Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Let Him Warm You Like a Fire in Winter

It's December 16th, which means we're right in the heart of Christmastime. And I've been busy doing what most of you have been doing--shopping, planning, baking, going to Christmas concerts, and trying to find ways to bless others at this time of year. And yet, again and again, I've felt a recurring prompting not to let my heart and my relationship with Christ get lost in the craziness of the season. Because in the end, I can only fill others' empty cups when my own has been filled to overflowing. So I've been trying to find quiet moments every day to spend at the Lord's feet, taking in His love and sweetness and power in a way that truly restores and renews and recharges my soul. It's made the season that much more meaningful for me, and prepared me to share that sweetness and love with others.

In the December 2015 New Era, Elder D. Todd Christofferson talked about connecting with Christ in a way that really touched my heart. Here’s how he explained it:

   Some years ago I heard a radio interview featuring Bishop Desmond Tutu, the Anglican archbishop in South Africa. He had just published a book with his daughter about the reconciliation that had taken place in South Africa following apartheid. Basically, the book’s message is that there is good in all people.
   During the interview the host asked a perceptive, inspired question of Bishop Tutu: “Have you found that your relationship to God has changed as you’ve grown older?”
Bishop Tutu paused and then said: “Yes. I am learning to shut up more in the presence of God.”
   He recalled that when he prayed in his earlier years, he did so with a list of requests and solicitudes. He would approach heaven with what he called “a kind of shopping list.” But now, he said, “I think [I am] trying to grow in just being there. Like when you sit in front of a fire in winter, you are just there in front of the fire, and you don’t have to be smart or anything. The fire warms you.”
   I think that is a lovely metaphor—just sit with the Lord and let Him warm you like a fire in winter. You don’t have to be perfect or the greatest person who ever graced the earth or the best of anything to be with Him.
   I hope you will take time this Christmas season to sit for a few quiet moments and let the Savior’s Spirit warm you and reassure you of the worthiness of your service, of your offering, of your life. Sit quietly with that little baby and come away spiritually strengthened and better prepared for all that is going to come later. Let that moment be one of rest and refreshing and reassurance and renewal.

Photo from

I also wanted to add one other note that may not seem Christmas-related at all, but it's something that has brought me closer to Christ in a very profound and personal way. So I thought I'd share in the hopes it would do the same for some of you. I love fiction--especially historical fiction. And several years ago, I came across a series called A.D. Chronicles by Brock and Bodie Thoene. It's set in the time of Christ and weaves several fictional characters right into the lives of Jesus, John the Baptist, Mary and Joseph, Herod, Pilate, Mary Magdelene, Peter, James, and John, and many others. It's so well written and researched, I feel like I'm truly living in that time and experiencing what these great ones experienced. But what I love most is the characterization of Jesus. The way the Thoenes portray Him has made Him come alive for me as one who actually lived and laughed and loved on this earth in a very real way. I can't recommend the series highly enough (I'm guessing you can probably find it in your local library). If you love historical fiction and you want a way to draw closer to Christ any time of year, this is definitely a wonderful way to make Him more real in your mind and heart.

With that, I simply wish you all a very Merry Christmas! May you find time this season--maybe even a great deal of time--to "sit with the Lord and let Him warm you like a fire in winter." 

Friday, November 13, 2015

My Current Workout Favorites

I know the title of my blog is My Life In His Hands, so some may think a post on workouts wouldn’t fit in with that theme at all. But I very much beg to differ. I firmly believe that the Lord is interested in every part of our lives—and that includes our efforts to take care of physical body. It's something I never understood in earlier years. Throughout my teens and 20’s, I never thought to ask Him for help or counsel in my journey to care for my body. As a result, I swung back and forth on the pendulum between workout obsession and total neglect. But finally I surrendered my eating and exercising into His hands (just like my title says haha!), I have to say that it’s been a blast to see how creative and inspirational and fun His guidance can be. I’ve discovered that He knows exactly what I need when I need it, and now I trust Him completely to help me know what’s right for me in the many different seasons of my life.

