Sunday, November 3, 2013

Evidence of Gratitude

"Always prayerfully express gratitude for the incomparable blessings that flow from temple ordinances. Live each day so as to give evidence to Father in Heaven and His Beloved Son of how very much those blessings mean to you." (2009 April General Conference, Temple Worship: The Source of Strength and Power in Times of Need, Sat. Afternoon Session - Richard G. Scott)

The month of November for many has become a month to reflect daily upon blessings. November is my favorite month of the year because it is a great time of gratitude for me and my family. Obviously, Thanksgiving falls in November, but shortly after, the 30th is also my wedding anniversary. That is the day that marks the beginning of our family; the greatest source of joy and happiness in my life. So, this time of year is my favorite because I am reminded of the many blessings that Heavenly Father has given me.

This year I wanted to do something in addition to daily writing my blessings. I painted a wall in chalkboard paint that has now become our gratitude wall. Everyday we list something we are grateful for. It is a wonderful visual reminder of our blessings. This has become a fun new tradition for our family, but I also wanted to do something a little more meaningful.

I stumbled across a wonderful thought by Elder Richard G. Scott, that spoke of "evidence of gratitude." I loved the thought of working daily to give evidence of our gratitude to the Lord, but I wasn't sure how exactly to do that. As I pondered the thought, I turned to the scriptures and found an answer to my question in Mosiah 2: 19-24.

"And behold also, if I, whom ye call your king, who has spent his days in your service, and yet has been in the service of God, do merit any thanks from you, O how you ought to thank your heavenly King! I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another—I say unto you that if ye should serve him...."
 "And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land..."
And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?"

From this I learned that we can give thanks by serving Him and by keeping His commandments and doing all that He requires of us. Oftentimes when I think of gratitude, I think of saying thanks or expressing my gratitude by identifying my blessings one by one. That is definitely a worthy expression. But the evidence of my gratitude, what I do with this precious life Heavenly Father has given me is the most powerful expression of gratitude that I can offer.

With that in mind, my goal for this season of gratitude is to do something each day to purposefully demonstrate my gratitude to Heavenly Father. It can be one small act of service or striving to live my covenants with exactness. No matter what it is, I want to do something daily out of gratitude. And this because I am learning that being grateful is not just an emotion or state of being, but a state of living. A grateful heart is one that goes about doing good. A grateful person seeks diligently to repay the debtor. In our case, we are indebted to our Heavenly Father. He only requires that we do what He asks of us. So that is what I am going to try to do because I have so much to be thankful for.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Homeschooling: Courage to Act

I love when you have a conversation with someone and they say exactly what you need to hear in that moment. That happened to me today. I was talking to a friend and she read me a quote from Elder Holland, "the Holy Ghost will never prompt you to do anything you can't do." I don't know why but that statement just sunk deep into my heart and mind. It's not a new concept for me. I know, intellectually, that the Lord would never ask me to do something that I would fail at. But for some reason, I have been questioning that. The spirit has prompted me to home school my oldest son and youngest daughter and I have quite a bit of self-doubt and anxiety about doing it. I trust that if Heavenly Father inspired me to do it, that it is what is best for my children. The doubt just comes in when I think of my capacity---or lack thereof. But I have to remember that truly, He would never ask me to do something I can't do. And I know, in of myself, I can do nothing. But with Him, all things are possible.

For those of you that didn't know I was planning on home schooling two of my four kids, it was a bit of surprise for myself as well. I have always admired moms that home schooled their children, but I never aspired to be one of those moms myself. I didn't have the time, patience or skills to even consider such an undertaking. I also had a fear of breaking the social norm, being considered weird, or depriving my children of valuable social experiences. All of those reasons, and the fact that I truly don't think it was the Lord's will at the time, I never once thought about home schooling any of my children. The idea seemed just as out there as personally walking on the moon.

