Monday, February 23, 2015


This is going to be a pretty raw post. I feel a need to write, but I only have 30 minutes, so please forgive the errors and rawness.

I think the emotion that sets me off into a downward spiral (don't we all have a trigger emotion?) is "overwhelm". Ladybug woke me up at 3 am this morning and I sat in bed thinking about how far I was from where I wanted to be. I turned off my alarm (I had meant to get up early to exercise but since I was up from 3-4, I thought I better let myself sleep in a bit) and felt bad about not exercising that morning. I reminded myself that God does not give me more than I can handle and that I needed to be wise in where to spend my time. It would be nice if so many things didn't seem so important.

I think the mood was set off when I spent several hours on family research work on Sunday. It is hard for me to stop once I get going on it and I neglected several other things I wanted to get to that day (spending time with family, mentor meetings with my kids to plan their weeks, family reading time, proof reading a friend's ebook, writing on my blog and rewriting an article I wanted to submit). Neglecting all of these things, and seeing the house in the messy state it seems to get to on Sundays, started the stress...

Then I laid in bed thinking about how I had neglected to teach my kids Spanish all of these years and wondering how I could add some Spanish time to our day, realizing that I already had goals to add writing time and math game time to our day that were not being realized. I have been breaking down our learning time so it doesn't feel too long to do so much in one chunk during devotional - it sometimes felt so long that it wasn't enjoyable anymore and we would skip half the things. So I added some things to breakfast time (memorization and scripture ah-has), and some things to lunch time (writing games or math games), but we'd only done a math game twice and we had never gotten to the writing game - we all seem so busy and wanting to get to other things that it is hard to add another habit into the schedule.

I have tried putting "Spanish time" in during work hours, but we don't talk to each other much then so it wasn't very effective. I tried putting it in during study time, but most of the kids are involved in a book and don't talk too much then either. I thought playing a family game in Spanish might be good - but where in the world to fit it in?

Then I got looking at the doors that need to be wiped, the windows that need to be cleaned, the drawers that need to be organized...

And, remember how I said on this blog, a couple of weeks ago, that my new way of eating wasn't all that hard? Well, I should have remembered that most things aren't hard for me when I first start them - I like doing new things. It is the endurance that gets to me. Shortly after writing that post, I went to visit my parents and something about their house makes me eat somewhat uncontrollably! I don't control my thoughts well there. Once I had that slip up and made that exception, it has been a lot easier to make exceptions a lot more often, so it hasn't gone as well as it did those first couple of weeks.

I also knew I hadn't made enough time to connect with my husband even though that had been one of my goals. I knew this was something that needed to be a priority and I was neglecting it yet again. Also, while my kids were doing well a few weeks ago about getting their work done quickly in the morning - they were slipping and getting distracted and sometimes taking all day to do their jobs again.

So as I lay in bed, I thought, "Yes, Karen, you have made plenty of mistakes this week. You had a prompting to stop doing family history yesterday, after you had been doing it for a while, but you kept going. You are great at starting new habits and very weak at maintaining them. The house isn't ever perfectly clean, the kids are not learning perfect obedience and diligence. You are not the most attentive wife. And you are not teaching your children all of the things you want to teach them.... so now what?"

I remembered, "this is what the atonement is for". I know my struggles are flimsy compared to what others go through. I have a very blessed life. But everyone has weaknesses, struggles and inadequacies that leave us realizing how very much we lack. I don't have the time, energy, motivation, and strength to teach my kids everything I want them to know, keep my body healthy, do family history, make and eat healthy meals, study and learn, write, get outdoors more often, keep an organized email and to-do list, be a devoted wife, maintain a clean and orderly house and schedule, while always staying cheerful and loving through it all.

I am going to look at my "overwhelmed" feelings as a blessing. After all, it is the "meek and lowly in heart" that can have faith, hope and charity. These feelings keep me turning to the Savior. They get me on my knees and make me turn my burdens over to Him. And then I arise and move on - rejuvenated and ready to move forward - despite the laundry piles, the late start on my day, and the knowledge that still I can't do it all. But He can. He died to cover my mistakes, weakenesses and failures. He doesn't ask that I do the impossible - simply that I keep on practicing. Not to practice doing the impossible on my own, but to practice staying focused on Him - His light and love - and let Him guide me moment by moment, step by step. His grace will make it so my kids get what they need from me - even if I don't teach them everything - it will make it so that I can feel joy and light even though I fall so short of the ideal. It is a miracle I experience often. And I know I can keep experiencing it - every time I feel overwhelmed! I feel so grateful for the knowledge of where I can turn for peace.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Helping our Children Reach their Potential

 The Seed

Once upon a time there was a seed, not just a common, ordinary seed. This seed shone brighter than the noon day sun. It was whiter the whitest snow. If you could hold it in your hand, it would fill you with such a sense of warmth and love that you would never want to put it down. This seed was divine.

