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3 days of Car-Free

Yesterday I only went to the grocery store, 3 blocks down the hill, on my bike, and walked to the park near us for a book discussion.  We stayed home most of the day.  Today, Jonathan was called into work, a rare happening, so he borrowed a friends car to get there, drove 40 miles and paid $9 to fill up her tank.

We are painfully aware that we are not adequately set up for our car-free lifestyle.  We have been constantly looking at the options for cargo bikes and e-bikes and trailers.  Checking what local shops have – Salt Lake City is local, right?  Scouring the internet for all the options.  We want to optimize for pleasure of use, as well as cost.  We know we need something that we can transport Camille, 8, and Jane ,3, in, and haul stuff like produce from our community garden home in.  Our 3 olders , 11, 13, and 17, should be able to ride their own bikes.  Jonathan will be super relieved when we find our perfect something.

Car Free Day 1

This morning two of my children had a hike with friends scheduled, and I was the responsible adult.  So we rode bikes to Mimi and Papa’s about 1.2 miles, elevation gain of 165 ft. and left the bikes, to walk another 2 blocks to the trail head, where we met up with our group, hiked for 2.5 hours and then returned home.  It was very pleasant, but my legs did get some good burn on the uphill.

I had a board meeting for our Commonwealth, 5 miles away at 1 pm, and was planning to bike it, but another friend going from my neighborhood offered a ride, and since it was hot and I had already exceeded my exercise requirements for the day I took her up on it.

This evening it was our turn to pick raspberries, again at Mimi and Papa’s but this time we were trying to get the whole family there, with bowls for picking and a way to bring them home.  We had two bikes with flat tires, and we got rid of our kids bike trailer a month ago, because it was in sad shape, we were cleaning out and knew we wanted one that fit our needs better, but have not yet made the jump to get it.  We had to switch some wheels between bikes, and we have a trail behind bike for Camille, age 8, but nothing yet for Estella Jane, and with wheel trades we were still short a regular sized bike anyway.  So we backpacked Estella there, while the rest rode bikes.  We had a lovely time getting lost in the raspberry patch and then returned home for a hearty nights rest.

Jonathan and I are very clear that to make this work we need to get a capable cargo bike soon, and we must get better tires, so flats are not such a problem.

Happy Birthday to Me and the Bicycle!

June 12th was my birthday, and the 200th birthday of the bike.  This was super exciting to me – here’s why.

Our two oldest daughters, Kate 17, and Cassidy,13, were in a rollover accident in our little black Echo in Sardine Canyon  a week and a half ago. It was midnight so Kate was tired, it was raining and the windshielld wiper was not clearing the window well.  She hit the rumble strip, over corrected and before she knew it was upside down.  The airbags went off sending out the odor of exposives and some smoke and the roof of the car sliding on asphalt was sparking so Kate thought the car was on fire.  She screamed at Cassidy to get out.  They managed to both get out through Cassidy’s door before the car came to a complete stop. Miraculously they walked away with very little injury.  The cars that first stopped had not seen them get out and were looking in the car for bodies, and a bit confused, when Kate walked up and said they were okay.  It was a miracle in which we are, thanking God, and giving credit to our angel daughter, Addy, as a super strong guardian angel who kept them from being killed.  Addy is between Kate and Cassidy in birth order, so it seems fitting she would be watching out for them.

A side effect of a car accident, is that you are down a car.  At first this seemed a problem that would need prompt attention and remedying.  We have three drivers in our household and our only other vehicle is a 15 passenger van that is most often used as a truck, for hauling loads of stuff with the seats out, or a school bus for homeschool group field trips.  However, after a couple of carless days, I realized, there could be many benefits to our being a one car family and perhaps this was actually one of God’s “What is Not Seen”  blessings.

First, we had already decided we needed to cocoon for the summer.  Limiting our families outside engagements, staying home more and just working on routines, habits and relationships (and some home and yard projects).  Only 1 car makes it easier to remember and keep that objective.

Second, planning is a skill that Jonathan and I have been painfully struggling with over the past year or so, and with only one car, we will be forced to plan ahead more, to make sure we have our transportation bases covered for the inevitable dr. appointments, grocery trips, etc.  

