Edwards Family

Edwards Family

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Super Simple Five Ingredient Italian Stew

Soup is my comfort food. Well...that and chocolate. This Italian stew is one of my super easy, quick, healthy, and yummo go-to soups. 

Here are the five ingredients: 
  1. Canned tomatoes
  2. Canned beans
  3. Whole grain pasta
  4. Frozen veggies
  5. Meat 
I don't count water or spices as ingredients. They're bonuses. 

Recipe for Italian Stew 

I'm guessing on amounts. Taste yours and adjust accordingly. 

4 cans petite diced tomatoes with sweet onions 
1 can kidney beans (rinsed well to remove preservative)
2 pounds frozen veggie blend (I used Normandy blend)
8 ounces pasta (I used gluten-free brown rice shell pasta)
1 pound precooked or canned meat (I used pre-cooked homemade Italian turkey sausage - recipe below) 
2 teaspoons garlic powder 
2 Tablespoons Italian seasoning 
salt and pepper to taste 

Bring around 4 cups water to a boil. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer until done. Easy cheesy! This is a pretty big batch so it will feed a large family or be enough for an extra meal. 

Recipe for Homemade Italian Turkey Sausage 

1 pound pure ground turkey, thawed 
2 Tablespoons honey 
1/2 teaspoon each: sage and crushed red pepper 
1 teaspoon each: salt, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder

Combine spices in a small dish. Mix all ingredients together by hand with disposable plastic gloves. Cook in an oil skillet. I like to make four batches at a time and freeze the rest to use in soup, spaghetti, pizza, or quiche. Yummo. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Is it possible to slay the Goliaths of negative thoughts in your mind? Yes, and here are two tools that work.

This would make a great FHE or two.

Today I woke up with a prompting. 

The Spirit told me to teach my seminary students a tool. Our class was about David and Goliath, how uplifting music pushes away darkness, and how to conquer negative thoughts in our minds. Even Goliath-like negative thoughts that seem bigger than life and make us feel smaller:
  • "I'm never good enough."
  • "I can't do this." 
  • "I'm not worthy to pray." 
  • "Nobody likes me."
In our lesson Saul was being influenced by an evil spirit, and David's harp music pushed out the darkness to help Saul feel the light again. (See 1 Samuel 16:14-23 and Quotes about the Power of Holy Music.) 

Guess who else is influenced by the dark side? You and me. Every day. It's part of the test of mortality. 

We've all seen cartoons or Studio C skits about a shoulder angel and shoulder devil. It seems so silly. But there is some truth to it. Remember the war in heaven where the devil and his followers were cast out of God's presence and sent to work on people living on the earth? 

Here's the deal. Not every thought in your mind is your own. 

Nope. You are receiving thoughts from both the light side — the Spirit and holy angels, and the dark side — the devil and his followers. 

I know a wonderful, influential man who was convinced by thoughts from the dark side years ago that his family would be better off if he were gone. Driving home one day, they had even helped him form a plan of how he would end his life when he got home. Sitting in his truck on the driveway ready to carry out the plan, he heard a voice. "Dad! Whatcha doing? Dad, come play with me! Come on Dad, let's go play!" My friend decided to go inside and play Legos with his young son. He sat there stunned, wondering how he had let those voices from the dark side convince him so thoroughly of such a lie. Now my friend owns a multi-million dollar training and mentoring company dedicated to helping others find purpose and vision in life, achieve their goals, and improve their mind, communication, and relationships. (This man shares his story publicly so others can learn from him so I'm not breaking a confidence.) Did Satan know this man had a mission to help God's children in a big way? Yep, and the devil tried to stop him through his thoughts. Let's call those mind bullies.  

You and I have also been sent to earth with missions from God (see more about that here). The devil and his followers know that, and they'll try to shut us down. One of their biggest weapons is through negative, mind bully thoughts. In fact, with bullying being such a problem today, wouldn't it make sense that if the bullies cleared out the mind bullies from their heads, they could be nice? If the devil and his followers can get into our thoughts, and especially our identity, wow, what a victory for them. Then they can ruin our relationships with God and family and friends, our character, our honesty, our life missions, our health, our finances, and every area of life. Thoughts are where things start. You better believe the dark side is trying to influence our thoughts. But the good news is I have two tools you can use to fight back. 

Here is the object lesson I used to show how dark and light thoughts work in the mind.

First I pushed in a few dark thoughts (dark cotton balls) into a "mind" (toilet paper roll), and showed that the only way to get them out is with light thoughts (white cotton balls). We discussed the light and power of uplifting music to push away darkness like temptations, a bad song that keeps playing in your mind, or a bad picture. Anything you do actions that invite in the Spirit like using holy music, praying sincerely, or feasting on the scriptures, the darkness will lessen or leave. 

Light and darkness don't like each other.
Here is how President Packer said it. “If you can control your thoughts, you can overcome habits, even degrading personal habits. If you can learn to master [your thoughts] you will have a happy life. ... Choose ... a favorite hymn. ... Go over it in your mind carefully. Memorize it. ... Now, use this hymn as the place for your thoughts to go. Make it your emergency channel. Whenever you find these shady actors have slipped from the sidelines of your thinking onto the stage of your mind, put on this record, as it were. As the music begins and as the words form in your thoughts, the unworthy ones will slip shamefully away. It will change the whole mood on the stage of your mind. Because it is uplifting and clean, the baser thoughts will disappear. For while virtue, by choice, will not associate with filth, evil cannot tolerate the presence of light" (“Inspiring Music—Worthy Thoughts,” Ensign, Jan. 1974, 28).

So the first tool is to choose a holy song to memorize and use to push away the darkness.