Being divine, this seed, or embryo, as it has also been called, was also blessed with the gift of agency – of choosing whether it wanted to grow to its full potential as a creator of beauty, love and everything good - a king or queen of dominions and principalities - or into something less.

This embryo was placed into the heart of the most wonderful vessel that could be imagined and gave it life. This vessel was a body created in the image of God! Your body. This miraculous gift came with great power to heal, create, think, feel, sense and act. This was the perfect place to grow the divine seed as it learned to use these powers as its parents used them.

Considering the magnificence of its parents, this growth was no easy task. All of these new powers and sensations of the body sometimes felt like an end in and of themselves.  It was tempting to feel for the sake of feeling, to taste for the sense of tasting, or to think for the sake of thinking. In short, this body was drawn to do things for itself and not for the divine potential within it.

This body was also made with matter less fine then the spirit within it and it was easily distracted by other physical things. And to honor its gift of agency, dark powers were allowed to entice it so that the seed could make its own choices about its destiny without compulsion by either side. These dark powers tried to get it to forget about or give up on its divine potential.

Fortunately, this embryo was so precious to its parents, that a great sacrifice was made to give it the power to connect to them on this earth, through the merits of another. It could make this connection as often at it willed it, despite its imperfections, and receive guidance and direction. Through this exercise it grew in power and light.

And-so this divine spirit presses forward on its task to become like its Heavenly Parents – to think as they think, feel as they feel, act as they act – in other words – to love as they love. Among the precious gifts it was given for this task was the gift of family.

Each family is unique – just like the divine spirits placed within them. We all know that methods that work with one child do not necessarily work with another, so I hope that the principles I felt to speak about today will spark thoughts and ideas from the Spirit to your individual circumstances. I can promise that if you listen to what he has to say to you as I speak, you will come away with something you can apply that will be a great blessing to yourself and those in your family. And though I will be speaking of the home environment, these principles will work in any teaching environment or any place of influence.

The reason I chose to start my talk (this post came from a talk I gave at church today) with an analogy about a seed is because this visual really helps me remember my role as a mother. Like seeds, children cannot be forced to grow and reach their potential. If I try to pull or push them, I will do more harm than good to the tender sprouts.  Instead, my role is one of a gardener who works hard at making the environment the most ideal it can be to allow the divinity that is already there to grow and flourish. 

Each seed is unique and has been given particular talents and gifts that will allow them to influence the world in their own special way. We must stay close to the Spirit to know how to best nourish and support each one, but there are some essential things that everyone one of them must have in order to grow.


First, they need soil. It protects the budding seed from the elements until it is strong enough to emerge. When it does emerge, it provides nourishment and support.  Elder Perry, in the last general conference said, “Our homes must be holy places in order to stand against the pressures of the world." There is so much noise in the world trying to block out the subtle whisperings of the Spirit. If our homes are also filled with the noise of the world, our family will find it very hard to develop this most important of all abilities.  We must take the time to turn off the TV and devices, pay attention to each other, and hear what the Spirit would have us do to help one another. If our children are not practicing this at home with those they love, it will be very difficult for them to practice with the increased noise they encounter outside the home.
Are the television, internet, phone, and other devices bad? No, they are simply powerful tools, but because of their power, we must be sure our children are able to control them before we set them loose. We must ask ourselves if we and our children have learned enough self-government that we will not be governed and distracted by these potent devices before we let them into our home.

Elder Perry spoke of wheat and tares and how the enemy has "found as many devices as he can think of to scatter tares far and wide. He has even found ways to have them penetrate even the sanctity of our homes." He talked about how the Lord is allowing them to grow together in these last days. Learning to tell the difference takes much teaching and practice. This does not mean that we let evil in so we can strengthen our children and ourselves against it – this is false doctrine. Evil does not strengthen us spiritually. It is fighting evil that gives us strength – the casting it from our homes, hearts and mind. This desire to cast it out must be nourished at home through precept and example.

My parents gave my kids a Wii several years ago.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep it, but I was persuaded to give it a try.  We set a boundary of 30 minutes of screen time each day (which included time playing the Wii). I soon realized that the Will was too powerful an attraction even with this limited exposure. It was in control of much of their thoughts. Each day was a rush to get things done and passed off quickly in order to get to screen time.  Since our thinking habits form into our character, I did not want this to be the focus of their day.  We explained the problem to them and decided to limit screen time to once a week on the weekend. They often wanted to watch a football game with their dad, or watch a movie as a family on the weekend, so they chose to push the Wii aside.  Pretty soon it was mostly forgotten, and now it is only played on rare occasions when someone remembers it and nothing else is going on.  The device turned into something we could use and not something that took over us.