Then one day, I was having a conversation with a dear friend who home schools, about how she teaches her children using the scriptures. As she was talking, for the first time in my life, I thought, I want to do that! One of the other things she said to me was that she has seen how homeschooling for many has become a "call from the Lord" and that He is inspiring more and more good families around the world to do it. I felt a witness to what she was saying. I felt and could see how Heavenly Father needs a generation of righteous children, raised in the ways of the Lord. I could see, that public schools are wonderful, but not necessarily the right environment for the type of spiritual schooling that some of His children need. Others may thrive and do well there, but not everyone. For the first time, I saw this "one-size-fits all" approach to schooling to be confining, and in some cases more of a threat to personal growth and learning than "depriving them of social experiences." I felt the Spirit move upon me and start to stir my heart and move a huge mountain of false notions and beliefs.

Over the course of the next couple of days, not by coincidence, I had several conversations and experiences relating to homeschooling. Knowing that the Holy Ghost was trying to communicate with me, I finally opened up my heart to the idea that maybe Heavenly Father wanted me to home school. My son, husband and I all fasted and prayed to know if it was the Lord's will. We all felt it was right. But I received an undeniable answer, probably because going forward, I would need that assurance the most.

After receiving a very clear answer from the Lord, I knew, almost immediately that I would only be homeschooling my soon to be 5th grader and preschooler. My 3rd and 1st graders do well in public school, and need to be there right now. And I could see the wisdom in that. My 5th grader, who is brilliant in his own right, has had trouble in traditional public schools. He doesn't thrive in that environment. He's never liked school. He also never learned issue that none of his teachers seemed to be concerned with---either that or they didn't have the resources to do anything about it. So I am going to have him teach his preschool aged sister phonetics. I know it will be just what he needs. There are other reasons too, that I can see the wisdom in the Lord inspiring this course of action. But, as with most decisions, I know that in a couple of years down the road, it will probably be even clearer as to why I was asked to do such a non-traditional thing. I know it's scary because I am stepping out of my comfort zone, heck, I am stepping out of society's comfort zone. Because, let's face it, home schooling still has a lot of negative stigmas attached to it.

Thankfully, I can go forward with peace and faith despite it all. I am grateful that the Lord works through other people to teach us and open our minds to new concepts and to soften our hearts. I am thankful to receive, yet another witness, that I am not entirely crazy and that the Lord would not ask me to do something that I can't do. What peace can come from that truth! With that peace comes a quiet courage that urges me to go on and empowers me to believe that Heavenly Father will not leave me alone in this. He will be with me every step of the way as I invite Him to be a part of the process. This, because I know that He wouldn't have inspired me to take a journey that He wasn't prepared to take with me.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Go Thy Way: Reconciliation in Christ

Before I went to go live with my dad at the age of 16, I had grown up with just one sibling, a sister. Ours was a very rocky relationship. We were 6 years apart in age, which made her the adoring little sister and me the annoyed older sister. Looking back now, all she ever did was love me and want to be like me. But I didn't treat her the way a disciple of Christ ought to. We had different fathers and her dad and I didn't get along well which added contention and strife between the two of us. I used to think that sibling quarrels were normal and to be expected. When I converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ I began to feel a big inner-conflict with the way I treated my sister; I felt like a hypocrite. Worse, I felt I was not pleasing the Lord. However, old habits die hard and it seemed impossible to break our relationship pattern. Very soon after my conversion I decided to move away to Utah to live with my dad.

Years past, I got married and settled in Utah. My sister still lived in our home-state, Washington, and I felt like I never got to make it up to my sister for the years that I wasn't kind to her. We loved each other, there was no doubt about that, but we had spent so many years apart that we never had the chance to change the dynamic of our relationship. Then, as luck would have it, my sister moved to Utah very close to where my family and I lived. At first our interactions were cordial but very surface level. But then, anytime any tension or stress would arise, I would feel like we were 16 and 10 again, reliving our past arguments. It was ridiculous, I was 25 years old with a family of my own. My childish arguing seemed almost automatic, out of my control. It was like she knew which buttons to push and how to really get on my nerves. I again felt that deep inner conflict and hypocrisy. I knew that when I was around her I was not my best self. I was ashamed of my behavior and attitude.