The second tool is the one I felt prompted to share in class today. It's simple and powerful. I've taught it to others and had amazing results with it myself. 

This tool just takes a piece of paper folded in half.  I like to call this "flip-it thoughts." You can do it anytime, anywhere in four simple steps: 

  1. First, write down some of the negative mind bully thoughts that the dark side tries to convince you about yourself. See if you can write ten of them. (See examples in the picture below.)
  2. Now write down an opposite, positive statement for each negative one. A bonus tip here is to add an extra positive statement about yourself each time. In math if you combine a negative one and a positive one you get a zero. But two positives against one negative means the positives are going to win. 
  3. Then you tear or cut off the negative side of the page and destroy it. You could crumple it up and throw it in the trash, or shred it, or even burn it in a safe place like the kitchen sink. (Some members of my family loved the idea of watching their crumpled up paper burn. Maybe you will too.)
  4. Now take your page of positive statements and read it aloud to yourself. If you can find a place where no one will hear you, say them loudly to convince your brain that you mean it. Another way to convince your brain is to smile and stand in a strong pose, not a weak one. (See more about that here.) As you say those positive statements about yourself aloud, you give the Holy Ghost the opportunity to bear witness to your soul that they are true. When the Spirit testifies of truth to you, it shifts you inside. It's a good idea to read aloud the list of positive statements each morning and night for several days, or even longer.  
These are just some ideas to get your mind going. You can click on the image to enlarge and make it easier to read. 

Since those negative thoughts are something you've been gathering for years, it's a good idea to do this exercise every day for a while, maybe a month. In fact, the mind bully thoughts often start in childhood from negative things others say about us, or experiences we have that form a limiting belief about ourselves. I think the dark side knows what negative things we already believe about ourselves and poke at those weak areas, or shoot "fiery darts of the adversary" at us. (See 1 Nephi 15:24.) This flip-it thoughts exercise is like helping us put up specific shields for the specific darts they aim at us, or that our own self-talk aims at our identity and how we see ourselves. 

After you've done this exercise for a while you can review your lists of positive statements and mark a handful of them that seem to jump out at you, then type that up as a list of declarations that you can read every morning and every night as a shield to protect your brain from negative thoughts. This list can change as new negative thoughts come. 

The subconscious part of our brain can take a while to update it's programming, kind of like when your computer software needs to update to a better version. You'll be amazed how much clearer your head is, how much more positive your mood, how much nicer you are to people, and and how much better the results in your life will be. Will it take all your problems away?  Some of them — the problems caused by your negative thinking. But even for the problems that aren't, will this tool help you feel more peaceful, calm, strong, and level-headed to find solutions? Absolutely.

Thank you, David and Goliath for helping us see that with God and positive tools from Him, we can slay the Goliaths of our own minds. 

The battle for our minds is real. Are you using one of these simple and powerful tools to slay those Goliath thoughts and fill your mind with truth?

To my seminary students: Here is the bribe, I mean treat, my daughter is making for you tomorrow if you do this tonight and bring back your "light" page. You want one, don't you?? :) 
P.S. Here is a next step you can take to battle those mind bullies: dial into what God's truth is about you.  
"Ask your Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, how He feels about you and your mission here on earth. If you ask with real intent, over time the Spirit will whisper the life-changing truth to you. Record those impressions and review them often, and follow through with exactness. ... I promise you that when you begin to catch even a glimpse of how your Heavenly Father sees you and what He is counting on you to do for Him, your life will never be the same!" (President Nelson, Worldwide Devotional, Jan. 10, 2016). 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Do you feel like the only one who avoids the Super Bowl to honor God's Holy Sabbath Day?

Note: Today is the one year anniversary of writing this post, and receiving more intense positive and negative social media comments than any of my other posts. Today I felt prompted to share it again, in hopes of inviting people to consider God's word when deciding whether to watch the Super Bowl on God's holy Sabbath. Considering the LDS Church's current emphasis on the Sabbath, I wanted to share encouragement in that direction. There are also some great reader comments after the post! 

Note from a year ago: 
This blog post has created a bit of a stir!  Around 2,000 people have viewed it since yesterday when I posted it. Many people have agreed and been supportive in social media comments, and some have been defensive and critical. I apologize if I offended anyone. That was not my intent. I love you whether or not you watch a football game on the Sabbath. My intention was to support those who feel alone in choosing to avoid the game, and to invite each of us to consider our own hearts and actions, and invite us to follow the prophet even when it's hard. It seemed that people weren't aware that the prophets had spoken on this issue, so I wanted to share the doctrine. That's all. With love, Becky 


Sometimes I feel like the only family who doesn't watch the Super Bowl each year.  

I'm sure we're not alone, but even if we were, I'm fine with that. 

I just read a Facebook post where the Super Bowl was causing family contention, as the wife didn't think watching sports is an appropriate Sabbath activity, but the husband loves watching sports on Sundays. This post is not about how to handle marital contention where spouses disagree on an issue like this. That is a tricky issue and I would recommend praying to know how God would have you deal with that. Only the Lord knows the best way to reconcile doctrinal differences in marriage, and it might be a different approach for different couples. 

My point is to invite us to ask ourselves a question. Where are we looking for our standard of behavior - the world or God? Opinion or revelation? Culture, traditions of the fathers, and "what everybody is doing," or true doctrine from God's word? 

All of the comments after the Facebook post contained opinion, and most contained justification and moral relativism, "it's right if you think or feel it's right" or "it's right if the ends justify the means" or "It's right if it's family time." Zero comments contained any doctrine. People seemed convinced that there is no right and wrong. It seemed to me that it hadn't occurred to anyone that we should look for and follow what God says about it. It's sad to me that this happens on forums full of LDS people where doctrine and truth should be our standard.