Third, Manufactured hardships and outpatient care for Kate – If we don’t have a car for her, she has to work for her own transportation.  She is a good girl, wants to be independent and is working hard to learn how to earn her own way in the world.  But we are all human and prone to take the path of least resistance.  Jonathan and I often say that in a world of prosperity such as ours, parents must manufacture hardships, such as creating a business just so the children have to work, or holding back on spending money on your children, so they don’t become spoiled.  We try, but it is sometimes a blessing to simply not have an easy resource so that our children have to struggle and grow to get what they want.

Fourth, The Bike.  Really this is a bunch of exciting blessings all wrapped up in one.  Health, socialization, money savings, fun, business focus.  When we moved to our half-size house, we also bought bikes for everyone, with the goal of riding bikes or walking most places.  Our house is now conveniently close to most of what we need and where we want go, so biking is really feasible.  We have done so-so at this goal, because of old habits of driving and its seeming the path of least resistence.  Now we are compelled to use our bikes more often, and thereby keep that goal, when there is less often a car available.  

Riding bikes is healthier that driving.  Exercise, sunshine, fresh air.  All are super antidepressants for me, and great for Jonathan’s blood sugar. It is slower travel providing more meditation time when you are on your own.

Socialization is benefited in multiple ways.  Emotionally, it gets smiles from our 3 younger children.  They all think of biking as play time.  The slower travel allows for longer conversations with family members when you travel together.  One of our favorite benefits we have noticed when we bike or walk places is that you talk to more of your neighbors.  It is a more friendly, social means of travel – you don’t ever recieve road rage, but rather friendly waves, smiles, and “How are you?”s.  I like it.

Riding bikes was part of our plan for achieving Financial Independence earlier.  We knew we would be adopting changes slowly over a course of a few years, and that optimizing our transportation towards this goal was going to be a fairly big change to make.  We have been scared to make the change, but June is the ideal time to start a habit of biking. As Jonathan started researching what kind of car he would purchase to replace our Echo.  He started exploring electric cars and then electric bikes.  He came to some very fast conclusions that an electric bike could get him comfortably to work on the days he doesn’t carpool, and would take the mileage cost from $0.35 down to less than $0.0085.  And that is ignoring the hidden cost advantage of increased health.  Yes it will take him longer, but he already is spending an hour a day exercising and can cut that out on bike days, so that becomes a tossup.  Also, there is the weather to consider – we live in Utah – and yes we totally admire the toughness of frontiersmen and pioneers and want to increase our stoicism, but we know we have been living in a world where one never has to experience temperatures outside of 10 degrees above or below 70.  He is planning to invest in some excellent outdoor winter and rain sportswear.  Still the cost doesn’t rise above $0.02/mile.  For our family, that is a savings of $4,825 per year.  That going straight into retirement savings each year takes a year off our reaching that goal.

This journey down the rabbit hole of bike optimization put Jonathan into the flow.  This is what he loves and does incredibly well: Identify requirements, do copious amounts of research into the field, then do calculations to find the optimal solution.  He has be working for several months to hone in on a tangible, viable business idea that fit his skills and passions.  This “accident” of losing our car, took him much closer, and has him hopping with ideas and drive.  

Lastly, Really, truly biking is more fun, and less stressful than driving.  It is recreation built into your functionality.  It feels good.  Tonight I rode 7 miles to look at a property with a friend.  It was exhilarating.  If there had been a car in the driveway I would have driven.  Instead I enjoyed a beautiful evening, said hello to several people along the way, and got a great workout.  I love it!

So all in all, losing our car has propelled us further down the road we wanted to go at a faster pace.  God’s ways are not our ways, but they are always for our good.


Car Free Challenge

June 21, 2017

We are going to do something most people will think is crazy.  But we already have a reputation for doing an odd mix of things – homeschool, permaculture, Crossfit, health-nuts – no sugar- really, we bought a house ½ the size of our last one so we could put twice the money in the bank, growing strange foods in our front yard, Mormon.  Our next crazy move?  

Car Free.  

Oooh, I’m excited just typing it.  Yes we do have 7 people in our family, 3 drivers, and live in area where everything is super spread out.  Jonathan’s commute is 17 miles, our weekly homeschool group meets 13 miles away.  Bike routes are few and scarcely used around here, and the public transportation at this north end of our suburbian metropolis is sparse, so there will be some serious work to make this happen.  But we feel called to it.  And all of our children are on board.

