers I would get between the cracks in the bricks and climb the one story to the top of the building then jump to the ground.

Being very active was something that carried through most of my life and has blessed me in many ways.  Field day was a day I loved and being able to run all the way around our play yard at the school many times was great fun.

As I think back on these years I have been extremely blessed.  I could never write in a single article all the things that I remember even in this simple year and a half, and many memories I cannot touch on now run through my mind as I write this article.  I hope this becomes precious to my family and children and that others can find use in the words and memories.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Little miracles. Coming to know God. #God #spiritual #service #Jesus

Service brings us closer to God than most other things.  I have learned that if I want to understand my Heavenly Father better, it is through service that I usually learn what it is that I desire.

In this post I want to talk about an experience that had a large impact on me, and I believe my cousin that I worked with as well.  In sharing this I am not trying to paint myself as a saint, or puff my pride or anything of that nature.  I am attempting to share how one experience touched my life and brought me closer to a loving Heavenly Father.

The experience happened when I was living in Taylorsville, Utah and was a young boy, likely around the age of 8 or early 9.  I had a cousin that was pretty extremely handicapped and had a disease that made it very difficult for him to get around.  He struggled because of this and we would spend time together at the basketball court between our houses playing and talking.  I once asked him if he would like to walk and play, and he wanted that very badly.

I decided to take it upon myself to help him get out of his wheelchair and walk.  I knew it was more than just a teaching experience because he had never walked, and his muscles couldn't support him.  At the time I just knew it would take a miracle to allow him to do what he wanted, and he even said it isn't possible.  Even before we started all hope of success seemed impossible.

We spent days, then weeks, and then months just working on balancing him and allowing him to stand, and then to take a step which was an amazing day.  After months of work and many frustrations and struggles, he took his first set of steps.  I believe the most he ever did was to walk about halfway across the one half of a basketball court, but to him that was the greatest success ever.  I felt this was amazing and I was witnessing a miracle.  His parents became concerned that we were pushing him too hard, and insisted we stop the nonsense.  He also was concerned and agreed with his parents.  After that we were never able to work on this again.

I learned some amazing things from this experience though:

First I learned understanding for those less fortunate, not just those that are handicapped in some way but to see the struggles of those around me.  More importantly I learned to lift others when possible.  There is nothing that our Heavenly Father has that he does not want us to have.  There is nothing that we face he is not willing to help us through.

Second I learned that we have to respect the wishes of those who care for us.  It was very difficult for me to let my cousin sink back on his desires based on the decision of his parents, but it was the right thing to do.  From this I learned that Heavenly Father will respect the free agency of us and those around us.  Some things are out of our control, and we need to be aware of that. More importantly we need to allow others their free agency so they can make the choices they feel are right.

Another thing I learned from this is that people can give up when things seem to be going well.  I don't know if this was for the better or not in my story, but I know I was blessed by having the experience.  In fact, I was more blessed by letting my friend and his family make their choice and not pushing things.

This experience as a whole helped me to understand that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ want us to know them and be like them.  They care more than we likely will ever understand, and even though we constantly stumble and fall they are always there to lift us up if we will not give up on ourselves or on them.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Facing fears... The dreaded moment of truth.

For my next blog entry I am going to write about the first time I ever spoke in church.  I know many people who struggle with speaking in front of people to this day and I often get comments about how easy it is for me to speak in front of people.  I share this story so others might know that was not always the case, and that to overcome any fear we must understand and face it.  I will also share a few other stories including the story of the first time I sang in front of an audience of of around 500 people, and then in front of a board room.  Anyway, enough with the intro.

 I was around 8 years old the first time I talked in front of a church meeting.  It was a big meeting for the AUB church and had around 1000 people present (This is a complete estimate and may be way off).  It would probably be comparable for most of my LDS friends to speaking in a big stake conference meeting.  Around this age I also enjoyed singing and had around this same time sung, "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief" in front of a smaller group where we had around 30-50 people. 

It doesn't really matter what I talked about in this big meeting (I'm not sure I could remember if it did).  The point I wish to make is what did I feel as I went to talk to this large group.  Writing this is  interesting to me as I look back; because, I don't remember being afraid when I sang the song in front of the smaller group.  Most of which were family and friends who lived right around me.  This comparison is critical because it gets to the heart of the fear in my mind, and may give some additional details into the fears of those that struggle with speaking in front of others.  

As I spoke to the larger group I was completely terrified.  My uncle had spoken just before me and we had talked about being afraid, we were around the same age and good friends.  When it was my turn to speak I wanted to turn and run off the stage, and I was so scared that my legs were literally struggling to keep me up, as I stood at the mic in front of the large group.  If I remember right I didn't say anything for some time until someone came up and helped me from the church leadership seated behind me.  I made it through the talk and believe it or not once I got going it was much easier.  Likely because I was focused on the talk and not being in front of everyone.

I firmly believe one of the things that has helped me feel comfortable speaking to bigger groups is reading the scriptures and knowing them.  They teach, "If ye are prepared ye shall not fear."  I also think teaching for many years has helped calm my fears.

