Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Summertime Visiting Teaching Handout



What says summer better than s'mores? I wanted a fun visiting teaching handout for summer that helped reinforce the visiting teaching messages about the Savior. I thought this was a fun summer treat and reminder that we are loved dearly by our Advocate with the Father who, out of love is ever pleading for us. 

I hope you like and share this handout with the sisters you visit teach or anyone who needs a reminder that they are loved. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

What Lupus Has Taught Me



I have spent the last 7 years of my life in poor health off and on, not knowing what was wrong with me. My kidneys would swell up and not function properly, I would get terrible migraines, fevers, muscle aches, heart palpitations and fatigue. Heavy fatigue. I had surgery on my kidneys, tubes coming out of my back to drain them and several trips to the ER to find my kidneys backed up and inflamed. Finally, last summer came an answer; I was diagnosed with Lupus. Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease where the body attacks its internal organs and causes muscle and joint pain, fatigue and inflammation in the body. There are flare-ups where the disease is worse and other times when I feel fine. Initially, I would only have a flare about once a year, but gradually their occurrence increased to an unbearable-near constant amount.

I believe this deterioration in my health happened because I gave up. Being a personal trainer and nutrition advisor for 5 years, I lived for fitness and nutrition. I loved eating fresh, whole foods and exercising my body. However, having ill-health while simultaneously doing everything in your power to be healthy is really discouraging. I came to believe that there was only so much I could do and the rest was determined by genetics and predispositions to disease.

In vitro I had "drunken from the shallow end of the gene pool" and my medical chart read like a comedy of errors. I have Factor V Leiden, Ovarian Cysts, Endometriosis, SAD, Migraines and now Lupus. Feeling defeated, I gave up. It's a hard thing to admit. But I did. I figured that it was my lot to have poor health, so why waste my time exercising and eating healthy? Everyone else I knew ate tons of processed food, sugar and soda...and many of them enjoyed better health than me. It seemed impossible to keep swimming against the current.

That is until the Lord sent me the inspiration I desperately needed. This inspiration came in the form of a dear friend of mine named Laura. She was everything I was 3 years ago before my disease got bad--fit, healthy and inspired about fitness and health. The difference being that she has a deep, immovable conviction that you can heal your body and overcome bad genetics and an unwavering determination to do her best. She inspired me to try again and I am forever grateful to her.

On my 33rd birthday, this January, I decided to get back into shape--even if it meant it would hurt. And it did hurt. My joints and muscles ached...I had fevers and couldn't control my temperature. I was so tired that my body felt like lead. But I made it to the gym and began running through the pain and fatigue. I didn't feel better right away. In fact, in many ways I felt worse. My body began detoxing, increasing my fatigue and number of headaches. But I didn't give up. Having a friend who believed in me, encouraged me and inspired me, kept me going on the really hard days. She was like an angel in my life--like the Lord's gentle voice saying, "keep going, don't give up."

And then another breakthrough came--another tender-mercy from Heavenly Father. Laura's husband, Kyle, remembered a product called Tungusta that had helped a friend of theirs who had Lupus. The product had since changed names to Live360. They purchased a bottle for me in hopes that it would help. I noticed an almost immediate change in my energy. The fatigue was gone for the first time in years. I was able to make it through the day without taking a nap. It felt like a miracle. It was a miracle. And I learned once more how Heavenly Father often answers our prayers through other people.

Laura and I began lifting weights, swimming, hiking and biking together and she inspired me to start getting into triathlon shape again. My passion for exercise returned. I remembered just how much I loved the challenge of working out and becoming stronger through exercise. She had a unpretentious way of motivating me. She built me up while at the same time being the ultimate example. Hearing of her daily runs pushing a stroller filled with crying kids up and down the hills in our neighborhood showed me that there was really no excuse to not exercise. It was then I came to realize once more that exercise is not a luxury for me or anyone really--and it is worth the sacrifices to fit it in your schedule.

Somewhere in the middle of it all, my month supply of 360 ran out. And then we encountered a problem. The product had been discontinued. At the time, it really felt like a blow. My energy tanked once more and my Lupus flared up again. I almost gave up hope. But Laura wouldn't have it. She kept searching, kept encouraging me to not give up. I had found some similar formulas...but still nothing had the same impact on me as the 360.

I now know what a blessing that was. It forced me to tackle my biggest hurdle yet--my diet. I believe the 360 was just the boost I needed to give me hope that I could someday have my health back, but it was never meant to be a permanent solution. Right at this pivotal moment another angel was sent into my life, another friend of mine who is enthusiastic about healthy living. She was my workout buddy until she moved away about 5 years ago. Our distance from each other made it impossible to keep working out together and we only saw each other about once every 2-3 months. But she invited me to take part in a 14 day "clean eating" challenge on Facebook where we report our meals for the day to keep accountable to each other. It was just the push I needed.

I thought I was eating relatively healthy since I started to overhaul my life in January. However, after starting the challenge, I was surprised at how much junk I was eating. Not to mention, there was still the BIG elephant in the room, my diet soda addiction. My energy was so low, my headaches so frequent that getting off of soda became my personal Goliath in my diet. Every time I would try to get off soda I would get HUGE, unbearable migraines that lasted for days. Not to mention that the only thing I could use to effectively treat my migraines was and still is caffeine and advil. This caused a horrible cycle of addiction. And I know for a FACT that drinking diet soda was making my health worse.

Once again, Laura's unassuming inspiration changed my life for the better. She loaned me her Champion juicer and I began juicing to replace my diet soda. Of all the things I have done for my health, juicing and getting off of soda has had the biggest impact. Even more so than the 360. I am not exaggerating. I have had so much energy that I feel like I am alive again. It brings me to tears and fills my heart with gratitude to my Heavenly Father. It's a journey, and there's still more work to do, more improvements to be made and more to learn. But I am so grateful for where I am, even if how I got here is by great trial and hardship.

