I am sooooo sorry to be so late in posting this week’s installments of my novel, Dates with God. I just got back from our family road trip to Nauvoo late last night.I had hoped to post more during the trip, as I promised, because I knew I would have my laptop and my hotspot on my phone. But my hotspot service was spotty the five days we were in the car (there and back). Then when I was in Nauvoo we were gone sightseeing and temple-going every minute of the day. Then I dropped into bed late at night with no ounce of strength for blogging coherently. I posted some excerpts on Friday as I was zooming across Kansas in our family van using the laptop and my hotspot. This technology is amazing! When I tried the same deal on Saturday as we blazed through Wyoming, heading home, my Internet connection would not work. So this technology doesn’t always work, but it’s still amazing.
Anyway, we are back home safe and sound, full of stories of our ancestors and church history. Here’s Chapter 2, Part 3: Kate’s Letter #2 in which Kate loses to cinnamon rolls and starts learning about NFP.
Kate Week #2
Dear God, I think that for a long time I’ve had these feelings I’m learning about but I just didn’t know what they were, or how to describe them, so I ignored them. I lost my battle with staying under 1500 calories today. Hannah decided to make cinnamon rolls on Saturday night. I absolutely love them. I taught her how to make them when she was 6 and now she spontaneously makes them while watching Anne of Green Gables. It brings back sweet nostalgia of being in high school and having Anne marathons with my friends on weekends, gorging on sugar. Anyway, so Dave was at a meeting and the older kids were watching so I sat down to watch. Before I knew it I had eaten 3. It was only 9:30 when I started, next thing I knew it was 10:15. Aargh! I completely forgot about my 1500 calories goal and my bedtime goal, so I lost two of my battles. A double blow from satan!
I’ve just got to face it that sugar is a huge weakness for me and when I have it I start to lose control. In my scripture study I found a scripture that perfectly applies to this. In Alma 49, the Nephites show wisdom and strategy in fighting. They realize that the Lamanites will try to come back and attack in the places where the Nephites were previously weak. So they strengthen their weak places and surprise the Lamanites. This chapter also made me think of a movie, The Scarlet and the Black. It has two of my favorite actors, Christopher Plummer and Gregory Peck. I watched this movie with my older kids for our homeschool study on World War II. It’s based on a true story about an Irish Catholic priest, Monsignor Hugh Flaherty, who lives in Rome and helps put Jews into hiding. He is put on house arrest in the Vatican by the Nazi German forces who have taken over Italy. But he can’t stand staying in hiding and wants to occasionally get out to do his life-saving work. So he puts on different disguises, like a cleaning man, a food vendor, and then even a nun’s outfit. Eventually the Nazis figure out his strategy and they start copying him by disguising themselves in their attacks on him. This taught me a powerful lesson: the enemy not only figures out our weaknesses, but he also figures out where we are strong. Then he starts being really sneaky in our strong areas as well, with clever disguises. So we have to be constantly on our guard.
So in my life I have started to apply the idea that the enemy will first attack where he thinks I am weak. I know I have a weakness for 1. staying up late and then sleeping in 2. sugar, 3. food in general, 4. Internet time, and 5. fun girly movies. All of these things can be disguises for satan to attack me and make me forget my long-term, important goals, like avoiding sugar, studying the classics to get a great education so I can inspire my kids to do so, and getting to bed early. As I was thinking about Alma 49 and this class I realized that the way I strengthen the weak places in my life is by using the Captain’s Log of questions, specifically the prophecy question every day. That’s the question where I ask myself “How is the enemy going to attack me today?” When I ask myself that question it forces me to acknowledge my weaknesses before Thee. It forces me to realize that I have weaknesses and that I must address them every day before Thee so I can ask for They help in strengthening them. Writing this question out and answering it helps me to be humble. I’ve decided that if I write this question out, in addition to the question, “What do I need to be prepared to fight back and win such an attack?” in my journal, then that’s how I strengthen my weak places.
I’ve decided that I also need to have three times a day when I ask myself what am I fighting for and why I am fighting. I am setting alarms on my phone to go off three times a day where I ask myself those questions and give the answers. I don’t just ask them of myself verbally. I write them physically out in my journal. That is a way I can use my body to show satan that I am more powerful than he is. It’s also a way to keep my goals in my frontal lobe of my brain, the forefront of my mind. That way I will be much less likely to forget my goals.
