Joy is…5/52

Yeah, yeah, I know that I haven’t listed 2-4. I have kept them up in my book, but I have been a bit delinquent when it comes to blogging… 😦

So, I’m just going to do my best, and write about a moment this week when I felt a lot of joy…

Temple at Night
Temple at Night

This week Homen and I went to the temple, and I felt a lot of joy.

I was reminded of a few things:
1) I was reminded of my value as a mother. I have consistently been reminded of my worth and value as a mother when I attend the temple. Again, last Thursday night, as I attended the temple, I was reminded of this truth.

I feel like there are forces that try to downplay the value and influence of women. I find this frustrating. I also think that there are people who try to claim that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) doesn’t value women. However, this has not been my experience. In the temple I was reminded that the influence of a woman is incredibly important. If it wasn’t for Eve, we wouldn’t be experiencing mortality. Adam and Eve would still be in the garden, alone, tending to it. Bliss, I suppose, but not joy.

Women, mothers, have a profound influence on the lives of their husbands and children. This isn’t some kind of subordinate role. It is incredibly important. What I’m doing is incredibly important! I know this, and I know that I have both responsibility and blessings to be able to do all that the Lord expects of me.

2) I was comforted regarding some of the goals I have in my life. There are things that I really want to do in my life. Some of the the things I’d like to do and be have to do with my spiritual and religious identity. Some of them may seem less religious. They may seem more “selfish.” I was reminded, in the temple, that these desires are not selfish, but that the Lord has blessed me with talents because He expects me to do something with them!

It was a nice reminder.

3) I felt peace about the course that Homey and I are taking in our lives. Homey and I are trying some new things – new “scary” things. I started homeschooling the kids. He’s working on creating his own business. This has been an exciting time, but it is also intense. It requires a lot from each of us, and it requires a lot of guidance from God.

It is great to go to the temple, and to be reassured about the decisions we have made – especially when they are so unconventional and difficult!

***
The temple brings me joy. I can’t say that I have had many “singular” experiences in the temple. I haven’t seen visions or any kind of spectacular spiritual experience. Instead, my temple experiences have been cumulative. Every time I go, I learn – degree by degree.

Elder Bednar compares this kind of spiritual process with night turning into day. The dawn doesn’t come in one major event. Instead, the sky lightens degree by degree, until finally the entire sky is illuminated.

This has been my temple experience. I learn a little at a time. It isn’t dramatic, but as I think of how my life has changed over time, I can see that each little ray of light that I collect from each temple visit adds up to an illuminated life.

***
So – this has been a joyful experience for me this week. How about you? How have you felt joy?

Joy is…2015

Last year, I started a “Joy is…” project where I chronicled a moment of joy that I found each day. It started off really well. At first I was blogging about it every day, but I have to be honest, that was time consuming and difficult. So, then I was only writing the joyful moments down.

Just a pretty little picture for fun...and because this blog post needs a picture!
Just a pretty little picture for fun…and because this blog post needs a picture!

Honestly, I did only okay.

However, the exercise really changed me. Because I spent more time seeking joy, I found it. I found joy in both the obvious joyful moments and in difficult moments. I feel like the Spirit helped me to better discern the truth of trials and difficulties (that it would be consecrated for my gain – see 2 Nephi 2:2). Because I was looking for joy even in difficult moments, they were more sublime even as I suffered.

As I said. I wasn’t the best at this.

In fact, I know that some things could have gone a lot better last year if I had kept up the habit.

So, I have re-committed myself to keeping track of joyful moments throughout the year. I think that I’ll share one a week. (On Sundays). In order to make this a more exciting thing to do – I have created a cute journal to keep it in. You can find it here if you want to check it out.

This year, I intend to find more joy in my life, live more meaningfully, have balance, and reach my goals. Yes I do have goals. No, I’m not putting them here on my blog. 🙂 There are things I want to do, but more importantly, I am hoping to become a better, happier person. I know that by recognizing the joyful moments in my life I will be able to experience more joy and bring more joy to others, too!