I have learned and relearned several things along this journey and have advice for anyone who is currently living with chronic illness or seeking better health:

1) Exercise is not a luxury. Your body needs exercise to oxygenate your blood, increase your lung capacity, strengthen your heart and prevent muscle atrophy, injury and bone loss. Not to mention your mental health and hormone balance benefits tremendously as well.

2) A diet filled with God-made foods is non-negotiable to health. If your health is bad even with healthy habits, going back to junk food will only make it worse. Guaranteed. Learn from my experience. Your body doesn't run well on sugar and heavily processed foods--in fact, they increase inflammation in the body which is the cause of most diseases. Eating non-inflammatory foods helps to heal the body. I am seeing this miracle in action. God gave us so many wonderful, healing foods to enjoy.

3) Diet soda (or any soda) is making you sick. It is making you tired. It gives you a temporary boost and you pay for that fake boost in energy immensely. By tapering off and replacing it with a healthy alternative you can get rid of that addiction.

4) Accept help. If the Lord inspires someone to mention or offer a solution to your health, don't ignore it. Take it into consideration. Your humility to take advice or accept help from someone else might bring about the miracles you've been waiting for. Having Lupus has helped me see how the Lord works--through other people.

5) Find support. Filling your life with like-minded people that build you up and inspire you to be better is one of the best ways to stick to healthy life changes. I am so thankful and indebted to Laura and Kyle and my friend Stephanie for inspiring me to change and work hard so that the Lord could work miracles in my life. If you don't have anyone like that in your life, let me be that person. Let me be the voice that says, "keep going, don't give up."

6) Life is meant to be enjoyed. Finding exercise that fills you with joy and relieves stress while giving you the physical benefits, is key to your success. Pick up a new hobby. Learn to swim, go for a hike, take a walk at sunset. You will find exercise becomes a joy and a blessing and it will no longer be a chore. Go biking with your family, play a game of soccer with your kids in the backyard--these things will not only increase your physical health but strengthen family relationships. Exercise shouldn't be something you dread; it should be a way of life. If you approach it with this mentality, you will find your life enriched and blessed.

7) All healing comes in the due time of the Lord. Even when I was doing everything right a few years back, Heavenly Father did not see fit to remove my trial. Find the balance between patiently waiting and enduring a trial well and not giving up. Accepting the Lord's will is important. You may have ill-health because it is how God is refining you, making you a better person and teaching you to rely on Him. But don't give up hope. There is healing. It can come in an instant or it can come line upon line, struggle upon struggle, hard day after hard day. But those blessings of health will come if we work hard, keep the word of wisdom and seek inspiration and personal revelation to what our bodies need.

8) Be grateful. For those who have been called to endure physical pain and disease all the days of their life I say, find a way to be grateful and don't stop taking care of your body. Even if you never taste of the fruits of your efforts in the form of health and vitality in this life, I know Heavenly Father will bless you for taking care of the body He gave you. You will someday have a perfect, resurrected body. But even with your imperfections, you are precious. Your life is precious and a gift from a loving Father in Heaven that wants us to be happy. Being grateful, no matter your health, is key to your happiness. We show that gratitude by taking care of the precious gift of our bodies.

If you are not in a wheelchair, be grateful. If you're in a wheelchair, be grateful for your mind and your breath. Be grateful that you are here to experience mortality to learn and grow. Perfect health and perfect bodies are NOT needed for happiness and gratitude. On the contrary, I have found my ill-health has made me MORE grateful for the good days. Lupus has been one of the vehicles with which the Lord has chosen to reveal Himself to me in my life. He has used it to refine me and force me to look outside of myself and ultimately lose my life in the service of others. For all of that I am eternally grateful.

Friday, May 9, 2014

A Mother's Nest; A Poem For My Mom


All three of my mothers are in the stage of life called "Empty Nesters." I cannot pretend to understand or know what that feels like. But I do know how I feel about my mothers even though I have left the nest myself. From the perspective of a mother, who still very much loves and depends on my mothers, I have written this poem. Feel free to share and pass this poem along to a mother who needs it, just don't forget to include the author's name (that's me) or link back to my blog. 



Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Visiting Teaching Message: The Redeemer


“Heavenly Father sent His Only Begotten and perfect Son to suffer for our sins, our heartaches, and all that seems unfair in our own individual lives." (Linda K. Burton)
Jesus Christ is our Redeemer. He redeemed us from the fall. He redeems us from our own sins and transgressions. He has paid the price we cannot pay. Through the priceless gift of His sinless life we are made free from the bondage of sin and the trials of mortality. I personally have experienced the sweet joy of repentance. I have felt the weight of sin lifted from off my shoulders. I have "come to sing the song of redeeming love." I am eternally indebted to the Savior for wiping away my tears of sorrow and remorse and filling me with hope. I love the song "Amazing Grace" because I have experienced the chains of hell and I have also been set free. There is no one so lost that Christ cannot find, no one so broken that He cannot heal. I have a sure knowledge of this sweet truth.


As if personal redemption from sin wasn't enough to fill your heart with eternal gratitude, the Atonement also reaches deeper into our soul to relieve the suffering and injustices of mortality. Elder Christofferson eloquently teaches,
"Having satisfied the demands of justice, Christ now steps into the place of justice; or we might say He is justice, just as He is love. Likewise, besides being a 'perfect, just God,' He is a perfect, merciful God. Thus, the Savior makes all things right. No injustice in mortality is permanent, even death, for He restores life again. No injury, disability, betrayal, or abuse goes uncompensated in the end because of His ultimate justice and mercy." (The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, April 2014 General Conference)
The Savior truly "makes all things right." I rejoice in that thought. Mortality is not fair, but Jesus Christ is fair and all things will be rewarded "good for good and evil for evil." This concept was thoughtfully explained by Elder Bradley D. Foster of the Seventy,
"Heavenly Father placed us in this lone and dreary world to teach us what we need to learn so that we may become like Him. Our lives are changed daily by the incorrect decisions of others, by our own poor judgment, by the laws of nature, and by unforeseen circumstances in a world that was never designed to be fair.