But it wasn't until I stumbled upon a scripture from the Sermon on the Mount that everything changed for me. Jesus said in Matthew 5:24, "...go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift." I can't tell you how deeply that scripture affected me. I knew, at once, that not only was our arguing unacceptable to the Lord, but the Lord was not accepting my righteous service because I had not first reconciled myself to my sister. I had repented of the past, but I still held onto the guilt of not being a better sister, and worse still, our relationship was still rocky.

I decided to take the matter to the Lord. After a lot of prayer, meditation, patience and stumbling across a fantastic book called The Dance of Anger, the Lord helped to heal our relationship---more specifically, He helped to heal ME. I learned to accept His forgiveness. I am not the person I was at 16. I came to trust His word when He said I was forgiven. I learned to let go of the guilt and allow the possibility for healing.

I finally had to give the burden to Him, and as I did, He lead me to find ways to change my behavior in a healthy way. As time went on, I could see that I could only change so much---my half of the relationship. The other half I had no control over. I just had to trust in the Lord and send love to my sister. Eventually, as I began to react positively and with love, there began to be a huge change in our relationship. Good conversations were had, forgiveness extended and the past overcome with a promising future.

We have since became dear friends, which is why I feel I can share this story on this blog. My sister means everything to me. I am so glad the Lord, in His infinite wisdom commanded all of us to make peace with our family members. You cannot be a disciple of Christ and have evil or bad emotions towards someone. I know that to be true. It does not matter what that person has done to you or will continue to do to you. You need to find peace in your heart. You need to forgive and seek forgiveness. It is a most liberating experience. It allows you to experience the atonement in your life in a very real way. If you have any disputations with your family members, I encourage you to go your way and seek reconciliation. It brings peace beyond measure.

When you have done all that you can do to forgive, seek forgiveness and make peace, if the other person doesn't change and continues to treat you poorly, seek reconciliation from Christ. Some things will not be solved in this world. Some people will continue to be mean, toxic and abusive. But you can forgive even them. Christ paid for the suffering of the sinner and the sinned against. Our sufferings are His sufferings. He desires to take them from you. Go to Him for help. Have a real conversation with Him. Tell Him why you are upset, why you feel mistreated or why it is hard to forgive. Let His atonement be powerful enough to heal your broken heart. Give Him the burden, let justice be in His hands. Someday it will all be fair. But for now, it is the atonement that undoes wrongs and removes the affects of being mistreated by others.

When you go to the Savior with your relationship problems, I know you can be healed. It has happened repeatedly for me. Even when people continue to treat me badly, I am able to send love and peace and know with all my heart that Christ will make everything ok. On the other hand, when I have treated others poorly, I know I can repent and be truly forgiven. He is our healing balm; there is no heartache too big for Him. When He was in the garden of Gethsemane, He suffered for your pains, sins, weaknesses and heartaches. They were all laid before Him. He knows you intimately. He waits for you to come to Him to be healed. He already paid the price and stands ready and capable to bring you peace.

As Christ so quickly forgives us, we ought to forgive one another and we ought to forgive ourselves. Love is the mark of a true disciple. Contention is of the devil, and is never acceptable to the Lord. It will be our love, our forgiveness and our living example of our conversion that we will be judged for. None of our gifts, offerings and generosity will be acceptable if we have not first sought reconciliation with our brother through Jesus Christ our Savior.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Week 7: Replace Bug Repellent

Not very many people know that there are many essential oils that are just as good or better at repelling bugs than commercial insect repellents. Some include: Citronella, Clove, Lemongrass, Rosemary, Tea Tree, Cajeput, Eucalyptus, Cedar, Catnip, Lavender and Mint. Essential oils in the citrus family are all strong bug repellents. Butterfly Express, the company I buy my oils from, sells an oil blend called "Away" that has many of those ingredients. I have two recipes for bug repellent that I prefer and I will share them both with you. I made both of these at a recent cosmetics class I taught.