What do you want for this year? What are you resolving to be and to do?

The New Year, Socrates, and Change

Well…as I write this, it is 10:30 PM on December 30. The year is ending. I’m doing the usual “thing” of reflection about this past year. I’m also thinking of the things that I want to accomplish next year.

I have been learning a lot about changing this year. In the past, I have tended to focus on my weaknesses – thinking that those are the things that I need to actively change.

It’s like I’m a square peg, and year after year, I’ve focused on trying to shove myself into a round hole. I work hard, I put forth a ton of effort. Nothing much happens. I’m focused on the wrong thing.

I think that Socrates says it best.

Socrates
Socrates

Instead of focusing on all of the weakness I have, on all of the old things about me, I need to focus on my strengths and how to build them up. I am becoming more and more convinced that through focusing on our strength, then the Lord will teach us a way to overcome our weakness. Maybe we’ll find new strength in what is hard for us. Perhaps our strengths will help us to find ways to navigate around our weaknesses. In any case, I am beginning to strongly believe that if we will recognize our natures and our strengths: if we will recognize that we are square pegs (or whatever shape we might be!) and that the Lord doesn’t expect us to fit into a round hole but instead is happy when we will just find a way that works with who we are, then we will be able to make the progress we desire. We can find this way through introspection, prayer, and by coming to Christ.

So…Yeah…this year, I’ll be doing my best to focus primarily on my strengths. Of course, I want to overcome my weakness. This is very important to me. But I’m hoping that by focusing on building the new, I’ll be able to accomplish what I want to do and what the Lord expects of me.

***
What will you be doing to focus your energy on building the new?

Fitness Goals Update

It’s been a long time since I’ve given an update on my fitness goals, and I figure that now is as good as time as any to do it.

Fitness Goals Update: Going Well

A few months ago, one of my friends started a “health challenge”. This challenge was basically a contest that incorporated good health habits. It was really inspiring and motivating.

For eight weeks, I followed these rules:

  • No Soda
  • No Treats
  • 80 oz water every day
  • Five fruits and/or veggies a day
  • Exercise 1 hour a day
  • Daily Spiritual goal
  • Rotating Health Goal (floss teeth, take a multivitamin, get 8 hours of sleep, etc)
  • One “free day” a week

Those who signed up were put onto two-person teams, and you were able encourage one another while competing with everyone else. It was really effective at getting me to be smart and make good decisions. I worked hard, kicked my sugar habit, and started to lose weight.

The fitness challenge got me to eat plain oatmeal like this...
The fitness challenge got me to eat plain oatmeal like this…
...The fitness challenge got me to eat protein and water like this...
…The fitness challenge got me to eat protein and water like this…
...and it got me to write texts like this.
…and it got me to write texts like this.

I would absolutely suggest starting a “fitness challenge” for anyone who needs to have a little push in order to be healthier.

***
Buuuuuuuut
***

(there’s always a but…) Now the fitness challenge is over. I was a little bit worried about the fitness challenge ending. It was motivating to report each week to someone else, but I thought when I don’t have to be accountable to someone else, what will I do?

I thought I’d short-circuit this by starting a fitness challenge with my spouse, but it’s not the same as the other fitness challenge. I am still motivated. I’m still working hard. But I’m missing that strength that I felt when I was participating in the challenge.

That’s when I realized that although the challenge was a pretty good thing, it was also kind of a crutch. Instead of learning to cultivate character traits within myself, I was borrowing strength from this challenge. Instead of learning to have discipline and eat well for the sake of discipline and eating well, I was just looking to win. When the challenge was over, I felt at a loss…there wasn’t the competition driving me anymore, so maybe I’ll just eat a few cookies today… 😉

Now. I’m not saying that the fitness challenge was a bad thing – because it wasn’t. It really helped me to see that I can do it. It helped me to believe that I’d be able to make the change I desire. Now I simply have to transition from this “challenge” mode to “character changing mode.”

