Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Button Ornament

I decided that I wanted my Christmas tree to be MY Christmas tree. No run of the mill, bought it in a box, ornaments on my tree. I decided I wanted to only add ornaments that had special meaning, or that I personally made for my tree. This year I made my very own button ball ornament. I made a couple a few years ago, but I wanted one for my tree.

I spent 2-3 hours on this and had a bit of time to think. What I ended up thinking about was what the finished product was going to look like but realizing that to make the finished product I was going to have to add one button and one pin at a time. There were no shortcuts here.

I thought about my life. I know ultimately how I want my finished life to be (though I know God has an even grander finish than I can comprehend) but there aren't any shortcuts to get there. I'm going to have to go through every pain, happiness, sorrow, joy, etc., one at a time. As I do this, though, I will start to see myself take shape.

The beauty when making this ornament is that if you don't like the way something is placed you pull it out and try again. Thanks to the gift of the Savior's Atonement, I can repent of things that aren't right and try again.

As we think of celebrating Christmas, I think of it as Christ "mas", or the Spanish equivalent of more. I want more Christ in my life. I want to be more like Him. I want to live and do as He would. I want to create my own finished work of

Monday, December 15, 2014

Recognizing God's Hand

It's finals week. 13 weeks of hard work and the time has finally come!! I'm really excited, and nervous, and probably unprepared. This morning as I said my prayers I asked for help to know how to best prepare for this week and the exams, essays, and other assignments that are required. When I checked my email about an hour later I discovered a note from my professor to our class with his suggestions of how to tackle this week, in detail! Answer to prayer? Absolutely!

Yesterday I prayed for strength to make it through a certain event, and to do so without having a meltdown (which has been happening a lot lately). I made it through, and I really didn't have to fight it too much. I truly felt the Lord blessing me to make it through that. Added strength in answer to prayer? Check

A couple of days ago I prayed for help to make effectively write my portion of a group paper in a fairly short amount of time. I needed it to be coherent, accurate, and mostly finished before finals week started. I said a prayer and started to type and in less than an hour had the information I needed to submit. I'm certain that wasn't me. Another answer? Definitely!

Three days, three answers. Does God hear and answer every single prayer? Yes. Does every prayer return the answer we sought? Simply put, no. But just because a prayer isn't answered in the way we hope or expect doesn't mean it isn't answered in another way. Sometimes I feel like I got the exact opposite of what I asked for. Other times, like in the examples I've had over the last three days, I've received exactly what I prayed for and mostly in the manner I expected. And other times still I am blessed with what I haven't even thought to request.

I'm posting this today because amid the many answers I've received in the affirmative, there are other prayers that have been said and I'm still waiting to see and understand the answer the Lord has or will provide. I'm posting this because I want to remember that while some blessings do take time, others do come IMMEDIATELY, and in a miraculous state that is what I've experienced lately. If the Lord can grant me immediately strength, information, and added ability, then He can certainly take care of every other concern or worry that I have. This is sweet assurance to me that God is guiding me along, reassuring me that He really is in control, and that I can trust that I am in His loving hands.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Banana Blueberry Baked Oatmeal

I was first introduced to baked oatmeal when we lived in Amish country Pennsylvania. Mmm, good stuff. I haven't thought much about it until today...8 years later. I had a bunch of bananas that looked okay when I left for work but were way past ready when I got home. I didn't want banana bread, cookies, or smoothies. Out of NOWHERE I thought of baked oatmeal and wondered..."Can I put bananas in that?" The answer is yes! I followed (mostly) this recipe for Baked Blueberry Oatmeal from Nutmeg Nanny (sweet name!!).
Courtesy of Nutmeg Nanny
Here's the scoop:

Baked Blueberry Oatmeal

Yield: 8x8 pan
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 60 minutes


2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
2 cups milk
1 large egg
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter - melted (or not)
2 teaspoons vanilla paste (or extract) (definitely extract)
1/3 cup maple syrup (I used what I had left...maybe a tablespoon or so)
2 ripe bananas - cut into 1/2 slices (ummm...alternate method below)
1 1/2 cup blueberries
Source: Slightly adapted from Epicurious


Preheat oven 375 degrees.
Butter 8x8 dish and cover bottom with banana slices. Then sprinkle 3/4 cup blueberries over top bananas and set aside. (I basically disregarded this whole section. I mixed my bananas in with my wet ingredients (see below), and saved the blueberries for the top. I know, rebel).
In medium bowl mix together oats, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Stir to combines.
In another bowl beat together milk, egg, butter, vanilla paste and maple syrup.(Add the bananas now and make them part of the "batter")
Add oats to dish and gently pour milk mixture over oats (or pour oats in bowl, stir, then dump). Gently rap pan on the counter to make sure the milk has gone all the way through the oats. (Yeah, didn't do that either)
Sprinkle the top with blueberries and cook in oven for 35 to 45 minutes until the top is golden brown and the oatmeal is set. If desired, drizzle the top with more maple syrup. (Definitely, YES!!)

I feel like I hardly followed her directions at all, but I still turned out some AMAZING baked oatmeal!! I have a feeling baked oatmeal is one of those forgiving dishes that would allow me to test all sorts of delicious, if not a bit iffy, flavors! Only time will tell!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Pumpkin Chili Recipe

Let's get one thing straight. I would LOVE to be one of those bloggers who tries new recipes, takes awesome pictures, has great witty insights about life and is crafty out the wa-zoo. I channel my inner blogger/crafter occasionally, but lets face it...with my schedule right now, I'm lucky to be keeping myself alive AND eating three healthy, balanced meals per day (we don't talk about the occasional, outrageous chocolate consumption that may or may not occur).

I DO find time to cook at least one really good meal per week. It is generally a recipe that makes several servings. I'll usually eat 2-3 servings throughout the week so I don't have to cook in my few precious minutes between work and school.