"I have learned much from a book titled Why Did This Happen to Me? by Ray Pritchard. He says: 'Sometimes we will face things for which there is no earthly explanation. In those moments we need to erect a sign that reads, ‘Quiet: God at Work.’ Meanwhile, hold on, child of God. Keep believing. Don’t quit. Don’t give up. Let God do His work in you. The greatest tragedy is to miss what God wants to teach us through our troubles.” (Trials, Tribulations, and Trust in the Lord, March 2014 Ensign)
Heavenly Father loves us so much that He provided the means necessary to find fulfillment and joy with Him in the eternities and here during our sojourn on earth. The means for this is our Savior Jesus Christ. I love Him. I am so grateful to Him for all that He has done for me. He has removed the burdens of my sins and He daily lightens my burdens of mortality. He is there for everyone of us. He is truly our Redeemer.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

March Visiting Teaching Message: Light of the World

Jesus Christ is the Light of the World. From the visiting teaching message we read, 

"As we come to understand that Jesus Christ is the Light of the World, we will increase our faith in Him and become a light to others." 

As our testimony of the Savior grows, so does our desire to be like Him and to do His works. President Henry B. Eyring said that men who receive the priesthood "become a lighted candle." (The Priesthood Man, April 2014 Priesthood Session) Likewise, women of the covenant who take upon them the name of Christ at baptism also become "lighted candles." Jesus said,
"Therefore, hold up your light that it may shine unto the world. Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up—that which ye have seen me do." (3 Ne 18:24)

As we honor our covenants and become more like the Light of the World, our focus shifts to blessing the lives of others rather than seeking out selfish desires. Indeed, the number of prayers we answer will become more important to us than the number of prayers we say. May we all hold up the Light of the World and help to light the candles of others in a world that grows ever darker. No life is so dark that the Light of the World can't illuminate and elevate. Bringing others to that light is the greatest work we will ever be a part of.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

February Visiting Teaching Message: The Lost Sheep

Of all the names of the Savior, my personal favorite is the "Good Shepherd." I have already written about it; it was my message in December (I had no idea the theme would be repeated this month.) So this month, I wanted to focus on those of whom the Good Shepherd seeks...the Lost Sheep.

From this month's message we read, "We too can hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and share His teachings with others. President Monson said, 'We are the Lord’s hands here upon the earth, with the mandate to serve and to lift His children.' There are those that are lost. There are those that have wandered. We can be the Savior's hands and help rescue them.

President Thomas S. Monson recently admonished, "For Latter-day Saints, the need to rescue our brothers and sisters who have, for one reason or another, strayed from the path of Church activity is of eternal significance." ("Our Responsibility to Rescue", Ensign, Oct. 2013.)



How do we help to rescue those that are lost? The late Elder Joseph B. Worthlin said, "This work of reclaiming the lost sheep, as Jesus so vividly expressed it, must receive top priority...We must use kindness, patience, long-suffering, love, faith, and diligence. They must feel our genuine concern and untiring love." I love the last phrase in that mandate, untiring love. I think that captures the essence of what we must do. We must truly show and have untiring love for those that are lost. They need to be loved back into the fold, not forced or coerced.

Last of all, Jesus said, "my sheep know my voice." Do we speak the Savior's words, do we say what He would say? Do we reflect His love and the love of our Heavenly Father for his children so that when His sheep hear us, they hear Him?





The Princess Talk


The Princess, Lily.

The Princess Phase. This has never happened to me before as a parent. As a child, I remember the phase well, but mine was more of a "Ballerina phase" since Disney's princesses were just in their infancy. My first daughter, came after two boys. Elated to finally have my girl, I painted her room pink and prepared for girlyness. It never came. Although draped in pink from the moment she was born, she has always been a tomboy. Disappointed at first, I have come to love my little tomboy; her ability to tumble with the boys, run faster than all of them and her hilarious sense of humor colors our home with her brilliance. I was inspired to name her Rae, and appropriately so, because she has been our ray of sunshine. But our tomboy is not all rough, she has a soft and nurturing side too. She can be full of energy one minute and then a puddle of love in my arms the next.

Rae doing what she does best, running so fast her feet barely touch the ground.


And then it came. And I thought I was ready for it. My 4th and final child, was born a little princess. All girl right away, our Lily showed us that truly, some things are just innate. Like loving purses and nail polish and sparkles. I was like that, which was why I unwittingly assumed all girls were like that to one degree or another, and why I assumed I was ready for it. But here she was in all her GIRL GLORY saturated in Disney Princess culture, and I wasn't ready for it. It was easy for me, fun even, to paint her nails, dance in the kitchen like a ballerina and sing her princess songs. But what I wasn't prepared for was what all the princess stuff started to do to her self-worth.

My little mini-me.

I noticed it one day while I was in the bathroom in the morning putting my make-up on. She was mimicking me, putting on her pretend make-up. Then I started to do my hair. Like a reflection she began to do the same. Once I was finished, she closed her make-up purse and looked at me. "Am I pretty momma?" she asked. "Yes of course you are," I answered, but I felt unsettled.

Then a little later in the day, as is a usual occurrence for her, she put on her favorite princess dress and then asked again the question, "Am I pretty momma?" She had asked this question many times before, but for some reason today, it made me stop. It made me stop and think hard about why she was asking that question and what the answer meant to her. This 4 year old wanted nothing more in life at that moment than to look pretty and to be like one of the Disney princesses.

