Friday, December 19, 2014

Art for the working mom

Aka disposable art.

I don't know how to rotate pictures on my phone.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Strong Testimony

(A talk I gave in church two weeks ago)

Thirteen summers ago I stood at the pulpit in front of my Young Single Adult ward in Minneapolis. As I looked out, I gave the congregation my most piercing gaze. I opened my mouth, and with as much authority as I could muster, said, “I ask of you, my brethren and sisters of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts? Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you?” (Alma 5:14-15) I remember feeling really pleased with myself for thinking of such a clever way to grab everyone’s attention at the beginning of a talk.

In the course of that talk, I shared a story about how when I was about 10 I grasped an important principle in Sunday school. My attention was triggered when the teacher told the students, who had all been born, raised, and baptized in the church, “Even you have to be converted.” What?  I thought. I’d been baptized when I was 8, and I had been taught the gospel my whole life up to that point. Isn’t “conversion” something that only happens to new members of the church? At that young age, I was not very familiar with the workings of the Spirit, but I thought, logically, with my knowledge of the gospel and my belief of its truths, I could consider myself converted, but I wasn’t entirely sure. By the time I was in college, standing in front of the congregation presenting my talk on conversion, I was pretty sure that I knew what I was talking about. I felt like I had a solid testimony. I had experienced a mighty change of heart.

Here I am again, presenting a talk with a similar topic. I found that talk from 13 years ago in my journal and read through it this week. Looking back on how I felt and what I said then, I am amused. I read through that talk with the attitude of an adult doting on the adorable accomplishments of a toddler. It was sweet and endearing, thinking of the younger version of myself, that I thought I had such a strong testimony. At the time, I did, considering my phase of life. But compared to how I feel now, my testimony then was like a tiny, newly sprouted seed. It’s interesting how using the same words in a testimony from year to year can feel completely different as your understanding of gospel truth deepens.

Progression of a testimony
I once heard a talk as a youth that discussed the progression of a testimony outlined like this: first you have desire, then you have belief, then knowledge. When one hears the teachings of the gospel, the first feeling that may come is a desire to believe. Alma taught that, “Even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe.” (Alma 32:27) Desire grows to belief and belief grows into knowledge. Seems straightforward, right? According to this rubric of testimony progression as I understood it as a teenager, feeling secure enough to say “I know this is true” was the pinnacle of testimony. 

When I gave that talk 13 years ago, I knew the gospel was true. How could I feel like I was at the pinnacle of testimony then, but in retrospect see that as just the beginning? I think there is an important feature about the progression of testimony that was missing from that discussion I heard as a teen. You can say “I desire to believe the gospel” and “I believe the gospel” and “I know the truth of the gospel” until you’re blue in the face, but it all means nothing until you can honestly say “I live the gospel.” Living the gospel is what will build and strengthen a testimony. Elder Richard G. Scott said, “[A testimony] is the very essence of character woven from threads born of countless correct decisions.” 

I’ve looked to the General Authorities to help me explain how we develop a testimony, and I discovered the following pattern. First, we need to believe the teachings of the gospel. Second, we need to exercise our faith. Third, we will feel a mighty change in our heart.

First, we need to believe the teachings of the gospel. Just a year and a half ago at General Conference, Elder Holland told this story: 

A 14-year-old boy recently said to me a little hesitantly, “Brother Holland, I can’t say yet that I know the Church is true, but I believe it is.” I hugged that boy until his eyes bulged out. I told him with all the fervor of my soul that belief is a precious word, an even more precious act, and he need never apologize for “only believing.” I told him that Christ Himself said, “Be not afraid, only believe.” …I told this boy that belief was always the first step toward conviction and that the definitive articles of our collective faith forcefully reiterate the phrase “We believe.” And I told him how very proud I was of him for the honesty of his quest.

What should we believe in our quest for truth? Believe that Heavenly Father lives and he loves us and has a plan for us. Believe that Jesus Christ is our Savior and atoned for our sins. Believe that the fullness of the gospel has been restored to the earth in these latter days. These are the fundamental components of a testimony of the gospel.

