Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Book review: 'Asleep on the Hay: A Dust Bowl Christmas'

Asleep on the HayAuthor and illustrator, Ben Sowards, has written his first book, "Asleep on the Hay: A Dust Bowl Christmas." Sowards uses a story to help teach children and adults alike the true meaning of Christmas.

Paul lives on a farm in the midwest—the Dust Bowl. Because recent dust storms destroyed his family's crops, his parents are seeking employment out west. It'll just be his grandfather and his beloved calf, Ellie, together for Christmas.

When a couple with a baby show up on their doorstep in need of help, Paul's grandfather not only shares with them their small amount of food and gives them a place to stay, he also decides to sell Ellie to help them get their truck fixed so they can get their sick infant to the doctor.

Paul is upset at the prospect of selling his calf. The woman gives him a small box with an engraving of a scripture Paul has heard many times before, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you...Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

Paul runs to the barn to be with his calf and angrily throws the box on the ground, breaking it. He discovers puzzle pieces inside, begins to put it together, but then decides to shut his eyes for a bit and snuggles up next to Ellie.

He falls asleep and has a dream where he finds himself in Bethlehem and overhears King Herod's plot to kill the baby Jesus. He runs off to find and warn Mary and Joseph.

What happens gives him a personal experience of the true meaning of Christmas and changes his heart.

With beautiful illustrations by Sowards, "Asleep on the Hay" is an enjoyable story for all ages that can bring the spirit of Christmas into readers' homes.

This is Sowards' first book he has authored, but has illustrated other books such as "A Christmas Dress for Ellen," "Seven Miracles that Saved America" and "Christmas Oranges."

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Thinking Through Our Fingers: When the negative feedback comes...and it will

I'm on the Thinking Through Our Fingers blog today talking about how we can "shake it off" when it comes to negative feedback (and knowing the difference between negative and constructive!).

Thinking Through Our Fingers: When the negative feedback comes...and it will: As writers, we love to hear all the awesome things people think about our writing. And while there is a lot of positive feedback (probably m...

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Uplifting Weekend

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend Time Out for Women. It's put on by Deseret Book and includes speakers (many or all of whom are authors) and musical groups.

Each year, they have a theme that each of the speakers put an emphasis on. "Living Proof" was this year's theme, so we were invited to focus on how we are "living proof" of God's love.

I try to jot down notes so I can remember some of what was said, though I'm not super successful all the time. Here's some of my notables (some are quotes, though they might not be exactly accurate):

Me, Jenny Oaks Baker--super talented
musician with crazy-talented children
"True faith is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, not that something specific will happen." ~ Jenny Oaks Baker

Tim Ballard,
Operation Underground Railroad,
OUR Rescue

Allow Heavenly Father to put you in circumstances to grow. ~ Mary Ellen Edmunds

God will compensate for everything that happens in this life. (something awesome like that.) ~ Soni Muller, Mercy River

"Look at Christlike lives and find inspiration, not competition." ~ Lisa Valentine Clark

"When we take the sacrament, are we thinking about what He did in the Garden?" ~ Eric Huntsman

Mercy River's Christmas album that has
the song "Real." 

Mary, the mother of Jesus, is a REAL person, not just a story, memory, or myth. Mercy River sang this beautiful song called "Real" that makes you think differently about the Nativity story. (Get their newest's SOOO GOOD.)

"Jesus Christ knows who you are, what has happened to you, and what will happen to you." ~ Meg Johnson

Those are just a few of the highlights. I really love having these opportunities to be spiritually fed. There is so much going on in the world, so taking time to slow down and feed my spirit is vital. We each need to take time to refocus and spend time working on ourselves and our testimonies.

© Wendy 2015

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Thinking Through Our Fingers: 10 Things to Do During that Horrible Space Between...

Read my thoughts on the waiting game writers endure after they finish their book....and wait for publication.

Thinking Through Our Fingers: 10 Things to Do During that Horrible Space Between...: There's this awful period of time between finally having your book finished (YAY!) and waiting to get it published (AAAHHHH!!)... ...Q...

Monday, October 5, 2015

Talk to Your Kids About Pornography

Pornography has many dangers that are not limited to adults. And, unfortunately, it seems that kids are being targeted at younger ages by the media.

Look at shows geared toward children, tweens, and teenagers. Pornography isn't always full nudity; it is immodesty or revealing clothing that is intended to awaken and tamper with sexual desire. If it's not in the shows, it's in commercials, music, and some literature.

