This is something I have thought about extensively as I watch what is going on all around me. So what is peace. The Miriam Webster dictionary ( defines peace as: a state of tranquility or quiet: such as freedom from civil disturbance, or a state of security or order within a community provided for by law or custom. This seems to be something that many people haven’t experienced in a while. I think our community not only is the physical area around us, but extends to all of our friends and families on social media, as well as all others whom we may disagree with.

This morning as my daughter and I drove to Church we talked about how beautiful the world around us is, and there was peace in everything that surrounded us on our drive. It was -17 degrees, and there hasn’t been any wind recently, so the evergreens boughs are white and full of snow. The bare birch tree branches have a build up of snow and hoarfrost. The sun was just coming up over the tops of the tress so they were brilliantly white, with touches of yellow and maybe a little pink from the residue of sunrise. It was beautiful and quiet. Peaceful.

I have anxiety. Peace is something I seek after on a regular basis. I didn’t really know that anxiety was the reason I was so particular about things growing up. I always had to been early because I couldn’t walk into a class or meeting late. I just wouldn’t go. Never wanting to ride with others, who were not immediate family, to activities or events because I felt trapped. Never wanting others to touch anything of mine without asking, and wanting things put back in a particular way. Field trips when I was really young were torture because I didn’t know what was going to happen, if we would make it back on time. What if we got stuck, what if we got lost, etc.

But, when I had kids, I figured out how much I needed peace. I also figured out where real peace comes from. I knew it in my head, but I learned it in my heart. When my kids were young I would stress at night, among other things, that one might die. I would check over and over. But I was also lacking sleep and so tired. I would pray, I still pray, that Heavenly Father would protect them, and help me be ok with whatever He knew was best. I would feel peace. I could fall asleep.

Teenagers create a lot of anxiety. I remember the first basketball trip my oldest daughter went on. I wasn’t able to attend. I tried to call her. She tried to call me. Nothing connected (that’s Alaska). I prayed. Peace came. Heavenly Father helped me remember that she was with people I trusted, people I knew would take care of her. Peace. Many trips in High School I would start to worry. Sometimes the prayer was answered with overwhelming peace, sometimes the Lord would bless me with an added measure of peace, such as a picture from a friend, a quick text on someone else’s phone from her, a social media post or link to the game where I could see her. But always, a calming so deep inside me, that only comes from one source, my Heavenly Father. Peace.

I have had so many experiences through my life to know that Heavenly Father is the author of peace. Through these experiences, and the peace and direction that always comes, the Lord has helped my weakness not be so prominent. He says He will strengthen and help us, and I know that He does. Because of that help, I no longer worry about walking in to meetings late (maybe that’s not the best one!). Field trips with my kids are awesome, even if I don’t know the schedule ahead of time. I let my kids go and do, with a cell phone, and instructions that if I am calling, you better answer, and when they leave, a very heartfelt prayer for their safety and direction when they are in need. I still drive myself when I go places, but if people want to ride along, they are welcome now. I still get anxious, but not to the point of feeling I am having a heart attach any more. I have learned to pray early, and pray often. The Lord will bring peace. Peace in this world will not come from governments, organizations, or anything external. It starts from inside each one of us, and then spreads from us to the world around. I like the verb definition of peace in the Miriam Webster dictionary: to be, become, or keep silent or quiet. Being still, being quiet and allowing the Lord to work in my life has brought me peace. I hope we all can find peace within ourselves and then share that with the world around us.

Developing Habits

Habits can be hard to develop, and bad habits can be hard to get rid of. Last week I wrote about some of the goals I have set for myself. Today I want to talk about habits that I have developed because of the goals I have set in the past. One in particular, that has taught me more about setting goals and establishing habits, is that of physical exercise.

17 years ago, at the beginning of the New Year, I set a goal that is familiar to many people every year. I wanted to lose weight. I decided the best way to go about doing that was to exercise 5 days a week. I bought several workout videos, I think the first of which was called The Firm workout. There were weights, steps, a weighted bar, etc. Those workouts started hard, but as I kept at it, I actually started to enjoy those workouts. Fast forward 17 years, and that one goal, that one thing I persevered in doing so long ago has become a habit. Do I miss days periodically, yes. Do I beat myself up about it? No. But I also don’t allow myself to get out of the habit. I make sure if I miss a day, it’s only one. Now, with the streaming options online, even when I’m out of town I can find some way to exercise, so I don’t miss. Through this process I have learned a lot, not just about exercise, but about myself, and how what I have learned applies to so many situations.

I learned that if I want something bad enough, I will work for it. I think sometimes we set goals that seem nice, that other people are setting and look fun, or that maybe we know would be good for us, but our hearts really aren’t in it. So we need to make sure those goals, those habits we are developing are appropriate for us, and that we have thought through the steps we need to take to accomplish them. I think that every goal hits a wall at some point. Everything that is important to us will be hard at somewhere in the process, but that doesn’t make it less worth while, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be accomplished or that we can’t accomplish it. It just means we have to press forward, even when we don’t want to, even when we might not see the next step ahead or it feels like we are stepping out into the dark, because the end result will be so much better than where we started.