Exercise Faith
The next step in building a testimony is to exercise faith. Elder Scott said, “You’re testimony will be fortified as you exercise faith in Jesus Christ, in His teachings, and in His limitless power to accomplish what He has promised.” So what does it mean to “exercise faith?” We exercise faith by doing. Moroni taught, “Faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.” (Ether 12:6) That means you must practice the truth or principle you have faith in. As you live it consistently, there will come a witness of its truthfulness through the power of the Holy Ghost. 

How does this apply to exercising faith? Let’s go back to the fundamental components of our testimony. If we believe that Heavenly Father lives and loves us, what would we do to exercise faith? We would pray to him. We would feast upon the words he has given us through scripture. If we believe that Jesus Christ is our Savior and atoned for our sins, what would we do to exercise faith? We would repent of our sins and wrongs and try to live better, be better, according to the example that Jesus Christ set for us. If we believed that the fullness of the gospel has been restored to the earth in these latter days, what would we do to exercise faith? We would partake of that fullness by making every covenant with the Lord that we can, being baptized, attending the temple, and sharing with others the truth of the restored gospel.

Elder Scott said that as we exercise faith in specific principles, “there will come a witness of its truthfulness through the power of the Holy Ghost.”

The Holy Ghost
I want to talk about the importance of our relationship with the Holy Ghost. I feel entirely inadequate to express just how important this relationship is. When we are baptized and confirmed, we are blessed with the gift of the Holy Ghost. I like to imagine the gift of the Holy Ghost like the best friend that ever was. This best friend comforts you when you’re sad, gives you confidence, inspires you with ideas, always is a good influence, and is always available. But just like any friend, the Holy Ghost can be offended by your actions. The Holy Ghost will only stay with you as you are obedient to Heavenly Father’s commandments. But it is possible to have his constant companionship. You can live your life not just with occasional spiritual experiences, but as if the Spirit is walking the path of life with you every day. I urge you to do everything you possibly can to be worthy of the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. It is through the refining fire of the Holy Ghost that we know our sins can be forgiven. It is through the comforting peace of the Holy Ghost that we have the confidence to face this dark and sometimes scary world. It is through the divine inspiration of the Holy Ghost that we can “know the truth of all things.” It is through the breathtaking revelation of the Holy Ghost that our minds can be open to new ideas and new understandings of reality, both temporal and spiritual. 

I feel like my words regarding the importance of the Spirit are inadequate partly because the Spirit communicates on a completely different plane than verbal communication. In 1 Corinthians, Paul says, “We speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” With that in mind, I hope that my spiritual conviction is speaking with the spirit that is within you. 

Here are some wise words that I find inspiring about the Holy Ghost:

Elder Bednar taught, “Obedience opens the door to the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. And the spiritual gifts and abilities activated by the power of the Holy Ghost enable us to avoid deception—and to see, to feel, to know, to understand, and to remember things as they really are. You and I have been endowed with a greater capacity for obedience precisely for these reasons.”

Joseph Smith taught, “A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas ... and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus.”

Elder Boyd K. Packer taught, “The choicest pearl, the one of great price, is to learn… how one is guided by the Spirit of the Lord—a supernal gift. Indeed, it is a guide and a protection.”

You may feel the spirit through a warm feeling in your heart, or as a calm peaceful assurance, or as Joseph Smith said, by ideas like pure intelligence flowing into your mind.

I personally recognize the spirit most frequently as a warm feeling blossoming in my chest. I remember as a youth actively trying to improve my relationship with the Holy Ghost so I could more clearly understand promptings. As a new freshman at BYU, I was in a car with a group of new friends on our way to the canyon for a bonfire. As I was looking out the window, suddenly I felt the Spirit blossoming in my chest. I thought, this is weird timing. I’m not seeking for the spirit, and I’m not doing anything particularly religious. So I said a little prayer asking if there was anything the Spirit was trying to tell me. As an answer, I had the idea come to my mind that I was in the right place at the right time. My journey to BYU was a little rocky, so having such strong, casual confirmation that I was doing the right thing was a beautiful feeling that helped increase my confidence and faith. I sat in that car ride and basked in the warm feelings of the Spirit as long as I could.