It reminded me of a Sheri Dew talk where she said good women at her workplace were looking to Oprah and other sources for their standard, rather than looking to God's chosen leaders. (If anyone has a link to that talk, please send it to me!) So I commented with some prophetic counsel to the Facebook post on this issue. Here it is, in case you're like me and feel somewhat lonely in wanting to follow the prophet on this. 

Here's what I wrote in response: 

I don't feel that watching football is an appropriate Sabbath activity. There is prophetic counsel on this. For me, when the prophet speaks I do my best to obey, even if we might be the only family in the ward who have an Un-Super Bowl party on Sunday, where we eat treats and play Sabbath-type board games together while the rest of the families watch TV, including sometimes inappropriate and pornographic ads and half-time performers.

Elder Russell M. Nelson said:

He also said, "Not pursuing your “own pleasure” on the Sabbath requires self-discipline. You may have to deny yourself of something you might like. If you choose to delight yourself in the Lord, you will not permit yourself to treat it as any other day. Routine and recreational activities can be done some other time" ("The Sabbath is a Delight, Ensign, May 2015).
Gordon B. Hinckley said, “The Sabbath of the Lord is becoming the play day of the people. It is a day of golf and football on television, of buying and selling in our stores and markets. Are we moving to mainstream America as some observers believe? In this I fear we are. What a telling thing it is to see the parking lots of the markets filled on Sunday in communities that are predominately LDS. Our strength for the future, our resolution to grow the Church across the world, will be weakened if we violate the will of the Lord in this important matter. He has so very clearly spoken anciently and again in modern revelation. We cannot disregard with impunity that which He has said” (Ensign, Nov. 1997).

Here are some more quotes about the holy Sabbath. 

For the Strength of Youth says: "Sunday is not a day for shopping, recreation, or athletic events. Do not seek entertainment or make purchases on this day."

It's interesting to see so many opinions, moral relativism and justifications here, rather than looking for God's counsel and obeying it, even if it's hard. I think it's important to obey the prophet on all things, not just the convenient things. After seeing two prophets say that it's not God's will to watch sports on Sunday, and then saying, "Disobeying God by watching the Super Bowl on the holy Sabbath is right if it's family time" is kind of like saying some of these things: 
  • "I know stealing is wrong, but if we steal as a family that makes it right." 
  • "I know shopping on Sunday is wrong, but if it's family time that makes it right."
  • "I know drinking alcohol is wrong, but as long as we're drinking it as a family then it's right." 
  • My husband thought of this one: "It's okay to commit fornication because I'm obeying the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth." 
Those examples sound so silly, but do you see the parallel? When prophets of God speak, it's the voice of God (see D&C 1:38). And if we justify our actions by saying, "Well it's family time, so it's fine if I disobey God," that does not make the actions right. 

And looking to a bishop to say, "Well, my bishop is doing it so it must be right," is not a good justification. That reminds me of young children justifying their naughty behavior by saying, "But Billy did it too, so it's okay if I do it." My husband is a bishop and we obey the prophets, even if we feel alone.  

Elder Scott said, "Strength comes from making no exceptions to your principles" ("Finding Happiness, BYU Devotional, Aug. 19, 1997). Here is President Monson's counsel on doing the right thing even if we have to stand alone. 

Elder M. Russell Ballard said, “To you I have only one question: are you going to follow the true and living prophet or not?  It really isn’t any more complicated than that” ("When Shall These Things Be,” March 12, 1996, BYU Devotional).

I don't write this to criticize or offend. I write it to encourage others who may feel alone, so they know there are others who obey even on challenging issues like these. I also write to invite others to consider their own hearts and actions. It's easy to obey the prophet when there's no temptation or cultural pressure to disobey. But when everyone else is doing it, it can be really hard! I want to offer support, strength, and encouragement through God's word to help people obey the prophets on the hard things. I am strengthened immensely by learning God's doctrine on an issue (as Elder Packer said that understanding true doctrine changes attitudes and behavior), and by knowing other people are following it, that I'm not alone. 

This reminds me of the cafeteria style approach to obedience. 

Elder Russell M. Nelsen said, "[There are] people who pick which commandments they will keep and ignore others that they choose to break. I call this the cafeteria approach to obedience. This practice of picking and choosing will not work. It will lead to misery. To prepare to meet God, one keeps all of His commandments. It takes faith to obey them, and keeping His commandments will strengthen that faith" (Ensign, May 2011). 

Cafeteria style obedience might look like these examples: 
  • I won't play football on Sunday. I'll just watch other people play football on Sunday.
  • I'll dress modestly...except when it's time for the prom dance. Then it's okay to wear a strapless, tight dress. Or I'll dress modestly by keeping myself covered up, except I'll wear tight jeans, tight leggings, or tight shirts. (Girls, the good young men I talk with, including those in my seminary class, REALLY appreciate when you avoid tight clothes!)
  • I'll keep the Lord's standards of dating only after age 16, I'll date only in groups, and do wholesome activities, but I'll have a steady boyfriend or girlfriend before marriageable age. 
  • I won't kill or commit adultery, but I'll watch other people kill and commit adultery in TV shows and movies. And I'll virtually kill others for hours and hours on a computer game. (Christ said, "or anything like unto it...")
  • I won't do drugs, smoke, or drink alcohol, but it's fine if I have an addiction to health-damaging caffeine drinks, including energy drinks.  