Our children become desensitized to what is appropriate and what is not. The lines become blurred. Sadly, some children view more intense versions of pornography and, what starts out perhaps as innocent curiosity, becomes an addiction to pornography.

Pornography is highly addicting, ruins relationships, destroys love, and can alter lives negatively. Some may argue that it's OK for adults and that it improves their sex lives, but it will end up destroying it by leading to sexual dysfunction at the very least. Pornography is not "just sex." It is degrading. It is taking something sacred--our bodies and procreation--and making it casual, common place, or insignificant. Personally, I also believe it can lead to child pornography, sexual abuse, rape, affairs and divorce. Not to mention, as with other addictions, a loss of self-control or the ability to stop without professional help.

Linda S. Reeves, 2nd counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, recently said,
"Many children, youth, and adults are innocently exposed to pornography, but a growing number of both men and women are choosing to view it and are drawn back repeatedly until it becomes an addiction. These individuals may desire with all of their hearts to get out of this trap but often cannot overcome it on their own. How grateful we are when these loved ones choose to confide in us as parents or a Church leader. We would be wise not to react with shock, anger, or rejection, which may cause them to be silent again.
"We as parents and leaders need to counsel with our children and youth on an ongoing basis, listening with love and understanding. They need to know the dangers of pornography and how it overtakes lives, causing loss of the Spirit, distorted feelings, deceit, damaged relationships, loss of self-control, and nearly total consumption of time, thought, and energy.
"Pornography is more vile, evil, and graphic than ever before. As we counsel with our children, together we can create a family plan with standards and boundaries, being proactive to protect our homes with filters on electronic devices. Parents, are we aware that mobile devices with Internet capacity, not computers, are the biggest culprit?"
It is vital to teach your children about pornography and the dangers of it at a young age. Children need to know what to do if they see it (come tell you!) and how to be safe on the Internet, smart phones, and even with text/picture messages.

As we told our children during a recent Family Home Evening, it's not a matter of "if" they'll see pornography, but "when." We also expressed that whether they've seen it once or a hundred times, we still want them to talk to us and we won't get mad. We are their parents and are here to help them avoid and/or overcome hardships in their lives.

This is a fantastic video to get your discussion started:

Vitally important is the need for your children, no matter their age, to understand the power and necessity of the Atonement. No matter what they have done, they can be forgiven and made clean through the Atonement. Sin and mistakes are not the end of hope. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ loves each of us and the Atonement is evidence of that pure love. If you or one of your children are caught in the snares of pornography or any other sin, use the help of a loving bishop to know which necessary steps are needed to overcome and heal from it. 

Do not allow your family to be deceived by the adversary. Talk about these important topics often and openly. Use the Spirit to help guide your discussions, as the Spirit will testify to your hearts the truthfulness of the teachings and help us each know what we need to do as individuals. 

© Wendy 2015 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Family Proclamation

Twenty years ago today, the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" during the General Relief Society meeting.

At the time, it seemed pretty rudimentary, simple, and obvious. And yet, twenty years later,we can see why this prophetic message was released, how contradictory the world's view of the family is from the Lord's design for the family.

This proclamation is meant for us to use as a pattern, as direction in this ever-changing world.

Some of you reading this might feel disheartened because circumstances of life may have prevented you from living this to the full extent. Take heart in what was said during the March 2015 General Women's Meeting:
"May I point out something obvious? Life rarely goes exactly according to plan for anyone, and we are very aware that not all women are experiencing what the proclamation describes. It is still important to understand and teach the Lord’s pattern and strive for the realization of that pattern the best we can.
"Each of us has a part to play in the plan, and each of us is equally valued in the eyes of the Lord. We should remember that a loving Heavenly Father is aware of our righteous desires and will honor His promises that nothing will be withheld from those who faithfully keep their covenants. Heavenly Father has a mission and plan for each of us, but He also has His own timetable. One of the hardest challenges in this life is to have faith in the Lord’s timing. It’s a good idea to have an alternative plan in mind, which helps us to be covenant-keeping, charitable, and righteous women who build the kingdom of God no matter which way our lives go. We need to teach our daughters to aim for the ideal but plan for contingencies."
 ~Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women General President

On this twenty-year anniversary, I hope we can each resolve to live this as well as our circumstances allow and to teach our children the same. There is always hope, safety, and peace when we follow the Lord.

