Category Archives: Peaceful Living

You are a Masterpiece in the Making

I have been blessed with some incredible women in my life. Women that I look up to and strive to emulate. One of those is my dear mother-in-law. She is so very wise. Every once in a while she passes on some words of encouragement or insight that give me a renewed perspective. Yesterday, she sent out an excerpt from a weekly broadcast entitled Music and the Spoken Word, which is a broadcast that features music from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, along with insight and background about the pieces being performed. Today, I’m sharing that same excerpt with you. It reminded me that, while we are all a work in progress, out potential is so very great. I hope you love it as much as I did.

A Work in Progress”           The Spoken Word (September 15, 2013)

A masterpiece is a work that demonstrates extraordinary talent, artistic skill, or workmanship—a supreme intellectual or artistic achievement. Historically, a masterpiece represented an artist’s finest piece of work, evidence that he or she, after years of perfecting a craft, had achieved the rank of master. Yet when we see or read or listen to a masterpiece, we rarely think of the time, the effort—even the mistakes—that accompanied its creation.

It has been said that each of us is a masterpiece in progress. That may seem trite or clichéd, but it’s a reassuring thought during those disheartening times when we feel like anything but a masterpiece.

Everyone goes through those times, including people who seem perfect—which, of course, no one is. We all have strengths and weaknesses, positive and not-so-positive traits and habits. We all have occasions when we are and are not at our best. Even though our past may be marred by mistakes and disappointments, our future holds the promise of growth and improvement. Consider this wise counsel: “God wants to help us to eventually turn all of our weaknesses into strengths, but He knows that this is a long-term goal. . . . Many of you are endlessly compassionate and patient with the weaknesses of others. Please remember also to be compassionate and patient with yourself.”1

No masterpiece is ever created all at once. So be thankful for the small successes, the simple joys, the good times, and even the hard times. Each one is another brushstroke, another stanza, another note toward the finished product. Each one gives us experience, teaches us, and strengthens us for what lies ahead. Life is a process of change and improvement: becoming a little kinder, a little stronger, a little better. So be patient with the process, and remember that each of us is a work in progress—a masterpiece in the making.

754px-Van_Gogh_The_Olive_Trees. 2

My Favorite Time of Day

Ahhh, 1:00. You precious little gem, you. Daughters are in school, baby boys are napping. The house is quiet, and will be for the next two hours. I have time to take a breath and do something that I WANT to do. This time of day is an absolute gift. Time to rest and recharge (and well, maybe get another load of laundry done while I’m at it).

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my time as a mom, it is the importance of taking care of yourself. There are a few things that are essential to me if I’m going to be emotionally available to anyone else in my household. Eating a good lunch and then relaxing at 1:00 is one of them (remember how I didn’t want to answer my daughter the other day? Two words: no lunch).

If I were to take a look at my week, and point out which days were awesome, and which ones were truly depleting, I would first take a look at what I was doing at 1:00 on each of those days. Today, I am going to kick off my shoes, fold some laundry, and maybe even snuggle up on my couch and watch a little TV. For some people, that time of day might be 9:00 at night, or 6:00 in the morning. For me, it is right now, and I’m going to take some time today to look out the window and notice, well… just how peaceful it is.



The Hard Truth about Listening: Getting Kids (and Adults) to Listen in Three Not-So-Simple Steps

One thing I have noticed in past week is this: in the feedback to TPP so far, there has been one resounding theme, “I am really trying not to yell at my kiddos and be more peaceful…but what about the times when they just won’t LISTEN?”

First off, let me tell you I am with you. Oh man, am I with you. My kids should each win some kind of award for Best Dramatic Representation of a Hearing Impaired Individual. Whether it is from across the room, upstairs, or at point blank range, they can be experts at tuning out what they don’t want to hear.

Since I set out on this little journey, the Listening Dilemma has been a primary question of mine, too. And as I’ve read up on the subject and observed mothers that are far more experienced than I am, I’ve noticed one hard truth. As far as listening goes, there is no easy fix.

