Showing posts with label prayer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label prayer. Show all posts


What if the silence after prayer isn't proof of God's absence, but instead evidence of God's awe?

What if it's just the silence preceding a slow clap?

What if I'm the character in the series God has been reading for years, and I'm finally going to Do the Thing? The Thing God has been waiting for me to do since page one. And unbeknownst to me, I've just done it.

So I'm not alone in hardship. God just had to put the book down to cry a little bit. My Creator had to go back and reread it a few more times, just to savor the fact that it's real, that I am real, and all of this is really happening.

What if God always knew I would trample this hardship under my feet, but is too giddy with anticipation to see me succeed to interrupt?

Prayer in the Time of Gun Violence

I hate every impact that Christian Nationalism has had on society. The one that I hate most, as a deeply religious person, is what Christian Nationalism has done to prayer.

Because "thoughts and prayers" is such a powerless, meaningless phrase coming from them—because all prayer requires real intent and action to be sincere—it has led an entire generation of people to believe that all prayer is powerless and meaningless.

I don't want the people around me to hesitate to pray for me when tragedy strikes. I love prayer! I love the way communal prayer is supposed to deepen our love, our commitments to each other as a community. Sincere prayer brings peace to me and to others in many faiths, which does have a positive impact on the world. Sincere prayer has power to change the world for the better.

But because we've been placed in the ridiculous position of trying to stop bullets with prayers alone, "thoughts and prayers" has become a ridiculous thing to offer in any situation because the people saying that have no intention of offering sincere prayers backed by action.

Prayer has become a casualty of gun violence in my country. The thing that many of us need most to face that violence has become an object of mockery and scorn. What a loss that is.

Christian Nationalism did that. Christian violence did that. Christian hypocrisy did that. And I can't even blame people for feeling that way. If I didn't already treasure prayer the way I do, I might feel the same exact way.

Addressing Mental Health and Prayer with LDS Youth

Coming from someone who was in Young Men/Young Women adjacent callings for years in my previous ward: the most important thing I ever said to a room full of teenagers is that mental illness doesn't mean that God has given up on you.

Even if your family is no longer in the Church, do yourself a favor. Go say those exact words to the Mormon/Mormon-adjacent kids and teens in your life.

How did we get to the place where we have to say that? I have theories based on the youth I taught. The group who needed this the most were the teenage boys. Hands down. No question. And I think how we get here isn't necessarily through "mental health treatment doesn't work" messaging. The youth I had weren't sequestered from getting real professional help. 

What I think goes wrong here is the idea that prayer helps in every situation.

People with mental illness have a very different relationship with prayer than those without it. Prayer does not cure, or even improve, mental illness. I will go so far as to say the best messaging is that prayer has no impact on mental illness.

Kids in religious households need to hear this very explicitly. They need to hear it from the adults they love and trust. The first person saying it to them should not be their Sunday School teacher when they're 14 and 15 years old. (Ask me how I know.)

What happens if they don't hear that? The following logical progression: I am depressed, anxious, struggling with an illness in my brain. I prayed for help. I can't "feel" the answer. I'm too broken for God. God doesn't love me anymore. 

They will go to this place on their own, independent of the example you've set for them in pursuing mental health treatment in your own life. They need someone they know and trust to help them contextualize religious devotion through the lens of mental illness.

I would also add to this: There isn't anything wrong with teaching young children that they can feel answers to their prayers. There's a lot wrong with that messaging if it doesn't evolve with them as they grow up and mature into adulthood. 

As a religious person with mental illness, God isn't someone I interact with through my feelings, especially when I'm in crisis. God is the one teaching me to reach out, ask for help, and to keep asking until I get the help I need. God is the one in that situation telling me not to give up on myself, and to take care of myself. 

When I'm in crisis, there is very little else God is going to be saying to me. Why? Because God knows better than I do that Prozac is better than prayer for me in that moment. It can make religious people uncomfortable to say this because they feel like it's admitting failure in God.

To me, it's like purposefully having a conversation in a loud room and making the person I'm with scream at me, when I already know they don't like to yell.

I take my medicine because it quiets most of the noise from my mental illness most of the time. Then when I pray, it's less of a struggle to hear and interact with God. That's just the nature of being me. There's nothing wrong with that. And it doesn't mean God doesn't love me.

Our teens struggle more with their mental health than other teenagers because they're getting very different messaging about God's direct, granular involvement in their lives than most other teenagers, with no corollary for mental illness. So they go from "God is in every detail of my life" to "God is nowhere to be found." 