The last few months have been a great example of this. I’ve been pretty burned out on my regular workouts, especially since I'm struggling with plantar fasciitis (thankfully it’s finally getting better). I knew I needed to keep moving but I didn’t have the budget to purchase a whole new workout DVD library (that’s my favorite way to exercise—I’m not much of a runner or a gym goer!). Anyway, as I noticed myself skipping more and more workouts, I started praying for help to know how to get out of my rut.

And that’s when I found Jessica Smith TV on youtube. She’s posted all kinds of free workout videos—everything from walking to weights to kickboxing to Hiit and more. And I’m completely hooked. I know it wasn’t a coincidence that I found her site, but a tender mercy of the Lord. Not only is Jessica adorable and encouraging and a fantastic instructor, but she’s not about getting ripped or being perfect or feeling wiped out when you’re through. Instead, she talks a lot about just enjoying the movement and allowing it to energize you. Add to that her little French bulldog, Peanut, who joins her for the workouts, and it’s just like working out with your own personal trainer right in the comfort of your own home. I'm loving every minute of it. So I thought it would be fun to share just in case anyone else is in a rut and needs some help getting things jump-started. You can find her workouts (and a lot more info) here.

While I’m at it, I thought since I’ve been a home exerciser for over 20 years, I’d share some of my other favorite instructors just in case someone out there is looking for something new. There’s a lot more to choose from than what's offered at Walmart, but they can be hard to find if you don't know where to look. Besides Jessica (who also has several DVD’s out, by the way), my second favorite right now is Michelle Dozois, especially her Peak Fit workouts. I’ve also enjoyed The Firm for many, many years, as well as Tracie Long, Ellen Barrett (hers are so beautiful and different!), Christi Taylor’s step, Cathe Friedrich (although she’s pretty hard core), Chalene Johnson (especially Turbo Jam and Turbo Fire), and Stephanie Huckabee’s PowerFit (an easier series if you want something simple). You can find clips of almost all of these workouts on and many are cheaper on eBay and amazon. Another great site to read reviews before you buy is I know I'm leaving a lot of great instructors out, but this has been what's worked for me. There are so many options out there, I know that with the Lord's help, it's possible to stay active throughout our entire lives.

P.S. If you want to check out my Pinterest here, I've got a Jessica Smith cardio board and also a weights board where I've gathered my favorites all in one place. I know she's got so many posted that it can be hard to know where to start. :)
1/28/16 EDITED TO ADD ONE MORE P.S.: I just bought Jessica's new Walk Strong workout program. It's SO FUN! The workouts are only 30 minutes and the price isn't too bad. You can check it out here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Letter to Young Women on the Temple

This week for Young Women, we spent an evening creating wedding time capsules with the girls. It was hilarious to watch how differently they all responded. Some had every detail already planned out in their mind, and others (like one of my daughters) didn't even know where to begin (and didn't even really care that much about all that girly stuff). In the end, though, it was a fun way to help them look forward to that important day in their own way. One thing we did as leaders was to write a letter to the girls that captured how we feel about the temple so they could include it in their time capsule. It was a precious experience for me to spend some time yesterday putting my feelings down on paper. I thought it might be fun to post here just for sentimental reasons....and I guess to share some things that I feel very strongly about. Here's my letter below:

I’m excited to take a minute to sit down and capture on paper what I wish I would have known when I first went through the temple. This is such a significant step in your life and I really don’t want you to take it lightly. It’s something you should give some deep thought to because what you obtain in the temple really will change your life forever—but only if you truly embrace what happens there and make it personal for you.

For starters, you need to know that you’re not just going to the temple to be sealed to your husband. Before that important day, you’ll first receive your very own endowment. In that endowment session, you’ll make covenants that in essence will invite you to offer your whole heart and whole soul and whole life to the Lord. You’ll promise Him that HE will be your first priority—even above your husband. I know that may sound odd, but when you put the Lord first, He’ll fill you so full of His love that you’ll be a much better wife and mom. When you’re living close to Christ, you’ll love your husband more purely and less selfishly. And the temple covenants will help you do that. It’s actually a really amazing process.

