August 19, 2014

Simple Things - Making the Most of August

The Great American Family Reunion Cookbook

Sincere thanks to Familius for featuring my newest
cookbook on their website this month!

contains over 200 recipes from across America,
plus over 150 games, and tips and ideas for
making your reunion memorable, and over
100 stories and facts about families and reunions.

May 25, 2014

Trust Your Values

Knowing God

At 115 years old, the oldest living American
--Jeralean Talley--
has a secret to living such a long life:

Jeralean Talley

"It's all in the good Lord's hands."

"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. 

Only through experience of trial and suffering 
can the soul be strengthened, 
ambition inspired, 
and success achieved."

Helen Keller

"To those who believe but wish their belief to be strengthened, 
I urge you to walk in faith and trust in God. 
Spiritual knowledge always requires an exercise of faith."
James E. Faust

“Do you often feel like parched ground, 
unable to produce anything worthwhile? 

I do. 

When I am in need of refreshment, 
it isn't easy to think of the needs of others. 
But I have found that if, 
instead of praying for my own comfort and satisfaction,
I ask the Lord to enable me to give to others, 
an amazing thing often happens
- I find my own needs wonderfully met. 
Refreshment comes in ways I would never have thought of, 
both for others, and then, incidentally, for myself.” 

Elisabeth Elliot

“I see Jesus in every human being.
I say to myself, this is hungry Jesus, I must feed him.
This is sick Jesus. This one has leprosy or gangrene;
 I must wash him and tend to him. 
I serve because I love Jesus.” 

Mother Teresa

“If you can't get a miracle, become one.” 

Nick Vujicic

Being reminded about the incredible power of God's love,

 and living as He intended, 

is the most powerful motivation to change.

Rick Warren

“Serving and attempting to inspire others
is a responsibility, 
not a choice.” 

Bill Courtney

Happy Sunday!

May 22, 2014

Happiness is a Choice

Thursday illustration inspiration: 

We often fall prey to thinking we'll be happy . . .

. . . one day. 

One day when we have more time, 
or praise from those 
who we want to love 
and value us. 

But, truly, happiness is in the heart of the beholder--
in how one chooses 
to perceive their circumstances.

It is a choice we can make for ourselves every day, every hour, every minute.

May 9, 2014

The Miracle of the Hail

The Miracle of the Hail: 

Nourished and Strengthened by Hardship

Yesterday it hailed. 

Pellets of ice pummeled the ground. 

Shoots of verdant, newborn grass bent under the burden 
of what looked like heaven’s frozen tears. 

My split-second first impression was of the unfairness of it all. 

To understand the lesson the hail stones had to teach, however,
I needed to consider more than just the passing hardship endured by my lawn.

After a long winter, spring was doing its best to breathe life into my barren backyard.

The little blades of grass sprouted upward with faith and zeal. 

Under the darkening skies, they stood, at first, steadfast;
little green soldiers resolute in maintaining their station, despite the storm. 

But as the frozen water droplets persisted, 
the weight of the hail became too much. 

Through the glass doors of our dining room, 
I watched the sprouts cower in apprehension, 
then bend and flatten. 

The entire lawn appeared defeated, 
as if surrendering to fate. 

Hardened capsules of ice glistened triumphant.

But then the storm, as all storms do, moved on.

The sun broke through the clouds, 

meager rays at best, 

yet sufficient warmth to caress the day with hope and change. 

The hailstones melted.

Right before my eyes, each shoot of grass—relieved of its burden—began to straighten itself and reach once more toward the sky. 

The hail, minutes before a perilous trial, 

lent life-giving water that would nourish and strengthen the grass, 
allowing it to continue to grow. 

Challenging life-storms that bring the weight 
of icy doubt and fear crashing down upon us 
only have the power to smother our convictions and determination . . .

. . . if we allow them to. 

When, like the blades of grass, we are driven to our knees in despair, 
we need but to endure in faith, trusting God and believing in our own 
strengths and capabilities. 