Instead of lamenting what I'm not able to do, I'm going to try what I CAN do. I'm going to start posting my favorite meal recipes here. No, they are not my pictures. Yes, I will link to another person's page. No, I have no shame in doing this. You know the saying "you do what you can do". Right now at this time in my life, this might be as good as it gets. :)

Let's kick things off right with a really good hot and hearty chili recipe. I made pumpkin pies the other night and had a LOT of canned pumpkin left over. I wanted to do something different with it and so I went to my favorite place, Pinterest, and located what I'm deeming my new favorite chili recipe. It happens to be vegetarian, but if you're not into that kind of thing, add some meat. :) I didn't feel the need to complicate the situation and found it to be completely tasty and satisfying sans meat. I have already had two servings in a 24 hour period; it's just that good. Julia knew what she was doing with this one. :)
Pumpkin Chili - Julia's Album
Total time: 40 minutes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (from the can or homemade)
  • 1 cup canned tomatoes
  • 1 cup vegetable stock or water
  • 1 can black beans (15 oz, 425 g)
  • 1/2 can garbanzo beans (7.5 oz, 212 g) or white beans
  • 1 tablespoon cumin powder (start with half the amount, and add more, to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder (start with 1 tablespoon, reduce or add more, depending on your tastes and also on how spicy your chili powder is)
  • salt and pepper

    makes 4 lunch-size servings. You can (and should!) double this recipe, if you plan to serve this for dinner (larger portions) for 4-6 people!
    1) In a large pot or skillet, cook chopped onion and minced garlic (I didn't have fresh garlic and used garlic powder instead) in olive oil for about 5 minutes on medium heat until soft.
    2) Add pumpkin, canned tomatoes (chop them up into smaller chunks) (I used diced tomatoes with chili less thing for me to think about), vegetable stock (or water) (or chicken stock, just to keep things interesting), black beans and garbanzo beans. Add half the cumin and half the chili powder (or don't if your seasonings were included in your tomatoes), stir everything well, and season with salt and pepper. Taste your chili, season some more with salt and pepper if needed (I also recommend a smidgen of chipotle pepper powder). Add the remaining cumin (or more) and remaining chili powder (or more), if desired. Bring to boil, make sure to stir all ingredients well together to combine flavors and spices. Reduce to simmer and cook for 20 minutes on simmer.
    3) Serve in soup bowls, garnished with chopped green onion.

    This made 5 servings for me. One for the night I made it and 4 mason jars that are ready to be packed for lunch or reheated at home before the studying begins.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Knowledge vs. Wisdom

Sometimes my mom and I have deep, meaningful conversations. Some days it's pure silliness. Every once in a while we unearth a true gem of wisdom. As it turns out, we think this is REALLY wise (it had to be divine inspiration).

In a conversation with a friend I was asked if I felt "older and wiser" on my birthday to which I commented on the fact that I was studying in school and felt I was doing pretty well. He retorted with something like "it's interesting that people who gain knowledge think they have become wise". It was sort of a new thought for me (not that I ever considered myself wise, but rather I always used those words synonymously).

Driving together one day I shared this with mom and we started a discussion on knowledge verses wisdom. Here is the ultimate piece of WISDOM we discovered (though I personally think I must still be at "knowledge" with this one).
Knowledge is recognition of a need to change or improve. Wisdom is the implementation of said change or improvement.

So, are you knowledgeable or wise, or both? I want to hear your thoughts. Ready? Go!

Keeping This One Short

Rough day.
Prayed for chocolate.
Received chocolate.
Should have prayed for self-control instead.

Eh, I live and learn. And yes, it was AMAZINGLY good chocolate! :)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Grateful - No Matter What

Dear Blog,

You poor, neglected thing, you. So much has happened. There have been really high highs, and really low lows. There have been classes taken, a sister married, depression experienced, both positive and negative changes at work, friendships renewed, relationships strengthened, guilt that has become overwhelming, panic attacks, holidays, bonfires, and so much more.
Joseph and Lori's wedding - October 18, 2014
I won't even attempt to try to cover all of this lost time (shameful). I must say, first and foremost, that as hard as some of these lows have been and continue to be, life is so wonderful! These trials and struggles are not a bad thing, it's part of the package deal we call life.

To that end, I have been writing more notes and thoughts to cope with a variety of situations. In the past I've coined the term "undiagnosed depression". I'm still going to use that phrase because, as of yet, I've not sought medical treatment (I'm more scared of the doctor than the disease, if that makes any sense). I was close to making an appointment but I heard one voice above all the others supporting me in that path that told me I had no reason to be depressed and that somehow I was using this "depression" (his phrasing, not mine) as an excuse. Naturally, my defiant and rebellious side now has a point to prove. Please understand that for anyone else dealing with depression, if you feel you need medical help, do it!! Do not delay! (I know, great hypocritical advice). I will tell you that I'm keeping much closer tabs on myself and have been dealing better with life as a whole. I will also tell you that at the next severe dip that lasts longer than a "bad day" or two, the appointment is being made. I'll share a bit more behind that thought another time.

Today is all about gratitude in our trials. I suffered for several weeks with what I'm sure was my undiagnosed depression and possibly anxiety. I couldn't shake the dark clouds over me, I cried for hours on end (very unlike me) and had what I'm certain now (hindsight is 20/20, you know) were panic attacks sitting huddled on my bedroom floor. If I were an artist to any degree, I would draw a picture of heavenly angels trying to buoy me up during these times, but evil, dark cloth literally smothering me and putting out the light.

The world has flipped again, and the dark side is back where it belongs; beneath me. The light I know and love is once again above and around me. There is a song in my heart again. There is a smile behind the smile again.

Those weeks were hard. Really hard. I don't share this lightly or jokingly. It's not easy for me to admit that I struggle this way. For being as independent as I like to think I am, dealing with depression has shaken me to the core. During those times I didn't want to go to work, or exercise, or study, or craft. I didn't want to be around people, but I was scared to be alone. Really, I just wanted to run away and hide. I ignored my phone and emails for days on end, only feeling more guilty every time I looked at it and realizing there were messages awaiting my response. But I just couldn't do it. I was in a pit and I couldn't get out.