***

The real challenge here isn’t to beat another team. It isn’t to rack up points. It is to learn to overcome the natural man. The real contest isn’t Catania vs. a lot of people from NWA; it is Catania vs. Catania. I need to learn to overcome my appetites–to be lazy, eat sugar, and over-eat in general. This is the real contest I want to win.

***

Several years ago (after having Panda, and when I then was divorced and single), I lost a lot of weight–probably 30-35 pounds, and I kept it off. I had Sasquatch, then I lost the weight. I had T-Rex, and losing the weight has been a struggle. I have been thinking about losing weight after Panda and Sasquatch. The thing is, I didn’t fret. I didn’t freak out about every gram of food I was eating. I ate well, I didn’t eat over-eat, and I exercised a lot. The weight naturally began to come off. I didn’t really restrict myself from foods, per se. However, I rarely ate sweets, hamburgers, fries, and the such because they made me feel sick. When I did eat a hamburger and fries, I’d notice how sluggish I would feel the next day. While running, I’d feel the lump in my stomach (not like I felt fat, but I felt a little sick to my stomach), and I’d promise myself: I’ll never eat another hamburger again!

***

Disciplined eating blesses you in the way that discipline in any area does. You are stronger, and you know what it feels to be healthy–emotionally, spiritually, or physically. When I started the fitness challenge, cutting sugar and junk food was tough. But it eventually happened, and I began to crave healthy foods. I loved the way that they made me feel. Of course, I still liked the idea of a cookie or cheeseburger, and on my free days I’d have one. I was amazed how, after a few weeks, I was starting to see the connection between too much junk food and feeling yucky. I realized that I had become physically “past feeling.”

In 1 Nephi, Nephi tells his brothers,

“Ye are swift to do iniquity but slow to remember the Lord your God. Ye have seen an angel, and he spake unto you; yea, ye have heard his voice from time to time; and he hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words; wherefore, he has spoken unto you like unto the voice of thunder, which did cause the earth to shake as if it were to divide asunder.” – 1 Nephi 17:44

Of course, Nephi is talking to his brothers concerning spiritual matters in this verse, but I think that it also applies to us physically. For me, the scirpture might read somethign more like this:

“Ye are swift to eat junk food but slow to remember your veggies. Ye have run a marathon; yea, ye have had children; and ye have been healthy and happy in the past, but ye are past feeling, that ye cannot feel a buzz from sugar;…” (and so on…)

I think that you get the point. I was physically “past feeling”. Nothing was sweet enough. No amount of food seemed to satisfy my hunger. I was so used to feeling horrible, that I didn’t know I was feeling horrible! And now, as I’ve implemented better health habits, I’m finding that I can taste food again! I can see how eating well gives me energy. I feel happy when I’m eating well. Now, when I go to In-N-Out on my “free day”, I’m beginning to feel so much bloating and discomfort from the greasy food. I can’t eat more than one cookie because they seem too sweet. It is like my body is responding to these foods in a proper way. I’m less inclined to eat poorly, and I’m happy to see that I’m feeding my body well enough now that I can finally receive messages from it!

A few weeks ago, I had my temple recommend interview. It felt good to say that I was keeping the word of wisdom–not only that I wasn’t doing the “don’ts”, but I was also doing the “do’s”.

***
So…my final verdict on the challenge is that it’s a good way to get motivated, but that at some point you need to learn to make these changes to your character, rather than to win a contest.

***
How are your goals going? Have you participated in a Health Challenge before? What was your experience with it? Please comment and share anything you’d like.

Goals Update – Knowing God and Jesus Christ

So…as far as my goal this year (which is losing weight, as lame as that may sound), I’m not making much progress, per se. I haven’t lost weight. I am exercising more, and I’m feeling better, but I still have changes that I need make before I see any real results.