That's not good! It's enough to make any mental illness worse because our youth feel like the most loving, most selfless part of their support system abandons them when they need it most.  

If you're going to raise your children in a religious environment, there needs to be a healthy understanding that God isn't a magic gumball machine who takes away every problem just because they pray. How we talk about mental illness needs to be a part of that.

Stop Trying to Pray the Gay Away

Rainbow Chair, Maki Yamaguchi

God conquering and subduing LGBTQIA+ bodies to force them to be heterosexual and cisgender is not miraculous.

That's why God doesn't do it. It's not because our Heavenly Parents don't care. They don't answer such prayers because they didn't make a mistake in the first place.

The same goes for parents who try to pray various aspects of their children's identities away.

You cannot fix what isn't broken. But you can break a lot of things, including hearts, when you force anyone to be someone they're not.

Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the rock of my righteousness. Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God. Amen.

2 Ne. 4:35

God does have the power to help us with our problems, including in miraculous ways. In the language of scripture, we have to learn to "ask not amiss." 

LGBTQ+ folks (including David Archuleta) are people to be loved, not problems to be solved.

Writing Down My Prayers

I don't remember who it was, but someone on Twitter was asking about prayer when your relationship to the Church falls apart, and the reflection I did in response was really helpful. I haven't prayed in a long time because my trust with God is very damaged.

I know the only way to fix that is to start praying again, but it's hard to get the words out. So I started writing out my prayers instead. It has been helpful, one of the only things that has helped me so far, so I'm going to keep doing it. Right now, they're all written in pencil in a tiny notebook. But every time I pick it up, I remember a suggestion someone made to me years ago that suddenly has new relevance.

We were visiting my stepfather's family (they're all practicing Catholics), and their tradition was to have the youngest person say the prayer before holiday meals. Because that lot fell on my younger sister who isn't religious, I volunteered to do it instead. My stepfather's stepmother told me I should write my prayers down into a book, which made me laugh out loud because I was awkward and I didn't understand this is a thing Catholics do.

It's a good idea. I find reading and hearing the prayers of other people deeply instructional. It helps me to imagine new things to ask for, to see new ways of speaking to God about what matters to me. So, I'm going to start working on a poetry collection inspired by my prayers.

Part of what attracted me to patriarchal blessings in the first place was because it's one of the only religious spaces we have that isn't directly under the control of someone else. It's a personal space where we have total interpretive freedom, if we allow ourselves to have it. Prayer is like that, too. And I think there's a lot of value in challenging the idea that there are forbidden subjects I shouldn't or can't talk about with God, and letting go of the fear that I will ask for things that are wrong. That's what I need to explore for myself. 

What if prayer was an unconditional space where I could say whatever I wanted and God still had to listen to me?

I don't have an answer to that, but I'm about to find out.

Talking to God

Part of the impediment to me wanting to pray has come from an intense dislike of who I've understood God to be up until this point in my life. It's a relationship largely defined by me making apologies and excuses for him to justify terrible behavior from those who believe in him.

I'm just not willing to do that anymore.

Without trust, he and I have absolutely nothing to talk about. And I've realized that I can't trust a God who doesn't treat me like an equal. That trust is broken, and he and I are fully aware that's the only thing I have to say to him.

I trusted him to be my protector, to be the only one in my life who would never hurt me or abandon me. It's the trust of a child in a parent, where the parent already knows that relationship is completely unsustainable into adult life.

God has hurt me more profoundly than anyone else in my life, in all the times and places I needed him and he wasn't there. For the sake of me becoming an adult, he left me alone. The "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" approach to parenting.

Well, if adulthood is going to be defined by God constantly walking out on me when I need him most and learning how to live without him, what exactly do I need him for?

Maybe there's wisdom in this, in having a relationship with God that isn't based as much on need as mine was with him. But it's a profound loss of closeness and trust I haven't figured out how to overcome. And for now, I can't imagine a time where it's ever going to hurt less.

I wish I had the answer. The closest thing I have to that, perhaps, is the God who truly steps away when I tell him "if this is the kind of half-assed help you're offering, I don't want your help." 

Right now, I feel like that's all I know about God anymore.

The Lord's Prayer

I'm studying the Lord's Prayer because my prayers have become weak sauce and uninspired. How can I pray more like Jesus? Always a good question to ask.

Jesus opens with praise to the Divine. How often do I praise God for who he is? Practically never. Praise to me has always felt like telling God things about himself that he already knows. But like words of affirmation, being original isn't the point. The point is affection. Acknowledging the good, the holiness in someone else is never a waste. I should do this more.

