Fiery Darts, Heavenly Doves and Soul Sickness

“Would you be willing to teach a mini-class at the upcoming Relief Society conference?” My mom is a counselor in the Stake Relief Society Presidency and had been tasked with asking me.

“Sure, what about?” My answer was more motivated by love for my mom and less by any confidence I might to teach anyone anything.

“Being kind to ourselves.”

Being kind to ourselves.

Why is it so hard for us to do?  And bordering on impossible for some of us?  In my prayers that night, I asked God what needed to be said -what the women in our stake needed to hear.

“Talk about messages,” was the reply.  Messages.  I continued to meditate and pray over the course of a few weeks, and God continued to send hints my way. I was led to scripture passages about Fiery Darts and scriptural references and teachings about Doves.  There was a stark difference between the fiery darts that came from the adversary and the calming gentle messages that were sent in the form of a heavenly dove. I could feel that He wanted me to vulnerably share some of my own story, and I was willing to do it for Him.

I reflected on the years behind me -how many of them I’d spent believing the fiery darts puncturing my soul.

I’m too loud.

I’m a terrible housekeeper.

I’m not enough ________.

I’m too __________________.

I digested them as truth and worked hard to change them.  Maybe if I did Jillian Michaels workouts 3x a week, I’d be loveable.  Maybe when my house was consistently organized, I’d be enough.  At this time in my life, I was going through some heavy trauma in my marriage.  It was completely out of my control, and I handled it by controlling everything else in my life that felt manageable to me: my weight, my home, my kids, how other people perceived me.  It kept me so incredibly busy that I couldn’t feel the trauma and didn’t have to face it.  I was teaching piano lessons, playing piano for the local high school choir, teaching at-home preschool, keeping a craft business going on the side, doing some at-home daycare and working hard in my church calling.  There were nights that I’d literally wake up on my living room floor where I’d just dropped at the end of the evening. On top of it all, my dishes were done. My skinny jeans fit.  There was homemade bread on my counter.  Everyone around me was very validating.

“Alicia, I don’t know how you do it all.  You’re incredible.”  The people who said these things were people I trusted and IF THEY BELIEVED IT, IT MUST BE TRUE.  I worked so hard for that validation.  It kept me going -the fuel that helped me burn the midnight oil.

But, I learned, you can only run so long on borrowed fuel.  The trauma in my marriage caught up with me, and within a few months, I was curled up on the floor of my children’s bathroom crying so hard that my emotional pain morphed into physical pain.  It was my rock bottom -the lowest point of my life.  Everything was out of my control.  My house became increasingly chaotic.  Jillian Michaels gathered dust next to Baby Einstein.  My two diapered children ate cold cereal in front of Netflix while I tried and failed to gather the courage to fold some laundry.  My skinny jeans gradually made their way to the bottom of my pants drawer.  I was lonely and heavily depressed, bursting into tears daily.  I didn’t want to bother God with my petty life, not when He had wars, famines, and tsunamis raging all over the world.   So I ate cookie dough and cried in my home and put mascara on when I went to church.  I had a concerned church leader who helped, but I felt the importance of muscling through on my own without bothering other people with my stuff.  It felt like my responsibility -no one else’s.  But as time wore on, I became weary to the point of despair and began reaching out for help online.  I found a 12-step program and a support group online.  I began reaching out more and more, and slowly, gradually, I began reaching up to God.  I began a journey of discovery: forgetting who I’d been taught God was and discovering for myself who He is.

I began seeing the fiery darts for what they were: lies.  Every time I went to do the dishes and was flooded with thoughts of what a horrible housekeeper I was, I stepped away.  Every time I went to do any form of exercise and was flooded with thoughts of how awful my body looked, I’d stop.  Before I’d hit rock bottom, things in my life looked in order, but my soul was just so sick.  My soul healing was incredibly messy on the outside AND the inside.  I was turning my life over to the care of God, and I found that throughout my life, he’d been sending me messages of His own: heavenly doves in the form of a sunset or a sunrise, a perfectly-time song on Pandora with lyrics I needed to hear, a letter in the mail, a visit from a friend, a phone call, a sweeping feeling of safety in the middle of a trauma trigger.

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I began rejecting the fiery darts and accepting the heavenly doves, and then I hit a sort of plateau.  I called of friend of mine who had been through some really rough waters and fairly oozed confidence.  I asked her how she accessed the level of confidence she exuded, and she gave me some unforgettable advice.

“Practice confidence,” she said, “Just strut around with what you have and be proud.  And tell yourself you love yourself.”

TELL myself.  Out loud.

The first time I tried it, I couldn’t even look myself in the eyes in the mirror.  I muttered, “I love you” to a spot on my bathroom floor.

BUT.  I kept going back.  And back. And back.

I began sending myself some heavenly doves in the form of affirmations, telling myself that I was loved and worthy and enough.  As the years wore on and I developed health issues, I continued this practice.  At one point, I was lying on my couch, unable to accomplish anything beyond breathing, and I realized that I loved myself.

I was heavier than I’d ever been, unable to craft or cook or EARN MY OWN LOVE, yet there it was -brighter and more beautiful than it ever had been.  This is one of the greatest miracles of my life: uncovering my divinity and differentiating between the lies and truths sent my way.

My self-love began manifesting in beautiful ways.  I began making my bed because I realized I loved a made bed and not because I felt a need to PROVE THAT I WASN’T A FAILURE OF A HOUSEKEEPER.  Then I bought bedding that I loved and then I bought THE GOOD laundry detergent so my sheets smelled amazing.  I bought new underwear and realized with an ache that I hadn’t bought new underwear in SEVEN YEARS.  I bought dishsoap that reminded me each day of my grandma.  I threw out all 12 of my ragged bath towels and bought just 4 new ones.  Life organically began to simplify as love permeated the surfaces of my soul and home.  I kept a bouquet of fresh flowers on my piano and every day I woke up to a flood of dove-like messages: sweet-smelling sheets, homemade soap in the shower, a thick towel, underwear that fit right, fresh flowers… my breakfasts began looking brighter and my meals shifted from a place fraught with worry to a place filled with loving nourishment.  I went for daily walks and listened to the birds.  I took up a daily meditation practice where I began to deepen my blossoming relationship with God.

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Was my house clean?  Some days.  And some days not.

But the important thing is this: my soul was in better shape.

As I finished one of my presentations (I gave the class six times over to rotating groups), one of my friends in the stake raised her hand and said, “Now that you’ve been through all that and have come out the other side… what now?  I mean, what do you think is going to happen NOW?”  I laughed nervously and told her I didn’t know.  The last vibe I’d ever want to put off is that I am done learning, that I’ve got things figured out.  I am now and forevermore a novice to this world, even to my own self.

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As I gave my mini-class to the sisters in my stake, I encouraged them to flesh out the heavenly doves in their own lives and strive to drown out the fiery darts with a flood of heavenly doves.

I told them about a statue Russia donated to our country as a token of peace… it represents a scripture in the Bible referencing beating swords (weapons of war) into ploughshares (tools of the harvest).  With Christ, I’ve been able to take the fiery darts in my life and turn them into tools of positivity.

I keep a picture of this statue in my meditation space.

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I went home feeling raw with vulnerability, surrendering to God my presentation and how others might perceive me.  I went to my son’s basketball game. I held hands with my husband.  We watched a movie as a family and slept in before church the next day.  After napping in the afternoon and visiting with family in the evening, I changed into my PJs.

And that’s when I found the lump.

 

 

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