President James E. Faust said, “Some addictions can control us to the point where they take away our God-given agency. One of Satan’s great tools is to find ways to control us. Consequently, we should abstain from anything that would keep us from fulfilling the Lord’s purposes for us, whereby the blessings of eternity may hang in jeopardy. … Any kind of addiction inflicts a terrible price in pain and suffering, and it can even affect us spiritually” (“The Power to Change,” Ensign, Nov. 2007).

Neal A. Maxwell said, "Even if we decide to leave Babylon, some of us endeavor to keep a second residence there, or we commute there on weekends. ... As Church members, we should be part of that sin-resistant counterculture. ... If, in the end, you have not chosen Jesus Christ it will not matter what you have chosen.” (The Neal A. Maxwell Quote Book) 

I know we are all on a path, and it's not realistic to expect any of us to be perfect in all things right now. The plan is to do our best to learn and align ourselves with God's will, pray for strength and guidance to obey it, and repent when we fall short and then try again. We can ask God to help us change our desires (see Mosiah 5:2) and make us into new creatures. We can set goals and work on becoming more and more aligned with God's will. And we can study God's word on a given topic, remembering that understanding true doctrine changes attitudes and behavior. We can pray for and receive our own spiritual witness that something is the Lord's will for us. We can ask for and receive the empowering, enabling power of Christ's Atonement, the grace part that Elder Bednar taught so beautifully. 

Here is what President Harold B. Lee said about it. "Now, if you have made mistakes, make today the beginning of a change of your lives. Turn from the thing that you have been doing that is wrong. The most important of all the commandments of God is that one that you are having the most difficulty keeping today. If it is one of dishonesty, if it is one of unchastity, if it is one of falsifying, not telling the truth, today is the day for you to work on that until you have been able to conquer that weakness. Put that aright and then you start on the next one that is most difficult for you to keep. That’s the way to sanctify yourself by keeping the commandments of God" (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, 82).

I'm certainly not perfect, and I'm quite sure I have blind spots in my obedience too. If so, I hope the Lord will help me see them and help me do better. We are all learning and growing line upon line. The good news is, because of Christ's Atonement, each one of us can have a fresh start and start living a higher standard of obedience in any of these areas right now, this very moment. Repentance and change are real, and as Sheri Dew said, 

"The happiest people I know are those who repent regularly and obey" ("You Were Born to Lead, You Were Born for Glory," BYU Devotional, December 9, 2003).

I want to put in a plug here for people who love their family members who love the Super Bowl (or whatever the issue is) AND also love and want to obey God. 

I do not have the answers, but God does. I have been heartened by comments of people who have found alternate ways to maintain a family tradition while still doing their best to obey the Sabbath day commandment. Some have a Super Bowl party on Monday night and invite others over who also avoid the game on Sunday. My seminary teacher colleague loves sports and he wakes up early the next morning to watch the game. My friend attends the party but eats food and chats with the ladies in the kitchen rather than sitting and watching the game. I don't have the answers to this challenge, but God does. 

If you have a desire to protect precious relationships with people who have traditions you don't agree with AND you want to obey God's commandments, I invite you to make it a matter of prayer and scripture study. It is a sweet experience to receive your own answers of what God would have you do. It may take time, but you'll be guided, and God will appreciate your sincere desire to follow Him with hard things. Here's one more quote by Neal A. Maxwell: “If we are serious about our discipleship, Jesus will eventually request each of us to do those very things which are most difficult for us to do.” (The Neal A. Maxwell Quote Book). 

P.S. Also, did you know the Super Bowl is the biggest prostitution event in America? Deseret News covered that here.

Monday, January 18, 2016

No time for what doesn't lead us to Christ

From Sheri Dew's book No Doubt About It
"We no longer have the luxury of spending our energy on anything that doesn't lead us and our families to Christ. In the days ahead, a casual commitment to Christ will not carry us through. The time has come for each of us to stand tall, and then, in doing so, to stand together." --From Sheri Dew's book, No Doubt About It.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

15 Action Items and 20+ Quotes from President and Sister Nelson's Worldwide Devotional

Wow. The Worldwide Devotional on January 10, 2016 was awesome! Here are my favorite takeaways, both action items and quotes.

Read or watch them both here. May I recommend you print them so you can mark and ponder as you go along? 

Wendy Watson and Sheri Dew have forever been my favorite two women speakers. I was thrilled when she finally had the opportunity to get married, and to Elder Nelson, no less!  Any talk or book I've studied of hers has been top notch.  Note: this picture is from a different day, but I used it because I wanted a picture of them together.

My Checklist of 6 Action Items from Wendy Nelson's Talk 
  1. Invite the Holy Ghost to teach me individually.
  2. Be desperate to become the person God needs me to be! Then I see things differently -- myself, others, my life, entertainment, temptations -- more clearly as they really are. Then I spend time differently -- less social media and more eternal things like learning eternal truths in the temple. Then I use technology righteously, removing anything impure, then I seek and follow leaders' counsel, and find answers from God instead of Google. 
  3. Pray about paying tithing on what we want to make rather than what we make now, as George Q. Cannon did. Very cool. 
  4. Make sure I repent quickly any time I make a mistake, because "unrepented sin is like a magnet for more sin!" (I'm also going to include forgiving quickly, because unforgiveness pushes away the Spirit and eats people up inside)
  5. Do a 30-day experiment of thanking God for the scriptures, asking Him one question each day before studying, and then watch for an answer as I study that day, pleading to have the Holy Ghost teach me the answer. (Note to self: Use my journal to write the questions and answers each day.) 
  6. Pray to know what gifts God wants me to ask for, make a list of those, and pray with full energy for those gifts, knowing that "each spiritual gift we receive takes us one more step forward into our true selves." 
My Checklist of 9 Action Items from President Nelson's Talk