Listening is a skill that takes a lifetime to master. Actually, scratch that. Some people never master it. Yet we often expect our little ones to listen the first time, every time, and diligently follow through with each and every request we throw at them. Well, no matter what technique you try, that’s just not realistic. But, I have found there are some very good tools out there to help us as we teach our kiddos how to improve.


As I was pondering the listening phenomenon this week, something very interesting happened to me. Very interesting, indeed. It happened just after my daughters came home from school yesterday. They had eaten their afternoon snack, and they had bounded upstairs to get their swimsuits on. We had just about 15 minutes until it was time to leave for swim lessons. I saw this as an opportunity to grab a quick bite to eat. As it turns out, spending a couple of hours writing every day can put a serious damper on your lunchtime routine. More on that later. So I was starving, and I made myself a quick turkey sandwich. I made it as quickly as I could, and finally sat down to take a bite.

And that is precisely when it happened.


(Okay, this bothers me. When written, this words looks like moom, like it rhymes with room. What I mean is MOOO-M. You know, the MOM-I-NEED-YOU-TO-COME-DO-SOMETHING-FOR-ME call. How exactly does one type out the tone of that voice…that calling from upstairs voice. The long, drawn out AHHHHH sound in Mom. The one that can sometimes be the most grating sound you’ve ever heard. The one that gets louder with each repetition, until it’s a frantic yelling… MOM!! MOM!!! The one you’ve heard ever since your toddler started calling for you to come wipe their bum after going poop on the potty. The one that probably continues until they are teenagers looking for some particular item of clothing in a pile of laundry. You know the call. The MOM call. You know how your gut feels when you hear it. “UGH! They need me AGAIN!” That one.)

She called again, “MOOOO-M” (you know what I mean).

And do you know what I did?

I pretended like I didn’t hear her.

I didn’t answer her. I tuned her out. And do you know why? Because I was hungry, that’s why.  All I wanted in life at that moment was to eat my sandwich in peace. I just wanted her to get distracted by something else, forget that she needed me, and move on. I very willfully did not listen.

And then, my eyes widened a little and my jaw dropped open.

I get so frustrated with my kids for not listening. But I do it, too!

Don’t get me wrong, this was not a completely new insight. I’m not that dense. But what struck me is the feeling I had inside. The gut feeling. I was irritated, because she would not let me be. I took a quick second to let that feeling sink in, and then I imagined something. Close your eyes (ok, don’t close your eyes because you are reading…) and think…

What would have happened if the situation looked like this?

– What if, when she called from upstairs, she said, “Mom, I need some help up here. Will you come help me fix it when you get a chance?” (Maybe realizing I might be busy, and being mindful of my needs, too? What if she just stopped sounding so demanding?)

– What if – instead of calling from upstairs – she came downstairs and looked me in the eye, and asked me in a really nice voice what she needed help with? (Maybe seeking me out, making eye contact?)

– What if, while looking me in the eye, she said “Hey mom, I see you are eating a sandwich right now. But when you are finished with that, I need your help with my bracelet.” (Maybe being aware of what was going on with me, making eye contact, and then trying a specific request?)

You’ve been there before! You’ve heard your kids get it right and ask you kindly for something. How does your gut feel then? Completely different, I tell you! 100% different. Like, Maybe-I-Won’t-Ignore-You-While-I-Eat-My-Sandwich different.

So, when our kids are on the receiving end of us hollering at them from downstairs, (“Ella….Ella?… ELLA MARIE!!” You know I’ve done it. And so have you…) what makes them any different from us adults? They feel irritated when you are calling them… again. When they have conflicting needs, they will tune you out. And when you keep calling them over, and over, and over…voice getting louder, and louder…the less likely they are going to be in the right frame of mind to help out. It’s just a fact of life. Kids, adults, we all do it. I’m often amused by the fact that adults often expect more of their children than they are willing to do (myself included). Any Brian Regan fans out there? Remember the one about the kid going crazy because his balloon was flying away? (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, google it, it’s great). I think of that little bit a lot. Sometimes we adults need to take a second and put ourselves squarely in the shoes of our kids.