Extra Strength Bug Repellent

4oz Distilled water
5 drops of each: citronella cedarwood, clove, cinnamon berry, catnip, eucalyptus, peppermint (you can buy this formula from Butterfly Express, it's called "Away")
5-10 drops of lavender

This formula doesn't smell as good in my opinion (although many people like it) but is extra strength.

Thieves Bug Repellent

4oz Distilled water
5 drops of each: rosemary, clove bud, cinnamon, eucalyptus, lemon, orange sweet, lavender

This is the formula I took with me in Yellowstone. I didn't get a single bite and neither did my kids. The only one who got bit was my husband who didn't use the bug spray. I prefer this formula to the extra strength because it smells so yummy. However, it's not as strong as the first recipe. But when I've used it, it has worked perfectly. So as long as your not in the deep woods, this should be more than enough protection.

Week 6: Replace Sunscreen

Have you ever read the ingredients in sunscreen? Yep, me neither...until recently during my Make-over challenge. Sunscreen is one of the most chemical-laden products we put on, and we smother our kids and babies with it! Replacing sunscreen is a no-brainer, as long as there is a natural option that works. I have found a wonderful formula over at Wellness Mama's blog that really works. I took the sunscreen recently to scout camp and our vacation in Yellowstone and I didn't burn at all. I am not a fan of sunscreen in general, and don't put it on on a daily basis. But I do like to put sunscreen on when I'll be in the sun all day, at the pool or camping. This formula is the perfect sunscreen for me. It's light enough that I still get sun, but just enough coverage so that I don't burn.

Natural Sunscreen Bars

(From Wellness Mama's Blog)
1 c. coconut oil 
1 c. shea butter, cocoa butter or mango butter (or a mix of all three equal to 1 cup)
1 c. beeswax (can add an extra ounce or two if you want a thicker consistency, which leaves less lotion on the skin when used)
2 tablespoons (or more) of Zinc Oxide
optional: Vitamin E oil to preserve. I added 1 tsp vitamin E oil for  this recipe made with 1 cup of each ingredient)
optional: a few drops of vanilla or essential oil for scent (do not use citrus oils!)

Combine all ingredients (except zinc oxide and essential oils if using) in a double boiler, or a glass bowl over a smaller saucepan with 1 inch of water in it. Turn the burner on and bring water to a boil. Stir ingredients constantly until they are melted and smooth. Remove from heat and add the zinc oxide powder and  essential oils. Gently stir by hand until essential oils are incorporated.

Carefully pour into molds or whatever you will be allowing the lotion bars to harden in. I used silicon baking cups, though any mold would work. This recipe exactly filled 12 silicon baking cups when I made it. Allow the lotion bars to cool completely before attempting to pop out of molds.

They can be stored at room temperature or in the fridge or freezer for longer term storage. Keep below 80 degrees or they will melt! Adjust coverage to your needs and be careful not to burn while determining how long you can spend in the sun with these.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

How to Make Rosewater

Making distilled Rosewater is easier than I ever thought. I have rose bushes all over my yard, so getting rose petals was the easy part.

You start by making a homemade distiller. Find a large pot with a convex lid. Place a brick in the center. Fill the bottom of the pan with water. Place a bowl on top of the brick. Put the lid on upside down so that as the water steams, the condensation will pool and drop into the bowl. Bring the water to a boil and heat until the water boils dry. (An additional, optional step is to add ice to the top of the lid to speed the condensation.) 

Add rose petals to the water, but make sure not to have the waterline above the brick. 

After the water has all boiled dry, turn off the heat and let it cool. Be careful of the steam! 

What collects in the bowl is distilled rose water! You can also do this with a variety of flowers and herbs! 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Week 5: Replace Deodorant

If you feel anything like I did, the last thing you want to try is natural deodorant. I am one who wears clinical protection deodorant everyday and am very self-conscious about smelling bad. I have tried all sorts of different store bought "all-natural" deodorants only to be very disappointed with the results. I can honestly say I have found a natural deodorant recipe that has changed that.