A while ago, I read a book by Robert Lustig – Fat Chance: Beating the Odds against Sugar…. I liked it because I realized that I am a sugar addict, and that there is more to health than just looking skinny (which is something I’ve always suspected). Anyways. Even though this seems lame, weight loss has been a real personal trial for me. I haven’t always been overweight. A few years ago, I ran a marathon! Only recently did I put on weight (with my last child), and I haven’t taken it off (he’s 2 now!!!) I’ve noticed that both my relationship with food and the perception I have of myself have changed. Neither of them have changed in a good way.

I’m including this stuff on this blog because I’m convinced that my struggle has a spiritual connection.

A friend of mine gave me the book Not My Will but Thine by the late Elder Neal A. Maxwell. It has been helping me as I consider my desires, goals, and the will of the Lord. I know that the Lord will answer my prayers, I just need to learn how to align my will with His.

Two things struck me when I read the first chapter:

“…God really is a loving, Father God, not a distant cosmic presence.” (Maxwell, Not My Will but Thine, p. 3)

and

“Jesus Christ has been, is, and will be our empathic Advocate with the Father. Not only is He our Advocate, but He helps us through our individual ordeals. By His own suffering, He was perfected, including in His capacity to help us with our individual suffering.” (Maxwell, Not My Will but Thine, 3-4)

Nature - one sure way to feel God's influence in our lives.
Nature – one sure way to feel God’s influence in our lives.

God is really a loving Father God

(and not a distant cosmic presence). Do you really know that? Do I really know that? Do I remember it? I have to say, yes I know it, but no I don’t always remember. I have felt close to Heavenly Father – close enough to know that He truly is a Father that loves me. Yet there are times when I feel distance. Of course, that is my fault – usually distance is a result of lazy prayers.

But, even when I’m praying well, there are some times when it is hard to feel God’s real presence in my life. Or I feel it, but I want to feel more of it.

Jesus Christ is our Advocate and Helper

I know that Jesus Christ is my advocate with Heavenly Father. I know that He helps me. I know that there is nothing (in and of myself) that I can do to receive blessings or comfort from God. Everything I have received has been because of Christ’s mercy.

I know that the key to unlocking the power of the atonement in my life is through repentance, faith, and covenant making (and keeping). I know that I depend on my Savior for everything.

But there are times when I know that I underestimate exactly how powerful He is. For example – He knows my ordeals. My ordeals are ordeals. Even if it sounds stupid, being frustrated with myself physically, is still an ordeal. My ordeal is not because I can’t see my value as a woman and daughter of God. It is because I’m not living to my potential. It is because I have some real physical weaknesses, and I need Christ’s help to overcome them. Our ordeals and trials are always based on the conditions of mortality – our weakness.

Sometimes I forget how Christ can help me with all of my trials – even ones that don’t seem as crucial or important. I forget that Christ knows what it’s like to feel depressed or down. And he knows how to uplift. I forget that he has experienced all that I have experienced. I don’t have to endure this trial alone. I can take Christ’s yoke upon me, and he will help me to overcome.

So…while I don’t want to over-think things all day long, it is good for me to recognize that when I think about my goals, I can see a clear connection between my progress (or lack of progress) and my willingness to activate the power of the atonement in my life. If I’m feeling weak (in other words, if I want cookies), then I can go to the Lord for strength. I can pray that the Lord will strengthen me as I try to employ good habits (like portion control, good eating, and exercise) in my life. I can also pray that I won’t get bogged down on day to day issues, but that I will see the big picture, and be grateful for a working body, loving husband, and good life. Remembering My relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ really can help me obtain any goal or get through any ordeal.

How do you use the atonement to overcome weakness and difficulty in your life? How have you grown closer to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ? How do you keep your relationship with Heavenly Father real and relevant?

Humble Prayer and Obtaining Goals

If you read this blog, then you already know what my main goal for this year is.

This year, my goal is based on changing my weaknesses. Usually, my goals have something to do with a strength. For example, last year, I had a goal to write a book. I love writing, so even though it was a lot of hard work, I was able to do it. I naturally like writing. This desire fit right into what I already like and am good at. It was a way to magnify my already existing strengths.