Last year, my parents gave my older kids iPhones.  I know many adults struggle with staying in control of these devices and not being controlled by them. We set some time and site boundaries, talked about how to use them for good and are now in the process of seeing how they are used within the boundaries set. We are gauging if the older kids are self-governing enough to use them as a tool or if the phones will start to take over. It is important for them and us to stay vigilant and change boundaries and limits as we see the need. We cannot let these things overpower our young tender plants. If our kids seem to think too much of a favorite show, a game, or device – how will they learn to hear the still small voice when their senses are craving the stimulation of flashing screens, loud songs, likes on Facebook or the quick thrill of accomplishment and success that they experience through games? They must learn to be still and know God and his love – real happiness - well before they can hope to control these superficial stimulants.

We must remember Elder Perry’s words:
“A steward managing the field must, with all his or her power, nourish that which is good and make it so strong and beautiful, the tares will have no appeal either to the eye or the ear."


The second essential for a plant is light. The scriptures teach that whatsoever is truth is light and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ. (Doctrine and Covenants 84:45)

So we must teach our children to be seekers of truth. This life becomes a grand adventure when we learn the joy of seeking, finding, applying and becoming more of the truth – ever growing in light and joy.

That is what an education IS. So many in our day think that education is about getting a job and making money. Youth, listen up! You do not get an education so you can get a job and make money! Money is Satan’s favorite distraction to keep you from reaching your potential. You have been promised by your Savior that you will have everything you need – physically and spiritually – if your desire is to seek and follow Him (you will still have struggles along the way, but you will look back and see that the struggles were part of a beautiful plan for reaching your potential).  You must learn to discern between truth and error – even textbooks have the point of view of their authors, and their motivations aren’t always good. But you have the ability to discern what is true because of that light within you.

Here is a pattern to help you, it is found in the scriptures (see Matthew 6:22 and Alma 32:33-43):

  1. Focus on better understanding God and His will for you in all of your studies and activities.
  2. This focus will fill you with light which will help you see clearly to discern the true in your studies - You will see his hand in history, science, art, even math (I might even say especially in math!) Because all things really do testify of Him. (Moses 6:63)
  3. As you find truth in all of these areas, apply it to how you live and think and as you do this, you will become more of that truth, you’ll grow in light
  4. This will feel delicious to you and you will desire more of it and will want to share it with others - so you will more diligently seek it. In other words, you will be filled with the Spirit (or INspired, and will be inspiringING to others).
  5. Learning will become sweet and joyous to you as you learn to value what God values, to think as he thinks and will long to do as He does. You will learn to love as God loves. And you will find, to quote Peter Pan, that to live IS an awfully big adventure.


Now we come to water. We sometimes talk about filling our cup before we can give of ourselves to others, but why settle for a cup? Why not go to the source of living water and immerse ourselves in it? It is living water, our relationship with Christ, that enlivens our souls.

 Elder Height stated that in these last days, “We are refreshed continually by an abundant stream of eternal truth that, if obeyed, brings the living water of the Lord into our lives”.  Light is always there, we just need to let it into our hearts through our focus, but water must be brought to the plant.  I have learned through sad experience, that if I do not get into the habit of watering the plants that our sprinklers do not reach, that they will die.

Similarly, we we must develop daily, weekly, and monthly habits of nourishing our spirits.  These should include personal and family prayer and scriptures study, FHE, Sabbath Day observance and worship, temple worship, monthly fasts, and other habits you feel inspired that your family needs. Habits are extremely powerful, they are away to use our physical bodies to nourish the divine nature within us. A worthy habit is amongst the most valuable gifts we can give our children. We all know it takes a great deal of effort and energy to establish new habits. What a blessing it is if they are part of our family culture when we are little. Even if we choose to give them up when we are grown, it is much easier to reestablish an old habit then to start one from scratch. However, any righteous habit that we make the effort to establish, is always well worth the price.

Even personal habits can be learned in the family. We can have family rituals that encourage and remind us of personal commitments. For example, in our home, at breakfast time, we ask our children if there is anything they can share from their personal scripture study. They know they will get asked this every day and it encourages them to develop the habit of studying their scriptures daily as well as getting something out of them that they can share with others.

The habit of obedience is also taught at home. I mentioned before that force does now help a plant grow, but providing an environment where disobedience is given appropriate, calm, clear and consistent consequences will help children understand the real freedom and peace that comes with obedience and righteous living.

William James wrote a chapter on habit in his book, Principle of Psychology (you can find it online). I loved that he points out that taking action is also a habit. We can get into the habit of being inspired and then not doing anything about it, or we can make it a habit to always DO something after feeling inspired – even if it is something as simple as writing a kind note – to get into the habit of having our actions follow our righteous desires. I hope to develop the habit of always doing something to improve after coming to church each Sunday.