How I found the recipe
I started off with a base recipe found at one of my favorite blogs, Wellness Mama. If you haven't checked out her blog, you should. You can spend weeks reading her helpful blogs. Her deodorant recipe had so many positive reviews, I decided it was worth a try. I did add a few tweaks after reading some of the comments. I decreased the amount of baking soda to prevent irritation and added witch hazel to soothe, heal and keep the armpit dry.

The test
I tested the deodorant in two situations that I sweat the most. Test one included hot conditions and exertion. I tried it on a Saturday, knowing I would be spending the day in the heat weeding my garden. I was so impressed that at the end of the day, my armpits were still dry and smelled wonderful. Test two involved social anxiety...I applied it the next day, knowing that I would be speaking in church. I usually sweat the most when I am nervous. By the end of the day my armpits were still sweet smelling and my arms only got slightly moist when I was nervous (nothing like normal with the clinical versions) and quickly dried. I was also wearing a tight undershirt that always makes me sweat really bad....but not this time.

It feels great on too. I was worried it would be greasy and drip onto my clothes. It is completely absorbed into the armpit. It only leaves a light residue. It is amazing that this natural deodorant actually works better than store bought, high strength clinical versions. Not only does it work better, but the ingredients are so natural that you could eat it...although I DO NOT recommend that. If you think about it though, if you wouldn't ingest it, why would you smear it into a delicate area like your armpits everyday?

All-Natural Soothing Deodorant Recipe
1/2 c. Coconut Oil
1/2 c. Arrowroot
1/4 c. Pure baking soda
1/8 c. Witch Hazel
20-30 Drops Essential Oils (I recommend tea tree, lemon and lavender)

Mix all ingredients until a smooth consistency is reached. Store in empty baby food jars or small mason jars. Makes enough to fill two baby food jars. Apply with hands after showering.

Combine all ingredients with a pastry mixer.

Finish mixing with a spoon.

The final consistency should look like this.

***An update: When making the switch to natural deodorants there is a transition period while the harmful chemicals from your store bought deodorants are coming out of your skin. You may find that you temporarily sweat more or break out a little in your armpits (it should be painless, if you break out in a rash, discontinue use until the rash is healed and read the advice below.) After the adjustment period, you will actually sweat less than you did before because your sweat glands are no longer clogged and don't have to overproduce sweat to compensate. Remember that sweat is your body's natural detoxing and cooling method. Why mess with God's design, He's way smarter than us! I know that culturally we have issues with sweating. But don't worry, your sweat glands will adjust and you will find a happy medium. And even better, you won't smell at all! Most importantly though, you won't be putting harmful chemicals on your body anymore. That is so worth it!

With that said, I have been using this deodorant with fantastic results for two months now and it is still working wonders. In fact, it is so effective, I can usually go 2 days before needing to reapply! There are a few things I have learned in the process though. Because baking soda is very base, it can cause a little irritation after prolonged use (this irritation is not to be confused with the initial detoxing period which occurs when you first switch over.) This is easily remedied by first putting on a very thin layer of jojoba oil and then applying the deodorant. I began to get some irritation to the point that I had to discontinue use of the deodorant. After I learned of this trick, I am back to wearing the deodorant with absolutely no issues whatsoever and it's still just as effective.

If you have tried this trick and it doesn't take care of the irritation, I found another non-irritating formula that works. It is not as strong, and I found I did have to reapply on really hot days in the sun. But, I promise, it's the most effective baking soda free homemade deodorant you'll find.

*Bonus* Natural Deodorant for Sensitive Skin

1/4 c. Milk of Magnesia (flavorless)
1/8 c. Coconut Oil
1/8 c. Arrowroot Powder
1/8 c. Redmond Clay
Aloe Vera Gel as needed to reach desired consistency
Essential Oils for fragrence

Have any questions or fabulous results? Tell me about it in the comment section.