Building your relationship with the Spirit is the key to building a sustaining testimony.

Mighty Change of Heart
Growing our testimony happens very gradually, line upon line, precept upon precept. President Packer said, “we become taller in testimony like we grow taller in physical stature; we hardly know it happens because it comes by growth.” Through patience, and consciously making correct decisions and exercising our faith, our testimony will grow and grow until we receive a mighty change of heart.
King Benjamin’s people experienced this change of heart. They described it in Mosiah like this, “we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.” When we experience the mighty change of heart, we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually. This mighty change of heart leads to a stronger level of testimony, sometimes referred to as conversion.
My understanding of the growth of a testimony as a youth was elementary. Spiritual growth and conversion is a lifelong quest with indescribable results.

Elder Bednar said, “Testimony is the beginning of and a prerequisite to continuing conversion. Testimony is a point of departure; it is not an ultimate destination. Strong testimony is the foundation upon which conversion is established. Testimony alone is not and will not be enough to protect us in the latter-day storm of darkness and evil in which we are living. Testimony is important and necessary but not sufficient to provide the spiritual strength and protection we need.”

I felt that I had a strong testimony in college. I feel like my testimony now is so much more secure. If comparing then to now, my testimony then was like a fragile little plant, how will I feel ten years from now if I stay true to the teachings of the gospel, exercise my faith, and welcome the refining influence of the Holy Ghost? I’m realizing I’m still young in faith. I want to repeat Elder Scott’s quote from earlier in my talk, “A testimony is the very essence of character woven from threads born of countless correct decisions.” The quote goes on to say, “A strong testimony gives peace, comfort, and assurance. It generates the conviction that as the teachings of the Savior are consistently obeyed, life will be beautiful, the future secure, and there will be capacity to overcome the challenges that cross our path.” I pray that each of you feel this peace, confidence, and beauty that the Spirit can bring into our lives through a mighty change of heart.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

What modern Feminism sounds like to me...

We want you to value individual autonomy above all else — except when we want you to reject certain choices you might make in favor of solidarity with other women.

We want you to see women as victims of everyone and everything — even though feminism is supposed to be empowering.

We want you to express your true nature as women — except we’d prefer you throw the men and children in your lives under the bus.

Monday, August 04, 2014


"Laws and rules may seem to limit rather than free us; but it is only because of the law of gravity that we can walk. Only by adhering to the laws of physics can we compose beautiful music and send up spaceships. Obedience is liberating, not confining." 

- Bruce C. Hafen

Thursday, January 23, 2014


My first illustration with Copic markers, copied from Fairyopolis.

Sometimes I feel like I've been unusually blessed with very visible talents. Then, in the next heartbeat, I feel so unrefined, like I'm the jack of all trades, master of none. I often ponder on the parable of the talents that Christ taught in the New Testament and how that applies to me. What am I doing with the talents I've been given? Am I improving upon them? When the time comes for accounting, will it look more like I've been holding back what I've been given in fear of what would happen if I let it out? Or in fear that I won't be able to multiply what I've been given?

During my senior year of high school, the yearbook committee requested favorite quotes from seniors to put in the yearbook. The one I submitted went something like this: One's greatest adversary is one's own potential. Sometimes I still feel that way. I feel like I have this enormous potential taunting me, but I don't know how to realize it.

From the cover of Little Quack's New Friend

Well, there's been a convergence of events and circumstances that have brought me back to contemplating the development of my potential. First, I don't have career-oriented responsibilities outside of homemaking. I am unemployed. This is a blessing and a curse considering my stage in life. Second, as of last year's resolutions, I've felt the need to re-visit old dreams, which include using and developing my talents. Third, as a birthday gift I asked for and received some professional Copic markers to start what will become a collection. Fourth, the author who I've done several book covers for (Jacob Gowans) has a series that has been picked up by a publisher (hooray!). The series--was called The Storyteller's Tale, now called A Tale of Light and Shadow--only had one book so far, and I did the cover for it (I never posted it on this site, oddly). Now that it's been picked up by Shadow Mountain, of course he's getting all the professional courtesy and attention that he deserves, including an official cover artist. My socks were knocked off when I learned that his cover artist would be Brandon Dorman. I felt so happy for him, and so awkwardly inadequate, too.