The first thing Jesus asks for is Unity with/Acceptance for Divine Will. Also doesn't make a frequent appearance in my prayers. I'm a laundry-lister if there ever was one. Just because most of what I ask for isn't for myself doesn't make it a good prayer. Lists are still about me. What does God want for me, and am I discovering that/uniting myself with it each day? Not as intentionally as I could.

The second thing Jesus asks for is sustenance. What do I really need, and am I asking for it? This is one thing I can give myself credit for. I could always be more specific. But I've been poor and hungry for too much of my life to ever be bad at this.

The third thing Jesus asks for is Resolution. An end to strife, forgiveness, (in our case) repentance, and support in all relationships. Oh boy, do I need this! No wonder I feel so worn out. I need renewal and rejuvenation in every relationship I have. That is something I need to pray for!

The last thing Jesus asks for is support in weakness and trials. He had them, just like us. And mine are also nothing to be ashamed of. I can admit to myself that I have them without embarrassment. What he's asking for is also two-fold, as interpreted by me: Don't let me follow anyone else into trouble
If I'm taking myself there, please save me from myself.

What a beautiful way to be human, really. And still responsible for my own actions.

I am not equipped to separate the suffering in the world from judgmental thoughts about what others should be doing to overcome their weaknesses. It doesn't leave much space to think about my own weaknesses. I need to recenter myself on what I can control, which is me and only me.

Jesus closes with more praise, because he's a nice guy. And it really makes me think that Heavenly Father must be big on words of affirmation.
My prayers include a lot of habitual stuff, like praying for my family, the prophet, the missionaries and all that. And I think I need to stop myself from doing that for a while. What good does praying for others do me if I'm drowning, but I never pray for myself?

The Lord's prayer is awesome. Every time I study it, I learn something new and it makes my prayers better.



Pray as if your soul depended on it,
as if the world would cease to move
if your heart continued to lay
silent in your chest.

In time, the world will cease--
not because it stands still,
but because you do.

In the heaviness of stillness
to the heart that desires nothing more than God,
He speaks not of fire and brimstone,
but of peace.

The Refiner's Fire

Yesterday was a long day. I mean, I'm no stranger to statements like that--but seriously. Yesterday was a mess that it'll take me some time to sort through in my head.

 We showed up to my father's funeral just before it started. In all honesty, it was something I wanted to get through as quickly as possible because I was extremely uncomfortable. Celebrating my father is something I've never been good about, and the fact that I was expected to in that setting was simply more than I could handle. I sat there silently, rigidly, trying to find some good in what I was doing, or at least for the end of whatever it was that was in store for me.

Just as in life, and the management of his affairs in death, his funeral was a tribute to the one fact about my father that I cannot escape, not even in my own behavior--he could never do anything half way. Just when you think what you planned will go smoothly, completely uninterrupted by the more unpredictable and toxic aspects of the full reality in which you actually live, memories enter, a constant reminder of the ghosts that may not take you down, but will be lurking in doorways until the day you die. Anger rises instantly, your back seizes with stress, and while you may forget to breathe, the desire to pray and live is stronger than your demons anymore.

Heavenly Father, please help mine unbelief. Protect me from these memories, that anger that threatens to destroy me at every moment. Help me to find unshakable faith in thy Son's Atonement. Lord, PLEASE save me. Forsake not thy handmaid. Lord, please help mine unbelief.

Over and over again, no matter how many times it takes. Do not open your eyes until you feel human again, or you will be taken under again.

The pastor, a confused, quivering man that--if he isn't in his eighties, looks as if he could be--bears a message to your deaf ears; he seems to know things that you ought to. But revelation never promised wisdom, and it's time you took some from the people who offer it--the fact that your father "wanted to do good." Let those words sink in deeply, as hard as it will be for you to trust them.

Lord, please help mine unbelief...

A memorial service, a circus, a refiner's fire... for me, it was all of these things--maybe more. One thing is certain: I'm no longer the believer I thought I was. I will either remain the grandest hypocrite of a fraud of them all, or I will become that sincere believer I always hoped, imagined, and promised--nay, even covenanted--I would be. I will either be the impurity that rises to the surface, or the purified silver right next to the heat.

I just began reading the Book of Mormon again, and I'm rapidly returning to the chapters about the liahona--that "ball of curious workmanship."

Curious? Curious, indeed...