This year, however, losing weight and living the word of wisdom, is not a goal that magnifies my strengths. Instead, it contradicts a weakness.

With this understanding, I have decided to “attack” this weakness of mine on several levels. Of course, there is the practical level – like diet and exercise. But, because I’m actually dealing with a weakness (both physical and spiritual), making these temporal changes isn’t enough. The changes don’t “stick”. I buckle in times of stress and myself just turning my wheels.

However, change is possible – when it comes to weakness – any weakness – we can enlist the help of the Lord.

“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” – Ether 12:27

We know that the Lord has given us weakness. Weakness presents itself in various ways. However, weakness, in and of itself, is not a sin. In fact, it is a gift from God – that we can be humble. It is when we are humble that we qualify for the grace that Christ offers us through His atonement. When we humble ourselves and having faith in Christ, He will enable us – making weak things strong. I truly hope for this day in my life.

Prayer and humbling ourselves before God

"Prayer will change the night to day."
“Prayer will change the night to day.”

When I think of humbling myself before God, I think of the most obvious thing: prayer. Is there a more genuine expression of humility? Perhaps it doesn’t seem like such an amazing thing, but we have to study what prayer truly is. The Bible Dictionary gives such a great explanation:

“As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are his children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part. Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship. Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work, and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings.” – Prayer – Bible Dictionary

I feel like learning to make my prayers better – true and humble prayer will help me to unlock the grace that Christ wants to give me – making weak things strong.

Learn our True Relationship with God

I know that I am a daughter of God. I know that He loves me. This does make me want to pray. In fact, there are times when I forget, when I’m tired, or when I’m not feeling particularly worthy to pray. But it is when I remember that He is my Father, that He Created me, that He loves me – I am moved to pray. I admit that my prayers need improvement, but I don’t want to go through this life without recognizing God. As far as understanding my relationship to God goes, I’m good with this.

Prayer and the Correspondence of will

Here’s where things get hairy for me. When I pray, I know that I’m not praying according to the will of God.

Now…I have absolutely no doubt that Heavenly Father wants me to eat healthy. I think that the Lord is more than happy with my desire to lose weight. I have had spiritual confirmation of this. However, I am beginning to see that my will does not line up with his in one regard.

Sometimes, I think that through prayer, I’ll just magically be able to lose weight – without regards to what I’m eating or doing. I realize that I’m like the kid who doesn’t do any homework, doesn’t study, but then, during the test, starts praying desperately – to get an A. It isn’t that God wasn’t willing to grant the student an “A” score. Of course it was in God’s will to have him pass the test. But it wasn’t in God’s will to grant an “A” without the work required.

Blessings are predicated on laws.

I understand the laws. I know that I am going to have to give up my natural desires if I want to receive blessings. I have to become humble.

I love the example of King Lamoni’s father – who was willing to give away all of His sins for the desires of his heart. (See Alma 22:18). I’m not following this example. My will hasn’t changed. I haven’t come humbly before the Lord. I want the Lord to bless me with His grace without giving up my sins – my carnal nature – my appetites.

So…for now, I’m just working on that. I’m praying more. I know that the Lord can even help me with this. I want to be able to change my will. And it is helping. As I pray that my desires will change, that I will be able to exercise sufficient humility, the Lord has blessed me with increased knowledge and help. There are layers involved in my weakness, and I’m grateful that the Lord is so patient with me.

***

How do you sufficiently humble yourself before God – and align your will with His? What are ways that you have been able to make prayer effective in overcoming weakness and achieving goals?

My Name is Catania, and I am a Sugar Addict

I usually try to keep this a rather spiritual blog. And it still will be, but I have a goal this year – to get back into my pre-preganancy clothes (yes…it’s been two years, so it depresses me). This is not a particularly spiritual goal. At least, not on the outset.