When the storm has passed, 
and once more we are clearly able see 

the light of hope and truth—finding that it was always there—

we will find ourselves growing once again, 

nourished and strengthened by hardship.

April 10, 2014

A To-Live-By List

Knowing God . . .

Different from want-to-do and want-to-have lists, a To-Live-By list keeps track of things that cost no money but can endow true happiness. It is a list of Christlike attributes we desire to attain and live by in pursuit of becoming our best.

Do you want to become more faithful, humble, or compassionate? More honest, charitable, or loving? Having spent too much time mired in controversy, do you seek to become a peacemaker? The inside front cover of your journal is a great place to record the Christlike attributes you desire to attain.

My To-Live-By list includes "forgiving," "patient," and "peacemaker."

What's on your list?

April 8, 2014

SIX Authors -- One Fantastic Easter Giveaway!

Prepare for Easter with our multi-author Easter Book Giveaway! Throughout the week, from April 8 through April 16thenter to win by using Rafflecopter. Click HERE to enter!

Win one of EACH book from these fabulous five guest authors, plus Connie Sokol's own 40 Days with the Savior (ebook and Book Bundle!)—so simple!!

Why Do We Celebrate Easter? by Shannon Foster
      Win an ebook!
This is a print-your-own book about why we celebrate Easter.  It is great for kids and adults!  This book covers the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, why understanding the resurrection is important and what the Easter symbols mean.

Does This Insecurity-cover small
Does This Insecurity Make Me Look Fat? by Michelle Wilson
      Win an ebook!
"When we see ourselves with God’s eternal perspective, we can feel confident and whole—even in our imperfection. Just think what we might accomplish if we truly believe that we are more important than we know, stronger than we realize, and extraordinary in every way."

Simple Things
Simple Things: Daily Thoughts, Stories & Inspiration to Live Life More Fully by Lori Nawyn
      Win a hard copy!
Within the pages of Simple Things, women will gain the necessary tools to confront self-limiting beliefs that prevent daughters of God from fully realizing their noble heritage. By embracing the gentle lessons shared by the author, even the most aching of spirits can emerge from the shadows to celebrate the glory of life with peace, joy, and hope.

Book Cover Precious in His Sight
Precious in His Sight: Seeing Yourself As God Sees You by Jodi Robinson
      Win a print book and ruby necklace!
Our Father in Heaven, in His infinite wisdom, sees not the outward appearance but perceives the beauty of the heart and the worth of a soul. Through meaningful stories, scriptures, and examples, motivational speaker Jodi Marie Robinson lovingly reminds daughters of God of all ages, shapes, and sizes that the only true path to happiness is to measure your value as the Lord does.  After all, you are more precious than rubies.

We Are Strong! by Fay Klingler
      Win an ebook!
Every girl needs a mentor, someone she can trust to show her the way home to Heavenly Father. The stakes are high—as women of influence, how we live and how we teach Heavenly Father’s daughters will change the course of their lives forever. Using compelling real-life stories from women of all ages, award winning author Fay A. Klingler clearly defines how and why we must continue to live and teach the Young Women values.

March 25, 2014

Artists Need to Stick Together

I've never met a door-to-door artist . . . until last week.

With a handful of her own original work--and a willing sister to help
collect money--this budding entrepreneur showed up and offered me a deal I couldn't refuse.

You see she's been making prints on her home computer. Since I love dogs, this one caught my eye.

She was asking one dollar. Unfortunately, I didn't have that amount readily available--
and she doesn't take credits cards. Luckily she was in the mood to strike a deal. 

Eighty-five cents later and  the dog print was mine. 

The artist was quick to inform me that it's her policy policy NOT to sell her originals. 

Those are sold exclusively to her grandmother. 

It was fun to get a new print, and to chat with this talented young girl.
We artists have to stick together. The dog print now has a prominent place in my office; 
he's good company for the dogs I'm working on for a new project.

March 14, 2014

Mistakes Don't Define Us

Condemning ourselves and labeling ourselves as worthless or not good enough damages 
our self-worth, spiritual growth, and progression. Dwelling on our shortcomings is 
a fast track to misery. If, however, we look for our strengths and talents we will find them.

