Being the Branches

Two weeks ago my church’s General Conference was held. It’s an opportunity for church members to hear messages from our leaders that inspire us to be focused on the most important things.

One of the talks that has stayed with me was by Elder Joseph W. Sitati and was titled “Be Fruitful, Multiply and Subdue the Earth.”

This is not a new topic to the Christian world. In Genesis 1:27-28 we read the following:

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

The concept of subduing the earth has much depth and meaning behind it but today I want to concentrate on the first part of that sentence.

What’s funny is that whenever I’ve heard the phrase “be fruitful and multiply” I thought it was all one thing – the instruction to have children.

Now, we know that God’s commandment to multiply is still in force. Children are a gift from God and our families are central to His plan for us. We have the responsibility to bring children into this world, nourish and nurture them, teach them and train them, and most of all, love them. There are many who believe that this commandment is wrong. That the world is too over-populated. Or maybe that there is just not enough good in the world to justify bringing children into it. I disagree with all of those statements.

But that is not the purpose of this post. How do we continue to live this commandment when we are no longer having children? Does that mean that our work is done?

Be fruitful.

In John 15:5-8 we read:

I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

And in Matthew 7:20 we are told that “by their fruits, ye shall know them.”

What does it mean to be fruitful?

What does it mean to be the branches? Another way of describing this is the more current Producer vs Consumer mindset.

Richard and I like to call this being a Creator rather than a consumer.

Creators vs Consumers

A creator is someone who is bringing forth good fruit. Wherever they go or whatever they do, they leave a place better and richer for having been there. I think of consumers, not in the way that we by necessity consume products but the mindset, as the swarm of locusts who descend on an area and pick it clean then move on to the next area. A creator would be the farmer that comes in and plants and tends his crops, growing food and creating beauty. Another phrase I’ve heard is squatters vs. homesteaders. Which one is there for the long haul? Which one is thinking long-term and planning for the future, not just for themselves but for those to follow after?

I’m not even going to talk about business here. I think there are lots of conversations happening about having a producer mindset in the business world but what about when it comes to our homes, families and communities?

What does it look like?

When you look around it’s easy to see the consumers. Think about education. A short examination will show which families are just looking for the next educational product to consume and use up and which families are invested in assisting, sharing, and building up educational resources and communities.

In communities there are the families who move into neighborhood and stay there for as long as it’s convenient or new and exciting then move on to the next bigger, better location. Then there are families who invest in making the community more unified through serving their neighbors, caring for the common areas, being involved in local government or councils, and generally being aware of each other.

In our homes, friendships, workplaces, communities we have the daily choice whether we are going to build or consume. And don’t forget about the online community.

Even at church we see this. And this is the question I want to pose to myself. Am I being a consumer of the gospel? Or am I being Christ’s hands to build up His kingdom? When I am in a consumer mindset I go to church only looking for what I can get out of it. I am willing to serve only as long as it’s convenient or doesn’t challenge me to step out of my comfort zone. I put in the minimum and that’s what I get out of it.

What would Jesus have us do?

As a co-creator with God I would instead go to church looking for what I can give, who I can serve, who I can lift, and what I can improve. I would look for ways to build those around me. I would fulfill church callings willingly, even ones that are a big stretch for me. In short, I would try to be like Jesus.

He is the greatest example. He literally created the earth. He gave us our lives, our families, all that is beautiful and good and worthy. As we follow His example we become creators/producers and make this world closer to the heaven we look forward to. And we find joy along the way.

I’d highly recommend watching Elder Sitati’s message for yourself. Take a few minutes and nourish yourself so you can go out and create something beautiful today.


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The most important homeschool tip ever

Every day I hear about another family  (or five) that is embarking on the adventure of homeschooling. Common Core seems to be the biggest catalyst with the huge influx of new homeschooling families. The most recent homeschooling conference where Richard and I presented was made up of 75%, yes, seventy-five percent, new homeschoolers (meaning they had either been homeschooling for less than a semester or were about to start in the fall). I’ve never seen such huge numbers of new families and it’s so exciting!

But with all these newbies there is a lot of anxiety and a quest for that key that is going to make it work out.

It is a scary thing. I know. Fifteen years ago we made the decision to homeschool our family. We had two very small children at the time (3 years old and a newborn) and I had no idea the road that was ahead of us. I didn’t know then how hard it would be or how wonderful it would be. I didn’t know that Richard and i would end up presenting at homeschool conferences and mentoring other families or that our life’s mission would make itself manifest through the process.