Why this crazy idea?

A couple weeks ago our oldest daughter totaled our small commuter car.  It was a miraculous experience in which she and our second daughter’s lives were preserved beyond physical explanation.  It left us with 1 car and 3 drivers.  But we felt impressed to take the challenge of being a one car family.  

So, last night we were driving home from my sister’s house, in our one and only vehicle and hit a deer.  Nobody was hurt in the least, however, the radiator was destroyed and we were unable to drive it home.  A very kind man, named Matt, and his daughter Gracie, towed us to a parking lot where we could leave it then gave us a ride home.  All Jonathan and I could do was laugh.  There were no tears.  No frustration, or anger, or worry even.  We just looked at each other and said, what are we supposed to be learning from this?  One car was exciting, but no cars?  Yep!

We have been getting into biking more, and being inspired by such bloggers as Mr. Money Mustache  and CarFree with Kids, we have diligently been working on decreasing our living expenses, getting out of the rat race and developing a lifestyle and family culture of health and happiness.  We bought a small house close to most of the places we go – easy for walking or biking to groceries, lessons, library, Crossfit, Mimi and Papa’s, church …  There are only a handful of places further away – Grandma and Grandpa’s house – this will be our trickiest one, and work and our homeschool commonwealth.  The latter two have easy public transportation when all else fails.

After losing the first car, we decided to replace it with an electric bike for Jonathan to commute to work on.  He normally carpools with a friend, but sometimes that doesn’t work out, so we needed a back-up plan.  He got on KSL, found an incredible deal on a bike for $50, that just happened to have all his requirements – he hasn’t found a deal close to it since, and he has looked every day.  Then he ordered the battery and motor directly from the manufacturer in China.  The motor came yesterday,  and we are just waiting on the battery.  

We feel like this was a nudge from God to meet some of our goals a little more quickly.  We have been trying to cocoon and slow down for the summer and doing a terrible job at it thus far.  We keep finding ourselves in the car, driving to this or that.  There is nothing like no car to help you ask if you really need to go, or might be better off just staying home and enjoying each other.

We also, have had a goal for the past couple years for Jonathan to leave his job at Hill, and go out on a business of his own that is more mission focused and has more room for him to learn and grow – so he can love it more, and feel more capable of making a difference for good in the world.  We want to work together as husband and wife, and have a family culture of entrepreneurship.  

No cars – just bikes and buses.  We are committing to one month.  We are setting our goal for a year.    We’ll keep you posted.

Emma and Abigail

I’m in a moody place this week.  Jonathan is gone for 11 days on travel to Ohio, and I’m struggling to keep me and my children afloat here at home.  I know Jonathan does much for our family on a daily basis – cooking dinner and washing big dishes while I do read aloud at bedtime.  Rubbing my sore muscles.  Taking care of lots of little things.  Mostly he is an emotional strength to me.  He has an “I can and will do it” attitude – most of the time. I miss him.

I have been watching John Adams for my Key of Liberty class I teach at LIFE Commonwealth.  It shows the loneliness and heartache and difficulty that Abigail faced during long months and years when her husband was away.  I’m sure this has not helped my moodiness, but it has made me feel a kinship to her.  Although my current situation is nothing in difficulty compared to Abigail’s, I keep thinking of her, and telling myself to be strong and press forward as she did.   She is one of my heroes.

I think also of Emma Smith.  Another hero.  Strong in the face of adversity.  Disciplined in doing what needed to be done.  Both women did what was right and good for the causes their husbands were fighting at great personal sacrifice.

We live in a different day and age.  I do not worry about enough food for my children’s next meal,   I have only to push a button to warm the house, and only to lift a lever to have hot water.  I have no legitimate fear about our safety.  There are no mobs or armies attacking us or Jonathan.  Yet we still have plenty in our time that we struggle and grapple with.

