Friday, March 4, 2016

A Light That Cannot Be Hidden

In light of the political climate, and upcoming elections, I feel there is a lot of negativity and despair filling social media. Some people are resorting to criticism and callousness while others become hopeless and despondent. I have found myself falling victim to the negativity too at times. It seems easy to be consumed with worry about the future and wonder what kind of legacy is being left behind for our children. If we don't think about the future for our children, then who will? But maybe we should be just as concerned (or more so) about the legacy of faith and hope that we are passing on to our children. We must show them that hope is possible in the face of trouble and that faith is our guiding principle, not fear.

I am not saying that we ignore what is going on around us. I do, however, believe that our children are watching the way that we respond to this heated topic. Healthy, intelligent debate is good. It shows that we are involved and that we are concerned. But when contention or complaint is our tone, we leave the space of faith and hope and enter into the enemy's territory. If there is no solution or the situation can't be changed, then does complaining about it, blaming others or joining the voice of negativity help the problem? It might make you feel better for a time, but in the end, no one is better for it.
Say and do something positive that will help the situation; it doesn't take any brains to complain. Robert A. Cook
Read more at:
"Say and do something positive that will help the situation; it doesn't take any brains to complain." Robert A. Cook
It's true that there is not a lot we can do to change the political climate right now. But there's a lot we can do to change the climate on Facebook and the climate of our homes and interactions with others when we speak of these things. We don't have to preach the gospel of despair. As Christians we should be preaching the opposite. We have access to a type of peace that is independent and operates separately than world peace.

Elder Quentin L. Cook said,
"We earnestly hope and pray for universal peace, but it is as individuals and families that we achieve the kind of peace that is the promised reward of righteousness. This peace is a promised gift of the Savior’s mission and atoning sacrifice."
As the world gets darker and the future seems more bleak, there is a light that grows brighter and brighter. That light is the light of the gospel and the hope it brings. We don't need to join the voices of pessism and despair.
"For many years now...we have witnessed increasing expressions of a profound sense of what has come to be called existential despair, a hopelessness beyond hope. We are custodians and possessors of a gospel of bright and realistic hope. It is a hope for which many hunger more deeply than we can possibly imagine." Neal A. Maxwell
This statement by Harold B. Lee bolsters my faith and hope in times like these:
Men may fail in this country, earthquakes may come, seas may heave beyond their bounds, there may be great drought, disaster, and hardship, but this nation, founded on principles laid down by men whom God raised up, will never fail. This is the cradle of humanity, where life on this earth began in the Garden of Eden. This is the place of the new Jerusalem. This is the place that the Lord said is favored above all other nations in all the world. This is the place where the Savior will come to His temple. This is the favored land in all the world. Yes, I repeat, men may fail, but this nation won’t fail. I have faith in America; you and I must have faith in America, if we understand the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are living in a day when we must pay heed to these challenges.
I plead with you not to preach pessimism. Preach that this is the greatest country in all the world. This is the favored land. This is the land of our forefathers. It is the nation that will stand despite whatever trials or crises it may yet have to pass through.

For a beautiful talk about the power of hope in a despairing world, watch Neal A. Maxwell's "Shine As Lights" conference talk:

Friday, February 27, 2015

Family History Is For You Too

I will never forget the first family I found. I was in the BYU Family History Library looking through microfilm and I had no idea what I was doing. A nice old lady came over to help me. I explained to her that I did not have the names of my 5th Great Grandparents on my mother's side. She asked me questions and lead me in the right direction. She helped me find the right film and she helped me learn how to read censuses. She taught me more about family history research in those two hours or so than I've ever learned prior or since. To this day, she is my angel and I don't know who she is or how to thank her.

After hours of research, when we found my Grandmother on the 1880 census and her family, my life changed in an instant. I was filled with such elation and pure joy that I could not contain my tears. I had found someone! I had found a whole family! Shortly after that, it was my privilege to be a proxy for their baptisms and other saving ordinances. The experinence was surreal, and what I imagine Heaven feels like. I was filled with a new kind of love. I was filled with love for my forefathers. And an eternal connection was forged.

Fifteen years later, much has changed in the world of genealogy. So much is available online. I cried, literally cried, when all the censuses became available online. There is so much available now at the tip of our fingertips. Family History is not just for old people anymore either. Family History is for anyone who wants to learn more about their roots and who wants to participate in the Hastening of the Lord's Work. And who doesn't want to be a part of that?

If you're like me, maybe the thought of one more thing to do makes you overwhelmed. Don't worry about that. I am here to help you. As part of my love for Family History, I want to share some simple ways to get started in a new series called, Family History Fridays. It's really simple to get started. And with all things, if you take it one step at a time, before you know it you will have gone farther than you ever imagined.

Family History is worth your time. Every so often I wake up with the thought that someone is waiting for me to find them. I am sure someone, one of your dear ancestors, is waiting for YOU to find them.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


I once thought my life would be
like a drop rippling in an endless sea.
Instead, I find no drop at all
comes from my life, into it fall.
But like a seed into the ground
slowly digging, growing down.
My life, like roots, sink deep below
to find nourishment to overflow.
Forever forging deeper still
until its roots completely fill.
Giving life to a growing tree,
a link into eternity.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Minnie Mouse Birthday Party on a Budget

It is a surreal feeling to have my baby turn 5 and go to Kindergarten this year. I can't believe 5 years ago I was craddling my last little baby. There are so many happy and wonderful things about this age, I wouldn't trade it. But there are times when I wish I could go back in time, if only for a day and hold my little baby again.

As a way to simplify, we have decided to only throw "friend parties" on the big years, Kindergarten (5 or 6), Baptism age (8), 12, 16 and 18. This year was Lily's year! Even though we only have birthday parties every couple of years, I still like to plan it on a budget. I did a Harry Potter Birthday Party on a budget that has become my all time most visited post.

For privacy purposes, I won't show any pictures with the children at the party, but I am going to share the party details. The cheapest and easiest way I have found to do the cake and icecream tradition is with cupcakes. They are fast, affordable and easy to make.

I made these with the new Mini York Peppermint patties for the ears and the middle sized ones for the head. It turned out to be the perfect size!

What would a Minnie Mouse party be without Minnie Mouse ears? I made mine out of felt and glued them to a bow onto a bow clip. Here's the video tutorial I used to make the bow. I got two large sheets of black, stiff felt for the ears (only .79 each) and a roll of ribbon (1.49) and metal hair clips (2.99). I made 12 Minnie Mouse ears for $5.79! And they are quality and likely to be used for a while and not just thrown away like the cheap papers ones that cost even more money!

For activities, we tried to keep it simple. First we did our "Minnie Mouse Make-over" and put everyone's ears and bows on. Then we served lunch. After lunch, we played hot potato with a stuffed Minnie Mouse, we played "find Minnie Mouse" by hiding a toy Minnie Mouse outside and having the girls go find her. We also colored a Minnie Mouse coloring page. Our last game was "Pin the Bow on Minnie." I made Minnie's head with the extra black felt and the bows with some pink, polka dot felt. It worked wonderfully.

For decorations I kept it affordable with tissue paper flowers, streamers and a chalkboard paper Minnie Mouse door sign. Here is everything all pulled together:

Lily had a wonderful time and so did her friends. I stayed within my budget ($30) and only spent about 2 hours of prep work on the party. Now that's what I call a good time. Happy Birthday, sweet Lily.

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 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 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)


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