I think sometimes we talk so much about the temple endowment that we don’t stop and think about what the word endowment means. An endowment is a gift. And it’s a pretty mind-blowing gift if you ask me. In the temple, the Lord says He endows those who He has chosen with power from on high” (D&C 95:8). So that means, if you take your temple covenants seriously, you’ll be blessed with power to be an amazing wife and power to be an incredible mom and power to serve in the Church and power to bless other people’s lives in a million different ways. Life is hard (even after you find the love of your life), but when you go through the temple (and take your covenants seriously), it will give you access to the Lord’s help with all of your trials and challenges. Because of that, you’ll do more than just survive the hard times—you’ll prosper and thrive and flourish and it will all be because of the strength of the Lord. I don’t think there’s anything in the world that can make you happier than that.

So I hope you enjoy the experience of going through the temple . . . and I also hope you go back again and again so you can learn everything you can about your endowment.  If you soak it all in and rejoice in the life-changing gift the Lord is offering you, I know it will bless your life and the lives of your family no matter what you face in the years ahead.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

I Need Thee Every Hour

It’s been a tough week. Well, maybe I should say a tough month. It’s not that everything is going wrong . . . that’s really not the case. So much is going right. But there are just several nagging issues that aren’t resolving as quickly as my impatient little soul would like them to. Funny thing is, I’ve read all those verses that about how to find peace—and it’s definitely come in those small moments when I’ve desperately needed it. But sometimes I just get tired of mortality, you know? Sometimes I just want to crawl out of my mortal body for a while and go back home where I belong. Sometimes this world with all its struggles and strains and ups and downs doesn’t feel like my home at all. Does that make sense? It’s like I look around and think, “What in the world am I doing here?”

I had one of those moments this week. It was so weird. The TV was on and I sat there staring at it and watching the actors and thinking, “That’s just a stupid box with people on it pretending to have lives and relationships that they don’t really have. It’s so crazy that we sit and stare at this thing all night!” I had to laugh because it just felt so bizarre. On days like this, I just want to push aside all the stuff that has become so routine, and sit back and take a deep breath and remember who I really am. I’m not my To-Do List. I’m not those nagging worries that won’t resolve.  My reality—my true reality—is that I belong to Christ and I’m loved more than my mind can ever comprehend. And that means I’m never, ever alone.

So maybe I can’t crawl out of my skin and take a little rest in heaven, but thankfully heaven can come to me. Right here and now. So I’m asking for that very thing tonight. Not just peace. I’m asking for Him. I’m asking the Lord to be with me in such a real way that I can really, truly sense it. Because I need Him to be my Savior in a big, big way. Not because I’m drowning in sorrow or adversity, but just because I need to know He’s there. I need to hear again that He loves me and He’s with me . . . no matter where tomorrow’s road is going to lead.

(Just for fun, I'm posting some pictures that make me happy, because these crazy people really help me smile on nights like this. I'm so thankful I have them in my life.) 

Everyone watching a funny video Dad recorded on a ride at Lagoon.
 Me and my girls taking my son Kyler's new car for a spin.
Just because. I should have jumped in it but I didn't even know they were taking it. 
Yep, I knew it. I feel better already. :)

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Like a Green Tree

You know when you read a scripture passage and it hits you with such force that you wonder, “How have I never seen that before??” That’s what’s happened to me a few years ago with a passage in Jeremiah chapter 17. I’d breezed by it several times over the years so it wasn’t unfamiliar, but it never really sunk in the way it needed to. Maybe that’s because I never took the time to understand what the words were actually saying. Once I finally came to see these verses with a new set of eyes, it changed my entire perspective. I want this passage to be true of me more than anything else in the whole world. Here it is - four simple little verses:

"Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.
   For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.
   Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit" (Jeremiah 17:5-8).