Exodus: The Miracle

I've been in Utah just over a week now, and my vacation time with The Patient One's family is rapidly coming to an end. I have enjoyed my time with them so much. They have really helped to make Utah feel like home, and I'll always be greatful for that.

Since I've been here, I've already seen so much. The first Sunday I was here, The Patient One's mother took me and some of our visiting friends to see the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I had never been to the Conference Center before, or seen Music and the Spoken Word, and it was nothing short of breath-taking. My eyes lit up the second I saw the organ. That little graphic on the front of the hymn books does NOT do it justice, let me tell you. I'm STILL fuming at my cell phone for being dead because I couldn't take pictures.

My first church meeting in Utah was rather odd, for reasons I can't quite articulate. Probably because I was the youngest person in Relief Society AND Sunday School, and I'm not used to having those meetings come first OR being completely silent in them either. And while I learned much from the lessons that I tried to take with me, I don't think anything they could have said would have prepared me for what I realized was coming the second I saw The Patient One again.

Have you ever wanted to tell someone something so badly that the thought of not saying it brings you to tears? Have you ever had the bizarre experience of having absolutely no idea what it is you want to say, only that you need to say it? You try not to bring it up because you've already made attempts to express the inexpressable, and you can't imagine what else you could possibly say. And meanwhile, you honestly feel like you're losing it. The littlest things force you to excuse yourself to hide in a bathroom, or a closet, or even in food storage just so you can regain your composure... little things like the smell of his cologne, the sound of his voice from across the house, the way he hugs his little sister for no apparent reason, or how peaceful he looks when he closes his eyes to pray. And then of course there's missing him when he's sitting right next to you.

So I did what any well-trained Young Woman would do. I prayed and read my scriptures to find some semblance of guidance for how to approach The Patient One about what has been left unsaid between us. Surely there's SOMETHING in the owner's manual about this kind of thing.

I pulled out my quad, plopped it open to a random place and started reading. Isaiah 27. Shivers ran down my spine. 27 is a HUGE number in my life. My confirmation date, the date of dorm check in, The Patient One's birthday, my favorite hymn, my favorite psalm, my favorite Shakespearean sonnet, and now the latest piece of guidance to my troubled mind. (I don't consider myself superstitious, but I know when to shut up and listen.)
1 In that day the Lord with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.
2 In that day sing ye unto her, A vineyard of red wine.
3 I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day.
4 Fury is not in me: who would set the briers and thorns against me in battle? I would go through them, I would burn them together.
5 Or let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me; and he shall make peace with me.
 I read these verses through tears because I wanted so desperately to believe that they are true. I wanted to believe that The Patient One, the most important person in my life, will receive the answers and guidance he needs and deserves... an affirmation that Heavenly Father has not foresaken him, or abandoned any of the promises He made with him. I wanted reassurance that Satan would not go unpunished for what he has done to my dearest friend. I wanted guidance to know that encouraging him to seek answers in the Church wouldn't result only in more heartache for the both of us.

So I took these verses for the promises they held, and I put them in my heart. I had something to hold onto as I prepared to re-approach a subject with The Patient One that has continued to weigh heavily on my mind as a task given by Heavenly Father that I was unable to meet: getting him to speak about his secret struggle to his Bishop.

So with the help of his sister, we spoke to him about our concerns for him. He took it all in silently, staring ahead blankly without saying much at all. Only when we begged him to speak did he finally utter anything at all. He finally confessed that he felt no urgency to speak to the Bishop. He said that if these feelings are from God, there's nothing the Church can do anyway; and if they're from Satan, God has been content to allow it all to happen anyway, so what difference does it make?

With all of the seriousness and sincerity I could muster, I told him--without even thinking--that wasn't true and pleaded with him not to let Satan lie to him like that. I reminded him that I knew what it felt like to hate God for abandoning me to parents that have done horrible things to me... to want answers, justification for what I faced, and not to receive it until years later. But I testified to him that I knew God had sustained me through all of what I had faced, and He never forgot or abandoned me.

"God will never forget the promises that He makes to any of us," I said, "that's why I'm here right now."

As soon as I finished, I knew two things; the first being the truth of my words, the second being the fact that they weren't mine to claim.

And in his usual fashion, The Patient One said nothing.

I've experienced things in my life that have made me so angry I've wanted to hurt other people, and I've experienced sadness so complete I've wanted to hurt myself just to make it end--but the feelings I had in that moment surpassed both of them to become something I may never understand. I was instantly so drained, I couldn't hold myself up anymore. My forehead rested against his shoulder for several minutes before I could lift it again.