When I think back on this I have a lot of compassion for those that struggle and who read their talks.  I will go off on a short tangent.  I believe reading talks is a great tool, and I also believe it is needed in many cases.  I can speak well with or without reading a talk.  There are times I will write down a talk and read it to follow a strict outline or to make sure I cover important material exactly.  I have heard some say that reading a talk is bad and doesn't allow the speaker to follow the spirit, and I disagree with that logic.  For those afraid of speaking (and anyone else for that matter) reading a talk is not a bad thing.  The spirit can guide you on what to write and say whether a talk is written or not.  That being said I'll get off my soap box.

As I think on what I have written, here are some questions that come to my mind.  What was I really afraid of?  Why was I afraid of it and how have I gotten comfortable talking in front of others now?  I will attempt to answer these questions through the other stories I will tell and the following dialog.

I have always enjoyed writing music and more specifically lyrics, so when I was working for the LDS church for the first time in 2007 I jumped at the opportunity to write a spoof to the ICS Cultural Beliefs which was requested for an all hands meeting for the then 500-600 employees.  I was accepted to write my song and perform it for the meeting, (and will gladly get the file to any interested).   I got it all written and practiced it well.  I left for the all hands meeting which was taking place in a large theater in downtown Salt lake City, Utah.  And sung the song over and over as I walked to the meeting.  When I got there, I did really well and a short time later was allowed to record a handful of my music at the church's recording studio.  This was a big enough hit that I was also invited to sing my song in front of the CEO for the church.  

When the day to sing for the CEO came I headed to the COB (Church Office Building) and up to the floor I was to meet with the CEO and directors with.  Again I practiced well and felt ready for the challenge, but the closer the meeting got the more nervous I became.  When I was at the meeting the CEO was unable to attend and so I sang for the directors.  I made mistakes in the second singing I never came close to making in front of a larger audience because of fear.

So this brings me back to my questions.  What was I really afraid of, I believe part of the answer was impressing those with authority, and part was wanting to look good or at least not look bad.  But why would I do well with the bigger audience and not the smaller one...  I believe I saw the majority of those around me as peers and not someone I needed to impress.  The final thing that I think impacted me is not feeling I had the understanding those around me had.  Why does any of this matter...? Because for me to conquer my fear I had to understand it.  

I believe understanding the root of a fear is the first step to overcoming any fear.  To explain this I will turn to another story.

Another good example of this was my fear of heights.  I was terrified of heights most of my youth and up until I was 21 or so.  One day I realized it was just as nauseating to look up a large building as to look down one.  I then realized the distance was the fear for me not falling or feeling insecure.  I started to reason... How could I get nauseous and dizzy if I was standing on firm ground looking up a building, I had to ask myself?  I was then able to understand and face the fear of heights by going to the top of the highest building and looking down long enough to clear my head and let the fear go (I started on the ground and looked up first until I got over the fear).  I also helped overcome this by flying in small Cesna airplanes and showing myself I need not be afraid, by watching the ground get further away and closer during take-offs and landings.  The previous fear of heights has been overcome enough that I can walk to the edge of a cliff and look over, or many other things I never could do earlier in my life.

Back to my previous examples of the song and the speaking...  With my feelings of needing to impress those in authority I learned I needed to change my views.  I still have to work on this.  Instead of portraying itself in fear it shows up in other annoying traits of mine.  I personally believe we should always be re-evaluating our perceptions and changing them as needed based on the spirit and our experiences.

Although this entry is getting long I will add one more story to it.  I recently came from the Salt Lake temple and met Elder Russell M. Nelson as I was walking.  I felt the need to talk to him about a subject that has been on my mind a lot lately.  The purpose of sharing this is not to focus on anything except the fact that in my mind as we talked my thoughts were not focused on impressing him, though he is one of the greatest leaders in the LDS church at this time.  The thoughts on my mind were to find an answer (if possible), and to not interrupt his schedule at all if possible.  The respect for others and their time being my key concern.

I firmly believe that we are all capable of excellence, and the achievements of others is not something to fear (or covet) but to praise.  I had to realize that a position of authority is simply placed upon a person to allow them and others to accomplish specific things, and does not change who that person is.  Except to the extent that we all grow from our experiences.  By changing my viewpoint I was able to for the most part overcame the fear of speaking in public.  By recognizing it and addressing the root of the concern in my mind.

What are some key take-a ways from this:

  • Fears are typically caused by a number of things and not typically a single thing.  Following is a small list I thought of based on this short review:
    • Our perceptions
    • A lack of understanding
    • Concerns for the perceptions of others
    • Not getting the big picture
  • I had to understand the cause of my fears to overcome them
  • I needed to know why the cause of my fears impacted me
  • I needed to evaluate the cause and change my perceptions where they were wrong
  • By doing these things I have been able to overcome most if not all of my fears

The purpose of this blog post is two-fold.  First to capture my experiences and relate them to some of the struggles of my friends.  Second to hopefully help some overcome some of their fears, or at least understand how I overcame some of mine.  My wife has often commented that I am not afraid of anything.  I don't know that that is true, but I do know that at a minimum I can control my fears and care for the things I need to work on.  I contribute this in part to the things written here.