I believe my easy, safe life is what is at fault for my emotional weakness, for my entitled pity party.  When push comes to shove for basic human needs, most of us can pioneer up and do what has to be done.  When our fights are always higher on Maslow’s hierarchy, then the battles for health, progress and success are all battles of the heart and mind.  Not so easy to put our hands on, see the cause and effects of or find the path forward.


img_20160904_190659776I love watching movies and playing with Janey.  I am 7 years old.  I like helping babysit.  I love learning different things in Brite Kids at LIFE commonwealth.  My favorite food is hamburgers and hotdogs.  I like them most when we eat outside and roast marshmallows.  My favorite books are about pioneers, such as Little House on the Prairie and Little House in the Big Woods.  I like to sing “I am a Child of God” and “Praise to the Man”  I know how to read very well.  My favorite book that I read all by myself is “Lee can See.”  I can do science with my mom.  I like to do crafts.  I like to do my exercise workouts.  My favorite workout is rocket-pencils (jumping-jacks).

The Goal of Our Family Constitution

Today’s goal was to clearly define what we are trying to accomplish in setting up our systems.  I love the Constitution and appreciate the incredible amount of research and study our Founding Fathers did to create the best possible plan.  They modeled thier government primarily after Hebrew, old Anglo-Saxon, and Roman law.  I want to give ours as much influence from God’s laws and models of government as possible.

Objectives and scope our Family Constitutional Convention


  • To establish family laws and systems that will enable each member of our family to enjoy abundant life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.
  • Establish predictable routines so that each family member knows what to expect and can plan his discresionary time to pursue happiness most effectively
  • That each member of our family will know his own responsibilities in the maintenance and support of our abundant life.
  • A system for handling discrepancies and problems that arise.
  • An economy for rewarding hard work, with more “talents”, and teaching the “sluggard” so he might find happiness in the future.
  • To create a common family vision and culture that brings peace and unity to our home.

Scope:  I would like to see all this answered in a formal document, perhaps resembling The Constitution of the United States, or following the format for a founding document in Robert’s Rules.  It could include a Preamble briefly establishing the objectives of this Family Constitution.

  • Questions to be answered:
    1. What are our family laws?
    2. What needs to be done?
    3. When does it need to be done?
    4. Who will do it?
    5. How are skills taught to children?
    6. What skills are children expected and/or required to learn?
    7. What are the rules of Government for our family?
    8. What is the economy used, or motivation for learning and accomplishing chores?
    9. What leeway is there? – a grace period, or cushion for when variations, challenges or changes arise.
    10. What is the regular time for meeting to address the regular decisions systems and any changes that need to be made, any infractions, and extra efforts that deserve rewarding.