The issue in this passage is who we choose to trust. Jeremiah paints a beautiful picture of what our lives should look like if we really have placed our trust in the Lord. First of course is the woman who doesn’t trust or rely on her Savior’s atoning power. It says she’s like a heath (or a shrub) in the desert that is parched and dry and barren and blind. Seems logical enough. But the picture that truly slays me is the one of the woman whose heart does trust in her beloved Savior. Jeremiah describes her as a lush, green tree growing on the banks of a rushing stream with her roots growing deep into the overflowing waters. But the most amazing part about the verse is this: because this particular tree has access to all the nourishment she could possibly need, she’s completely unaffected by any stressful circumstances that come her way. If heat overtakes her, the verse says she does not “see” (which according to the footnote means “fear”). If drought threatens the surrounding land, we’re told that she’s not “careful,” which in the Greek means “not worried or anxious” (Strong’s Concordance of the Bible). That’s a totally mind-blowing prospect if you ask me. Can you even imagine living your life without any fear? Can you imagine facing trials and tribulations without any trace of anxiety or stress? It almost seems too good to be true. But it's all right there in black and white.

Here's what finally hit me. For most of my life, I definitely would’ve told you that I believed and trusted and loved my Savior Jesus Christ with all my heart. But in reality, much of my life was spent just like that scrubby heath. Too often my emotional state was parched and dry and barren and miserable (which of course lead to binging on chocolate and losing myself in a chick flick or whatever would lift me out of the barrenness for a little while). Ultimately, I had to face the fact that maybe I didn’t trust Him like I thought I did. That there was more I needed to learn about drawing strength and joy from those living waters rather than turning to food and media and other coping strategies or escapes. I’ll admit it sparked a hunger in me to learn how to live like that fruitful green tree. To learn how to trust so deeply and completely in Christ that all manner of adversity could come my way and I’d simply be content. Filled with His peace and His joy. Like the verse says, my leaf would be green and I would never cease from yielding fruit. It’s been quite a journey—one that has lead me through a great deal of self-honesty and repentance.  But I truly can say for myself now that I understand what Jeremiah was talking about. As Christ Himself has said, "I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst" (John 6:35). In other words, we don't have to live even one minute like that barren little heath. 

(For more examples of this idea in the scriptures, see the people of Alma in Mosiah 24 or the Stripling Warriors or Joseph who was sold into Egypt. All these people faced incredible hardship, but were able to face it with positivity and patience (Mosiah 24:15) through the life-changing grace of the Lord. I love it!)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Beautiful Doctrine of Grace

I’ve been thinking a lot about grace. I don’t think there’s anything that has changed my life more than that one simple word. That’s why it was such a delight to hear President Uchtdorf talk on grace in the April 2015 General Conference. After defining the word, he then said this: “It is a most wondrous thing, this grace of God. Yet it is often misunderstood.” I can definitely say that’s been true for me. For a long time, I thought grace was something Christians believed in, not Mormons. Or that grace was something that I could only get “after all I could do.” I never saw it as something I needed in my everyday life. But all that has changed in recent years. For me, grace has become, like Brother Brad Wilcox likes to say, “not a booster engine that kicks in once [my] fuel supply is exhausted,” but my “constant energy source.”

I love how Sheri Dew describes it in her book, Amazed by Grace (which is an absolutely wonderful read, by the way):

If we think we have to conquer a bad habit or an addiction by ourselves, before we seek help, we most likely don’t understand grace. If we’re discouraged with ourselves because we feel weak and succumb too readily and too often to temptation, we don’t understand grace. . . . If we keep trying to suppress envy or anger that rises up at the worst moments, if we feel as though nothing ever changes and we can’t seem to get over unfairness of hurt, if we feel unworthy of the Lord’s help, we don’t understand grace. . . . In other words, if we feel as though we’re alone and must rely largely or even solely upon our own energy, talent, and strength—we don’t understand grace. Or better said, we don’t understand the enabling power of Jesus Christ.

Can there be anything more comforting and hopeful than knowing our precious Savior is waiting to pour out His grace in our moment of need?? That in our weakness, He’s able to infuse us with more power and strength and energy than we even thought possible?? It’s made me want to drink in His grace every single minute of every single day. In the words of a favorite Christian writer,

The greatest saints are not those who need less grace, but those who consume the most grace, who indeed are most in need of grace -- those who are saturated by grace in every dimension of their being. Grace to them is like breath (Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart).