  1. Stand up and speak up for truth, even when it's not popular. 
  2. Remember who we really are -- it makes such a difference to remember this! My family members and I made covenants premortally about courageous things we would do on earth. God trusted us enough to send us here now -- during "the most compelling dispensation in the history of the world." We were taught premortally to prepare us for "anything and everything [we] would encounter [here] and that teaching endures with [us]." Remember when we are living. We are living in the eleventh hour, the latter part of these latter days. This is the last time God will call laborers to gather the elect from around the earth and we were sent to participate in this gathering!  
  3. Be a devout disciple of Christ who seizes every opportunity to prepare myself and others for the Second Coming and Millennial reign of the Savior. (Is it just me or is this a shift from the brethren just saying preparing for the Second Coming, to preparing for that and the Savior's Millennial reign? I don't remember that emphasis before.) We are "fore-determined by God" to do this. (Hm, I don't recall that word being used before. I just did a quick search on lds.org and couldn't find "fore-determined" used any other time. Interesting.)  Gather the elect! Bring truth to others -- it's part of our identity and purpose as Abraham's seed. 
  4. Ask God to teach me how He feels about me and my mission on the earth. "Record those impressions, review them often, and follow through with exactness." 
  5. Expect and prepare to accomplish the impossible!!  I love this!  Bring my best thinking, my most courageous efforts, and most fervent prayers, knowing full well that God will unfold miracle after miracle! Be able to accomplish the impossible by doing whatever it takes to strengthen my faith in Christ by relentlessly seeking and understanding God's truth! Also by keeping my "covenants with increasing precision."  When asked to do impossible things, "step forward with faith and dogged persistence and cheerfully do all that lies in [my] power" to fill God's purposes. Pray for courage not to give up, knowing it will be less and less popular to be LDS or to choose the right. 
  6. Plead for the gift of discernment (a second witness about praying for spiritual gifts and also receiving answers). Learn how to qualify for and access the powers of heaven by asking inspired questions. (Both of them gave this counsel -- repetition means listen up!) Go to the Lord for answers to your most important questions, not Google or social media (a second witness about priorities with social media). Pray to know what to start and stop doing, what to add or remove to my environment so the Spirit can be here more fully. (This is a third witness of asking inspired questions of what the Lord wants us to do next in our journey of becoming who He needs us to be, plus three other witnesses who mentioned this idea during the recent general conference.). Expect to be awakened during the night with promptings and answers to my questions. Just as the prophets and apostles are required to "seek and ponder, fast and pray, and study and wrestle with difficult questions, He requires [me] to do the same as [I] seek answers to [my] own questions."
  7. Spend more time in holy places like temple and churches, and make my home a more holy place, a sanctuary from "dark distractions of the world." Spend much more time where the Spirit is -- more time with friends seeking the Spirit, more time praying on my knees, more time in the scriptures, in family history work, and in the temple. I love, love, love this promise: "I promise you that as you consistently give the Lord a generous portion of your time, He will multiply the remainder."
  8. Ask for our own witness to know the prophet is called of God, and about what God's prophet proclaims. (I have a strong testimony of this and preach it repeatedly in my seminary class. When President Hinckley died I was concerned my great love for him would make it hard for me to gain a testimony of President Monson as our new prophet. So I prayed fervently for my own witness that President Monson was God's true prophet. I received that witness the first time I heard him speak as the new prophet.) Follow the prophets even if it's hard, inconvenient, or looks impossible, and I'll be blessed immensely, knowing that prophets see ahead, both the dangers and the grand blessings lying ahead. 
  9. Be very careful about whose counsel I follow, knowing there are "servants of Satan embedded throughout society." 

Now My Favorite Quotes

Becoming the Person You Were Born to Be by Wendy Watson Nelson (Click here for the whole talk)

My Favorite Quotes from Sister Nelson 

Sister Nelson said desperation is a great motivator
  • Would you like this to be the very best year of your life? The year when you follow through—better than you ever have before—on resolutions that mean the most to you? ...They were desperate! ... They were desperate for Jesus Christ to help them do things they could never do on their own. ... Desperation can actually be a great motivator. 
  • When we’re desperate to be guided by heaven, we work harder than ever to tune in to heaven. When we’re desperate to be physically healthy, we eat and exercise accordingly. No excuses! When we’re desperate to have more money, we eagerly follow the Lord’s law of finances—which is, of course, tithing! 
Paying tithing on the amount you want to make rather than the amount you make 
  • Consider President George Q. Cannon’s approach to tithing when he was an impoverished young man. When his bishop commented on the large amount of tithing poor young George was paying, George said something like: “Oh bishop, I’m not paying tithing on what I make. I’m paying tithing on what I want to make.” And the very next year George earned exactly the amount of money he had paid tithing on the year before!6
Desperation to become what we're born to be changes our vision and view of entertainment
  • When we’re desperate to become the people we were born to be, our vision changes. We wake up from the spiritual amnesia the adversary so cleverly administers, and suddenly we see things about ourselves, others, and our lives we’ve never seen before. The world’s “fun” and “entertainment” start to look almost ridiculous, perhaps even spiritually dangerous. We begin to see the adversary’s tricks and traps for what they really are—temptations to make us forget our true identity and our destination.
  • We begin to spend our time differently. Time on Facebook doesn’t seem half as compelling as time in the temple. ... We become much more interested in eternal truths the Lord will teach us in His holy house than in the latest sensational comments on social media, which can be so glib and brain-numbing.
  • One bright BYU coed told me she discovered a reverse correlation between how confident and happy she felt and the amount of time she spent on social media. 
  • When we’re desperate to be our true selves, we use technology righteously.
  • When we’re desperate to be the true disciples of Jesus Christ we were born to be, we suddenly find the courage and determination to remove anything and everything from our lives that is unholy and impure. ... The scriptures become our “go-to source” for answers and for the comfort we may realize we’ve often been seeking online.
Wendy gives awesome experiment invitations. Here is one.
  • Would you be willing to try an experiment for 30 days? Daily kneel and thank your Heavenly Father for the scriptures. Tell Him the one question you most need to have answered that day. Plead to have the Holy Ghost with you as you read. Then open your scriptures anywhere, and read until you find the answer.8 Try it for 30 days and see what happens.
Pray to know what spiritual gifts to ask for, then ask for them 
  • It’s up to us to prayerfully discover which gifts we need. We may need the gift of self-discipline or of cheerfulness. Perhaps we need the gift of patience, or the gift to be healed, or the gift to forgive. Perhaps we need the gift to have our sexual feelings be in harmony with eternal laws. Perhaps we realize that we cannot live one more minute without the gift of unshakable faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. When we’re desperate for any gift of the Spirit, that is when we will finally pray with all the energy of heart for that gift.12 And the great news is that each spiritual gift we receive takes us one more step forward into our true selves.
Imagine that the Savior has already come -- what would you make time to do now? 
  • What if you learned that the Savior had already returned to this earth—that He, as part of His Second Coming, had already met with some of His true followers in several marvelous, large gatherings13—gatherings about which the world, including CNN and the blogosphere, knew nothing. If you found out that the Savior was already on the earth, what would you desperately want to do today, and what would you be willing and ready to do tomorrow?
  • I pray that this year you will have some moments of anguishing desperation that will propel you further along the path to becoming the man or woman you were born to be. Your true self is spectacular! Never settle for less. 