Now, lest I sound like a feminist (nothing wrong with that) or a Disney hater (nothing wrong with that either) I want to inject a thought. I do not think it's Disney's fault for creating a culture of girls obsessed with being pretty. I know the princess thing can seem out of control. But, I am the one who bought the movies, the dresses, the dolls. I am the one who took her to Disneyland to stand in line for an hour to meet Rapunzel and get her autograph.

So you can see, I do not think it's the princesses that made her feel this way. Disney princesses, for example, have absolutely no magical hold upon my oldest daughter who could care less and has had the same exposure and stood in the same line at Disneyland. This young generation of girls know something deep inside their being...it is a truth that draws them to the idea of being a princess. Their spirit remembers their heavenly nobility, they know something of royalty. But as they are drawn to the familiar story of the fairy tale, what is the narrative we are giving them? What is the meaning we are showing them? What is their ending?

I realized that I was the one to blame for not having instilled within my daughter a better meaning. I hadn't given her a sense of worth that went beyond her pretty face. It wasn't the Disney exposure that made her feel like being pretty was the most important thing, it was me not exposing her to other role models and praising her more often for how smart and kind she is. For Rae it was easy. Rae showed an interest in Olympic athletes, reading novels about smart and funny girls and we often praised her for her sense of humor and athleticism. It was easy to focus on other things with Rae because she didn't focus on the girly things. But with Lily, it would take conscious effort. But I knew, at that moment, that I needed to change my approach. My husband agreed. And I had, what I now call, "The Princess Talk" with my daughter, that I hope every aspiring princess has with their mother or, even better, their father. (Keep in mind this is my conversation with a 4 year old, it would sound different depending on the age of the girl.)

It came to me in a flash, in that same moment, after she asked me if she was pretty.

"Yes, but do you know what's more important than being pretty?" She looked at me confused, as if to ask what could be more important than that.
"No," she answered, obviously stumped.
"Being nice. Being nice is more important than being pretty. Because when you are nice you look pretty from the inside. When you are mean it makes you an ugly person." She looked at me, deep in thought."You know what else is more important than being pretty?"
"What mommy?" she was now very anxious to hear the answer.
"Being smart. Learning to read is more important than being pretty. But you know what is even better than that?"
"What, mommy, what!?" she inquired with real enthusiasm.
"You are a daughter of God. You are Heavenly Father's little girl and He loves you. He wants you to be happy and He wants you to be good and nice and He loves you even when you are not acting very pretty. He loves you no matter what."

Her face lit up as if something inside her began to spark. She knew what I was saying was true, and she felt it in her heart. She smiled and hugged me. And then off she ran, to play with her tea set and dolls as if nothing had happened. But something did happen. She learned what makes her beautiful and she learned that as a daughter of God she has infinite, unchanging worth.


We have had many conversations since then like that, and we will continue to have them. I make an effort that, although she may look adorable all dressed up in her princess clothes, to compliment her on other things than her looks. She is a pretty little girl. She gets lots of compliments from other people about how pretty she is. But as her mom and her dad, we choose to focus on her inner strengths. Because behind every pretty face is a precious spirit of our Heavenly Father, filled with potential, talent and abilities. She needs to know and remember that. Heck, as a woman, I need to remember that.

It's not how we look in the mirror that determines our worth. We are precious, everyone. We are all princesses in a way that exceeds our earthly imaginations. We have a Heavenly King as our Father. He cares so much about us and our happiness. He wants us to focus on what makes us beautiful inside; being kind, comforting and helping others, making the world a better place. What is more beautiful than a mother's tender touch, the hand that lifts the feeble or the woman who provides relief to the suffering?

Lily (and Rae) when you are grown I hope you read this. I hope you know the things that make you pretty.

So to my girls and all the girls who read this, I would ask you, "are you pretty?"

Travelogue: Salt Flats

My family and I spent President's Day at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah near the Nevada border. I have seen pictures of the flats before, but it is something you have to experience and see for yourself to appreciate the beauty. It is truly one of the most unique places I have been to. Unfortunately, I left my big camera at home, so all the photos are taken with my iphone.

We started off at a little rest stop before the actual flats where you can see the Salt Lake covering the flats like sheets of glass. It was absolutely stunning.









Friday, February 7, 2014

The Miracle of Prayer


I came across this quote last night while reading "Jesus the Christ." It made me think how blessed we are to have prayer, that we can talk to our Father in Heaven any time we want. But what happens following prayer is even more amazing to me. Watching miracles unfold in ways that could never be imagined, to see what could be passed off as coincidences if not viewed with an eye of faith, to see hearts soften, loads lightened and stumbling blocks turn into stepping stones, is when the miracle of prayer is really made manifest.

I have also been reading in Mosiah, in the Book of Mormon, which tells of a people who were once wicked under the reign of a tyrannous, idolatrous king but repented after being enslaved by their enemies and having a righteous king take the stead of his wicked father. The people were humbled by their enslavement and began to seek out their God for help. But an interesting thing happens. It says that, "the Lord was slow to hear their cry because of their iniquities; nevertheless the Lord did hear their cries, and began...to ease their burdens; yet the Lord did not see fit to deliver them out of bondage." (Mosiah 21: 15, Italics added.)