For me, this goal is actually extremely spiritual. You see, for some reason, my dissatisfaction with the way that I have treated my physical body, my temple, has kind of taken over my life and brain. It isn’t good. So…simple – lose weight, right? I wish it was that simple.

Last week, I fasted and prayed that I would be able to reach my goal this year. Losing weight is my only goal. And maybe that isn’t a great goal. Maybe i should state it in another way. I don’t know. I’m searching. But I do know one thing – in the past, I have been happy with myself physically. Right now I’m not. As I fasted, I felt hopeful – like, with the help of the Lord, that this goal is something that I would be able to accomplish – even though it will take self control and time.

Before I go on, you should know that in my patriarchal blessing, I have been counseled to keep the word of wisdom. It is funny, when I received my patriarchal blessing, I didn’t understand why this warning would have been given to me. I never had any kid of proclivity towards alcohol, caffeine, or drugs. As a youth, I kind of shrugged this counsel off. Of course, as I’ve gotten older, and have studied the Word of Wisdom, I realize that keeping the Word of Wisdom is way more than not smoking or drinking. It is a general health code, and a real blessing for our time.

So…why am I blogging about this? I think that it is so I can keep it in the forefront of my mind. I also think that I’m not the only one who struggles with health and weight issues. In fact, as I fasted last week, I also felt the reminder that the problem I struggle with – truly keeping the word of wisdom and being overweight – is not something I’m dealing with alone. It is, in fact, of epidemic proportions – and maybe even more. Interesting. So, hopefully, if I blog about this, I can be of help to someone else. Additionally, if you read this, maybe you can help me.

Last Monday (I think), I heard an interview with Doctor Robert Lustig about his new book Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease. I have read plenty of books about diet and exercise. I’ve read everything from books by Jillian Michaels and other famous “personal trainers” to books by Medical Doctors (like Lustig’s book, or other authors like Dr. David Kessler). I have also read books by Michael Pollan. They have been helpful. But this book by Dr. Lustig was just what I needed.

Two of the most profound thoughts I had while reading the book were:
Sugar is a poison – I don’t think that this means we can never have sugar. But the way we – I – eat sugar is harmful – to my liver, my hormonal system, my body. Sugar is truly addictive – in that it fits the criteria for addiction. Sugar raises insulin, causes Leptin resistance, numbs dopamine receptors, and raises seratonin. Our bodies love it even though it really isn’t that good for us.

Now, the thing is – we need energy, and sugar is a good source for that. Naturally occurring sugars (like that found in fruit) is nearly always found with fiber. When we eat natural sugars, we also eat a lot of fiber – causing less sugar to be absorbed, and more of the healthy signals (like fullness) to be sent to our brains – as fiber is very filling. Fiber keeps us regular. And less sugar keeps our other organs and hormones in check.

I need to eat less sugar. I am a sugar addict! I always choose sugary, processed foods over healthy foods. Too much sugar has interrupted my body’s ability to feel full and satisfied. And, I have no idea what it has done to me on a mitochondrial level. The effects of sugar can cause liver disease, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, stroke, and cancer. I really don’t want any of those.

Yet…sugar beckons, and my desire for sugar often outweighs the desire I have to be healthy.

The Food Industry Knows that Sugar is Addictive The idea that kept going through my head was from the Doctrine and Covenants:

” In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation—” – Doctrine and Covenants 89:4

I really think this is true. We have seen this before – with the tobacco industry. They knew that tobacco was bad, but didn’t want to hurt profits. They were in bed with our government, and kept pushing a product they knew to be both addictive and lethal.

I imagine it is pretty much the same with the food industry. Why would I trust them? I’m not sure that they are worried about my health, but their own bottom line.

***
I don’t want to sound all alarmist or conspiracy theorist, but those were the two thoughts that ran through my mind as I read the book. I need to trust God, and He has given us the best advice on health. I need to do better at eating plants and fruits in their seasons. That is the real place to start.

What are you doing to live a healthier life? Do you have similar New years goals???