Fast forward to a couple of days ago. A good friend of mine was over and we were catching up on life over several months. He told me about the depression he had been facing regarding school and life and how hard it was for him. I looked at him and felt something I'd never felt before. I felt this overwhelming sense of GRATITUDE for my own struggles. While we have had different experiences and situations, at the core of it all we'd been experiencing the same thing. How amazing and comforting it was to me to look at him and be able to say, "I KNOW what you're feeling". It wasn't a trite comment to try to provide support. It wasn't any sort of competition. It wasn't attention seeking. I was grateful to have had these experiences that we could share together and encourage one another.

It was in that moment that I realized that there is someone else that KNOWS exactly what I feel. Jesus Christ suffered not only for my sins, but for all my pains, afflictions, sorrows...everything!! He knows my deepest lows, and He rejoices in my highest highs! I KNOW that He KNOWS me!

One final thought:

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Did You Think To Pray?

Tonight I was studying about prayer. Jesus commanded us to pray always. I really liked this quote from President Henry B. Eyring:
"I am not wise enough to know all of His purposes in giving us a covenant to always remember Him and in His warning us to pray always lest we be overcome. But I know one. It is because He knows perfectly the powerful forces that influence us and also what it means to be human. ...
"...He knows what it is like to have the cares of life press in upon us. ...And He knows how our human powers to cope are not constant. ...
"...As the forces around us increase in intensity, whatever spiritual strength was once sufficient will not be enough. And whatever growth in spiritual strength we once thought was possible, greater growth will be made available to us. Both the need for spiritual strength and the opportunity to acquire it will increase at rates which we underestimate at our peril. ...
"Start with remembering Him. you will remember what you know and what you love. ...
"The Lord hears the prayers of your heart. The feelings of your heart, of love for our Heavenly Father and for His Beloved Son, can be so constant that your prayers will ascend always" ("Always" [CES fireside for young adults, Jan.3,1999])

Click here to see a 2 minute video entitled "I Pray When..." I didn't think to take a picture (and forgive me, I'm not really in the mood at this moment), but I pray when I feel alone. I pray when I feel troubled and confused. I pray when I feel happy and loved. I pray when I need help. When do you pray?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Be Where You Are

I have been doing a lot of thinking the last several months. A lot of that thinking was an attempt to move myself somewhere else, or to make a change to have more of a social life. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I don’t always think it matters where we live as long as we’re doing the best to follow the gospel of Jesus Christ. But every once in a while it actually does matter. Each time I would seriously think about a change I’d be redirected. For some reason at this time in my life, I’m EXACTLY where I need to be.

I’ve been giving this some thought and trying to determine what greater purpose I have to be here now. This weekend it hit me, and it hit me hard! The Young Single Adult program here is basically non-existent. As I thought about it, I realized that at best, if nothing were to change, I have 2 years left in the YSA program and then I’m done. I realized that I have an opportunity in this small window of time to make a difference. There are a LOT of people in this group and the majority of them aren’t coming to anything! This group is slipping away. This isn’t about me. This is about Heavenly Father and the fact that He works in the details of our lives. I needed a way to connect with people, to have a purpose. I’ve spoken with others who have been in need of some help to get things going. I hope to be able to help those who are struggling.

I’ve been thinking about my life and my situation all wrong. I’ve been worried about me, about my situation, what I want and need. What I’ve needed to focus my energy on are the people around me, and those especially that I don’t know yet. That’s who I’ve always wanted to be but haven’t put forth the effort. Well, that changes now. From now on, instead of just living here, I’m really going to BE here. I’ve been brought to this place for a reason and I’m just now catching a glimpse of what that is. I know as I make a valiant effort to keep the commandments the Lord will bless me to be an instrument in His hands.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Goat Love

Because sometimes you just need some extra lovin'. :)

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Discover the book!

Have you ever tasted something so incredibly delicious that you just HAD to share it with EVERYONE!! It didn't matter who it was. If you could get someones attention you had to tell them how good it was! You hear the person at the table across from you order the same item and you lean over and tell them they made an absolutely AMAZING choice because you've already tasted it and you know just how good it really is!!

I've been that person, and I've also had people try to share amazing things with me. There have been times (especially in my really picky phase) that people would try to share an incredible treat with me, but because I was afraid of some of the ingredients, or because I wasn't familiar with what was really in it, I wouldn't even take a taste. And really, what was the worst thing that could have happened? I could have taken a bite, hated it, and spit it out (which, incidentally, is EXACTLY what happened with sushi). But I did try it. In recent history, as people have recommended food to me I have at least sampled it. In almost all cases I end up liking it to one degree or another (I tried frog legs on Saturday...didn't love them - they tasted like fishy-chicken!). Regardless of if I really love it, only tolerate it, or completely despise it, I'm grateful that someone wanted to share what they had with me. 

There is something else in my life that I love even more than food! It's The Book of Mormon!! There are people who, like me, think it is TOTALLY amazing because we have "tasted" it! There are others who feel indifferent, and there are those who are afraid of what may be inside or who are afraid (like me with sushi) that you may actually end up liking it one day and what that might mean (sushi, to me, is an expensive habit - I'm okay if I don't end up loving it any time soon). :)

Inside this book I find another testimony of Jesus Christ. I learn more of His teachings, His ministry, of His love for all of His children. This is a record of the people who lived on the American continent before, during, and after Christ's earthly ministry. Just as was prophesied that a new star would appear at the time of Jesus' birth, so it was prophesied in the America's. 

Signs were also prophesied about His crucifixion. After He was crucified, the risen Lord not only appeared to the people in Jerusalem, Galilee, and other areas, but He also visited the people in the America's!

As I read and study both the Bible and the Book of Mormon I gain clearer insight and understanding! They work together to testify of Jesus Christ. They work together to bring all men, women, and children to a knowledge of His love, sacrifice, and mission to bring each of us eternal life. But we have to be willing to take the first step.