Because of their wickedness (they killed a prophet by fire, and lived riotously) the Lord was slow to hear their prayers....but He did hear them. Heavenly Father knew that they still had some experience to gain from their bondage, so He did not deliver them (at that time, although they were eventually delivered) but, he did ease their burdens and blessed them "by degrees in the land." (Mosiah Chapter 21:14-17.) I love this story because we are all sinners; we all have our own kind of bondage and we can learn much from Heavenly Father's response to their cries. The Lord is in the business of "making bad men good and good men better" and He knows how to accomplish this. Sometimes that means leaving them in their trial a little bit longer. Sometimes it's in deliverance. But always, He hears our prayers. And that is the miracle of prayer.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Frame-Worthy Waterlogues: Part One


The new Waterlogue app has taken over the web. It is an app that turns pictures into watercolor paintings. As a watercolor artist myself, I am impressed by the quality of the outcome (and not enraged that it takes away from the craft, although other artists may not feel the same way.) I embrace technology and think it has it's place. It will never replace the human touch, but it sure is fun to play around with! However, not all Waterlogues are created equal. Here are some basic tips to make your Waterlogues frame worthy. Let's start this series off with people, shall we?

How to Create Frame-Worthy Waterlogues of People
The downfall to this app is obvious. It lacks that "human touch" when creating portraits, it is after all a program, and will never replace what the human eye and hand can do to add life to the eyes and face of the subject. If you are going to create portraits with this app, you will be disappointed with its inability to create a realistic looking face (again, this takes a human touch.)  Instead, follow these tips:


Sunday, January 26, 2014

January Visiting Teaching Message; Christ Comforted

I came across a great quote the other day that had me thinking about the message I want to share with the sisters I visit teach. Below is an excerpt:

This and all non-watermarked images are free and available to download for printing. If you share this image online, please link back to my blog and give proper credit to the source. Thank you.

If the measure of our greatness is in our ability to comfort others, then I believe that our happiness must also depend upon it. Often times in the midst of a trial or as we are caught up in the stresses of life, our thoughts are turned inward and we seek to be comforted. Instead, in times of trial, if we seek to comfort others, I believe we will find the happiness and peace we seek. 

What does this have to do with January's message? Our Savior was the perfect example of this principle, as He is of all principles. When he was suffering on the cross, his heart was drawn out to comfort those around Him, not seeking any comfort of His own. 

When trials of this life weigh you down, seek to follow the Lord's example and comfort others who stand in need of comfort. As you do so, you will be filled with peace and the love of our Heavenly Father and have the companionship of the Spirit. I have seen this principle work in my life. I have seen how quickly I can lose myself and unload my burdens as I take upon me the yoke or work of Christ, which is to serve and to love and to bless those around me.

Jesus said, "Come to me, all ye who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest." How do we come to him? We come to Him by becoming like Him. We can only become like Him when we do what He would do if He were here. He so clearly set the example for us through His spotless life. He taught us that happiness comes, not by seeking our own comfort but by seeking to comfort those around us. 

President Henry B. Eyring teaches this beautiful concept and gives us a powerful promise: 
"By His words and His example, Christ has shown us how to draw closer to Him. Every child of Heavenly Father who has chosen to enter through the gate of baptism into His Church will have the opportunity in this life to be taught His gospel and to hear from His called servants His invitation, 'Come unto me.' Every covenant servant of His within His kingdom on earth...will receive His guidance by the Spirit as they bless and serve others for Him. And they will feel His love and find joy in being drawn closer to Him." ("Come Unto Me" April, 2013)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Cure Your Acne Naturally: Part 2





If you missed Part 1 of this Series, be sure read that first in order to heal acne from the inside.

 Acne Treatment Skin Care
Now for the part you've been waiting for, my acne treatment recipes. I want to repeat that if the other steps to improve your health have not been taken, even the most expensive, advanced treatments will not work for long. You might see temporary improvement, but your acne will return. The following acne formulas came about after searching desperately for an all-natural acne treatment. After years of having acne free skin from just doing the tips I've already mentioned, I had another acne breakout that resulted from experimenting with the Oil Cleansing Method (OCM.) I followed the prescription and chose grapeseed oil and castor oil. The result was disastrous. My then clear face began breaking out in tiny whiteheads all over my face. I attributed it to my pores detoxing and I stuck with it (using the 30 day rule). I ended the 30 days with a face full of pimples and a return to the days of looking for a cure for my acne.

This time I was already eating healthy and working out, so I needed something topically to treat it. In effort to make all my cosmetics, I set out to find a homemade formula that actually worked. I tried many different formulas and recipes. After months of experimentation, I was blessed to come across a wonderful resource and I want to give full credit where credit is due. The acne treatment I use was first published over at Bohemian Beauty by a lovely lady named Miri. The following recipes are from Miri's blog. 

Simple All Natural Acne Treatment
Step 1: Cleanse
Cleanse with hemp oil. If you have acne prone skin, Hemp oil is one of the only oils that will not clog your pores, despite the fact that it is an oil. In fact, it will dissolve the oil and "plugs" in your pores and pull them out. This works because oil dissolves oil. Not only that, but it will not overly dry out your skin like soap does, causing your skin to produce more oil and exasperate the problem. This is much like the oil cleansing method but you do not use castor oil. Here's what you do, wet a clean wash cloth with hot water, squeeze out excess water and place it over your face. Remove it once it cools down. You can repeat this step a couple of times for a deeper steam to really open up your pores or just do it once if you're pressed for time. Then put a quarter-sized amount of hemp oil in your hand and massage over your face for about a minute. Afterwards, run the wash cloth under hot water again, squeeze out excess water and use it to wipe off all the oil.

Step 2: Toner
Use witch hazel as a toner to wipe off any residue oil and make-up. (Avoid delicate eye area.) 

Step 3: Moisturize 
After you have cleansed and toned your face, use a few drops of Hemp oil to moisturize your face.



Intense Acne Treatment
For a more effective, quicker acne treatment, I highly suggest adding a salicylic acid toner to your regimen. It does require getting some cosmetic making ingredients, but I think it is well worth the effort. Salicylic acid is not technically a "natural" compound all though it originated from the bark of the Willow tree.