Mistakes  are temporary actions that don't define us.

Forgiving ourselves and moving forward will
lead us to our true identity of 
promise and potential.

March 5, 2014

Learning and Growing

We're often our own harshest critics. How can we love and forgive ourselves? An experience with a woman who was berating herself gave me the opportunity to reconsider the way I react to my own perceived shortcomings. Please click on the photo below to read more.

Loving ourselves for who we are: There's no need to apologize

January 26, 2014

The Light of Christ

The sun began its descent, settling low into the horizon.

With each minute, rays of sunlight faded. Only hours before, daytime illuminated groves, mountain slopes, and the lake, in vibrant hues of summer. My cousins and I had basked in its warmth. We'd run up and down the road next to the family campsite, kicking up dust with our Keds in a game of tag. The cottonwoods towering overhead provided respite from the heat at midday. Smaller trees formed leaf shrouded alcoves that served as hiding places. The water, shimmering with promise, afforded abundant opportunities for swimming and splashing, and adventures rowing in my grandfather's small fishing boat.

But dusk stole the light and repaid the landscape with shades of ever darkening gray.

Blackness crept in around us. We retreated to camp. Rimmed by large rocks, a fire cracked and popped around lengths of wood split by my Grandpa Frank. We fed sticks and small branches to the flames and watched them grow. Sitting fireside was a comfort. Grandma's dinner warmed our 

stomachs. Shared tales of the day warmed our hearts. All too soon, conversation dimmed. For the adults, warm beds beckoned from inside camp trailers. Much earlier my cousins and I set up our tents a distance away from the adults–– and the campfire. We boasted to each other about braving the wilds.

It was then fear had started to gnaw at my stomach.

I was afraid of the dark.

All day long, I told myself I'd somehow figure out how to conquer my apprehension by nightfall.  Our one-man tents were set in a circle, flaps facing inward. Common sense told me that if I needed them my cousins would be only an arm length away. But with darkness, panic settled into me bone deep. I tried to reason out, as much as my young mind would allow, why darkness filled me with dread. Aloneness. Uncertainty. The unknown. Stuff not always easily understood when you're a kid; and not easily explained to other kids. In desperation my mind grasped what seemed to be a reasonable, common concern that I hoped wouldn't garner ridicule. 


And I proclaimed it aloud.

"We need to check the tents and make sure there are no bugs." I grabbed up a half-burnt stick from the fire. The flame at its end served as torch as we searched. My ruse worked. My cousins engaged with me to hunt for the peril of creeping, crawling insects––which bought me more time.

My thoughts raced. We could search my tent last. If I were to prop the burning stick right outside the tent, I'd have the comfort of a nightlight. However, a gentle breeze was blowing. Embers falling from the torch and onto the sleeping bag loaned me by my father––leaving singed holes I'd somehow have to explain in the morning––quickly dispelled the notion. And, unfortunately, only a few beetles had taken up residence on the tent walls. My cousin Scott quickly flicked them out.

Yawning, everyone turned to enter their own tents. In a last-ditch effort to save face and not have to admit my fear, I began to cough. Smoke from the torch and those burning embers that scorched Dad's sleeping bag stung my eyes and throat, I complained. By then my cousins were too tired to care what I did.

I spent the night with Grandpa and Grandma in their trailer.

It wouldn't be until years later that I discovered I'd had available to me the comfort of light all along. A light that can help force back the darkness of remote campsites, as well as the aching darkness of aloneness, uncertainly, doubt, and despair, along with the many other varieties of darkness in the world.

We are all blessed with the Light of Christ.

It persuades us to seek and do good as it assists us in navigating darkness. When we gain a testimony of Christ and his love for us––and when we apply faith as an action verb––that light shines brighter than anything we must face. When we don't allow it to be diminished by fear, uncertainly and disillusionment, or the bitter winds of sin, we are guaranteed essential light to dispel darkness. In the difficult landscapes we must often traverse in our journey through life, guidance and comfort can ever be ours.