Which brings me to the last essential for nourishing a plant: The right temperature. Warm season vegetables and most flowers grow between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.  
But I do know that the right temperature for nourishing spirits is the temperature of peace and love. I often have to remind myself that moments of frustration are not teaching moments. When our hearts are full of contention, we cannot convey the Spirit – and the Spirit is what changes hearts. Similarly, when the hearts of our children are filled with frustration, it will be hard for them to let the Spirit into their hearts.  The first step in teaching a child is my repentance for my negative thoughts and feelings so that my heart can be changed and the Spirit can teach.

The thermostat of your home is the state of your heart. If you heart is full of love and peace – it will be radiated to those around you. They may fight it for a while, but love is the strongest power and will melt away resistance and resentment with prolonged exposure. The most important thing we can do is to keep our own hearts pure, cast away worldly thoughts, desires and motives and let the Spirit fill it with love.

Easy right? No, parenting is not easy. Simple, maybe, but not easy. Elder Perry said:
"It is my firm conviction that there has never been a period when our Father in Heaven’s children have needed the guiding hand of faithful, devoted parents more. We have a great and noble heritage of parents giving up almost everything they possess to find a place where they could rear their families with faith and courage so the next generation would have greater opportunities than had been theirs. We must find within ourselves that same determined spirit and overcome the challenges we face with the same spirit of sacrifice. We must instill in future generations an ever stronger reliance on the teachings of our Lord and Savior."

I bear witness that Christ died so we could succeed. Parenting is hard work, but He will lead us along – line upon line, precept upon precept – and if we diligently obey each step we are guided to and keep picking ourselves up when we stumble – that we will have His peace and joy through the journey. That is the good news of the gospel. And I testify that it is true.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

What Public School Does Well

I managed to get a Bachelor's degree without getting an education. I got some training and a few skills, but certainly not an education. I did well on tests, but I hardly remember any of the information I crammed in my head right before I took them. I started my educational journey about a year after my first baby was born.

Which brings me to the reason for writing this post. A friend came by this week with questions about homeschooling who worried that she couldn't homeschool because she didn't know enough math. I have heard this concern many times before about math, or science, or grammar, or all and more of the above. This visit prompted my wanting to say something about it here.

Isn't it interesting that we insist on putting our kids in a system that served us so ill? How many of us feel "educated" after high school? Or even after college? Do we feel like we read enough classics to be familiar with the great minds, ideas and thoughts of the past and their search for truth? Do we feel like we can converse and communicate those ideas with others? 

I think most of us who went through the public school system would probably answer "no". We are familiar with the scientific method and we can compute pretty well, but when it comes to the real purpose of education - to make us the best human beings we can be and allow us to make a difference in the world - the education dictated by our government did very little. 

However, it seems that it did do one thing very well - it sure convinced us that the system that did so little for us is good enough for our children. We are convinced that since we know so little so we need to rely on the "experts" at the school to give our kids an education. It's an interesting paradox.

Now, I know that not everyone's school experience was as ineffectual as mine. Some of you read great books and took your education seriously. But in my experience, those kids who owned their education were those who had families who educated them at home and sent them to school on the side -as a supplement to the education at home, not as a substitute.

And that is what I wanted to say in writing this post - the best education happens at HOME. Parents know their children better than anyone else - they know their weaknesses, strengths and talents. Parents are entitled to inspiration for their children. A family is the best training ground of character as you learn to get along with one another and live the truths you learn. We can set goals as a family and help one another attain them.  The love we feel for one another amplifies what we learn. Yes, there is contention, but where else will we learn to overcome anger and forgive? Yes, there are distractions, messes, loudness - but where better can we learn to focus on what matters despite the competing voices?

I hope this doesn't sound like I think public school is bad. I think it can be a great supplement for some kids. I just hope that parents don't think that it is adequate. Parents are responsible for the education of their children. We cannot shirk that responsibility. Public school was not adequate for most of us and it has only gotten worse in morals and in academic proficiency as we have given up local control.  Please don't ever let anyone tell you that "you don't know enough" to teach your children.  If you don't know something - you can learn it.  Finding answers is so easy with our current technology, but even if it weren't - God gave you these children and He will bless you with what you need when you need it.  I have seen this over and over in my life. I knew so little, but I have learned much as I have decided to learn along with my kids - and I love it. I look forward to learning more each day and my kids do too. Example is a much more powerful motivator than the threat of bad grades.

I guess I just want all mothers to understand the fulfillment that comes with rising to our eternal call to educate our children - to help them understand who they are and their unique work on this earth. People have told me that they worry about my lack of personal time and fulfillment because I have all of my kids home most of the day.  I have found it is just the opposite.  It is the most joyful, challenging, difficult, wonderful experience. When properly understood, it is the crowning work of women.

Well, I am needed downstairs.  To be needed is good. So I will close this blog post with the sincere desire to have said what I believe to be true with no offence meant to anyone. Have a happy, challenging, difficult, wonderful day!