Should you use salicylic acid in your face care regimen?


I order mine from www.makingcosmetics.com and I have no problem using it. The type I order is synthetic, but again, I'd rather use a clinically proven synthetic ingredient in my homemade cosmetics than using a bunch of "all natural" ingredients that don't work and make my acne worse. At the end of the day, I feel comfortable with it because I make it from scratch and I would rather use acne homemade treatments than use a prescription where I have zero control over the ingredients used in making it. Again, this treatment is Intensive, so it's going to need a powerhouse like salicylic acid to be effective...and it works. You can try only using the all natural method listed above if you are concerned about using salicylic acid, but know that this toner is going to greatly speed up your results. 


Step 1: Cleanse
Cleanse with hemp oil. Same as the procedure listed above. 

Step 2: Toner
After washing with hemp oil, wipe your face using a cotton pad with toner. Below is the recipe I use. This is directly from Miri at Bohemian Beauty. All ingredients can be purchased at www.makingcosmetics.com.
 Ingredients:
  • hot water (hydrosol or distilled water)
  • rubbing alcohol (to dissolve the salicylic acid)
  • salicylic acid powder
  • Triethanolamine (the pH elevator)
To make 2 ounces of toner:
2 ounces equals 12 teaspoons. I have to figure it out this way to get the percentages right!
In a glass bowl, mix together
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salicylic acid powder (don't use crushed aspirin; it's not the same thing)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of alcohol
Stir until the SA powder dissolves. If the powder doesn't dissolve completely, add another 1/4 teaspoon of alcohol at a time until it does. Make sure you stir it WELL after each addition. Sometimes that's all it takes to make it dissolve. To raise the temperature of the alcohol/SA mixture, nest the bowl in a bigger bowl with hot tap water in it. Let it sit for a few minutes. Add about 11 teaspoons of hot water to your blend. Stir until the SA dissolves. Add two drops of Triethanolamine at a time until the pH is between 3.5 and 4.5. Voila! That should do it.

Step 3: Moisturize 
After you have cleansed and toned your face, use a few drops of Hemp oil Serum to moisturize your face.

Intense Acne Serum
Hemp oil
1-5 drops of essential oils (I use thyme, lavender, geranium, carrot seed oil, neroli, patchouli and tea tree oil.) 

Here are some other essential oil suggestions:
  • Essential oils for Oily skin: Cedarwood, Geranium, Clary, Lavender, Ylang-ylang, Lemon, Peppermint, Calendula, Frankincense, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Juniper, Grapefruit, Rosemary, Neroli
  • Essential oils for Mature skin: Rose, Geranium, Myrrh, Patchouli, Lavender, Citrus, Frankincense, Neroli, Fennel, Clary, Rosewood, Sage, Cypress, Sandalwood, Carrot Seed, Sea Buckthorn Extract
  • Essential oils for Acne: Thyme, Tea Tree, Eucalyptus, Geranium, Grapefruit, Rosewood, Rose, Lavender, Clove (use sparingly), Jasmine, Sandalwood, Lemon, Patchouli, Chamomile


That's it! Those are the acne treatments I used to clear up my acne. Sometimes my acne is mild enough that just the health changes work. Other times I need to employ my Intensive Care Acne Treatment to wipe it out. The regimen you use will depend on the severity of your acne and how quickly you want to see results. Regardless of what you choose, try it out for at least 30 days and have patience. Remember that as you detox, heal your gut and take control of your health, clear skin will be a natural result. Healthy, glowing skin is the result of being healthy on the inside. Don't lose hope! The treatments I listed work! I wish you the best on your journey to better health and clearer skin.



Any questions or suggestions? Leave me a comment below!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Cure Your Acne Naturally: Part 1


All cases of acne are different. The first step to curing your acne is discovering the type of acne you have. Some people get hormonal acne, other people get acne from clogged pores or from poor diet or stress. What type of acne do you have? Here's a helpful blog post about different types of acne. Here's an acne map from imlookingfabulous.com:


#9&10 should say avoid acid forming foods

Below is a useful guide from mononicole.wordpress.com showing the different types of pimples. Whiteheads and papules are the type of acne that I suffered from and will be what I will discuss today. Pustules and cysts are usually hormonal, hereditary or bacterial acne and sometimes require medical attention. I recommend that you consult a dermatologist if you have severe acne.


My Story
As an adolescent I never had anything more than the occasional monthly zit or two. It wasn't until after the birth of my second child that I began having my first experience with acne. It started with just a few breakouts, but eventually covered my entire face. I was devastated. I tried so many different face washes and lotions to get rid of it. I tried practically every over-the-counter acne face wash and lotion. I tried products from Clinique, Mary Kay, ProActive and Murad. I must have spent hundreds of dollars over the course of two years trying to clear my acne. Luckily, I practically became a make-up artist and learned how to hide most of my acne, but it was still embarrassing and I could never leave the house without make-up. I even went to bed with make-up on because I didn't want my husband to see my ugly scars and forming zits. I got to the point where it began to affect my self-esteem.

Don't Let Acne Rob Your Happiness
I'm not sure what caused the epiphany, but one day I realized that I couldn't keep worrying about my face or keep spending money on acne solutions. I couldn't continue to let my acne rob me of my happiness. I decided to just live with it and to be happy with myself no matter what I looked like. It was a liberating thing to let go of the worry and realize that my worth did not fluctuate based upon the condition of my face. My acne didn't go away with this epiphany. In fact, it wasn't until several months later that I began to see my face clear up. But I stopped letting it bother me and I was a lot happier for doing that! So that is my first word of advice to anyone seeking a cure for their acne. Love yourself now. Don't wait to be happy until your face clears up. You are beautiful and valuable because you are a child of Heavenly Father.