  1. What are our family laws?
    1. Love God, Love one Another
    2. Ten Commandments
  • 21 Rules of this House?
  1. What Needs to Be Done? This is a brief outline.  A detailed database or spreadsheet that allows tracking, managing, and adding of who is responsible, when it needs doing, who has learned the skill, and instructions for doing it is needed.
    1. House cleaning
      • Daily
      • Weekly
      • Seasonal
    2. House Maintenance and Improvement Projects
      • Repairs
      • Improvements
      • Seasonal Maintenance of systems
  • Yard Work and Maintenance
    • Weekly
    • Seasonal
  1. Food Production
    • Annual Garden
    • Perennial food
    • Animals
    • Cultured Foods
  2. Food Preparation and Cleanup
    • Breakfast
    • Lunch
    • Dinner
    • Baking
    • Fermenting
    • Seasonal Preservation
  3. Transportation
    • Cars
    • Bikes
  • Garage –
  • Laundry/Clothing
  1. Life Management
    • Time Management
    • Paying bills,
    • addressing paperwork and messages, sorting and filing as needed
    • Planning/scheduling/calendaring
    • Shopping and errands
    • Budgeting weekly and monthly on YNAB
  2. Child Education and Training
    • Mentor Meetings
    • Planning and sourcing (acquiring resources)
    • Helping with schoolwork
    • Checking and giving feedback on schoolwork
    • Babysitting
  3. Addressing Adversity: Emergencies, Illnesses and Disasters
    • First Aid, CPR,
    • Turning off water and gas
    • Basic Herbal and Medicine usages
    • Injuries –
    • Family Emergency Plan
  4. When Does It Need to be done?
    1. Chores need to be done on the day or week assigned. Within a unit of time appropriate with the size of chore and frequency of its need
    2. Some things need to be done by a certain time each day in order to enjoy the accompanying privilege. – Big 5 before breakfast, miss breakfast if not done by 7:30.
  5. Who Will Do It?
    1. Ideally, we will have family members volunteer for the majority of work that needs to be done. If they want to do it, but have not yet reached proficiency, then there will need to be a mentor also responsible for that work.
    2. Clearly, a set time for volunteering for work needs to be arranged. It needs to take into consideration the schedule for each family member, their capabilities, and overall workload and responsibilities – (The Law of Consecration)
  6. How are skills taught to the Children?
    1. Adult Skills Classes?
    2. Parent/Child dates that include a learning portion, followed by a playing portion?
  • Daily chores – teaching, practice and accountability
  1. What skills are children expected and/or required to learn?
    1. I hope they will choose to learn most if not all listed, as they are all part of adult life in our world and not understanding them will close doors to them.
    2. Perhaps they are required to accomplish house cleaning, laundry, and Food preparation and life management. The academic ones listed in Master Inspire Plan could also tie in here. Then they need to choose at least 4 more to complete before earning some huge family award – and privilege
  • Education, both spiritual, and temporal are not part of the scope of this project, but will be addressed in the Master Inspire Plan.
  1. What are the rules of Government for our family?
    1. I like both Robert’s Rules and A House United for proper etiquette on addressing each other with respect and working through differences to make sure everyone’s needs are met.
    2. 4 Steps to accepting instructions
  • Family Council meetings could follow a simplified Parli Pro.
  1. We need to clearly write out our own rules that we will adhere to and keep them simple enough to remember and follow.
  1. What is the economy used, or motivation for learning and accomplishing chores?
    1. Bean Jars, Points toward prizes or priveledges, the 3 level system
    2. I think the 3 level system or Nicholeen Pecks, coupled with an incentivizing reward or privilege system beyond that – perhaps we can look at the privilege’s we already have (movies, fun food, vacations, lessons, ect.) and work the system so those are actually being earned instead of given as rights or needs should be.  Doing so will feel hard or mean, as one who has been on the dole, inevitably comes to feel it is their right.
  2. What leeway is there? – a grace period, or cushion for when variations, challenges or changes arise.
    1. There is a need for a built-in allowance for extenuating circumstances.
    2. Also, part of the economy could include a grace period for infractions – 1st chance, probation, with make-up plus extra effort required to show earnest repentance, 2nd offence – full consequence. Most parenting/discipline programs say there is less frustration and confusion for children when rules are consistently followed.  Varying from the rules leads to uncertain expectations, and more testing of boundaries.


  1. What is the regular time for meeting to address the regular decisions of these systems and any changes that need to be made, any infractions, and extra efforts that deserve rewarding?
    1. Daily Family night prayers or morning devotional for
      • Recite mission statement and drill our vision
      • reporting on day,
      • giving points,
      • and perhaps choosing chore cards.
    2. Weekly Executive Meeting for powerful inspiration and keeping first things first as well as planning and choosing who is responsible for what.
  • Weekly Parent/Child Mentor Dates
  1. Weekly Family Council to
    • schedule,
    • address concerns and
    • choose assignments
    • Present Awards and Celebrate
    • Children to present significant accomplishments – perform, read a paper, recite, etc.
  2. 6 month Parent Retreat to Re-Vision and Re-
  1. How are the laws, systems, rules enforced? By whom are they enforced?
    1. Parents are responsible for carrying out, or executing this government. They have powers to
      • Levy taxes (chores or fines)
      • Grant rewards and privileges only as earned
      • Judge in counsel together and private when an infraction occurs. Primary goal of sentences is to teach and have individual show sincere repentence and understanding of what happened.
        • Assign Sodas
        • Timeouts until calm

Home Systems

Today I was floundering with our home systems.  We have some pretty good ones we have worked to establish over the years, but they have been slacking off.

My children are usually obedient, kind and easy to work with, but lately we have had an increase of negative attitudes and complaining when Jonathan or I ask them to do something.  There has been some contention between siblings.  I feel that I have some holes in my relationship with my 16 year old, that I keep making bigger, rather than mending.