After all this time and everything we've shared, even when I'm sitting right next to him BEGGING him to speak to me, he still holds me and the entire world at a distance.

His sister said some things about his going to see the Bishop, but I didn't hear most of it... only the silence roaring in my ears of all the things he wasn't saying.

Eventually he sighed and said it was time for us to go to bed, but I would have none of it. Not until I was sure we were getting through this time. I asked him to pray with us.

He resisted at first, and he and I went back and forth briefly about who was more tired and therefore shouldn't  have to say the prayer. Then I told him, "I'm not getting into a pissing contest with you about this, now say the dang prayer." I wasn't proud of that, but I knew he needed to do this, and I would have stood on the table and screamed "GOD SAVE THE QUEEN," if it would have accomplished something.

And naturally he was somewhat grudging in the beginning. I don't remember most of what he said because it was very late, but I remember the tone of his voice. It started out hard and rigid, but eventually it softened, and by the time he finished I heard peace in his voice. I thanked God from the core of my soul for even this small blessing because there was so much more I wish I could have given him, but I knew this was only the beginning.

I hugged them both goodnight, lingered at the bottom of the stairs, then finally went upstairs to the guest room where I said more prayers, then finally collapsed into sleep.

Soon after that experience, we took the bus together from his house to the BYU campus--the first time I had ever seen it for myself. We left at about 6:30 am, and for a while it was really easy to be around him because we were so preoccupied with figuring out where we were supposed to go. While we were waiting for one of the other buses, we actually got to watch the sun rise. I tried not to find any romance in it, but that was pretty futile. By the time we hit I-15, I had given up on trying to hold my ground and slumped my head onto his shoulder. He seemed completely oblivious, but I know him better than that.

After getting off at the Wilk, we basically wandered around until we finally figured out where I was supposed to go for my job interview--after which, I was hired on the spot. I picked up my student ID card and tried to finish the paperwork for my employment, but wasn't able to. We headed over to the library to look up an address for a credit union that I needed. Then we went and had lunch, and I had to fight with him for several minutes to eat the other half of the pizza that I didn't want because I knew he was hungy, only to have him say it would have been better hot. *FACEPALM*

It was all very rushed, which made being alone with him much easier.

Unfortunately, it didn't last. On the bus ride home--which took a very long time--we listened to his iPod. Big mistake on my part. I'm a firm believer that you can learn a lot about someone by the books on their shelves and the music on their MP3 player. In his case, it remains true. It got to the point where I began to weep silently next to him. I know for a fact that he didn't notice.

So when we came to an intersection and he said it would be quicker for us to walk the rest of the way, I took the chance to throw my energy into movement and to put my mind on other things. It took a few minutes for me to recollect myself, but we had plenty of time. It turned out to be a 4 mile walk in the desert heat at the hottest point of the day. Fortunately we had plenty of water. Never listen to someone about a walking distance if he has ever done Cross Country. They have no concept of distance anymore.

He seemed to understand that I was very frustrated, so perhaps it was a mistake on my part to break the awkward silence by admitting that I wanted a gun. He asked if I was really that irritated with him. I said I wasn't mad at him, and he probably didn't believe me.

We made it home safely, and by then we were talking freely to each other again. There were so many things I felt like I wanted to say, but I had no idea what they even were, so I talked about everything else. That's how conversations tend to go with him because he's so content to live in his own little world, and only comes into contact with this one for things outside of himself.

Which is what makes what happened next such a miracle to me.

After praying and reading my scriptures many, many times as I sought guidance from the Spirit that I could understand, I repeatedly came across the commandment to fast. So I did. I started a 24 hour fast and kept to it strictly. I had no desire to eat, only to find answers for the questions that were burning inside of me all the time. How do I get him to go and see the Bishop like You commanded me? Is there hope for his future? What can I do? What should I say? And in that state of holiest hunger, I've more answers given to me in a way I have never experienced before, and never imagined could happen. But I was still afraid to press the issue more with the Patient One. I prayed for intervention.

And it happened in Sacrament Meeting.

His bishop dedicated the entire meeting to the youth. He had them speak about their many experiences from different camps and activities in which they had participated over the summer. Then he took the stand and praised them all endlessly--their strength to endure well in the gospel, to hold to their standards despite great temptation, and for the optimism they bring to everything they do. He marvelled at their courage for facing issues in these days that he, like President Monson, can scarcely imagine and he hopes they will always come to him with any problem they ever have.