Focus on Your Health
Most likely you have been dealing with your acne backwards. If you try to treat your acne topically before you treat it internally, then your efforts will be wasted. It's like trying to keep clean while wading in the mud. You have to get out of the mud first. My acne cleared up after I stopped focusing on my acne and started to focus on my health. My acne cleared up almost accidentally, as a natural by-product to my healthier lifestyle.

Acne Heals Slowly
The thing you need to be realistic about as you begin to implement the advice I'm going to share is that healing acne takes time. It can take up to 2-3 months to have a completely clear face again. Some people will see improvements almost immediately, others it will take longer. For some it will take a full month to see any changes. One of the biggest mistakes in acne treatment is to make too many changes too quickly. Whatever you try, give it at least a full 30 days. Otherwise you will just aggravate and increase your acne. Trust me. I know how frustrating it can be to wait, but it's worth it! Unless your face is actively getting worse, don't stop the treatment. I am going to share with you the changes I made that helped to cure my acne, but keep in mind that it will take time and everyone is different.

Start With Sugar
Stop making excuses and just make the commitment today to stop eating so much sugar and junk food. I was one of the people that would rather pay $100 for a cure-all face wash than to get rid of sugar. But even then, expensive acne treatments will not work because you haven't gotten rid of one of the biggest contributors to acne. I had a horrible soda habit and I didn't think it was a big deal or contributing to my acne. But eliminating soda was the #1 thing that made the biggest difference in my acne. If you do nothing else, limit the amount of sugar you have and you will be surprised at the improvement in your complexion. You may not have to do anything else. Do not ignore this advice because it seems too simple. Sometimes the best answers are the ones right in front of us. Every time I start to break out again I can always trace it back to having too much sugar. Once your face is clear, for most people, the occasional treat will not cause a problem. It's the daily doses of sugar that cause the problem. But until your face is clear, I would stay away from all soda, candy, ice cream, and any other heavy-sugar-laden food.

Identify Food Triggers
Sometimes clearing your acne is as easy as eliminating foods that trigger your acne. Some of the biggest offenders are wheat and dairy. How do you know if you have a food allergy? Try the elimination diet method. You eliminate the 8 major food allergy offenders, dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat for 28 days to allow your gut time to heal. This is a good time to eat rice and broth and other gentle foods. Slowly add back in fish, shellfish, nuts, tree nuts and eggs and add back dairy and wheat last. Add the foods one at a time with a week in between. If your acne and general health improves during the 28 days of elimination, then you can be sure you've got some type of food allergy or sensitivity. If your acne or adverse symptoms return when reintroducing any of the foods, then you have identified which one (if not multiple ones) you are either allergic or sensitive too. I personally used this method to heal my gut and determine that I had a gluten sensitivity. Later on I used a special method of acupressure to reverse my sensitivity, but that's a topic for another post!

Balance Hormones
Since acne is often caused by an imbalance in hormones, it might be worth your time to focus on balancing your hormones. Some theories suggest that acne is caused by an excess of the hormone androgen. The human body is complex and more specifically, our hormone balance is an intricate and delicate matter with many domino affects. If you suspect you are having a severe hormonal imbalance, visiting your doctor and getting some blood work done might be beneficial to you. At any rate, there are a few natural treatments that you can try to see if it helps. For an amazing article about balancing your hormones naturally, read this post from Wellness Mama. One simple treatment is increasing the amount of fiber in your diet. Fiber can actually help to eliminate excess androgen and estrogen in the body. I add a little ground flax to my morning green smoothie for an easy way to make sure I get enough fiber. Which leads me to the next treatment...

Green Smoothies
Incorporating green smoothies was one of the first healthy changes I made that made a huge difference in how my skin looked and my energy levels. Not only do green smoothies help detox the body, they also give your skin a healthy glow. Green smoothies are an easy way to get your daily serving of vegetables. There is no specific recipe for green smoothies, just a guideline to follow which makes them incredibly easy to make. Here's the general idea:

Fill your blender with:
3-4 cups of green leafy veggies (spinach, parsley, kale, etc.)
Add a cup of frozen fruit (berries are a great choice)
Add 1/2 to a whole banana or 1/2 of an avocado
Add enough filtered water to get the ingredients to start blending (usually about a cup or so)
Optional: Whey protein, yogurt or kefir
Optional: Sweeten with 1 cup of 100% fruit juice, maple syrup (do not use honey as it will clump up), coconut water (or coconut powder)
Optional add-ins: TBS of Ground flax-seed, maca powder, bee pollen, aloe vera, probiotics or chia seeds

Don't Forget
Most people trying to clear up acne already know the importance of washing your face daily and removing make-up at night. But don't forget to change pillow cases, clean make-up brushes, use a clean wash cloth everyday and clean your cell phone screen often. If you're using old make-up try buying new make-up. Switch to a powder mineral make-up which is much less likely to clog your pores. I love Bare Mineral products. The less make-up you can wear, the better. Use a concealer stick to spot-treat and cover pimples instead of using concealer all over your face.

The Obvious
I'm sure I don't need to state the obvious, but in case you don't already know, it bares repeating. You should be drinking plenty of water each day, exercising and getting plenty of sleep. Water is the cheapest and best way to detox your body. It is often overlooked because it seems too simple, like cutting out sugar. Get yourself a new water bottle to motivate yourself to drink more water during the day. Exercise improves the body's circulation which helps improve your complexion. Get your heart rate up at least 3 times a week at minimum. It can be as simple as dancing in your kitchen or going for a hike. Don't overcomplicated it, just get out and move. Getting enough sleep improves your overall health, not to mention it will help with those bags under your eyes. These three things are easier said than done, but are vital to a healthy body and clear skin. If you aren't doing them, then don't waste your time on anything else. Employ these free acne solutions before moving on to the others.