Also in Alma 49, I read about the story of Captain Moroni’s battle strategies. He strengthened his weak places by fortifying the walls around the weak cities. If the walls had only one entrance, then when the Lamanites tried to get through the entrance, the Nephites were prepared to shoot arrows from above, on top of the walls. This allowed the Nephites to increase in the “gift of discernment,” so that they easily detected intruders and then quickly defended themselves. In other words, the Nephites had terrific border patrol.
What was the result of this strengthening of the borders? The Nephites had “all power over their enemies.” More than 1000 Lamanites were slain but zero Nephites were slain. Some of the Nephites were wounded. I might get a little wounded in my battles with satan as well, but if I do my Power Actions, and ask myself the prophecy question from the Captain’s Log of questions every morning with an answer on how I am fighting back, I will have my own form of border patrol to give me a gift on discernment for intruders and “all power” over my enemies. I will not be slain spiritually! I will have all power over satan, my enemy! I can see more than ever before how my daily scripture study and other Power actions are my own personal form of border patrol.
As far as the Girl Goals go, I have figured out recently that I need to change one of them. I want to write about that before I forget. We’ve never used birth control. We’ve been blessed with 8 beautiful children who came close together. I didn’t get married until I was 28 and at first I had a hard time getting pregnant. Once they started coming, at age 32, I didn’t dare do anything to stop them, knowing the agony it took to get the first one here! Maybe that’s partly why I’m fat– I seem to have gained 20 lbs with each one. I used to alternate between regular clothes and maternity clothes and then I gave up. The maternity clothes became my regular clothes, and I even outgrew the medium and large size ones, when I wasn’t pregnant. Then I had to start wearing women’s plus sizes and even extra plus sizes. So that part of having babies hasn’t been glamorous, but I’d have to say it’s worth it. I’ve always wanted to have as many kids as I could. They are a joy to me and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. But, now that Dave has cancer we have to rethink the family planning. Do we really want to have any more? I really don’t want to bring a child into the world knowing that his father could die soon.
Ugh, I HATE cancer! The word itself is so ugly! Even uglier than the word ugly. Why did it have to rear its head in my life? Why does it have to rear its head in anyone’s life? Can’t we all just live healthfully to a ripe old age and die from being old? Cancer has become an epidemic. I never thought about it before but all of Dave’s grandma’s siblings, all 7 of them, have died of it, one kind or another. As well as all four of my grandparents, and ten people in my ward in the last 2 years. I’ve been researching and praying about it. What causes it? Is there anyway to prevent it?
Dave and I have been talking and praying about having another baby with his cancer looming over us. We feel it’s best to end our open womb policy. I’m really sad about that, actually grieving. I love babies and I’ve always loved the idea of having more. Of course they are a lot of work but I’m used to it. I’ve always felt that there is nothing else I would rather be doing than having and raising and babies. But maybe my time of having more babies is over, at least for a season. If the chemotherapy works, and of course I am praying that it will, then the doctors say that it takes two years for the drugs to leave the body before it’s safe to get pregnant. We’re trying to decide what to do instead. After class last week we were hanging out talking. Somehow the topic shifted to having babies. I mentioned we were talking about sterilization because of the cancer. I asked a woman in the class, Stacey, about it and she suggested I look more into the risks involved, as well as the Church’s position on it. She said she had a lot of information about it and would email me the links later.
Then Lauren barged in and told me not to bother with natural family planning. That kind of surprised me because I know she’s into lots of natural stuff like natural birth since she’s a home birth midwife. I asked her why and she told me all of this stuff. The more she talked the more I felt she didn’t know what she was talking about. She kept telling me stories of people who said they used it and it didn’t work. Later that week, Stacey emailed me some information. I am so glad she did. Stacey can be really quiet but she really knows a lot. She shared with me that natural family planning is not just the calendar or rhythm method. That’s what Lauren thought it was. Stacey explained that every woman has a different day of the fertility cycle that she might ovulate and even one woman can vary from cycle to cycle. So it doesn’t work to just count days and guess when one is going to be fertile. A woman has to learn what the different signs of fertility are in her body and watch for them and track them. She said that NFP is 99% effective, and much safer than hormonal methods or sterilization.