I made lots of mistakes and we had lots of victories, large and small. And now with my oldest just graduated and my other children thriving I feel like I can take a breath and say, yes! This works!

So, what is the biggest lesson I’ve learned through it all? What one piece of advice can I give to those newly homeschooling parents?

It’s a big one so get ready..



I don’t just mean pretend to relax while freaking out on the inside every day. I mean the king of relaxing that comes through having faith in the process. Yes, chances are you’ve met some weirdos who homeschool and you are terrified that you are going to have kids who can’t form complete sentences. Or bathe. You may worry about grade level and aptitude testing and proving to your mother in law (or husband) that you are good enough to do this. You may worry about what the neighbors think, what your friends think, what your church leaders think, or what the bagger at the grocery store thinks (personal experience). It’s so easy to get caught up in trying to prove your worthiness or your child’s ability to anyone and everyone who decides to ask you why you are homeschooling.

But here’s the deal. Those weirdo homeschoolers would have been weirdo public schoolers, should their parents have chosen that option. They were raised by weird parents who don’t think their kids are weird and that’s okay for them. You are the parent of your children. They aren’t going to suddenly morph into backwoods social misfits just because they spend more time with you than with a bunch of third graders. Honestly, the reverse will be true.

And your mother-in-law, she will just have to deal with it. Chances are she’s going to nag you for a while but as she sees your steadfastness, she will get over it and start to brag to all her friends about how brilliant her grandchildren are.

In other words, those outside pressures are easily dealt with. Be polite, don’t be defensive, and thank people for their advice and interest then do what you were going to do anyway. Which is to . . .

what is it?

That’s right.


Because when it comes down to it, all those nosy people aren’t really the problem. The problem is that voice in the back of your head that asks that ever annoying and painful question.

What if . . . ?

What if I can’t do it? What if I’m not disciplined enough? What if I mess up my kids and they can’t get into a good college? What if they get behind? What if someone is judging me? What if I get lazy? What if it’s too hard? What if I never have another day to myself? Etc.

Those what ifs can drive you crazy. They can make you panic and try to recreate a public school setting at home (worst idea EVER). That leads you to getting way too strict with you children’s time which makes you (and them) overly anxious and frustrated. Nothing good comes from that.

It’ll happen. But if you know it’s coming then you can be prepared for that harshest of critics, the internal one. You can tell him/her that you hear what is being said (try, shouted) but you are going to trust this process.

And a magical thing will happen. You and your children will blossom together. You’ll start out afraid and tentative but as time goes on and you keep at it, you’ll become fearless. You’ll be willing to try new things and fail together gloriously. What better learning experience could there possibly be?

And then, you’ll succeed. And nothing in all the world can compare to the feeling of sitting with your children, being the most bonded, close-knit family unit you can imagine, and being a part of their biggest educational breakthroughs and successes.


You can do this. For centuries people have done this and succeeded gloriously and so will you!


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Let Freedom Sing

The Fourth of July. I love it. Not like the cute little love that we have for Labor Day barbeques but that big, hearty love we have for Christmas.

There is something about the sun-drenched day that makes my heart soar. I’m sure it goes back to childhood memories and a deep-seated love of country rolled up into a package that makes me giddy thinking about the day. And we celebrate every year by throwing a big party for our family and friends.

I’m not the most pinteresty woman in the world so I don’t have all matching table cloths with wedding-reception worthy centerpieces. I don’t make food in the shape of stars and stripes, all blue, white, and red velvet.

I do prepare LOTS of food, set up LOTS of shade, and invite LOTS of people, but the people and the reason we are there to celebrate are the central figures of our gathering.

Usually we eat, we may play games, we chat, then we have a short patriotic program and watch a family film in the backyard. This year, due to some timing issues and the fact that my youngest was feeling ill, we skipped the movie.

But the program . . . that was the part that made it all worth the work and preparation.

I had invited each of the six families attending to share a song, quote, or story with the group. It wasn’t required, just an invitation.

And just as it was getting dark, we began. A couple of our teenagers who are very talented musicians, played and sang for us. Then our dear friend, a songwriter, sang a gorgeous original song called Freedom’s Our Responsibility. It was so fantastic!

