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I love all the seasons, and when each one is coming, I love that one the most. So, right now, I love Fall. Some of my favorite things about fall though, don’t have anything to do with the actual beauty of the season, but more with what it represents. But, the beauty of the season is what I noticed and appreciated today.

I teach an early morning seminary class, and we’ve reached the point where the sun is just cresting over the mountain tops when I am driving home. The leaves have mostly turned yellow and orange, and the combination of the color of the leaves and the bright morning sunshine was so beautiful this morning!

There are so many other things I love about fall as well. I like the season of harvest. We plant our garden in May, water and sometimes weed, watching every thing grow. And finally, we get to harvest the majority of our garden. Potatoes and carrots are my kids favorite things to harvest. Unlike the above ground vegetables and berries, you never know how well the root vegetables are growing until you start digging them up, it’s almost like a treasure hunt. I also love to bake, but don’t bake that much in the spring and summer. But when the temperatures start dropping, I get really excited about baking again. My family loves this, as there is fresh baked items more frequently available, and fresh baked is almost always better than store bought. I also love long-sleeved shirts, sweaters and jackets, and sitting reading with a blanket and a cup of hot chocolate. There doesn’t seem to be as much time for that kind of stuff in the summer, and that’s ok. I also love that I get back to painting more regularly. The summer gives me so much inspiration, but I never have time to do anything with it. So those pictures and ideas are just waiting to be transformed into beautiful paintings at some point in the fall and winter.

Every season has it’s pros and cons, but right now, I am finally ready for fall. Not snow yet! But the beauty of fall, and all the things that go along with it. What is your favorite season, or what are the things you like most about fall and the cooling temperatures?

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Truth is getting harder and harder to distinguish these days. There is so much information out there on the internet, and no matter your perspective, you can find an “expert” to agree with you. I have talked about this, or at least touched on this in several blog posts, but I thought I would revisit the subject on it’s own to express my thoughts, and how I recognize truth in my own life.

Truth exists. It is not created by man. Scientists discover truth as they question, hypothesize, test and try. But science is not the only source of truth, and not the primary source of truth, I have found. As you may be aware through my blog posts, I believe in God. I know that He is the one single source of all truth. So I turn to Him to find that truth. But I have many people ask, how do you recognize it, because He isn’t coming down in person everyday, answering all my questions. So I will share today some ways that I find truth in my own life.

Some truths are easy to recognize because we have experience with them. Gravity is a truth that no one can deny exists. We are all walking around on this planet, not randomly flying off, or moving in abnormal ways because suddenly gravity stops working. Even airplanes and rocket ships have to contend with the pull of gravity, and it’s very apparent when calculations were off, or the safeguards put in place to keep us in the air fail, because gravity still pulls us down to earth. I remember when my kids learned about the word hot, and that things like wood stoves, or pots on a stove can be hot. They also learned to trust that when I said it’s hot, it really was hot. There are a lot of truths that exist like that, that we can all agree are real.

But there are a lot of unseen truths that are harder to identify in life. How do we tell if someone we think we can trust is lying? How do we know if what we are being told by the media about other parts of our country or the world are really real? How do we know that what we are being told isn’t just propaganda for a certain desired outcome? These are hard questions, and there aren’t any easy answers. But there are ways to sift through the things we read, the things we are told, and the things that are happening around us.

One of the first things to do is to look at the source. Do some research. If you don’t want to spend a little time looking into the subject, then you really aren’t seeking truth. So do some research. Look at the person, or the company and look at what they have been doing already. Have they been honest, is their mission virtuous, does it help others? Do they seek the applause of others more than they seek to do what’s right? Do they seek appeasing a certain type of person while pushing others to the side? Businesses do target certain demographics, you have to do that as part of a good marketing strategy. But in doing so, are they kind to all demographics, or are they underhanded in getting ahead or being king of their hill? There is plenty of success to go around, that is something society has forgotten as a whole. We tend to have more of a scarcity mentality, rather than an abundance mentality, but that is a whole other post.

Next, look at the results of what has already been done. Is what they or their company doing helping the situations, does the results match up to what they say they believe in, what their mission is? Or do you find discrepancies between what they say and what they do? Now, having said that, I am not perfect, nor is anyone else, but in the general trajectory of the person’s life or the business, are they trying to go in the direction they say they are going. Sometimes great ideas take us the wrong way and we need to course correct, but the acknowledgement of that course correction and honesty of the person or company also makes a huge difference. Also, what is done to make the course corrections is a good indicator of who they are and what they really believe in.