Our house keeping is fairly simple, but I have not been consistent at pulling out the chore cards for my children to choose, or following up to inspect.  Somewhere along the line of life I have become more and more slack on my expectation for morning routines: Dressed, bed made, room clean, rounds made and prayer said before breakfast.  It is often easier to just feed them.  And we have had some pretty late mornings over the past week or two.

So tonight Jonathan and I recommitted to studying, pondering, praying and working to getting our systems in place, better than they have ever been.  We both feel that we have much time wasted in our family with aimlessness, procrastination, and simply a slow pace.  This keeps us, parents and children, from having time for the things we truly love, are excited about, or feel called to do.

We gathered our children around us tonight and asked them what they want to do with their lives, and what they believe God wants them to do.  We talked about the need for a house of order, if want to be free to learn, and do, and explore and grow.

We talked about God’s government for mankind: that all of his blessings are predicated upon keeping specific commandments, and that he tells us clearly what the consequences of our choices will be.  We then branched into the need for our family to revisit our family’s government.  We have set up systems previously outlining our family laws and the blessings and punishments for living or breaking those laws, but like I said I have become slack in administering those laws.  And from time to time, it is good to consider and change laws to meet the needs of our changing family.

Jonathan and I both agree the place to start is with a vision.  I keep feeling words come into my mind and heart:

Time is a gift.  I arise early.  I work with alacrity to accomplish my responsibilities and the necessities of life. Then I devote myself to study, service, and meaningful causes that change me to become like God, and change the world around me to become more like heaven.  God has a work for me to do, I am prepared, and by His grace, I will not fail.


The big lie of our day

Most people seem to feel that they don’t have enough: enough money, enough time. If you have enough of one, you don’t have enough of the other, but most of us don’t have enough of either. Most of us have a list of things we want – I want more peace, less fighting in my home; I want more time to spend with my family; I want to see other places in the world; I want to learn more about…. or learn how to ……; I want to do this great project that would make the world better.
…But I don’t have enough time, or enough money.

I think we are being taken in by the greatest lie of our day. I am going to attempt to convince you that in fact you do have enough of both – and actually the real problem is that you have too much.

If you are reading this, you are among the wealthiest 1% of people to ever live on the earth. How often, if ever, have you gone without food because you could not acquire any?  How about shoes?  Do you own more than one pair at a time?

We live in a strange situation.  Unlike most of the Earth’s inhabitants, our greatest obstacle is not where to find our next meal, or how to protect our physical bodies from the elements or mortal danger, rather our greatest threat is to our hearts and minds and spirits.  The plagues of the past racked bodies with fevers, coughs, and caused premature mortal death.  In the past the great threats were starvation, wild animals, and illnesses that man did not understand and therefore could do little to prevent or treat.

Today, in the developed world, our plagues keep us living, but in a numbed, and aimless state.  Our threats today, in America, are from too much stuff, both empty calories and other material possessions, instead of too little.   We are plagued with entertainment, some benign, much promoting evil.  We are plagued with an over abundance of disposable, throwaway junk.  We are plagued with too much capability and not enough understanding; too much technology and not enough individual skills.   Too much given to us, and not enough required.  In short, I think we are a spoiled generation.

The invention of the washing machine was meant to free up time for a homemaker to do more important things than hand scrub laundry.    As it turns out, we spend just as much time, if not more working on our clothing.  Not because the washing machine doesn’t save time, but because we choose to own significantly more  clothes, and therefore do much more laundry.  At the time, 1 nice dress and two work dresses were considered an excellent wardrobe.  Is collecting and managing a large wardrobe really more important?

We struggle to find happiness because we are looking for it in the wrong places.  I read the allegory of the Tree of Life, and think about the great and spacious building and realize that I have crossed the river and entered that building at times in my life.   There isn’t happiness to be had for a new outfit, a bigger house, a nicer car, a next vacation.

So what does make us happy?  How about more time?  Time to do what we want, what we feel is most important.  Wouldn’t that feel like freedom and bring happiness?  You already have time to do what is most important.  You just have to choose to do it.  Most of us have no concept of how much time we throw away on mindless or useless activities.  We do  it because we have no idea what we really want.  We are in a stupor of apathy.