As she was singing, the neighborhood mortars began.

Our family doesn’t do fireworks (we live in a desert, people. A desert that is often plagued by wildfires) but as all our neighbors started into their yearly binge of blowing stuff up, I couldn’t deny the amazing effect it had as the backdrop to our personal form of celebration.


flag fireworks

My brother-in-law shared his feelings and pride for his dear sister, a captain in the Air Force, who passed away a few years ago. It was very touching.

Then my little Adventure Boy, my nine-year-old son, recited the famous last paragraph to Patrick Henry’s epic speech. As he quoted, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” with vigor, I found myself tearing up.

Lastly, all forty of us sang our favorite patriotic hymns in four part harmony. My Country Tis of Thee, America The Beautiful, The Battle Hymn of the Republic (with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing backup) and, of course, The Star-Spangled Banner.

The fireworks continued all around us, but in our backyard there was a feeling of deep peace and gratitude. In the midst of the chaos, we were in a sanctuary.

As I looked at our friends and family, these whole, virtuous families that work, worship, play, and serve as family units, and I took in our combined pool of impressive teenagers who were singing along with us, full voice, I had a great swell of hope for the future.

I knew at that moment, that in other backyards and other living rooms, and other family circles, there are those who are going about building up righteous families who will move the cause of liberty.

And I was so grateful to know that we were playing a tiny part in that movement.

Because freedom isn’t won in the supreme court of the voting booth alone, it’s won in the ways we teach our children to respect the flag and all it stands for, to know the history of their country and the sacrifices that brought us here, to believe in the Constitution’s divine origins, and to prepare to defend liberty through their personal choices and community service.

Freedom is won at home, in a backyard, singing patriotic hymns on a hot summer night.


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What moms can learn from Father’s Day

Yesterday was Father’s Day and it was awesome. The kids and I bought a new suit for King Richard (he hasn’t had a new one in years). He got all dressed up in his snazzy new duds for church and we fed him waffles, hash browns. And Bacon. Of course.superhero_dad_front

It was relaxed and comfortable and cheerful during our church services. The 10 year olds class all spoke about fathers. One sweet girl whose father hasn’t been part of her life, shared the way that her grandfather and uncle have stepped in and been there for her.

All the dads got Hershey chocolate bars (simple, no fuss no muss) and everywhere I looked I saw smiling, joking dads. These great men who are present in their children’s lives and work daily to provide, preside, and protect their families usually don’t ask for recognition for what they do. They enjoyed that recognition as a perk, but not a requirement. It was wonderful.

What was interesting to me was the contrast to a similar holiday just over a month ago.

On Mother’s Day there is a sense of everyone walking on eggshells. Men prepare anxiously, sure they are going to fail in getting it right. Moms get on Facebook and complain about the failure of their day. At church and even in my family I hear women talk about how much they hate Mother’s Day for a variety of reasons. Here are four common ones:

  • “Everyone is talking about how perfect their mother is. Well that’s not me. I’m a horrible mother. Guilt. Guilt. Guilt.”
  • “All I wanted for Mother’s Day was ___________ and instead all I got was _________.”
  • “You’d think my family could act like human beings for one day in the year. Instead I spent Mother’s Day cleaning up bodily fluids and cooking my own dinner.”
  • “We shouldn’t talk about being mothers. What about all those women who haven’t had children/don’t want children/have lost children?”

Every one of those statements is valid and I really do get it. I’ve felt many of those things myself over the years. But still, when I see the way the dads in my family, my ward, my community handle Father’s Day I’m reminded that we women can do better.

After all, are we imperfect? Yes! Absolutely. But are we trying our best? That really is what matters. Not just in a pat-you-on-the-back-and-give-you-a-gold-star way, but in a real, ETERNAL CONSEQUENCES way. Doing our best is all Heavenly Father has ever asked of us. He will fill in all our gaps and smooth out our rough spots. Most importantly, He will fill in our children’s gaps that are there because of us. Guilt, when not caused by actual sin, is NOT from our Heavenly Father.


And that ________ you really wanted for Mother’s Day? Is it worth feeling snubbed and bitter over? Is that jewelry/kitchenaid/pair of shoes/bubble bath more important than connecting with your family? I’ve seen women (BEEN the woman) who was so put out about the lack of a gift that I didn’t allow myself to enjoy the entire rest of the day. What a wasted opportunity.