I have to say, I have admired Brandon Dorman's illustrations since I read the Fablehaven series years ago. He did the art on the cover and interior chapter headings. I've even rented some of Brandon Dorman's children's books from the library because I enjoy his illustration so much. He is really a fabulous illustrator, so whimsical, clever in his angles and composition, amazingly sensitive and expressive in his color choices.... He does stunning work.

Olaf from Frozen using Copic markers.

Which led me to this realization: I covet his talent. I'm reading the Old Testament right now in my scripture studies so when that thought came to me I immediately retorted with the thou-shalt-not's in the ten commandments. But this is different. Paul said "But covet earnestly the best gifts" (1 Cor. 12:31) in an effort to lead the saints toward perfection. I can develop what I have been given by seeking for the passion and inspiration I need to fill this potential that I sense within me. The Lord blesses with spiritual gifts if we ask for them.

Just a couple days ago I was reading about Bezaleel, the artisan who was personally selected by the Lord to create the most sacred of artifacts for the tabernacle. Of him, Moses said, "And he hath filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship." (Exodus 35:31) Not only that, but he was blessed to be able to teach others of his knowledge. What an honor! What a glorious set of talents to have! What would it be like to be personally selected by the Lord and filled with his spirit and knowledge to create things of beauty to glorify Him? I can only imagine.

Little Bear imagining himself playing with a mermaid. Originally by Maurice Sendak.

I was contemplating all these thoughts in my prayers the other night and a thought came to me. "Now is the time to polish yourself." I will take that to heart. I'm not sure what that entails right now, but I'm going to work on it.

So far, I have been making a consistent effort to sketch more. I have become so used to doing digital vector art and working on a time crunch, more concerned about efficiency than quality or development, since that is what my former job required of me. I have gotten out of the habit and comfort of sketching by hand. To get back into it, I'm copying characters from my children's stories. I ultimately want to become comfortable with my new markers, be able to think creatively without requiring a visual prop as a resource, and develop my own illustration style.

Ana from Frozen using Copic markers.

I'm not only polishing myself with my artistic talents, I also have plans for my musical ones. I've been playing the piano almost every day lately, and feel more comfortable there than I ever have. I'm also developing different angles of my vocal performance, one of which I get to perform on Saturday at the local theater! Yay! Adventures await me, I can feel it.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The desire to create

The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. No matter our talents, education, backgrounds, or abilities, we each have an inherent wish to create something that did not exist before.

Everyone can create. You don’t need money, position, or influence in order to create something of substance or beauty.

Creation brings deep satisfaction and fulfillment. We develop ourselves and others when we take unorganized matter into our hands and mold it into something of beauty...

You may think you don’t have talents, but that is a false assumption, for we all have talents and gifts, every one of us. The bounds of creativity extend far beyond the limits of a canvas or a sheet of paper and do not require a brush, a pen, or the keys of a piano. Creation means bringing into existence something that did not exist before—colorful gardens, harmonious homes, family memories, flowing laughter.

~Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Pot Holders

It was a homemade kind of Christmas this year.

I made a couple more, but had given them away before I took the pictures.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Cookie Plates for Christmas

My Husband and I like the tradition of making cookie plates to pass to friends and neighbors for Christmas. It's something we did growing up and have fond memories of. This year, I think we hit a great balance of flavors.

The husband has perfected his chocolate chip cookie recipe and I love my molasses cookies. Those have always been our staples. This year we also included caramels (plain and salted with chocolate [those were a big hit]), and the new, exciting attempt at candied orange peels, dipped in chocolate, no less. I googled a handful of recipes so I thought I could wing it, but this recipe needs more perfecting. I think I cooked the orange peels a little too hot and long, so they were a little hard.

But MMMmmmm they were tasty.