Through my exercise, especially lifting weights, I also learned that no matter what we do, we need to increase in some sort of strength. Whether it be weights, our ability to read, to paint, to excel in our work, to be a better parent, no matter the goal, it requires some sort of increase in mental, physical, or spiritual strength. When we lift weights, we get sore. I have been sore enough that when I drop something on the floor, I’ve looked at it wondering if I really needed it bad enough to bend over and pick it up! But at no point did I look at my workout and say, “I think I’ll save myself some soreness and just not exercise today, or I’ll lift lighter so I don’t hurt.” (Remember you need to know your body well enough to know what is a good sore, and when you are actually hurting yourself, don’t hurt yourself!) I know that by breaking down my muscles, I am actually building them up. When we set goals, we need to remember that at some point it’s going to be hard. We’re breaking down who we were, and becoming something better. Don’t give up just because it’s hard.

I have applied this knowledge to many aspects of my life to develop habits that benefit me on a daily basis. But one particular area has benefited greatly from the understanding I have gained through exercising – my understanding of my purpose here on earth, who I am, where I’m going and how to get there. We each have trials in life. They come in all varieties, and we all have them, no matter how perfect someone’s life may appear. I have heard people say, “If God really loved us, this wouldn’t be happening.” Through my life and the Gospel of Jesus Christ I have learned that one of the purposes for us being here is to see if we are willing to follow our Heavenly Father no matter what. How are we supposed to prove that if we flit through life and nothing bad ever happens to us? Just like our physical muscles, our spiritual muscles need to be worked. If our patience is never tried, how will we know if we have patience, and how will we improve upon that if we don’t even know where we are. If our faith is never put to the test, how will we know if we truly have faith, and how would we strengthen it if we never trusted in the Lord. Do I have enough of a testimony of the Atonement of Christ to repent, and to allow others the same opportunity? Our spiritual muscles need as much, if not more, exercise than our physical body. Trials aren’t fun, challenges are hard, but they are also great opportunities for growth. Set goals ahead of time to develop habits that will help you through challenges and trials, increased faith, regular prayer, daily scripture study, helping others, etc. These habits increase all our spiritual capacities more than we may realize at the time. They strengthen our foundations, so we can stand no matter what.

There are many kinds of goals. Each goal will not only teach us about that goal, about ourselves as it concerns that goal, but as we develop those goals into habits, we can learn so much more about who we are than just that one particular thing. Looking for the knowledge we gain can help us apply that knowledge to so many situations. Accomplishing goals helps us know that we can, it gives us confidence in our abilities, in who we are. Remember, we’re breaking down who we were and becoming something better.

New Year, Old Goals

I’ve thought about writing some blog posts, or a blog of sorts here on my website for several months now. I have been hesitant because I don’t really know exactly what I want to say, what I would like to share. But here goes nothing! I’m not one to make New Years resolutions, I prefer just setting goals as I go along, any time of year, even any day of the week, not just Monday’s! But this year I decided to actually write down some of those goals that are ever present in my mind. I know it helps to write those kinds of things down, to make a plan, and then persevere through those steps. So these goals for me aren’t new, but they aren’t just recycled goals that we do for a few weeks and then disregard. They are things I have been actively working on, but will continue to do so. And when they are complete, I will move on to new goals. Some will not really ever be complete, just simply change as my time and abilities change. Others will be completed and I will move on to new things as I go through the year. So, in no particular order:

Goal # 1: I play the piano. I love to play the piano. I enjoy playing for others and sharing my talent in church and in the community. I have found the best way for a talent to grow is to share it! However, with Covid there hasn’t been as many opportunities to do that this year and I noticed I haven’t been practicing as much as I should, and my dexterity has been slipping a bit. So I have committed to practicing 4 days a week, a minimum of 30 minutes each day.

Goal # 2: I love painting, as you may be able to see from my website. I have been taking an online watercolor college course, and will continue. I am half way through the intermediate course and still have the advanced course to complete. I am enjoying this course and learning so much. I am also learning that I have a unique style of painting that I have already developed, and discovered ways that I find easier to do some things, but I am grateful for the techniques that I am learning and will continue to learn. My goal is to paint at least 5 days a week, and to finish this online course. It won’t take me a year, but I’ll move on when I’m done. There is no daily time limit on this one as some things take a long time to paint, some steps are pretty quick, but very wet and take a while to dry.

Goal # 3: I want to have a better relationship with my Heavenly Father, so I will be focusing on thinking before I pray, pondering upon what I will talk to my Heavenly Father about, and then praying with the intent to listen and obey. I had a wonderful Seminary student say – “you don’t walk in to the house and tell your family the same thing over and over again every day, why would you talk to Heavenly Father like that?” I now look at prayer differently, and I am so grateful for his comment, and the things I learn from these awesome youth.

And lastly, Goal # 4: I homeschool my kids through Middle School. I spend a lot of time sitting at my kitchen table, not teaching, just waiting for them to work through things so we can correct and move on. They work better when we do so and we finish much more quickly. I have done a number of things through the years to keep myself busy. I study my scriptures, right now my Seminary lesson as well, I have done embroidery and made all 4 of my kids quilts, but I wanted to learn something new. Last year I decided to learn a new language. At first I thought something easy like Spanish since I had taken that in High School. But I wanted more of a challenge, so I decided to learn Mandarin Chinese. Last year I learned how to read, write, and the definitions and pronunciations of a little over 400 words. my new goal: Learn at least 10 common Chinese phrases each month. How to read, write, pronounce and be able to recognize them when I hear them.

I am grateful to have a self motivated personality. I am usually pretty dedicated to things that I really want to do. But aren’t we all if it’s something we really want. They key is to keep at it when it gets hard, and move forward even when we don’t always see the path ahead of us. I am grateful for the goals I have accomplished in the past, and the knowledge that it gives me that I can do the things I set my mind to. I hope you have goals and that you work each day to accomplish them as well.