© Wendy 2015

Friday, September 11, 2015

When you want to give up...

I hesitate to write about this topic because it's scary. But, it's Suicide Prevention week and it's something that needs to be talked about.

I know people who have attempted suicide as well as those who have succeeded in taking their own life. Though I have not attempted to end my own life, I've had thoughts about it more than I would like to admit including as recently as this week.

Painting by Greg Olsen, "Lost and Found"
I'm not always sure what triggers the thoughts and feelings that send me down that path, but it never feels good. It doesn't make sense and it's hard to get your heart and mind back to "normal." It starts with some sort of hurt and turns into...

  • I'm not good enough.
  • I'm failing at being a wife and mother.
  • Everyone would be better off without me. 
  • I don't deserve the life I have. 
  • No one would really notice if I was gone anyway. 
  • I'm ugly, stupid, fat, undesirable...etc.... 
  • My family deserves better.
  • I can't do anything right. 
Ugh... I hate that list. It hurts. It's painful. It's embarrassing. Even though I knowledgeably "know" none of that is true, sometimes feelings are stronger than any other force. I'm sure there are many factors that lead me to this spot--damaging life experiences, heredity, hormones....but the biggest contributor to these thoughts, the one who adds and digs up more negative things to heap on top, is Satan.

This all sounds so depressing...probably because it is. But, I keep fighting and trying to overcome. It's not easy and it always helps to talk to someone. For me, it's my husband who I somehow got to marry me. Figure out what helps you pull out of and put it in you "emotional first aid kit." For me, I:

  • Write.
  • Listen to good music.
  • Talk to someone.
  • Drink Dr. Pepper.
  • Eat chocolate.
  • Read.
  • Cry it out. 

What helps you?

Don't give up. Talk to a friend or loved one who can help. Seek professional help when necessary. Trust in God's mission for you and do not allow Satan to permeate your thoughts and actions. Satan wants you to believe you're alone and you are worthless. He's crafty in making you believe it, but, it is all LIES. You are not Satan's puppet.

You are a child of God. He loves you and knows you better than you know yourself. You are an eternal being with eternal potential. Your are so valuable that Jesus Christ gave His life for you. You are strong and with His help and guidance, you can make it through the storms of life. Choose to fight the battle and rise victorious!

I love this video from the Mormon Channel on suicide prevention.

© Wendy 2015

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Thinking Through Our Fingers: Perseverance + hard work = SUCCESS!

Read my post about persevering when you want to quit.

Thinking Through Our Fingers: Perseverance + hard work = SUCCESS!: The writing process can be super difficult. It can make us feel inadequate or like we're better off pursuing something else. Even if we ...

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Cedar City, UT LDS Temple Groundbreaking

Last weekend was a special time for my community. Ground was broken for the Cedar City, UT LDS Temple. I was able to watch the ceremony from our stake center with my family. We have been so excited for this beautiful event to take place and to have a temple so close where we can go often to feel the peace, love, and blessings of heaven.

The temple was announced during the April 2013 LDS General Conference by President Thomas S. Monson--at which point I shrieked in excitement!

During the ceremony, speakers including Elder Dane Leavitt, Elder Kent F. Richards, Elder L. Whitney Clayton, and their respective wives addressed those within the Cedar City, UT Temple district. There were a few things that stuck out to me in particular:

Sister Ruth Leavitt spoke about the youth who will be able to go to the temple early in the mornings before school. I can't think of a better way for my children and their friends to start the day.

Elder Dane Leavitt talked about the wintry times in our lives and how we seek places of warmth from the cold. The temple is a place of warmth. This quote really struck me, and I love it: "This building of the temple is a reverent act of rebellion against evil."

Sister Marsha Richards - "We come to the temple to receive Heavenly Father's greatest blessings."

Elder L. Whitney Clayton talked about the stillness present at the temple grounds even though the temple has not yet been built. He said that temples are a "symbol of the Atonement of Jesus Christ." Interestingly, he likened the construction of a temple to us. Before building a temple, you have to clear away what needs to be (such as shrubs, rocks, and weeds) and then prepare the ground by leveling it and making it a strong foundation. For us, that means we need to clear away our sins and become humble. We build ourselves on that sure foundation and become who Heavenly Father knows we can.

You can listen for yourself and see the groundbreaking here:

I am so excited for the opportunity we will have as a family to attend the temple together or visit the holy grounds often. It will be a great blessing to us and everyone in our community. I am so grateful for the blessings of the temple.