Now that we've covered taking care of acne from the inside, now it's time for Part 2 where I reveal my topical acne treatments that really work!

Life is Good: Journal Entry

Here's an old blog entry that I wrote about my journey into the world of optimism. The glass has been half full and overflowing ever since this epiphany of mine.

November 21, 2008


A while back when I was running my 5k loop in training for my triathlons, I saw a bumper sticker on a car that said "Life is Good." It was stuck to a rather nice car, in front of an extravagant house, nestled in a rich neighborhood. And I thought to myself, yes, life is probably good for you. (I know I was being extremely judgmental, but I'm just being honest in what was crossing my mind at the time.)

The more I thought about that sticker while I was running, the more I grew to dislike it. Life is good? What kind of person could endorse such an unrealistic generalization? They are obviously in some state of denial, or having too many happy pills. Sure, life is good ON MOST DAYS. Sure life has incredible MOMENTS. But to generalize and say "Life is good...PERIOD" was a little too much for me. And it just rubbed me wrong.

More than anything, I just laughed at the ridiculous sticker and ultimately forgot about it. That is until I ran across the slogan again a few months later. I found a little shop in St. George that sold a whole bunch of products by the "Life is Good" company. Again I was perturbed by it. It didn't make me angry, it just made me shake my head. While I was standing there in that little shop I thought,"it should say something more along the lines of 'make life good' or 'good things happen.'" And I began to think in more depth why the current wording bothered me so much. I'm not a negative person, I really love my life and am extremely happy with it. But my life hasn't always been good. Any of you that know me well know that I went through a lot as a child with a mentally ill mother and other unfavorable circumstances. And I can say from experience that life is not good for everyone at all times. 

I think because of that, one of my pet peeves is people who are one step past optimism--in denial and crossing over into ignorance. I know a certain person who is like this where you can't even point out the simple facts like "we are lost" or "it is raining" or "people are dying in such and such country" without them thinking you are a downer. I like honesty. I dislike dishonest optimism, or disillusioned optimism. Real optimism is as defined in the dictionary:

"a disposition or tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome." 

Again I dropped it, and didn't really think about it again until I was in the car with my mom one day and happened to see the sticker again. Finally, out of frustration I explained why I disliked the sticker and in explanation of my views ended with "I'm just a realist, mom." To which she responded with a hint of humor "that's what all pessimists say!" At that point I couldn't respond. There seemed to be a little too much truth to what she was saying. 

Once again, I abandoned the thought and once again it was brought to my attention. (Isn't it funny how God has a way of working with us until we get things right?) In church our Stake President (who is in charge of four or five congregations in our neighborhood) got up and said very poignantly "I want you to know that life is good, that the glass is half full." Immediately I was humbled. Here is a man, that I believe to be full of inspiration, who seemed to speak directly to me, telling me that life is good. Could it be more clear than it is now, that the Lord wants me to know that life is good. The Lord knows everything, He knows all the suffering and all of the sadness in the world, He knows all the suffering and sadness in my life and yet He spoke to my heart that life is still good despite it all.

So during this season of introspection and gratitude I feel myself compelled to a sense of optimism and gratefulness. Grateful because God knows me and has compassion on me and my thick scull. And optimistic that despite it all, life really is good.

The Gratitude Experiment



I have written about gratitude before on this blog as it is something I feel passionate about. I have come to learn that gratitude is something more than writing a list of your blessings. It's a deep acknowledgement that everything you have comes from God and is calculated for your best interest. Further, gratitude isn't just about being thankful for what you have. It is being thankful for the good and the bad, for the abundance and the lack in our lives. It's seeing your blessings and God's goodness in all situations and giving thanks for it.

While it is relatively easy to be thankful in your abundance, it seems almost impossible at times to be grateful when things are going wrong in your life. I have found it is also extremely hard to be grateful when you are feeling cheated or deprived or frustrated.

Here's an example. Lately, the driver side door in my van does not unlock. This requires me to unlock the passenger side and crawl into the driver seat or reach over and unlock it and then walk around the car to get in. It's extremely frustrating, as you can imagine. It's at those moments that I feel intense ingratitude for my car. Ok, so that's the nice way to say that I pretty much want to take a baseball bat to it. But I know that I am supposed to be grateful for all that I have. It seems impossible to be thankful for a car that is falling apart. But the reality is, that is my lot in life right now. If God felt that I needed a nicer car He would help us to have the money to buy one, but that hasn't happened. But He has blessed me with a car. He has blessed me with the ability to fill my car with gas. And honestly, I know that is a blessing!

So this is how my gratitude experiment started. Every time I feel ungrateful or want to complain or groan or take a baseball bat to something, I try to find sincere gratitude in that moment. Leaky faucets become a blessing because you acknowledge you have clean, running water and most of the world does not. Whiny children become a blessing when you acknowledge that they are healthy and safe as you tuck them in at night. This gratitude experiment forces you to look past the annoyance to see the treasure. And I promise there are treasures in every frustration, heartache and problem.

The cool thing has been, that as I have done this, I have really felt my gratitude deepen. I have learned so much in the process. I have learned that sometimes God withholds certain blessings from us because we need to learn how to be grateful for what he's already given us. I have also come to learn that sometimes blessings don't come in the form we expect. Sometimes the greatest blessing comes in our lack, rather than in our abundance. Truly, in my want I have gained more than I could ever have had in my abundance. And that has made my life abundantly better.

I challenge you to participate in the gratitude experiment. Look for ways to be grateful. Keep digging until you hit sincere, real gratitude that flows freely from you. And then remember to thank Heavenly Father for giving you those blessings out of His infinite goodness. He is good, and He knows what we need and He knows what will make us happy in the long run. He knows the things we need to grow and to have joy. Most of the time those "things" aren't things at all.


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