Let’s all breathe in grace today until our lungs our so full of it that we can join Paul in saying, “By the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Cor. 15:10).

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Wrapped in the Arms of His Love

It’s been a tough week. In addition to the hormones kicking in (oh, how I love PMS!), we have an awful lot going on right now. Our missionary leaves in a week so there’s that. But I also have some other stuff—stuff that I can’t really do anything about, but I keep worrying about it anyway. I woke up this morning feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of it all. As I lay there in bed, I couldn’t keep the fear from stirring around and around in my mind. I watched as my thoughts jumped from this worry to that worry and then back again. I hate that. It feels like this out-of-control merry-go-round. There’s no peace—just worry, stress, and fear fighting for control of my mind. Not a fun way to start the day.

So right there in bed before my feet even hit the floor, I started to pray. Started to beg, really. I know what happens when I get like this. All that crazy worrying follows me around all day and I don’t get a moment of peace. But thankfully I’ve finally learned exactly how to get out of that cycle. It’s only through the strength of the Lord. Only He can pull me out of that mental abyss and bring me to a place of peace and trust. So I took the whole mess and laid it at His feet, believing with Nephi that, “my God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss” (2 Nephi 4:35).

I’ll be honest—as I continued to pray it felt like a tug-of-war for a little while, with my thoughts trying to pull me back to the stress and my heart trying to pull me toward the Lord. But finally, the peace came. I immediately felt my mind settle down and the Lord’s love began to encircle my heart and calm my thoughts. It was a beautiful moment and it reminded me again why the gospel of Jesus Christ means so much to me.

Tell me: where else in the world can we find such all-consuming, all-encompassing love? Where else? It brings to mind another verse from Nephi: “the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things. . . .Yea, and the most joyous to the soul” (1 Nephi 11:21-23).  I can definitely testify of that today. I tasted His love for myself this morning and it made my heart soar with love for Him in return. It was personal and intimate and soul-filling . . . and it made me want to stay in that beautiful place for the rest of the day. So rather than devoting my mind to worrying about things I can’t change, I’m dedicating it to my precious Redeemer and to living each moment wrapped in His priceless, unfailing love.

(After going through the temple with Kimball. He leaves for the Las Vegas mission on August 5th.)

Friday, July 10, 2015

Confessions of a People Pleaser

As long as I can remember, I’ve been a people pleaser. And I made no apologies about it. I truly believed that’s just the way I was. Even as a child, I had a really hard time saying anything that would cause conflict or confrontation. Even the thought doing so would completely paralyze me. After I got married, my husband (who has no problem expressing his opinion) would coax me again and again to speak my mind rather than hiding my feelings behind an artificial smile. But I just couldn’t do it. I wasn’t even sure why. I just said it wasn’t my personality style. That I was just too nice. I had no idea that my people pleasing went much deeper than that. And I finally came face to face with it one day when I was studying the scriptures.

Here’s the verse that hit me like a ton of bricks:

“But with some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their mouths, but they hide the talent which I have given unto them, because of the fear of man. Wo unto such, for mine anger is kindled against them” (D&C 60:2).

Suddenly I saw that my people pleasing wasn’t a result of being too nice at all. Underneath it all hid a pretty compelling “fear of man.” In short, I really wanted people to like me. I desperately wanted to be admired and respected. So I made sure to never say anything that would offend or turn someone off. I smiled or nodded or laughed even though inside I was feeling completely the opposite. And I think the Lord had finally had enough. He didn’t stop with the above verse either, but sent me to scripture after scripture to show me the “fear of man” and its implications in our lives. It didn’t take long to see that it fit my personality perfectly (see 1 Samuel 15:24, Ezekiel 2:6, John 12:43, Galatians 1:10, and 1 Thess. 2:4 for just a few).