So, here is my invitation for you to try something new! I invite you to "taste", as it were, the most delicious treat EVER! One of my most favorite chapters in The Book of Mormon is 3 Nephi 11. This is the chapter in which Christ appears to the Nephites (the people who lived on the American continent). I love the feeling of peace that I get as I read about Christ descending out of Heaven and into the midst of the people. I hope as you sample it that you enjoy it as much as I do. If you'd like a free copy of The Book of Mormon, leave me a message!


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Orlando Trip

Have I ever mentioned how wonderful life really is? Even with all of its ups and downs it is amazing!
I started writing out what we’ve been up to but, as usual, it’s WAY too wordy (surprise, surprise)! So, here are the highlights:

  •  We stopped at “the Small” (Waycross has a mall but it has all of about 6 stores, so the “Small” it is) to buy a few last minute necessities for the trip.
  •  We stopped in Jacksonville to visit a family friend who was in the hospital. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see him, but we got to spend some time chatting with his sweet daughter, Heather, who we haven’t seen in over 10 years! So fun to catch up with her!
  • We had time to kill before the dance so we went to the pool and swam/lounged for a while in the evening sunshine (have I mentioned how much I love Florida for that?).
  •  We went to a dance, learned a new dance, made new friends, and just had fun!
  •  We took night pictures of the temple (read: Lori took pictures and I drove slowly once in the car…we’re a good team)
  •  We attended the temple on Saturday morning…as always, the most perfect and peaceful place on earth. I love being at or in the temple.
  • We drove to Lakeland for a devotional with Elder Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Rasband of the Seventy. AMAZING! (A post with highlights from that will be forthcoming).
  • Before the meeting we ate the most AMAZING Thai food ever!! It was so good we went back for dinner with friends!
  • We saw our former Young Women’s leader, Sister Bailey, and got to chat with her.
  • We got to visit (and eat dinner with) our friend Erin from Pennsylvania. She lives in Miami now and came up for this meeting too. 
  • We went to Lake Morton to feed the ducks, geese, and swans (we used to to that often when we lived in Lakeland).
  • We watched (I listened) to the movie “The Saratov Approach” on the way home. It was a really intense movie, especially on the dark roads, but certainly kept me awake. We did great until I missed one of the exits in Jacksonville and then missed the alternate and we ended up taking an extra HOUR to get home. I was not a very happy camper. Lori rescued me and let me be the passenger for the last hour.

It was awesome!! We did all of this in 36 hours and put over 600 miles on my car, and I wouldn’t trade it for a minute!

Enjoy a few pictures. :)
Feeding the ducks at Lake Morton
Lori and I

Worlds collided: Sister Bailey (FL), me (GA), and Erin (PA).
Orlando Temple
Me, Lori, and Erin
Lori and I
Orlando Temple at night
Sky writing we saw right after leaving the temple Saturday morning. The message? Love God!
Best Thai food EVER!
Thanks to Lori for the pictures. :)

Monday, May 12, 2014

This and That

Since my last couple of posts I've found that I don't have much to say on the blog. Part of it may be out of fear for exposing that side of myself, though it is the more minor side of myself (what do I say now??). Part of it is the reality that yes, I am imperfect and that is PERFECTLY normal! We all have issues of some kind. Some people face their demons publicly...others in the quiet moments of their lives. Since writing these things down, reading other blogs and articles, and listening to uplifting talks, I've discovered peace. It truly has come as I've turned to Jesus Christ. It is through Him that I am able to accept my imperfections, to strive daily to do a little better, and to pick myself up again and again as I inevitably fall. That is incredible!

On a lighter note, we celebrated Mother's day yesterday. Lori and I decided to splurge on one BIG gift for the entire family this year. It was going to be given as a Mother's day gift, but instead we gifted it on Friday night as an early Mother's/Father's/Birthday for everyone. Each person got to open an envelope containing a ticket to the Celtic Thunder concert in Jacksonville in November! We're all just a little excited about this. Have you heard of them? Check out a couple of my favorites! We're groupies!!

Ahh, sigh, amazing!! Have an amazing week everyone! Check back soon for some fun posts of some upcoming activities!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Healthy Dose of Honesty - Part 2

In my previous post I wrote about my struggle with what I call undiagnosed depression and a food addiction. I've been learning a lot as I go through this and I've turned to my Savior for His help because I've come to realize in a way I've not previously known that I am truly nothing and can do nothing without His help. I've been listening to talks from various church leaders, uplifting music, and reading inspiring messages.

Today I "happened" (can we say "tender mercy"?) to see this post on Facebook. I'm glad I found this for a couple of reasons.

1. It helped me see that I'm truly not alone. Not only is Jesus with me on this, but there is at LEAST one other person who, though the reasons for our addictions are not the same, we share a very similar experience.
2. It helped me to share what I wrote the day following a terrible night. I had initially written it just to keep for myself to look back on and remember and learn from. But I needed to share it; it's not always about keeping up appearances. Sometimes I need to be REALLY real.
3. It helped me to feel that I can make this. I'm not perfect, far from it in fact. Actually, I found her story as I had just finished shoveling some candy in my mouth. Talk about a guilt trip, but it wasn't the bad kind where I berated myself. It was the kind where I openly realize that I made a choice, that I can correct it, I'm still loved, and though I slipped (again) I'm still trying.

Thank you Becca A., wherever you are, for taking the time to share your experience!

A Healthy Dose of Honesty

If you’ve ever tried to overcome an addiction or a bad habit of any kind, you know that it can be a joyful experience in terms of progress, but it can also be very challenging and frustrating as you slip back into old ways and feel a sense of failure. I’ve been going through my own hard time recently. Below is what I wrote the day after one of these hard times.  