Then the kids, yes those messy, noisy, hungry, fighting kids. Yep, those children are the reason we even have this holiday. The fact that we still get to mother them, maybe even make dinner for them, on Mother’s Day is just a testament to the fact that we are SO blessed to have a family. Every. Single. Day.

mothers day throw up

Lastly, for those women who aren’t yet mothers. I have experienced infertility and been through that heartbreak. For some of us, we are able to finally (after six years for me) find success. For others, that may never happen. It is a pain that only a select few can really understand. And yet. Even in those times we can remember that even if we aren’t mothers, we HAVE mothers. Even if your mother has passed away or is no longer in your life for other reasons, you have a Heavenly Mother. There is always, always someone looking out for and loving you.

Our Bishop (leader of our congregation) said something that made me really think yesterday.

“‘Father’ is the most honorable title a man can have. Even God, the creator of all, who could be and has been called by many, many titles, chooses to have us call Him Father.”

Isn’t that beautiful?

The reality is that if we got into this whole parenting business to get recognition, feel completely sure of ourselves, or have people buy us presents and leave us alone, we aren’t in the right place. Parenting is loud, noisy, messy, smelly, hard, confusing work. It’s also amazing, rewarding, awe-inspiring, sheer joy. Nothing with a reward like that is going to come easy. I think we should be celebrating the fact that we are on this journey if nothing else.

So, to my husband, King Richard, to my super hero dad, Bill, to my sweet, quiet father-in-law, Lawrence, THANK YOU! You set such an example every day of unobtrusive, constant, vigilant service. You are cheerful and never, ever ask for recognition. You appreciate everything we do for you even though it is tiny compared to what you do for us.

Next Mother’s Day, I plan on taking a page out of your book and just relax and enjoy the ride.


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The Pornography Panic That’s Hurting Your Kids

panic hurting kids


The Situation

So there we were in a room full of 150 of the best teenagers in the world. These were bright, moral, respectful, hard-working kids that had been part of my Hero Simulations, some of them for years.

They were pretty much the cream of the crop.

These kids were raised in homes where scriptures are read regularly as a family, serving others is a way of life, and staying away from pornography is not just encouraged, it’s expected and talked about regularly.

In short, these kids are from homes where the parents are doing everything right.

So what happened next surprised me on multiple levels.

I had put together this training as part of our Summit Programs. It was our kick-off for the new year with a new theme and exciting new changes. Queen Deborah and I had planned it for months and we had a line-up of messages that we knew would really touch the hearts and inspire the actions of this amazing group of kids. We did our welcome and rah-rah then introduced our first guest speaker.

This was a young woman, our awesome cousin, who has a message that is important to share about Real Beauty, defining ourselves based on what God sees in us, instead of focusing on outward appearance. As part of her presentation she put up a big picture of a girl in a bikini, one of those typical head-chopped-off, body-focused selfies we see online every day. She asked the kids to write down how it made them feel about their own selves while looking at an image like that. Next, she showed a slideshow of dozens of happy people, working together, playing together, taking vacation shots together, etc. All pictures that focused on their faces and their smiles and their connections with each other (all modestly covered, too). She asked the kids to share what those photos made them feel about themselves.

Her point was clear. When we focus on the body only, on our outward appearance only, we are isolating ourselves, comparing ourselves, and we never feel good about ourselves. When we are connected to others and we focus on how we act, how we treat others, we are truly beautiful.

It was an amazing, powerful message. But I don’t think more than a few of those kids got anything out of it.

All that was seen, was that there had been a giant picture of a girl in a bikini on the screen. And. That. Is. Not. Okay.

These amazing kids literally panicked. There were gasps and muttered words like “disgusting” and “sickening.”

As a mentor who works insanely long hours for the purpose of teaching kids to be heroes, to stand up for what they believe in, I NEVER want to put those kids in a position where they feel their values are being threatened. Heroic Youth is supposed to be a safe place. I do understand the tender feelings of our youth. And if I had known everything that was included in our guest’s presentation I probably would have told her that the bikini picture itself wasn’t really necessary to get her point across.

BUT . . .


What is Panic?