I cannot write all of the logic behind my perceptions and how I deal with fear, but I believe I have made a sizable dent in it with this post.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Opposition in all things.

For those that remember my comments on how my life was saved by divine intervention, I now want to talk briefly about the other side of this blessing.  This will likely be the only time I write about this.

The Lord says through the prophet Lehi to his son Jacob there will be opposition in all things.  In 2 Nephi 2:11 "For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things..."  Along with strong spiritual blessings from God the devil is allowed to interject his power to the extent of the blessings we are given.  This is seen with experiences throughout the scriptures, and the biggest story of this that comes to mind is that of the prophet Joseph Smith.

I do not like this topic and avoid it as much as possible, but have felt as I deal with other topics of my life that I need to share this.  I have done some in depth study of this, and feel it much more gratifying to focus on the relationship with God and the bounteous blessings it offers than on the devil and his minions.  That being said it is important to understand that he is as real as our Heavenly Father and that we all are involved in a literal war between the two.

My first experience with this came at a young age.  I had an evil spirit take the image of a young girl and haunt me for almost a week straight.  It finally got to the point where my father stepped in and gave me a priesthood blessing.

As I have stated in earlier posts I believe God blesses us based on our faith and faithfulness.  I believe strongly that I was blessed to have this spirit driven away according to the desires of my heart and the faith of my family and I.  That being said I do not believe it was according to the power of God or any priesthood believed to be held by the AUB church and it's members. 

The next experience also happened while in my youth.  I still remember the experience as vividly as if it had happened yesterday.  I was sleeping over at the homes of one of my grandmothers and was in a bedroom at the end of the hall.  The bathroom was the next room over from me and the first door to the right as I left the room to go down the hall on the lower complex of a fourplex where 4 of my grandmothers lived.  This was the only time I remember staying over night at this particular house.  Although I did go to a birthday party at it as well at one point, and walked through it often as we left church meetings which were held in a larger room in the middle of the two lower apartments of the fourplex.

With these details in mind I start my story.  I was sleeping over in this basement room and got up to go use the restroom.  While I was there I felt burdened by a very negative feeling.  I went to wash my hands and I saw a number of small devils all over.  They were all about 3-4 inches high in the form they took and terrifying to a child young as I was.  I am guessing there were 15 or more of them.  I tried to scream and they held my tongue so I could not.  They were extremely strong and held me mostly immobile though I tried to struggle with all my might.  I cried to the Lord in my mind for I could not use my voice.  That was the last thing I remember.  The next morning I woke up in my bed and was grateful that the ordeal was over. 

Since writing this I have inquired of the Lord and was able to know how this finished playing out that night.  I write this according to my vision.  As I prayed an angel of the Lord entered the room and my mind was veiled.  The spirits left immediately and the angel helped me to my bed where I quickly fell asleep due to the lack of strength from the fight and the experience.

The final experience I will share happened while I was a young adult.  I was in my room and as with many spiritual experiences this happened in my minds eye (or in other words it was more like a vision than something I actually saw with my natural eyes).  I was in a room where I had never before been.  I believe it to be a vacated hospital, based on the memory and the layout of the room and hallway leading from it.  I could feel the evil around me. 

As those that have experienced the wonderful feelings of the Holy Ghost know those feelings are strong and penetrate your entire body.  A person cannot help in some cases but to know they come directly from God.  This was exactly the opposite.  I was literally terrified. 

By this time in my life I had joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and had been ordained an elder.  According to my beliefs this means I have been given the power of God as were Christ and his apostles to work many mighty miracles and act in the name of God. 

As I recognized the feelings and noticed the connection between the other experiences with Satan and his followers.  I started to turn my heart towards the Savior.  At this time a very attractive woman in complete black walked through the wall into the room and started to approach me.  I commanded her to leave and she smirked at me and kept advancing.  I then used a sign of the priesthood and commanded her in the name of Christ to leave and she became very angry.  I knew she wanted to kill me, where she had previously wanted to attract me.  I stood my ground and she left through the wall in the manner she had entered the room.

Now I will share a short comment about my beliefs:  I believe that those that follow Satan can take many forms, even to make themselves appear as an angel of light.  I know that when those spirits from Satan approach us there is hesitancy and fear, and the feelings are not good that over take us.  Whereas the good experiences I have had were enlightening and physical beauty was never used as an enticement, but rather Heavenly personages are glorious and beautiful beyond description because of their very natures.

I wrote this simply to demonstrate to those that follow my blog and those that may read it in the future that these things are real and we all experience both the good and the bad.  Typically Satan and his followers do not wish to be known.  They can much more easily tempt and try us if we are unaware of their presence, but they will not hesitate to use fear and other methods of persuasion to their advantage.

I pour out my heart to all those that read this that they be watchful and pay close attention to the spirit of Christ which is given to every person that comes into this world to distinguish good from evil.  It will guide us back to the presence of our Heavenly Father.  Do not be deceived, because wickedness never was happiness.  We can find temporary reprieve from the things of this world through wickedness, but the consequences are never worth it.  True happiness is only found in doing the things we know to be right and continuing on as we grow in truth and light.