Becoming True Millennials by President Russell M. Nelson (Click here for the whole talk)

My Favorite Quotes by President Nelson 

President Nelson likes the term "True Millennials" for this generation of choice spirits
  • The term Millennial is perfect for you if that term reminds you of who you really are and what your purpose in life really is. A True Millennial is one who was taught and did teach the gospel of Jesus Christ premortally and who made covenants with our Heavenly Father there about courageous things—even morally courageous things—that you would do while here on earth.
  • A True Millennial is a man or woman whom God trusted enough to send to earth during the most compelling dispensation in the history of this world. A True Millennial is a man or woman who lives now to help prepare the people of this world for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and His millennial reign. Make no mistake about it—you were born to be a True Millennial.
President Nelson's first recommendation for becoming a "True Millennial" is to learn who you really are
  • You were taught in the spirit world to prepare you for anything and everything you would encounter during this latter part of these latter days.1 That teaching endures within you!
  • You are living in the “eleventh hour.” The Lord has declared that this is the last time that He will call laborers into His vineyard to gather the elect from the four quarters of the earth.2 And you were sent to participate in this gathering. Again and again I have seen firsthand the powerful influence of True Millennials as they bring others to a knowledge of the truth. This is part of your identity and your purpose as the seed of Abraham!3
  • True Millennials ... know who they really are. They are devout disciples of Jesus Christ who instinctively seize every opportunity to help themselves and others prepare for the millennial reign of our Savior.
  • Therefore, my first recommendation is to learn for yourselves who you really are. Ask your Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, how He feels about you and your mission here on earth. If you ask with real intent, over time the Spirit will whisper the life-changing truth to you. Record those impressions and review them often, and follow through with exactness.  ...I promise you that when you begin to catch even a glimpse of how your Heavenly Father sees you and what He is counting on you to do for Him, your life will never be the same! (Emphasis added.)
His second recommendation is to expect and prepare to accomplish the impossible.
  • God has always asked His covenant children to do difficult things. ...The Lord will ask you to do difficult things. You can count on it—Abrahamic tests did not stop with Abraham.4
  • [President Benson's instructions to President Nelson] included, “Elder Nelson, you are to open the countries of Eastern Europe for the preaching of the gospel.” ... All of Eastern Europe was under the oppressive yoke of communism. Churches were closed, and religious worship was strictly limited. I had no experience that would lead me to believe I could [do it] ... And yet, a prophet had given me an assignment, so I set out to do what seemed utterly impossible. ...The Lord is able to do His own work,5 and I was privileged to watch the unfolding of one miracle after another—always, and only, after I had brought my best thinking, my most courageous efforts, and my most fervent prayers to the task. (Emphasis added.)
  • As a True Millennial whom the Lord can count on, you will make history too! You will be asked to accept challenging assignments and become an instrument in the Lord’s hands. And He will enable you to accomplish the impossible.
President Nelson offers ways you and I will be able to accomplish the impossible
  • How will you accomplish the impossible? By doing whatever it takes to strengthen your faith in Jesus Christ by increasing your understanding of the doctrine taught in His restored Church and by relentlessly seeking truth. As a True Millennial, anchored in pure doctrine, when you are asked to do impossible things, you will be able to step forward with faith and dogged persistence and cheerfully do all that lies in your power to fulfill the purposes of the Lord.6 (Emphasis added.) 
  • You will have days when you will be thoroughly discouraged. So, pray for courage not to give up!
  • ...I promise you that as you follow Jesus Christ, you will find sustained peace and true joy. As you keep your covenants with increasing precision, and as you defend the Church and kingdom of God on the earth today, the Lord will bless you with strength and wisdom to accomplish the impossible.
His second recommendation is to learn how to access the power of heaven 
  • You too will learn best by asking inspired questions. ... Our Heavenly Father and His Son stand ready to respond to your questions through the ministering of the Holy Ghost. But it is up to you to learn how to qualify for an receive those answers.
President Nelson gives us a list of where to start in learning to qualify for and receive answers from heaven. I added the numbers to the list. 
  1. Begin by spending more time in holy places. The temple is a holy place. So is the chapel, where you make new sacramental covenants each Sunday. I invite you also to make your apartment, your dorm, your home, or your room a holy place where you can safely retreat from the dark distractions of the world.
  2. Prayer is a key. Pray to know what to stop doing and what to start doing. Pray to know what to add to your environment and what to remove so the Spirit can be with you in abundance.
  3. Plead with the Lord for the gift of discernment. Then live and work to be worthy to receive that gift so that when confusing events arise in the world, you will know exactly what is true and what is not. 7
  4. Serve with love. Loving service to those who have lost their way or who are wounded in spirit opens your heart to personal revelation.
  5. Spend more time—much more time—in places where the Spirit is present. That means more time with friends who are seeking to have the Spirit with them. 
  6. Spend more time on your knees in prayer, 
  7. more time in the scriptures, 
  8. more time in family history work, 
  9. more time in the temple. 
  10. I promise you that as you consistently give the Lord a generous portion of your time, He will multiply the remainder. (Emphasis added)
  11. ...After fasting, praying, studying, pondering, and counseling with my Brethren about weighty matters, it is not unusual for me to be awakened during the night with further impressions about issues with which we are concerned. And my Brethren have the same experience.
  12. ...Just as the Lord requires us to seek and ponder, fast and pray, and study and wrestle with difficult questions, He requires you to do the same as you seek answers to your own questions.
  13. You can learn to hear the voice of the Lord through the whisperings of the Holy Ghost.8 As helpful as Google, Twitter, and Facebook may seem, they simply do not provide answers to your most important questions!
  14. My dear young friends, you can know the mind and will of the Lord for your own life. You do not have to wonder if you are where the Lord needs you to be or if you are doing what He needs you to do. You can know! 
His fourth recommendation with becoming True Millennials is to follow the prophets
  • Prophets see ahead. They see the harrowing dangers the adversary has placed or will yet place in our path. Prophets also foresee the grand possibilities and privileges awaiting those who listen with the intent to obey.
  • The Lord has promised us that He will never allow the prophet to lead us astray. President Harold B. Lee declared: “You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord Himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory’ (D&C 21:6).”10
  • You may not always understand every declaration of a living prophet. But when you know a prophet is a prophet, you can approach the Lord in humility and faith and ask for your own witness about whatever His prophet has proclaimed.
  • The somber reality is that there are “servants of Satan”12 embedded throughout society. So be very careful about whose counsel you follow.13
We were fore-determined to help get the earth ready for the Second Coming
  • ...You were born to be True Millennials! You are a chosen generation,14 fore-determined by God to do a remarkable work—to help prepare the people of this world for the Second Coming of the Lord.
President Nelson left the audience with a beautiful, apostolic blessing. I will add numbers to count the blessings he pronounced. 
  • Now, as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, I bless each one of you, as though I had my hands upon your heads, with 
  1. the ability to become the True Millennial you were born to be. 
  2. I bless you to have the desire and ability to learn your true identity and purpose, 
  3. that you will expect and prepare to do “impossible” things, 
  4. that you will be undaunted in your efforts to learn how to access the powers of heaven to help you solve your problems and answer your questions. 
  5. And I bless you to follow the prophets with exactness, 
  6. to feel peace in your heart as you do so.
  7. I bless you to know and feel how much the Lord loves you and how much confidence He has in you.