It's 6:15 AM, my alarm goes off and I am instantly dreading the day. I try to think of the good things that are worth getting out of bed for, but I feel no motivation. I put on some peppy, happy music in hopes that it will help lift my spirits. It works, I crawl out of bed and wander to my closet/bathroom/vanity (it’s all the same area anyway). I look at myself in the mirror and try to smile, but all I see is pain in my eyes. It takes about 10 minutes for me to feel truly motivated to get ready for the day. By now I’ve started listening to the Book of Mormon and I’m feeling peace and love and all of a sudden feel that I might actually make it through this day. I notice that I haven’t made my bed and do that before I remember that I need to say my morning prayers (that is actually planned; I find that if my bed is made I leave my room without thinking about praying). I kneel to pray, give thanks for my blessings and for the opportunities I have, and ask for help to just be kind to others and to myself, to feel peace and for help to fight the internal struggles I’m facing.

I make it through a great day. I smile and feel good for most of the day, though if I’m not careful my internal feelings begin to surface and threaten to destroy my peace. I fight harder to continue smiling and not let anyone know what I’m feeling. I’m determined to keep my mood and attitude level, knowing that if I falter too far to one side or the other I will not only lose this peace I’ve fought to keep, but also feel that I’ll turn one more time to food for consolation. 

Everyone sees the outside smile, hears the answer that “it’s a great day”, and sees the results from over a year of watching my weight and working out. Inside is a constant struggle to maintain that appearance. What people don’t know is that I fight what I call undiagnosed depression. I’m afraid to talk to a doctor because I’m afraid of being prescribed meds when I feel I should be able to handle this. I feel the darkness closing around me and I know I have to fight that much harder. 

The other night I felt this coming on again. I was fighting and felt I had really won. But in a moment I found myself feeling frantic as I downed a large-ish bag of M&M’s. The whole time I told myself to put them down, to walk away, to go work out, to call mom, to do ANYTHING that would keep me from doing what I knew I would regret. But now it was too late. I stood in my kitchen holding an empty container, instantly hating myself for giving in when I know I can be (and have been) strong and resist these ridiculous temptations. 

I’m supposed to walk 5 miles that night, but all I can bring myself to do is sit in my chair and cry. I cry because I’ve given in to my weakness, I’ve ignored my conscience, I’ve hurt my body and not done what I know I should have done. I cry because I want to be better but feel so lost. I cry because I’ve done better in the past and feel like I’m failing consistently now, that I’ve lost what I worked so hard to gain.

It’s in this moment that I feel like I need to read or listen to something. I open the addiction recovery plan found in the LDS Library. I’ve looked at the first chapter before when I felt that I food was becoming my addiction but I hadn’t done anything more with it. I begin reading the text, reading the scriptures it points to, and answering the questions posed. I begin to feel the light of hope, to feel the Spirit telling me that I’m okay, that I can begin again, and that this moment and these feelings don’t have to be permanent. 

I watch the video entitled “Because of Him” and I cry again, this time because I KNOW that I’m not doomed, destined to feel a failure, or alone. I KNOW that because of Him I can repent and change, and apply the atonement of Christ to change my heart and help me overcome these things I struggle with.
Then I watch a Mormon Message entitled “The Savior Wants to Forgive” and then listen to a program called “Conversations” (both found on the Mormon Channel). I listened to two episodes, the first by Elder Rasband of the Seventy and his wife, and then with Brother and Sister Howell whose son Brady was killed in the attack on the Pentagon on 9/11. As I listen I feel further inspired to get up and be productive. I have guests coming the next day and my house is a disaster area. I start to clean and organize and the words “a house of order” come to mind (from a scripture found in Doctrine & Covenants 109:8) and I feel the Spirit surround me. 

After previous times of binge eating I’ve emptied my cupboards and taken away all temptation, but this time is different. I begin to see that completely prohibiting myself only leads me to binge more later, so as I listen to the story of the Howell’s and how they coped with the loss of their son I package small portions of all the remaining snacks in my cupboard (even the raisins…turns out I love raisins!!). As I’m doing this I feel/think of the words from this same scripture verse in Doctrine & Covenants, “Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing”, and once again I feel the Spirit touch my heart.

It’s now almost 10 o’clock and I need to be getting ready for bed. I go to my room and start my night routine. As I stare into the mirror I see my red eyes and tear-stained face, I have a different feeling. I feel that I’m worth it. I feel like I have hope and a desire to begin anew tomorrow. I feel like it’s all going to be okay. A thought pops in my mind that I have window markers laying around someone and I begin the hunt. I need to do this. I find the markers and return to my mirror. I write “Because of Him…” on the glass and stand there and allow thoughts of what I can do and be because of Him to flow through my mind. I begin writing a few on the mirror. I smile, looking again at myself in the mirror and noting the light in my eyes that has seemed to be absent for some time. I know that tomorrow is going to be a great day. And it isn’t just something I’ll say, it’s something I truly feel.

Doctrine & Covenants 109:8: Organize yourselves; prepare every needful think, and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God.

Monday, April 21, 2014

...Then I Would Walk 500 More

Here we go again! Last year I set a goal to walk 500 miles in a year (if you missed it you can read a bit about that experience here, here, or here). In 2014 I attempted to give myself a bit of a break and committed to working out a minimum of 30 minutes 4 -6 times per week and I've done pretty well, but I've been feeling like I needed to push myself again, to set another REALLY big goal. And here it is...

Between now (being April 19...I'm a little behind) and my birthday on August 11 I want to walk ANOTHER 500 miles! I have 113 days to pull this off which means roughly 5 miles per day. I know I'll have to do a bit extra to reach this because I take Sundays off, but I'm really EXCITED about this.

But there is something that excites me even MORE!! One of my vendors came in today. I haven't seen him in several months and he noticed that I had lost some weight (always nice to hear) and we began chatting about how I had done it. Then I told him about this new goal and he's going to do it with me!! He lives a few states away but he is going to track his miles as well.

But it doesn't end there!! A few coworkers heard the two of us talking and after he left came around the corner asking if we were really going to take this challenge. I then invited them to join us as well and now our group is up to four!! In fact, three of us are going to start walking on our lunch break (who knew there was a track less than a mile from our office??)!