It took every ounce of my self control NOT to jump off of the pew, grab his face, and scream, "SEE?! Now will you go?"

But he got the hint. He started inching over to the bishop's office after the meeting, but never made it to see him. But the fact that he is FINALLY willing makes my heart swell with joy and testifies to me that Heavenly Father hears our prayers, cares about our fasts, and fulfills the promises He makes to His children.

Funny how He only tries to teach us what we should already know anyway, huh?


Dear Heavenly Father

I'm so grateful that my application got to BYU, even though I put the wrong address on the envelope. Thank you for keeping my hysterics from becoming too dangerous to myself and others. Please do what you can to convince my mother that I didn't mean those nasty things I said at the post office when we were trying to send the transcripts. I know she didn't call me stupid, but that's what I was hearing. You know how bad I get when I go into emotional vertigo. Please help me to do better so I don't hurt the people I love.

Please be with that guy I saw on Mr. Bob's old patio today. I can't imagine that Mr. Bob's apartment already has another tenant in it, nor do I know why the guy was just sitting in the snow. Watch over him. I imagine he must need you.

I thought about a mission today. I'm still not sure what to do about my desires to serve. I know I would be good at it, but I can't afford it. If it's what you want me to do, I will go. I would ask that you will bless the missionaries out in the field, especially those two in the West Indies that just disappeared. Their families must be worried and in low spirits. Please be with them too.

My teachers need to feel your love Heavenly Father. I know I will eventually escape this place, but they can't. At least not easily. I try to respect their trials, and to help in any ways that I can. But I know that every time they whirl on their classes of belligerent students and yell, "SHUT UP! I'M TIRED OF YOU GUYS!" they lose something precious that cannot be returned. Please help me to know what I can do and say to make our thankless high school a little better each day.

But our problems are not so large. We have been reading about Africa the past few weeks in school, and my heart aches for your children there. Rape in Sierra Leone. Genocide in Rwanda. AIDS in Burundi. I feel so selfish worrying about the AP Calculus test I missed today when there are so many people living in poverty. Why am I so blessed? What did I do to deserve such prosperity? Instead, please remember the children. Comfort them. Bless them, not me. I do not think I have done much lately to deserve many blessings. Give them to someone who could really use them.

I am grateful for the time you have given me today with my friends and family, and to share the love I have for them. May they always know how much I care for them. Please, if nothing else, give them all peace. Even if it means taking peace from me. I will try to learn to take comfort in the peace of others instead of always wishing it for myself. I will need your guidance, but I've learned that you're a really good teacher. I'm sure you know exactly what I need to hear.

I pray for these things humbly in the sacred name of your son Jesus Christ. AMEN.

I spoke to a friend of mine today. She moved to Georgia some years ago, and I have missed her. Her family situation would make a great soap opera, I must admit. To make a long story short, she is dealing with issues of her own with her father. She has decided, after re-entering his life, that she would prefer not to have a relationship with him anymore. She has been talking to me about her situation because I have so much experience with less-than-perfect parents. I try to help her in any way I can.

In her most recent e-mail, she told me that she still struggles with the pain left over from severing all ties with her father, and yet she refuses to endure him any longer. Her resolve is so familiar, and the true miracle of her situation is a great relief. Few women ever get the courage to rise above a man like that. Look at the domestic violence statistics some time if you don't believe me. What she has to do is not easy, and her courage will give her strength. But finding strength, although the most important part, is not the hardest part of the situation she faces. I have learned the hard way that recovering from familial abuse is 10% situation control, and 90% healing/recovery. Fixing the inner scarring left behind by an abusive family member, in my opinion, is the hardest part of having an abusive family member.

I told her to "find something to give yourself. Give yourself something to love, because that's what the emptiness is. Something that no one can take from you would be best." I went on to tell her that prayer works when all else fails. If I've learned nothing else, it's that keeping a prayer in your heart gives you something that no one can take from you. My friend isn't Mormon, but because we're both Christians, we can talk about prayer and faith with each other when we need to most; a facet of our friendship that I treasure.

And so I think I need to add a line to mine.

Heavenly Father. Thank you for the friendship I have found in Katie. I pray that she will feel that she always has a father in you. Please stay with her. Please help her to cope with the hatred she feels so it doesn't ruin her beautiful spirit. Please help me to know if there is anything I can ever do for her.
I ask for this in the name of my beloved brother, Jesus Christ. AMEN.
May your prayers lift burdens (yours and those of others) this holiday season; the best gift never wrapped in paper.

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