So now I’m looking into it. The more I study it, the more I like the idea. I like the idea that it doesn’t involve any artificial chemicals, like the Pill. I was on the Pill when I first got married and after a year I went off. It gave me the worst migraines. A lady in my ward just had a daughter in the hospital with a stroke. This woman is only 22! The ER doctor attributed it to the Pill. The funny thing is that the daughter isn’t even married and was put on the Pill by her regular doctor to help her with weight loss! He didn’t even tell her about the risks, like strokes, or tell her to read the package insert that details all the risks. I started meeting with Stacey over the phone so she can teach me more about NFP. She’s told me about some books to read which I just checked out from the library. So I am learning all about fertility signals and I think it’s really amazing that just like the earth and trees go through seasons, so do women’s bodies. So now I’m going to start tracking my signals. This is all so new to me so I’ve been thinking of having “tracking my fertility signals every night” as a Girl Goal but I don’t want to drop the exercise goal, the get up goal, and the 1500 calories a day limit. I guess I’m going to have 4 Girl Goals. I can handle it! I am also thinking about going off sugar but I know I am not ready for it yet. But if I’m going to stick to 1500 calories I can’t have much sugar anyway.
I did a lot of study on what the church leaders have said about artificial birth control . I noticed when the Pill just came out, a lot them came out against it. Now they don’t say anything about it. Why is that? Do the teachings of those prophets no longer apply? I’ve prayed about and I feel like at least for us, this is the right choice.
I am feeling kind of nervous about starting NFP. Is that the satanic spin, or is that just the feeling of embarking on the unknown? For this week’s homework, we were supposed to start noticing satanic spins. I’ve made a page in my journal to note every time I feel it. I think it’s any time I start to feel fuzzy-headed, antsy, apathetic, bored, or lazy. It’s when I don’t feel like working on any of my duties or honing any of my talents. I feel it especially when I am at the Internet and want to keep clicking to get a new “hit” of excitement and interest, because I am bored, instead of walking away and finding one of my kids to have fun with or reading a hard book so I can get a great education, or sharpening my drawing and music skills.
Here are some evidences of the times I have felt the satanic spin this week:
-my sister called to invite me to a party to celebrate her husband’s promotion. I started feeling really depressed about Dave’s future and that a job promotion is the furthest thing from our minds.
-they served cheesecake at the Relief Society meeting and the next night it was those giant chewy chocolate chip cookies at pack meeting. I felt so left out as I tried to make small talk while everybody was devouring them. I felt depressed and deprived and frustrated that I have constant sugar cravings and that giving into them just makes them grow.
-I saw on Facebook that Kara just lost 30 lbs. I felt envious and even more depressed.
-Someone at church asked me if I am pregnant. I wanted to burst out in tears! I know it’s about time, based on my track record with my other kids, and I do look pregnant, but still. Why are people so rude and presumptive? I would never ask somebody that. I wait for the person who I suspect is pregnant to volunteer the information, even if she looks 9 months along!
-A lady from the ward came over after her daughter’s wedding reception, bearing a tray of leftover wedding cake, asking me “You have lots of kids right? I have some leftovers for you!” She sang that out triumphantly as if she were Santa Claus delivering wholesome organic Florida oranges to our doorstep. Ugh. I stared at the cake, with the fondant icing and the roses, and thought about looking her straight in the eye and icily saying, “Satan sent you here, didn’t he?” but I didn’t. I know she meant well. She went on to say that she had three different flavors of cake to share, as well as some mints and chocolates, white and milk, with the temple imprinted on them. She said she knew that we have the most kids in the ward so she immediately thought of giving ALL the leftovers to us. I thanked her for thinking of us, and oooh boy, was I ever tempted. Part of me wanted to take the chocolates and run, but I found the reasonable part of me politely telling her that my family likes to limit sugar because it causes behavioral problems (most of them in me!–but I didn’t tell her that part) so we couldn’t have any of it. I don’t have “no sugar” as an official Girl Goal yet but I know it ultimately does not help me feel good. It makes me feel grouchy and I just want more and more. Some people don’t seem affected by it but I certainly am. So hooray, I won an “unofficial” battle!