So here is YOUR invitation!! You don't have to walk 500 miles, and you don't have to have the August 11 deadline that we have. You may not want to have a fitness goal, perhaps your personal need is an earlier bed time, or portion control, of more service time. Whatever it is for YOU, set a goal today! But if you do want to join our walking group, lace up those shoes and get ready! Here in southern Georgia it's about to get REALLY sweaty!

I would love to hear what you are doing! Visit my other blog, leave a comment and let me know!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Motivation for a Righteous Life

 Every once in a while I have moments that hit me almost out of the blue that help me understand my purpose, or why I feel passionate about something, or why I'm striving to live a certain way. I've been working a 3 PM to 11 PM shift this week during our company's annual maintenance outage and I finish the work I have pretty quickly. Isn't it amazing how much you can do when you don't have interruptions?? I've been spending quite a bit of time perusing Pinterest and just a few minutes ago came across this gem.

I didn't serve a mission. There was a time last year where it was a serious question and I thought about it for weeks. I prayed A LOT because it wasn't something I had ever counted on or really wanted to do. At one point I even told some friends (amongst a lot of tears, because apparently that's what I do) that I thought I needed to go. I started mentally making a plan of how it would work and what I needed to do to make it happen. And as much as I felt that it was a good thing, I began to feel that it probably really wasn't for me. I guess what I really felt was assurance from Heavenly Father that it was MY decision and that He'd support me whether I stayed or went. 

Since moving to Georgia I've made some pretty major life changes as my standards, the way I live the Gospel and I guess the commitment I have to living a righteous life. About a year and a half ago I felt the need to make these changes and to commit to becoming the woman Heavenly Father wanted me to be. I felt a desire that was stronger than my own and with such an urgency that it couldn't wait. 

During this time I've caught glimpses of my potential and an understanding of what Heavenly Father has in store for me. After reading this quote though, the part Heavenly Fathers sending His Priesthood Army to earth and wanting to send them to mothers who have been properly trained, I felt immediately that that's part of the reason there is an urgency in my own personal preparation. 

A mission is an absolutely wonderful thing and I have the utmost respect for those who serve. They do receive training, experiences, and preparation that isn't available anywhere else. But that isn't the only way Heavenly Father prepares us. If we are living righteously we will be guided and led to make changes, to do do or be in certain places. Through the Holy Ghost we will be shown how we can improve. He will give us the experiences and training we need. Of this I have NO doubt because I've seen it in my own life.

So this post is more for me than for anyone else (I think they all are). This is why I'm doing what I'm doing.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A House of Order

I had one of those "aha" moments where everything clicked and made sense, not just in a logical sense, but even in a spiritual sense. Let's see if I can explain.

At the workshop this past weekend we talked about how the temple is a house of order, and I even highlighted this point in my post. Without exception, the temple is kept in perfect order at all times. They haven't been very long lasting but I've had times in my life where everything was in order and I was amazed at what I could accomplish. Last year when I had so many goals that I was working on, school, work, callings, family, life in general, it wasn't easy but when I had everything in order I did it all.

I've been struggling a bit in trying to complete the things I have going now, and in comparison I don't even have half of the schedule I had then. I couldn't figure out what the difference was, and then it hit me! I have some things that I have become complacent about or that I've allowed myself to slack off on. And they are sort of surprising things! Reading my scriptures every night (in my defense I was listening to them every morning while I got ready, but there really and truly is power in actual study of the scriptures), tidying my kitchen/living room every night before bed, folding laundry, etc. When I started becoming lax about those thing I started having trouble in other areas and especially in feeling motivated and empowered. I had lost that since I stopped pushing myself so hard and day by day felt myself growing weaker, for lack of a better term.

So last  night I made a command decision. I will live each day with no excuses. No excuses for not reading the scriptures, no excuses for not putting the dishes away, no excuses for leaving the laundry in the dryer for 3 days (not that I ever did that...cough, cough). I consider my home a temple, my sanctuary. I want it to be sacred and in all aspects prepared so that if the Savior came to my door I would be ready. And that's the miracle of the atonement; that I can change, and repair my ways, and not be permanently trapped by sins, mistakes, or sheer laziness. Each day is a new start, a miraculous beginning, an opportunity to make each day the best day ever!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Bucket List - Ride a horse!!

When I created my bucket list originally, riding a horse made the cut but shortly thereafter I removed it, both out of fear and of pain management (it's one of those things I'm not supposed to do because of the dandy rod in my back). But at the Hoe Down they had horses that we could ride and our new friend Ashley also wanted to cross riding a horse off of her bucket list. So I mustered my courage and got on the horse. And do you know what I found out?? I LOVE being on a horse!! I was completely okay with the fact that my horse showed NO desire whatsoever of walking quickly. We took a nice slow turn around the ring and then I promptly returned to the good ol' ground.

For the record my back hasn't been the same since and I can't decide if it was from the horse or from the lassoing I really tried to do but couldn't figure out. I had great teachers (thanks Nathan and Lori) but I must be unteachable in this area. I did finally learn how to twirl it over my head properly (sort of) and I can even lasso myself with some degree of accuracy (okay, okay, entirely by accident). Lori, on the other hand, is a master lasso-er! You should see her in action!!

Regardless of the reason I'll likely not try riding a horse again, but it was completely liberating to have been able to cross this off my list!!

YSA Workshops and Hoe Down - 2014

This past weekend Lori and I packed up the car and headed to Orlando for their annual Hoe Down. They had several workshops prior to the fun filled evening and it was just what I needed. I typed this post once already and felt like I had written a novel and when I went to reread it not even I wanted to finish it. So here is the abbreviated version of the day.

The workshops were PHENOMENAL and were exactly what I needed! I took quite a few notes but I'll only share my favorite three (if I can narrow that down).

1. It is our responsibility to prepare for the return of the Savior. The division between those who believe in Christ and those who do not is rapidly growing and we need more souls on the side of the Savior to be an influence for good in the lives of others.