© Wendy 2015

Monday, August 10, 2015

Thinking Through Our Fingers: So, you want to write articles

Here's a blog post I wrote about how to start writing articles. Go check it out!

Thinking Through Our Fingers: So, you want to write articles: I'm not sure I am adequate to tell anyone how to write an article, but I'll take a stab at it anyway. Writing articles is for every ...

Sunday, July 12, 2015

God is Not a Genie

I recently had someone comment on one of my older blog posts that God doesn't answer our prayers. His reasoning for this was that we would pray as young children for ponies or to bring a pet back to life, but those things didn't happen.

He went further to state that we only pray for small things like safety and to have a nice day. And then, he said that Jesus doesn't answer prayers because he can't hear us because he is dead.

I feel sad that this man hasn't yet learned to recognize answers to prayers or to feel the Spirit testifying to him that God does live, as does his son Jesus Christ.

God and Jesus Christ do live! Joseph Smith, after reading James 1:5, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." he knelt in prayer to seek which of the churches to join. At that time, he not only received an answer to his earnest prayer, but he also saw both Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. From his vision, we also know that God and Jesus are not only alive, but they have bodies.

Furthermore, God does answer our prayers. I don't think praying for safety is a "small" thing. It's huge! I know that those prayers have been answered multiple times within my own family. One such occurrence I detail in this blog post called "A Miracle." My three youngest children as well as some of my nieces and nephews narrowly avoided severe injury or death. I know it was because of our own pleas for safety prior to our activity that they were protected.

My in-laws were recently in a car
wreck that could have ended much worse when the trailer they were towing fishtailed and flipped. Yet, they were unscathed.

It's not just safety that is a big thing I pray for. I have asked for and received peace on numerous occasions. I have received answers when I have prayed for a specific child. In the quiet moments, a thought is put in my mind of something I ought to do, a person I should call, or an answer to something I have been pondering. I think those of us who have earnestly sought answers from our Father have received answers.

God is not a genie in a lamp that is there to grant your every wish and desire. He is an all-knowing Father who loves us and is aware of our every need. He wants us to come to him for help and to seek to do His will and help others draw closer to Him through prayer and by living His word. He wants us to become like Him.

Just as our earthly parents, or us as parents do not give everything to our children that they want, so it is with God. He knows clearly what is best and is striving to help us become who He knows we can be. He doesn't give us everything just because we ask for it; He wants us to seek after it, work toward it, study for answers. We are on earth to learn and grow as individuals.

If you're not used to praying, start with this simple exercise. Pray to God ask Him if you are His child and if He loves you. Stay on your knees praying until you get an answer. It will come.

© Wendy 2015

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Thinking Through Our Fingers: Non-Fiction Is Not Boring

I've joined a group of talented writers on the blog "Thinking Through Our Fingers." I'm pretty excited about it. I'm not gonna say much here about it, but you should probably follow this link and see what I had to say for my first post.


Read it.



 Thinking Through Our Fingers: Non-Fiction Is Not Boring: When most of us hear “non-fiction” we probably think “booo-rrriinngg!!” ...

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

If God Gave Me a Report Card...

This past Sunday, we had our stake conference. For those who don't know, each stake--made up of somewhere around 8 wards--meets together as one body for a special meeting twice a year in lieu of our regular Sunday meetings.

This Sunday, a member of the stake presidency was talking about looking over his kids' report cards from school. And then he said, "Wouldn't it be nice if Heavenly Father gave us a report card each quarter?"

This caused me to reflect and wonder how such a report would look for me, especially since I always sought after earning straight 'A's while in school. Even though God loves me regardless of my "grades" and sees me through infinite and understanding eyes, I know he'd like me to improve my life.

Consider this: As parents, we love our children despite poor behaviors and mistakes they may make. We see their goodness as well, but we know they can do better. Parents have to correct their children and help them stay on the right path. We teach them to share, care for others, be considerate, and to pray and seek out answers while studying scriptures prayerfully. Our kids are not perfect, but we know they have potential to improve themselves.

I think it is the same with our Heavenly Parents. They love us and care for us more thoroughly than any earthly parent could, yet, they know we can do better. They want us to live up to our potential--even our divine potential. Sometimes, it would be nice to receive a spiritual pat on the back and know we are doing well. Other times, a gentle and loving correction would be welcomed.