Click here to see one of my other favorite talks from Sister Nelson, given at BYU Women's Conference in May 2015. 

Feel free to leave a comment below with a favorite quote or something you plan to act on from these amazing talks! 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Winter Homeschool Conference on Jan 30 in Northern Utah

If you're homeschooling or considering it, this is a great conference to attend! 

I have another commitment that weekend, but I wish I could clone myself because there will be great presenters and classes for adults and youth, a family ball put on my my friend Shiloh and vendor booths. I love running into old friends and making new ones. My friend Tammy Ward puts on amazing conferences!

Click here for more information or to register. 


Friday, January 15, 2016

18 Tips to Create Your Own "Liberation from Laundry" System

I woke up this morning feeling like I should post this again. I hope it blesses your new year with more order and simplicity! (Note: I apologize that for some reason the words in this post don't "wrap around" properly so some of the words are disconnected. You'll still come away with the important stuff!) 

Here is the "liberation from laundry" system I've taught moms for years. 

I designed our dream home with a dream laundry room. And then instead of building, we purchased a spec home, with a laundry closet instead of a room. So I took a few shelves, bins, and a rod to transform our little laundry closet into a functional laundry room!

Here is our empty laundry closet. If you click on the pictures they will enlarge. 
    This is our laundry system in use. This picture includes a couple bins missing in the picture above -- hand-me-downs and clothes that need a special wash cycle.

Parts of a user-friendly laundry closet or room 
  • For clean laundry, each person gets their own labeled bin, plus a bin for for rags anda bin for towels and sheets.
  • For dirty laundry, there are bins for darks, lights, and whites.
  • I include a few other bins for clothes to give away, hand-me-down clothes to store inthe basement, and clothes that need a special wash cycle like soaking or delicate cycle.
  • We use wall space to hang wire storage shelving for laundry supplies, and a nail in the wall to hold a sweater bag.  We use a "hang dry" sign with poster putty on the washer to remind us something in that batch needs to hang dry.