Look at the fruits of what has been completed. There are a lot of great businesses and people out there doing exactly what they say they will, and helping the people around them. If it’s available, see where the money goes. It’s interesting to research different “charitable” organizations and see how much of the money donated goes to the purpose of the company. I have done quite a bit of research into a variety of the heavily advertised organizations, and some donate a huge amount, even everything raised to the places they say they are going, while some donate less than 10% of everything donated to what it says the money is used for. The other 90% goes to “operating costs” and salaries for the employees. Politically speaking, the politicians actually work for the people, I know, crazy right! Are they doing what the people want, or do they get elected on one platform, and then do whatever they want when they get into office. Look at the fruits.

Lastly, and this one for me, is the most important, look to the giver of all truth. The Lord blessed each of us with the Light of Christ to guide us. Some people call it a conscience, others call it their gut. But when we listen to that light, and we trust it, we will be able to discern truth from error. It’s something we have all felt, and as long as we don’t suppress it by ignoring it all the time, it can be a great guide to help us see correctly. This one should not be last, it should be a part of all our seeking. We need to be honestly seeking as well. That way we can be inspired to find correct sources and feel that they are correct, or feel when things aren’t right.

I don’t believe truth is going to be any easier to come by in the future. But I also know that our loving Heavenly Father didn’t just put us down here and leave us here to grope around in the dark all our lives. He has given us many tools to help find truth, and if we are true to what we find, He will continue to help us find more. I am grateful for the help that He gives me on a daily basis, and know that if you seek with real intent, He will help you too.

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Tonight I decided to tell about my watercolors, and what I like and what I don’t. I have some definite likes, and some pretty definite dislikes, but some of the paints are situational. So, here are my favorites:

My favorite type of paint is tube paints. I like them because, even though they look small, there is a lot of paint in the 8ml size tubes, which is the size I generally like to buy. I like most professional tube paints, not one brand over the other. Mainly I buy Windsor and Newton and Daniel Smith, but that’s just because they are readily available at my local art store. I like the professional paints as opposed to the student grade. They don’t seem to flake as easily, and they have a more vibrant color. I love these, because they can sit in my tray and dry out, and I just spritz them with water and wait a few minutes and they are good to go. Plus, I can have only one color out on my palette, or a whole bunch and I don’t have to worry about them melting into the water and losing their shape when I put them away. I can also put just a little bit of a color out when I know I don’t need as much, so I am not wasting any paint.

I do have some pans though, and I have enjoyed these 2 sets. The one on the left is Derwent, and I just recently purchased this one. It’s a graphite set, and has a little bit of metallic shine when the paint is dry. The one on the right is Koi. The Koi colors are not my normal colors, as I tend to stay with a more earthy palette, but these are a fun, brighter set of colors that I enjoy playing around with when I travel. I don’t dislike pans, but I prefer the tubes, just simply because I can control how much is on my palette at any one time, and the tubes are easy to close, they seal up, and they are wet and ready to go next time I need them. Pans have to be dampened frequently, and they dry out a lot quicker. At least the way I use them. I like these little kits for traveling, but I don’t use them for everyday painting.

The one thing I really dislike about these kits is that they aren’t big enough to fit a normal brush in. They have these water brushes, but I have yet to figure out exactly how to get the exact amount of water I want at any given moment. I either don’t have enough or I have a sudden puddle, usually where I don’t want it. I much prefer carrying water and brushes, to using the water filled brush. But, maybe with enough practice I’ll figure it out. I just don’t know if I want to practice that much!

This last one is also a travel size, but I also use it if I want to watch a movie with the family and paint at the same time. My sister gave me this one for Christmas, and I love it. This one is kind of the best of both worlds. It came with empty pans that I fill with my tube watercolors. There are enough pans to completely fill the tray, but I usually only have about a dozen colors at any given time in there. It is also big enough to hold brushes, which means I lose them less often, especially when we go somewhere. The pans are magnetic, so they stay where I put them. The only draw back to this case is that mixing colors on the lid of the pan is difficult because it is metal. It’s hard to see exactly the color I am ending up with, and my puddles don’t build up very well or stay where I put them, especially in the car. But all in all, I like this set the best for travel or watching TV.

So, for my everyday painting at my painting table, and the paints I use by far the most, is the tube watercolors. But there is a place for the travel sets for mobility, especially when I’m waiting for my boys at their various activities. I am grateful that my sister filled the gap between what I love to paint with, and how to make it more portable. I like being able to have the variety of brushes, as well as more of the colors I know I use all the time, waiting to be used whenever they are needed. Do you paint? What are your favorites?

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Today in Church there was an interesting talk about the Dr. Seuss book, “The Sneetches.” I love Dr. Seuss, even though some think he should be banned, I do not think so, and actually think the opposite. His books have a way of teaching a lesson or principle in a fun way, that’s easy to understand, even to a child. I couldn’t remember this book, and I didn’t have it on my shelves, so I looked it up online, and there was a short movie made out of the book. Here is the book cover, and you can click on the book to watch the movie. It’s a little over 12 minutes long.