Knowing we would fall short again and again, God made it possible for us to repent, to correct, to fix our shortcomings through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Because of His grace, we are saved. There
is no other way. The Atonement is available to everyone--no matter who you are, where you live, what you've done or any other factor. Every person who ever has been, is, or ever will be on the earth is a child of God.

As we use His Atonement, we are to change our hearts and actions. A truly repentant and changed person will not make the same mistakes again, yet so many of us probably do. Just start again.

I know I'm trying to be a good person, mother, wife, and friend, but I also know I could always improve. God isn't going to give us a quarterly report card, but perhaps, as we prepare to take the sacrament on Sundays, we can evaluate ourselves and see where we have succeeded and where we need some improvement.

How did you treat your family members this week?
Did you pray often?
Did you study His words?
Did you serve others? Cheer up the sad? Lift the weary?
Did you exercise compassion and love?
Are you trying to see others through non-judging eyes?

We can all do a little better. Don't get discouraged. Just start again tomorrow.

Other news:
I was featured as a guest blogger by one of my writer friends. Check it out!

© Wendy 2015 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

That moment when I realized....I AM a WRITER

OK, so the title may sound like I'm a crazy person or pretty dense to reality, but I literally just "realized" that I am a WRITER about a month ago. (I'm also going to go ahead and blame the amount of neglect that my blog has received based on my busy writing schedule.)

I was walking through the store when this realization hit me. I can't remember if I was alone, or if I had one of my kids with me, but my mind was wandering as usual. And then the words formulated inside my head: I am a writer. I stopped my thought whirlwind and let that settle. I am a writer. Why had I not thought this before? I would always say that I write, but never that I am.

I mean, I've been blogging for 2 1/2 years as of today and writing articles--and getting them published--since shortly after that. I guess I felt like an impostor, a fake, like a little girl playing dress-up and pretending to be a writer. But, I do get paid... so that means something, right?

I haven't been taking myself seriously. I guess I believed that maybe you have to have a published book to be a writer? That brings me to my next identity hurtle--calling myself an author.

I'm near completion of my first book (details later...patience!) and looking forward to all sorts of new knowledge, feedback, and friends at LDStorymakers Conference next month. I think now is a good time to take myself seriously and call myself a writer.

So, hello, I'm Wendy and I'm a writer. *Mind. Blown.*

So, I submit, who are you? What are you reluctant to admit that you are? What's holding you back? Let go and embrace it.

© Wendy 2015 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Baptism and Beliefs

I haven't blogged for way too long, and for that I apologize. I have been super busy with other writing projects and my family.

But, today was a special day for our family, and especially for my 8-year-old daughter.

In our church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, when a child reaches the age of 8, they can choose to be baptized, just as our Savior Jesus Christ was baptized in the New Testament. This is done by immersion, by proper priesthood authority.  Afterward, the are confirmed and given the Gift of the Holy Ghost as a constant companion. The Holy Ghost helps teach us and confirm to us truth, helps us know right from wrong, comforts us and can be a warning voice to keep us safe.

Today, my daughter was baptized. We had a white dress for her to wear that was made by one of our close friends. She looked like an angel. For the baptism, she and my husband, who holds the priesthood, dress in a white suit that they change out of afterward.

As I was helping her get re-dressed in her dry clothes after she was baptized, I asked her how she felt. "So clean," she said.

Baptism is for the remission of our sins. Obviously, it doesn't stop there as we will inevitably make many mistakes in our life, but through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can repent and be clean again. Equally important, being baptized means that we make covenants, or 2-way promises, with God.

My Baptismal Covenants (as found on
(Renewed Each Time I Partake of the Sacrament) 

At Baptism I Covenant with the Lord to: 

1. Come into the fold of God (become a member of the Church of Jesus Christ).
2. Be called his son or daughter (take upon me the name of Christ).
3. Bear others’ burdens, that they may be light; mourn with those that mourn; and comfort those in need of comfort (help others).
4. Stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things and in all places (testify of Christ and set a good example at all times).
5. Serve God and keep his commandments.

When I Keep My Baptismal Covenants the Lord Covenants to: 

1. Forgive my sins.
2. Pour his Spirit more abundantly upon me (give me the companionship of the Holy Ghost).
3. Redeem me that I might be numbered with those of the first resurrection and have eternal life (permit me to enter the celestial kingdom to live with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ)

This video doesn't really have to do specifically with baptism, but I loved the overview of what members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe.

Here's another inspirational post from Dreaming About Someday.

© Wendy 2015