18 Tips to find liberation from the overwhelm of massive piles of laundry.  

1. I do very little folding!  

The mom's job is just to wash, dry, hang, and place in bins.  That's it. I DON'T fold and put all that laundry away every day.  That's the most overwhelming part that makes you walk to everyone's bedrooms each day.  So I hang anything I don't want wrinkled, and toss the rest into bins, like pajamas, underwear, socks, rags and towels. The hanging rod is also an easy place to hang dry clothes. 
2. I almost never put clothes away!  

Once a week each person takes his or her bin and hanging clothes and puts their own clothes away. My oldest two children do the towels and help with preschoolers’ clothes. We do this each Wednesday as part of morning chores. Another good time to do this is between family home evening and treats – you’ll be amazed at the family’s speed and cooperation when a treat is waiting!
3. Even a two- or three-year old can put away clothes if you make it easy enough.
  • Place pictures on their drawers or bins.
  • Teach them how, then do it with them until they’re old enough to do it on their own, around five years old. Of course it won’t look as good as when you do it, but remember you’re raising responsible children, not perfect drawers of clothing. An older child can be assigned to help a younger child. If your child helps draw, cut, or tape the labels on they’re more likely to put their clothes away.
4. I almost never mate socks!  

I buy a unique package of white socks for each person (one person has a grey heel, another has a pink stripe), toss those into their bin, and the owner puts them away. They don’t even have to mate their own because all their white socks match the rest. If the socks are hard to tell apart, use a laundry marker to initial the bottom of each sock. Some people use a different mesh zipper bag to wash each person’s socks. Others have family members pin each pair together, using clothes pins or safety pins. If several people wear the same size socks, buy lots of that type and have a shared sock bin in the bathroom or bedroom. Now only dress socks need to be mated, and each person can mate their own, because your job is to simply toss them in the owner’s bin.

5. I never fold dish towels or rags! 

Just toss them in the drawer – nobody else cares. In our house “spill rags” are stored in a low kitchen drawer and can be used for spilled juice, dusting, or cleaning. This saves nice dish towels from getting stained. If spill rags are stored with the rest they can be a certain color or marked with an “S.”  
6. Liberate yourself from washing towels every day.  

Replace towel rods with a row of hooks, then assign each person a hook and a towel. Once a week wash the batch of towels together and rehang. If somebody wants theirs washed more often, they can throw their own in the laundry. 
7. Having less clothes means feeling less overwhelmed. 

Help your child choose their ten favorite outfits (or any amount) for summer, and ten for winter. Placing a D.I. box in the laundry room makes it quick and easy to de-clutter clothes that are too small, stained, or torn.

8. Make laundry less overwhelming by doing it more often.  Laundry never piles up, gets mildewed, or wrinkled!  

It’s no longer overwhelming now that it takes only a few minutes, so it’s easy to do a load or two each morning. The dreaded mountains of laundry are a thing of the past! You save time and wrinkles by hanging, folding, and tossing right when you take clothes out of the dryer.

Do a batch or two every morning.  Laundry never piles up, gets mildewed, or wrinkled. It’s no longer overwhelming now that it takes only a few minutes, so it’s easy to do a load or two each morning. The dreaded mountains of laundry are a thing of the past! You save time and wrinkles by hanging, folding, and tossing right when you take clothes out of the dryer. 

One mother of nine stays home every Monday and does all the laundry while she works on phone calls and paperwork. Another mom reserves Monday and Friday for laundry and cleaning, leaving the rest of the week open for errands and outings. 

9. Teach family members to empty their own pockets. 

Announce that Mom now gets to keep anything (money, treats) she finds in pockets.
10. Here's a trick not to forget rotating your laundry. 

Do you have a problem remembering to rotate your laundry, and then find smelly clothes days later?  Attach laundry to a daily task, like rotating a load after putting the baby down for naps and bedtime. Or after each meal. Another idea is to set a timer in your main living area, or use a timer on a digital watch if the dryer is too far away to hear the buzzer.
11. No more tangled hangers. 

If you don’t like hassling with tangled metal hangers replace them with sturdy plastic ones.  
12. I almost never iron!  

Here are three ways to prevent ironing: 1) remove clothes from of the dryer and hang them right away 2) buy wrinkle-free clothes 3) spray cotton clothes with a squirt bottle and smooth with hands to remove wrinkles 4) use a commercial wrinkle removal spray 13. A way to find each person's hanging clothes faster. 

If you hang up most of your family’s clothing, make it easy to hang and to find each person’s clothes by dividing the hanging bar into sections using fun foam. Or assign each family member a different color of hangers. 14. How to get all those hangers back from closets. 

Teach family members to hook hangers onto the hamper so they automatically go to the laundry room. No more searching for hangers when you need them. Another idea is to have family members bring their empty hangers back the day they put away their clean laundry. 15. Teach family members to sort their own laundry. 

Have three different colored hampers: white, dark, and light. Or you may choose to havepeople use a central hamper, and you sort into piles or bins in the laundry room. Do whatever is easy for you. You might assign a child the job of bringing the hampers from aroundthe house into the laundry room, or you gather them as you pick up the house each morning. 16. Teach family members to check clothing for spots. 

Store the pre-spot cleaner near the hamper, and spray spots when they’re fresh. Or place a small laundry bin nearby just for items that need pre-spot treatment. 17. Teach children to do their own laundry starting around age 8-10. 

Do it with your children until they’re skilled. If your kids are too young, you can do one child’s laundry each day. I only wash whites a couple times a week (usually Mondays and Thursdays) and I often offer for the kids to bring me their white church shirts or blouses for those batches, because I don’t want my kids dealing with bleach. 18. If you can spare a room, consider setting up a whole room as a laundry center and clothes closet for the whole family like my friend AnnMarie uses.