Having watched the movie I have had a number of different thoughts. I think this book could apply to so many different situations that are currently happening all over the world at this time. But my thoughts as I watched this movie centered around following the crowd, for the sake of following the crowd, of fitting in and being accepted. We all want to fit somewhere. There is nothing wrong with that, and there are so many different places and opportunities to do so. But how often do we see someone else doing one thing, that doesn’t fit with our groups paradigm, and we suddenly think poorly of that person. We judge, and sometimes ridicule or condemn someone for thinking or believing differently than we do.

It’s interesting to me, I worked in the school system for a while, and there is so much talk and teaching about how to stop bullying, how to be kind, how to include and not be a bully. Time invested on the part of the teachers, the support staff, the principal. But yet we grow up, and now there is no teacher standing over our shoulder, and we forget that we should be kind, that we should include people in our groups. Or if nothing else, we should at least not judge. Let people be who they are. But that isn’t what has or is happening, especially recently. Children should be able to look at the adults to see how to act properly, and yet, the good examples are diminishing.

It is super easy to get caught up in the excitement of a situation, or the negativity, especially when we want to be included in the group, or want to appear a certain way to the world around us. There is a thrill in the hype and excitement around any event, good or bad, that can be contagious. Good hype, around good organizations and situations is exhilarating and propels us forward to do more good. Good situations fill us, and we seek out ways to not only continue to be filled, but with good situations, we begin seeking out ways to help others feel full as well. Hype around a bad organization or situation can be just as exhilarating in the moment. But it never propels us to good, to wholesome, filling activities. It can never fill us, but usually leaves us feeling empty when it’s over, looking for that next situation that is exhilarating again, but looking for it in all the wrong places.

How do we tell if the situation we are getting into is a good one, one that will be inclusive and uplifting? We have to do the research. If you look up any organization on the internet you will find exactly what they want you to see, and it’s always going to have a positive spin on it. But to truly see what kind of situation it is, look at the fruits, the outcomes of other similar situations, especially concerning that organization. Look at the community building things done, or in some cases, the destruction left behind. Talk to real people who have seen either outcome. Go into any situation with your eyes wide open and your mind clear so that you can see things as they really are. Pay attention to your conscience, to what you know to be right, and stay true to who you are. And if you can’t find anyone, start by inviting and including others into your life. Do good and it will draw others to you. Be kind, and people will want to be around you, whether you have a star on your belly or not.

What did you learn from watching/reading this book by Dr. Seuss? How are you applying it to your life and your mind? I would love to hear your thoughts.

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It’s getting late tonight, but I wanted to write anyway. I have been working on a new book, you have had the opportunity to read several parts and pieces of this book and I finally finished writing and setting it up last week. This week I was able to get it saved online and approved, and I ordered my proof copy of the book. I am super excited for this new book, it’s set up similar to the other book, in a workbook format.

So tonight, I decided to add one more section of the book here the Introduction, just to give you one more idea of what’s in it before it comes out. I am hoping to have the copy next week sometimes, but who knows with they way shipping goes these days. My fingers are crossed, and all I can do now is wait. The other pieces I have shared are just excerpts from chapters but the Intro is quite a bit shorter, so I will share it all. Hopefully it’ll give you an idea of what the book is about, why I wrote it, and maybe even a desire to read it when it’s printed.

Gratitude Introduction

I wrote this book as a reminder to me, and hopefully a help for others, to begin the process of, or remind ourselves of, the things we have in life to be grateful for.  There is so much in life to be grateful for.  Gratitude changes our attitude, and helps us focus on the good in life.  Gratitude lifts us above the problems in life and helps us find solutions.  Gratitude helps us see all that is good in our lives and turns our attention to those things, rather than the hard and bad.  Not that those things don’t exist, but often when we can look back and see the good, the hard and bad don’t seem quite as big.  Instead, we are able to look ahead at solutions, or at least see that we have conquered so much, so we can keep conquering.  I hope you will use this book as a work book, but as a beginning or middle, not an end.  Being grateful is a lifelong pursuit. 

Throughout this book I will talk about 6 areas of gratitude.  Obviously, there are way more areas, but this will hopefully help you get started on your journey to being more grateful.  I know it has helped me as I have written it.  At the end of this book, I will have the categories listed again with space to continue writing.  You may fill these pages as your read this book, or it may take you weeks, months or years to complete all the spaces of all, or one particular area.  You may also decide to create your own book for those things you are grateful for and not use any of the spaces provided.  The goal is to help you get started on a lifelong path of being grateful.  Whether you’ve been on this path of gratitude your whole life already, or are just starting out, I hope this book helps you move forward with new insights, and new ideas or ways to have gratitude every day.

I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into the what I’ve been working on lately. I hope you are setting goals and achieving them in your life, and that you take time everyday to work on them, or at least most days. What are some of your goals? How are you working to achieve them? What are you grateful for today?