Panic is a fear response when we are confronted with something dangerous that threatens our safety. Panic is actually the WORST response, however, that we can have in any dangerous situation. If you are in deep water and you start to panic, that is the surest way of drowning. Panic makes your mind stop looking for solutions BUT makes you put your full and constant attention on the source of your terror. In other words, panicking over something is going to make a lasting memory that will be seared into your brain. And it makes it a lot more likely that you will drown.


This experience has really stuck with me ever since that day a few months ago. I went home from our event, the rest of which was so good I . . . I just don’t have any words. But still, at the end of the evening I was sure that I was about to get deluged with parental emails asking why their kids had been exposed to “pornography” at my event. It made me heartsick to think that we could have put all this work and prayer and energy into bringing a positive, Christ-centered spirit into this training only to have it destroyed by one girl in a bikini.

But as time went by, no parents emailed and I hope that’s because they understood what we were trying to teach. And I’m glad I had this experience because it made me take a hard look at how and what I’m teaching my kids about the body.

What do we believe?

We are firm and unshakeable believers in modesty as a sign of respect for our Heavenly Father who made our bodies. We keep them covered, not because we are ashamed, but because we hold our bodies to be sacred temples of God. We avoid pornography for the same reasons. Not because sex or the naked body is bad and something to be ashamed of, but the exact opposite. Because it is beautiful, and special, and sacred and we want to protect it and keep it that way instead of dragging it through the mud. We don’t want to reduce it to a mere physical act that can be made as base and twisted as the human mind can go. Instead we teach that sex is an amazing thing, a connection between a husband and wife that brings joy, intimacy, and brings new life into this world.

That is all well and good. But the next question is this. HOW are we teaching our kids to handle the situation when they are confronted with something that makes them uncomfortable or is against what they believe in? How are we preparing them so that they can CALMLY and CONFIDENTLY handle the exposures that will come?

And they will come.

Not all pornography is on adult-only websites tucked into the dark recesses of the internet. For a lot of these kids it’s passed around, right under our noses, on facebook and twitter and Instagram. Even if you are a parent who thinks you have every nook and cranny of your home completely fortified against the dangers of pornography, how are your kids going to handle walking through the mall and seeing mostly naked models on posters, women who don’t bother covering up, even buses plastered with advertisements and parked next to your car in traffic?

Avoiding pornography and immodesty is a HUGE and crucial step in fortifying our kids. But unless we also teach them to calmly and confidently handle exposures, we are setting them up for a drowning experience that can tear apart their spirits.

keep calm say no

Since this experience with the bikini-photo panic, we have had some great conversations in our home. My kids span the ages of 6-18 but I taught them all the same thing.

When you are confronted with something that you know isn’t right for you to be looking at (define what that is) this is what you do.

  • First – Take a breath and stay calm.
  • Second – Tell your brain to put that in the “Not for me” category.
  • Third – Turn your attention to something that IS for you. If you are driving and you see a billboard with a mostly naked woman on it, turn your attention to the beautiful scenery around you, or a conversation with the person you’re with, etc.
  • Fourth – remove yourself from the situation as soon as possible.
  • Fifth – report it to a parent when appropriate (pointing out a billboard in a car full of people may not be appropriate as it just calls attention to that billboard. BUT, finding inappropriate images on a family computer needs to be reported).
  • Sixth – ask questions of parents in private WHENEVER YOU WANT! As parents, we are ALWAYS here for you when you want to talk. Nothing you can say will embarrass us or make us think bad things about you. You can ask us ANYTHING.

Let’s all calm down a little as parents and realize that teaching our children to be vigilant is important. But teaching them to panic could be deadly.

Best Wishes,


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When you just gotta share

sharedjoy-redsmSometimes you just have to share your thoughts. I run what feels like hundreds (more like ten) websites, all for business or specifically for my books. But almost daily I’ll have something pop into my head and think, I’d really like to have a place to share that idea.

Since Deborah and I do everything together we decided to make this blog a joint venture.We wanted to share our ideas, our pretty creations, our moments of frustration, and our triumphs with others.

For years I’ve been in the front, out where everyone can see me. And people get a really strange view of you like that. They start to think you are perfect (NO!) that you don’t have any challenges (oh, no!) or that you have no flaws (nothing could be farther from the truth).

This is a chance for me and my sister, Queen Emily and Queen Deborah, to share what we love and even how we struggle. Maybe something we have to say will encourage you or at least make you laugh along with us. And that is a pretty noble thing.

Best wishes,


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