2. Missionary work is not a spectator sport...participants only!! (I have work to do!)

Okay, it's a tie for third:

3A. A member of the Orlando temple presidency and his wife spoke to us and they shared how everything truly is done in order (work performed) and kept in order (cleanliness and tidiness). There is a procedure and proper order for how everything is to be done. He pointed out that this is done because temples truly are the house of the Lord and none of us ever knows when the Savior is going to come. The temple is kept in perfect order for His return. From that I felt even more inspired to create a life and home that is the same way, set in order so that if the Lord came at any moment I would be ready.

3B. One of the speakers told of a man who sculpted things out of wood. He would take a block of wood of any shape or size and visualize what it could become in his hands. We should each consider ourselves this block of wood (anyone hearing quotes from the movie "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium??) and visualize for ourselves what we want to be, what our end product looks like. We can create from that anything we want and if we seek the Lord's guidance He will help mold us further into who and what He wants us to be.

From there we took off to the rodeo grounds for an evening of horseback riding (a special post to this will be forthcoming, it was that big of a deal!!), lasso-ing (I have NO skill whatsoever...Lori, however, is awesome!!), dining, and dancing! We got to spend the day with friends, some we knew before, some we just met. I've only been to two YSA activities here and they just keep getting better and better! I LOVE being here. I love the friends we're making, the memories we're building, and the all around good time we're having!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Are You Happy?

My very smart sister asked me this yesterday amid a variety of expressed, and hidden, emotions (though knowing me they likely weren't as hidden as I'd like to think). My initial answer was, "Most of the time". That statement struck two thoughts.

1. No one is happy ALL OF THE TIME!! If you are, I want to meet you and hope your magic charm will rub off on me. We're meant to experience highs and lows. Having a bad day, or several in a row, is not uncommon. It isn't bad. It isn't a sign that your life is terrible. It's a sign that your life is normal! Incidentally this is the same sister who told me point blank that I wasn't "that" special. And thank goodness she did. I was complaining about how weird I thought I was and she pointed out that I was just as normal as the next person (or they were just as normal as me, whichever way you want to take it). So, my answer of "most of the time" is accurate, and its good, and it makes me happy!

2. I am SO blessed!! Seriously! That's the second thought I had. My bad days are still better than some people's good days. Sure, things aren't perfect but they aren't supposed to be. I'm not perfect, and while that frustrates me some, that's sort of how I'm supposed to be (at least right now). I'm working on it and trying to become better, and thanks to the gospel of Jesus Christ I have an idea of how to better myself each day. Thanks to the gift of the Atonement I'm not stuck where I am. I can always move forward. I'm blessed because I have this knowledge and it finally struck me that this is what I want to share with my friends. This is the message that I want everyone to know! There is joy and happiness here and now thanks to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ! And that is an ALL THE TIME blessing!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Learning Life's Lessons and Letting Go

I’ve been feeling very weighed down by something in my past. For weeks, and I guess in all honesty months, I’ve been allowing this thing to hang over me and make me feel guilty, and awkward, and all around bad about myself.

I’ve been studying and pondering the Atonement in my life. Do I fully understand and utilize this precious and wonderful gift? My thoughts would then make me ask, if I do understand this, why am I still allowing various things to control me? Am I not in charge of myself, my thoughts, actions, and attitudes? Am I not, with the help of the Savior and His Atonement, able to overcome any sin I’ve committed and any pain for any reason that I feel?  The answer I’ve found and feel and KNOW is a resounding YES!

With all of this in mind there was one piece of my life that I felt no closure for and that fact alone has been looming over me. I had a thought in the shower (because let’s face it, 95% of life’s solutions are thought of in the shower) that if only I could write a letter to the people this situation involved, perhaps I could just let it go once and for all.

So this morning as I drove to work I dictated the letters that will never be sent. I said EVERYTHING I’ve wanted to say for so long, all the things that have bothered me, caused me anxiety, the things I regret and apologize for. And then mentally I sent that letter and I imagined the recipients receiving this letter and the conversation that it would initiate (it’s a good thing I have an active imagination). I imagined getting together for dinner with this group and rekindling what we once had. And in the course of this “conversation” I realized that as much as I loved things the way they were I can’t go back, I don’t want to go back. I’m not the person that I was during that time period. The things that separated me from this group, those things being my beliefs, standards, and goals, have only become more important in my life and have separated me even further.

It was in this moment that I felt all of my worries dissipate. No longer am I concerned about things as they were. I’m focused on things as they are now and as they will be! I was able to release these feelings of trouble into oblivion and at this moment I feel peace and joy! I feel the power of the Atonement in my life and now, more than ever before, understand that Christ’s promise to heal us from ANYTHING is just that, a promise! Because of the Atonement we can turn to Him and as the scriptures say, cast our burdens upon the Lord. He suffered for us. He knows what we’re dealing with. He’s waiting with outstretched arms to comfort us. It is up to us to turn to Him and accept and internalize the power of His infinite Atonement and to use that to become who He would have us be! Of this I have no doubt!

Friday, January 10, 2014

How I Know Heavenly Father Loves Me

Do you ever have moments where you sit back, take a look at your life, and feel overwhelmed at how truly blessed you are by a loving Heavenly Father? I am having just such an experience this week, but it really started over a month ago, I’m just seeing the benefits of it all right now. 

I have a car payment (blasted little thing) and I had been thinking of getting it refinanced but hadn’t decided whether or not it was worth it. I was looking at my finances a couple of months ago and on a certain day, felt overwhelmingly that I needed to do it and to do it right then. So, I stopped what I was doing, called the credit union, and took care of business. That was all well and good, and I saved myself some money monthly, but even that isn’t the greatest part of it. And the other thing you have to know to get the full picture is that I pay a little extra every month if I can to reach pay off as quickly as possible.

Fast forward to this week. Every once in a while your finances come down to a point where EVERYTHING you could possibly imagine is due at the same time. For me, it was looking like my rent, power, car payment, tuition, insurance (you get the idea…EVERY SINGLE BILL) was going to be due in the same week. And even with my best savings plan it looked like it would be possible, just EXTREMELY tight! Well, once it’s all said and done (and without putting all of my business out there), thanks to paying more ahead on the car and doing the refi, my next payment isn’t due until February (that gave some extra money). I have a great opportunity with work to help balance some of this issue and pay day is coming. What under regular circumstances would have seemed impossible is totally working out. 