She looked very frustrated that she couldn’t just dump the contraband on me. I was actually quite pleased with myself for doing the right thing. The old me would have been cheering her and sending the kids out to bring it all in from her car. Then I would cut the cake up, and freeze it in portions. Then I would thaw it a week at a time, sneak it during the day when the kids weren’t looking, and eat it with ice cream after the kids were all in bed, every night, multiple servings each night. I’ve done that quite a bit in the past. That has been the nightly ritual that Dave and I use to unwind while we watch something on Netflix. I can definitely say that the annoyance I felt at this woman who thought she was doing a good deed for me was a definite chemical shift. I felt a chemical spill of annoyance mixed with a chemical spill of frustration that I knew the Holy Ghost was telling me not to accept the gift.
Later, a day or so after the thwarted sugar invasion, I was doing research about cancer online. There’s so much out there about it. I went from the peaceful feeling of Level 0 on the Chemical Scale, to Level 2, of painful overwhelm, in less than 2 seconds. I was encouraged by a statement I heard echoed many times. “Cancer is 100% preventable by diet.” The question is, what diet? So many people disagree on what a healthful diet is. I feel like Joseph Smith wondering what church to join. I know the Word of Wisdom is a good place to start of course. We could eat more vegetables and grains around here and much less junk food. I have to say, Dave does love his junk food. Give him his Dr. Pepper and his Doritos and his M and Ms and he is one happy camper. One thing I read went even so far as to say that cancer is caused by sugar. I don’t know about that. That sounds way too extreme.
OK, enough about diet and my victory over Sister Sugar in the ward. I want to talk about a lost battle. Two nights ago I lost a battle, getting into bed by 10 PM. I finally got the kids tucked in at 9:07 and I wanted to unwind in front of my favorite blogs while I drank some herbal tea. “I am just going to read a few posts, then I will go get ready for bed,” I told myself.The next thing I knew, I looked at the clock and it was 10:24 PM. What, how did that happen?
So I was thinking about it the next day, as I went to do my Power Actions in the morning. I asked God to speak to me through the scriptures to help me with answers as I did the Lost Battle Analysis for my journal writing that morning. So, I reread Alma 49 this morning, as well as Alma 48, and I got some amazing answers! I read about strengthening borders again. Alma 49:8 says that Moroni built walls of stone around the cities of the Nephites, in order to protect them from the Lamanites, the enemy.
So just like I wrote earlier, In order to protect myself from my enemy, the Lamanites in my life, I must erect a strong border, my power actions. That’s the way I build a wall to protect myself and my family and strengthen my borders. I am seeing that these actions must be more than just my prayer, writing, and reading. Those Power Actions are akin to building a wall with a watchtower on it for me every morning. But then I have to climb the watchtower so I can see the enemy. For me, that means looking over the plans for my day in my journal, which doubles as my planner, and asking myself three crucial questions:
1. How will the enemy attack me today to get me to fail at my Girl Goals and Power Actions?
2. When will be my most vulnerable time to his attacks?
3. What is my plan to be prepared and fight back?
If I had done that in the morning, and then checked it throughout the day, I would have reminded myself of my plan for the day that I made last night, and I would have seen that at 9 I was planning on doing some sewing and then that I was planning on getting ready for bed at 9:30 PM.
I also noticed a contrast between Amalickiah and Moroni in Alma 48. Amalackiah blinded the minds of his people and hardened their hearts (vs 3). That’s how he got power over the people. By contrast Moroni does not blind his people’s minds but “prepares” their minds to be faithful unto the Lord. He is a leader who brings his people to the Ultimate Leader, Jesus Christ.
I love vs 17 because it says that if all men were like Moroni, the devil would have no power over the people, ever! He only has power as we let him. I define power as the ability to create lasting change. Satan can exert the satanic spin on me. Just like the Lamanites attacked the Nephites no matter how righteous the Nephites were. But satan will exert no power over me, or lasting change, if I remain strongly connected to Thee through my Power Actions. So I thank Thee so much dear God, for giving me these Power Actions so I can maintain my connection with Thee through the wilderness of mortal life.