May I suggest that happiness is had only by living in line with our core values.  That whenever we are experiencing distress, or lack of happiness  in whatever form that may come to you in: anxiety, depression, stress, sadness, frustration, anger, etc.   It is because we are lacking integrity.  We know when a part of our life is out of sync.  When a relationship is not right – when we are slacking on our responsibility, when we are procrastinating a task, when we are holding a grudge or not living up to our potential.  We may not know what our potential is, or what a healthy relationship looks like, but we know we don’t have it.

In order to find peace of soul, and joy in living we must be purposefully, energetically seeking to right whatever is amis in our life.  Not everyone’s core values are quite the same. But everyone’s seem to have a theme of love.  Service, losing yourself in a work that will truly benefit others is where real joy is found.  That can be done in so many different ways, but always happiness is found when you are not seeking your own gratification.  Time going to God, pondering, studying so you are better equipped to serve brings joy, but only if we then act on what we have learned or the strength gained and go forth to serve.

Most of us love the old-fashioned notions of hard-work, sacrifice, living on little so you can be stronger.  We feel it is noble and good to simplify, go without so you can give more.  But most of us, still feel we don’t have enough of time or money.

The irony is that although we all love the sound of “Love grows best in little Houses” we don’t actually want to try it ourselves, or perhaps we believe it wouldn’t apply to us.  That our particular family is different.  We only really understand the truth and power of a principle after we have tried or tested it.  So I am working to continue testing this principle. After 5 months in our new “little, old house” I can say our family has felt happier and more comfortably situated.  7 people are not crowded in 2000 sq ft.  Really, we feel like we are living rather poshe, still.  Plenty of space, not at all restrained by space.

My next quest is clothing.  I started several months ago by cleaning out a huge portion of clothes, but I am ready to take it to the next level.  I have basically, 4 levels of dress that I need.  Dressy for church, teaching, and other nice occasions.  Nice casual for going out and about or study situations.  Work and get dirty for home, garden, chores, everyday life.  And exercise clothes – Vigorous exercise is still required for my anti-depressant and health maintenance.  So my plan is 1 skirt  and nice shirt – it doesn’t get dirty often, and I don’t wear it more than twice a week.  Casual I can get away with 1 – again only a couple times a week.

I listened to a podcast on financial planning the other day in which the presenter, Joshua Sheats says that the first step in financial planning is to ask “What do you really want?”  He goes on to explain that  most people don’t really know what they want.  As he works with people, it takes a long time for them to pinpoint their real desires.  They start with a list of goals, but over time, if they really think about it, it changes.  In the end everyone’s goal boils down to happiness.  We all have different pieces to what makes us happy.  Things can contribute to well-being and comfort.  But no matter who we are, what we really want is not an object or even an experience.  You can eat ice cream and enjoy it or you can eat it and feel miserable.  Eating the ice cream is not what makes you happy, even if you think it is.

The point is that more time or more stuff will not make you happy.  You already have plenty of both.  What you need is more purpose, more living for something bigger than yourself.  And in order to do that you need less stuff in your way.


Lessons from Esther


“Would you be willing to try an experiment for 30 days?
Daily kneel and thank your Heavenly Father for the scriptures. Tell Him the one question you most need to have answered that day. Plead to have the Holy Ghost with you as you read. Then open your scriptures anywhere, and read until you find the answer. Try it for 30 days and see what happens.” (Becoming the Person You Were Born to Be )
When I read this challenge I felt compelled to take it. What follows is my experience from day 17.

Being the day before my monthly fast, my question was, “What should I fast for?”   My scriptures fell open to Esther chapter 1.  I thought immediately, Esther and her people fasted so this will be easy to find my answer.    I began reading, and read the entire story to the end still not completely sure what my answer was.  Esther was fasting for courage to go before the king, and for the King to accept her request and spare her life and the lives of her people.  I am not in any similar situation.  But as I began writing in my journal hoping to gain clarity I received it.

I learned that I must take courage to move forward in the mission God has for me to do.  I have not always recognized my calling, but God does have a work for me to do, and I must show courage to do it.  Like Esther, I need the encouragement and guidance of a mentor to press forward, so that when there is work to be done, I will act.