This is a testimony to me that Heavenly Father loves me and wants me to succeed in my life. Additionally, these are some of the blessings I’ve received from paying tithing. I testify that the Lord keeps His promises when we do what he asks of us.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Chrislike Examples

I’m blessed to work in the Primary organization at church which is for children 3 – 12 years of age. I’m on a sort of perma-subbing assignment until a teacher is called for the 7 year old class. This past Sunday I planned ahead (I know, shocker) and had printouts ready. The only problem I had is that I printed 6 hondouts and had 7 children. I asked one little girl, W, to take a copy to the library to get another made and asked B to wait just a moment. Another little boy, we’ll call him B2, took his paper to B and told him he could have it and that he would wait for the other copy to be made. So sweet.

Then in singing time, I had a few children I had called to be helpers and hold some pictures to help us learn a new song. Handsome little D came up to me after he had been there a minute or two and tried to get my attention. The adult in me came out and I tried to get him back into his spot. He was insistent that he speak to me, and I’m so glad he did. When I FINALLY paid attention, he told me that a little girl, L, had not had a turn and that he wanted her to hold his picture in his place.

These kids amaze me!! They so often want to help and I hear a LOT of me-me-me’s! It was so wonderful to see such excellent examples of Christlike love and concern for others. I’m using the examples of these two valiant young men as my example this week of how I need to improve.

And in case I haven’t said it in a while, I LOVE these children in Primary and love these callings I have!!

Monday, January 6, 2014

What I Was Going to Say

Yesterday was testimony meeting at church. I had been giving a lot of thought about bearing my testimony, but I was having trouble formulating what I wanted to say. So I sat in my seat and pondered and contemplated and did so for so long that the meeting ended. But by the time it was over, I knew what I wanted to say.

Over a year ago I made a decision to discover who I was and to become the woman I wanted to be and that I knew God wanted me to be. I knew that if I stayed where I was, doing what I was doing, I would NEVER be her. So I set some BIG goals and started working one day at a time. Each day I worked on my goals was one day closer to who I was becoming, and one further away from who I had been.

As I finished each of my goals and reflected on the lessons I had learned, I could see clearly the hand of the Lord in my life. President Clark gave the following remarks at a BYU-Idaho devotional. He said:

“Today, I want to talk about you: about who you are and who you are becoming…You are the spirit sons and daughters of God. You are having a mortal experience to become worthy heirs of exaltation and eternal life with an eternal companion in an eternal family with eternal increase.

“Now you may be wondering what this has to do with the things you worry about in your daily life – going on a date, passing math, learning to write well, finding a major, or getting a good job.

“Here is my answer: who you really are and who you are becoming eternally have everything to do with the details of your mortal life. In fact, if you come unto Christ, He will shape and develop your eternal identity and character through your choices and actions in every part of your daily life. Through the power of His atoning sacrifice, He will change your heart and help you become more and more like Him.” (Click here to read the full address)

I can see clearly that He has in fact used my daily choices to develop me and help me in my mission to become. I’m so grateful that I made the choice to work hard and set some goals and work toward the woman I wanted to be!

My testimony is that God works in the details of our lives. He is interested in the things we are doing and will take our best efforts and through Christ’s atoning sacrifice will transform us into the best possible version of ourselves.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014 - Another Journey Begins!

Have I said lately how wild it is that 2013 is gone? I experienced a strange sense of loss as we bid farewell to one year and welcomed in the next. I've been so completely tied to so many goals for so long. They were always on my mind, every thing I did was tied directly to one of those goals. Sometimes it was me leaving an activity early to work out, or to pass up reading a book "for fun" to read the scriptures (a way better pay off anyway!). They were the first thing I thought of and saw each morning and the last at night thanks to what I affectionately call the "goal wall". It looked something like this. I thought it appropriate that one of the pages was about to fall off the wall - it's like they knew!!

At the beginning of 2013 I needed a breakdown like that. I NEEDED structure and organization. I needed to see everything laid out. I didn't make resolutions for 2013, I made a plan!

I've been giving a lot of thought to what I wanted to accomplish in 2014. I tried an identical outline with similar goals, but with some variety to spice things up a bit. But every time I tried to pull it together, I had this weight, for lack of a better word, come over me and I was DREADING this year! That is just NOT okay! After weeks of revamping I finally came up with what I need this year!

Fitness: I'm sticking with Weight Watchers likely through most, if not all of the upcoming year. It's been recommended that I not exceed 42 activity points per week (think 6 points per 30 minutes of step aerobics). I can do anything I want for exercise! I'm not tied to walking! I can ride a bike, go kayaking (YAY!!!), perhaps even try a little bit of running (maybe the year I tackle a 5K?) - just get moving and track those points!!

Budget: I want to be better at saving money this year. I've put myself on a pretty strict spending budget, but I want to be REALLY awesome at saving. So I'm going to be following a 52 week saving plan. If you want to see what it looks like, see the outline here.

Food storage: I want to be better prepared for anything and everything, but it's going to take some time. So, I'm going to follow this handy guide to try to get my food storage started. Already I see things that I won't buy, and I won't necessarily follow the order, but at least it will get me on the right track.

Can you believe the difference? Three pages of goals instead of 18.

My walls feel completely naked, but I feel happy and really excited to start this year! I expect that I'll add more goals, tackle more items from the bucket, experiences challenges and changes I can't even begin to imagine now, but I'm ready. The last 365 days were an AMAZING journey! I'm almost a completely different person than I was last year at this time. I don't have the words to fully describe how that feels. But I'm determined to make this an even better year, and to continue my journey to BECOME who I want to be! With heaven's help and a lot of hard work, hopefully I'll find myself here in another 365 days, recounting the lessons of another year gone by.

What are you going to do in 2014 in your journey to become??