Then came the straw that broke the camel’s back. I found this in President Ezra Taft Benson’s classic talk “Beware of Pride”:

The proud stand more in fear of men’s judgment than of God’s judgment (See D&C 3:6-7; D&C 30:1-2; D&C 60:2). “What will men think of me?” weighs heavier than “What will God think of me?” . . .  
    Fear of men’s judgment manifests itself in competition for men’s approval. The proud love “the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42-43). Our motives for the things we do are where the sin is manifest. Jesus said He did “always those things” that pleased God (John 8:29).

With that, I knew I didn’t want to be a people pleaser anymore. I didn’t want to be paralyzed by a fear of offending others. I wanted to be able to speak my mind when the Lord needed me to….without fear and without hesitation. It’s a journey I’ve been on for the last several years. Though it’s been a challenge to learn to break this habit and trust the Lord in stressful situations, I’m finally learning to do just that. Through His grace, I can finally say I’m not paralyzed anymore. I’m slowly learning that the Lord keeps His word when He says, “open your mouths and they shall be filled (D&C 33:8). It’s actually been a really liberating experience.

I say all this because we’ve entered a new day where traditional Christian values are being challenged on every side. And it’s not enough anymore to do what I always did and let the bold ones (like my husband) do all the talking. We all must take part if we’re going to make a difference.  I got all fired up about this after reading the article linked below. Give it a whirl and see if it doesn’t inspire you to set aside your fears and join me in opening our mouths in defense of what we believe:

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A New Adventure

I'll confess that I've started and quit this blog several times over the last few years. And I'm feeling the urge to get it started up again. I'm in between writing projects right now (well, kind of) and I though it might be fun to use this as another writing outlet. It's been an incredibly busy spring for our family. We moved (left a home we'd built and lived in for 13 years), had a wedding, I finished a manuscript, and we graduated one more senior (the 5th out of 7). Now I'm busy preparing to send that graduated son on a mission to Vegas and welcome another one home from Uganda. It seems like things never stop moving around here, so I want to use this blog as a way to make time stand still for a little while. In this quiet place, I want to get beyond the busy-ness and contemplate the deeper things of life, for it's those deeper things that have changed me in ways I'll never be able to describe. (But I sure want to try!)

The truth is, I spent so many years caught up in my daily routine and my To-Do list and getting dinner on the table and changing diapers and carpooling kids and everything we women cram into our lives on a daily basis. But then one day I just couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't live like a mouse on a wheel for one more day. I knew something had to change. And change it did. As I fell before the Lord and begged for help, He began an intense period of tutoring and mentoring me in those so-called deep things. And now 10 years later, I can honestly say that I've finally learned to live by my heart, not my To-Do list. It's a life I never dreamed possible. It would take 10,000 blog posts to capture everything I've learned, but perhaps I'll just start with the thoughts on my mind today.

Today I'm grateful for one amazingly important thing that the Lord taught me. It's that I don't have to perform to win His love. That I don't have to reach some point where I'm finally good enough for Him love me or help me or whatever I'm so desperately needing. Finally I understand that He wants to come to me right in my brokenness. Right in the middle of my very worst mess....sins and all. In fact, I believe that's His favorite place to be. After all, He is my Savior. More than anything, He wants to rescue me and deliver me and lift me right out of that broken place. But for some reason I kept trying to save myself. I thought I needed to clean up my act enough that I could earn His approval. But as I thought about all the things I needed to change, it truly felt impossible. Thankfully, I now know that I don't have to try to earn my Savior's love at all. It's right there waiting for me. He's right there waiting, and He's all I'll ever need.

I think my favorite example of this is the story of Christ encountering the woman caught in adultery. She was definitely guilty, for she'd been caught "in the very act" (John 8:4). But notice what the Lord tenderly says to her: "Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more" (John 8:11). There's no condemnation. No "get your act together." No shame or guilt or stern rebuke. There's only love. Compassion. Mercy. Grace. And it thrills me that the very same thing can be true in my own life.

I was in the car today and one particular song hit me like a lightning bolt and got this whole thought process started. (I'll admit that I'm a huge Christian music junkie.) I thought I'd share the video just in case someone else needs to hear this same message. I picked the version with lyrics because they're so powerful and inspiring. Anyway, here's Matthew West. Hope you enjoy it! Have a wonderful day!