Esther is orphaned and raised by her cousin Mordecai.  When King Ahazerus seeks a new queen, her uncle encourages her to go with the other young maidens and compete for the honor.  When her time to go before the king arrives,  “The king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins;  so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen.”  Meanwhile, King Ahazerus has promoted a prince, named Haman who expects everyone to bow down before him. Mordecai refuses, because as a Jew he bows only to God.  Haman is so bitter about this that he seeks the kings permission to have everyone that won’t bow before them (meaning all Jews) killed.  Then Mordecai dresses in sackcloth and ashes and comes before the kings gate.  Esther sends the chaimberlain outside to find out why, and Mordecai replies with the plans of Haman and a charge that “she should go in unto the king, to make supplication unto him, and to make request before him for her people.”  This is where Esther is called to her mission.  She has been brought up and mentored by Mordecai, and followed his counsel until now.  She has been prepared and positioned to have impact on the world.

Esther then responds to Mordecai “All the king’s servants, and the people of the king’s provinces, do know, that whosoever, whether man or woman, shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live: but I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days.”  Esther is rightly afraid for her life as the king has previously disposed of a queen who displeased him.

Here Mordecai replies in the words of a mentor and a prophet, “Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews.  For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Esther now remembering all she has been taught, recognizes a calling to serve, and summons up her courage to act with this faith filled response: “Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.”

As a youth I had no concept of mission.  I did not really understand or believe that people, everyday people like me, could have important work to do.  I loved to read about heroes, like Esther or Nephi, Ghandi or Mother Theresa.  I remember yearning to be more than the average, mediocre, “nobody” person.  I wanted to do something important, but I didn’t know how or what it could be.  Then after I left college, and began to slowly gain a real education, I learned that anyone who chooses can do a significant, important work on this earth.  In other words there is a mission for every person who chooses it.  There is no such thing as an average “nobody.”  In the words of Matthew, “Many are called, but few are chosen.”  I have learned that to be chosen, we first must choose to act.  We have to prepare ourself, and prove ourself obedient and trustworthy, then God chooses us to carry out His work on the earth.  Esther was prepared, she had been obedient to God and followed the counsel of her mentor, and so she was chosen.  Chosen for what?

Her mission was not the glamorous role of being queen to Ahazerous.  Mission is never about self.  It always is about serving others, and in doing so we become. We reach our own potential. Esther’s mission was to save her people, the Jews, from death.  This required risking her life in a bold action of going before the king uninvited.   All of us has a mission, many have some exciting and glamorous side effects, but the heart of the mission, is a test of courage, faith, wisdom and strength, all of which is excercised for the benefit of others.  And all of which will be given to us through the atonement of Jesus Christ if we accept it.

I think it interesting that Mordecai tells Esther that her people will be saved in another way if she refuses the call – only she and her family will suffer if she fails to accept.  That is often how God has orchestrated things.  His work will move forward with or without us, it is our own salvation and that of our family, that suffers the most if we do not live up to our potential.

We do not have all the details of Esther’s upbringing or education.  It is clear from the story, that Mordecai is a statesman.  He is continually in and around the King’s gate.  He goes out of his way to warn the king of a threat on his life. He is true to his beliefs in refusing to bow to Haman.  Mordecai comes with the writing of the Decree to show to Esther the situation.  I see also a Type like unto Abraham and Isaac, of Heavenly Father’s sacrificing his Son.  Surely Mordecai loves Esther, and he knows of the risk it is for her to go before the king.  But courageously he asks it, because he knows it is God’s will.  And Esther, submissive like Isaac, who is submissive like Christ, goes of her own accord.  In mission there is always a great sacrifice and risk to be made.

 You, reader, and I were both put on this Earth with the ability to change things around us.  You can choose to see a need and make a difference or to go about being acted upon and only passively interacting  with your situation in life.  If you consistently, listen and obey to the voices of Good: God, prophets and mentors, you will be called to a mission.

We live in a day of much darkness in the world, where there is much need for light.  The story of Esther taught me that I do have a mission and it is time for me to accept the call.  To use my voice, my understanding, my gifts, my energy in the service of others.   If I am to make an impact for good, I must put faith in God, and stretch outside my comfort zone.

But without a doubt I was put here for “such a time as this.”  Were you?