What if, instead of hollering to our kids from across the house until they answer, we try something different? What if we tried the following (look out…it’s another list!):

Be Mindful

Kids are not automatons. They have needs, just like us adults do. Sometimes the game they are playing is really super important to them and they just want to finish it before they fold their laundry. That’s okay once in a while. If you make an attempt to be mindful of their needs and treat them with respect, they tend to learn to mirror that mindfulness right back.

Seek Them Out, Get on Their Level, and Make Eye Contact

This one’s a no-brainer. Look them in the eye, for heaven’s sake. Take a knee and let them see you face to face. Sometimes it’s necessary for me to gently put my hand on my kids’ chins and help them look at me if they are distracted. Once I have their full attention, and only then, do I say what I’m going to say.

Speak Kindly, Be Specific, and Keep it Short

Sometimes it helps to take a deep breath first if we are feeling frustrated, but man oh man, a kind voice can go a long way. Think of the last time someone asked you to do something in a rude tone. How much did you want to do it? Probably not at all! And when you do ask your kids to do something, know exactly what it is you want them to do. No vague requests! Vague requests are guaranteed to get vague replies. Be reasonable, be specific. And keep it short. Kids have short attention spans. Asking them to hang on every word of a long lecture is pretty close to asking them to do a backflip. It ain’t gonna happen.

Additional Tips

Aside from this list, I have found there are several tools that work in our home for getting the kids’ attention. Most of these I learned from watching my kids’ teachers in their classrooms, teaching lessons to classes of children in church, or teaching various dance classes and musical theatre camps over the years. For example, you know those rhythmic clapping things they do at school to get the kids’ attention? They work brilliantly at home, too. That one is helpful when you need their attention quick, when you are dealing with a crowd of boisterous kids, and when you are on the verge of really wanting to raise your voice. Take your feelings out on your hands instead, and bust out a few good claps. Gets their attention every time. Once you have made a request of your kids, try having them repeat it back to you before they scamper off. Active listening is a skill. It takes practice, like anything else. One other thing that works for us is a little trick I learned while teaching a Primary class in church several years back. In the softest voice you can muster, whisper, “If you can hear me, touch your nose. If you can hear me, touch your ears. If you can hear me, touch your knees.” Obviously this works better for really young kids, but hey, they need to learn, too. It’s a fun little game that helps direct their listening while keeping everyone’s voice low.

Because really, let’s be honest. No one likes to be yelled for from across the house.

So, what are some tools you have used to improve listening in your home? What has been effective for your family? There are so many great tools out there. Let us know what works for you so we can all learn together!




The Olive Trees: Seeing the Divine in the Everyday

You may have noticed the images of paintings I have included here recently. Aren’t they pretty? In the late 1800s, Vincent Van Gogh decided to commit himself to an asylum in Southern France. There, he painted a collection of artwork entitled, “The Olive Trees”. Aside from loving them for purely aesthetic purposes, I’ve found these pieces have a deeper significance.


Historically, the olive branch has always been a symbol of peace. From Ancient Greece to early Christianity to the modern day, there is meaningful significance regarding olive branches and peace in cultures across the world. Here, Van Gogh’s representation of the olive orchards surrounding his asylum largely symbolized his feelings toward Christ in Gethsemane. He wanted to portray his feelings toward the divine without  representing a literal figure.


Can you imagine Van Gogh looking through the bars on the window in his asylum to paint these pieces? How many times a day do I feel like I’m looking through the windows in an asylum when my five-year-old is squealing and running through the house without her pants on, or my two-year-old has hijacked the Nutella and spread it on the walls (again)? One of my favorite quotes is the Othello Principle: “The eye sees what the mind looks for.” How do we train ourselves to look out of the windows in our own personal asylum (one of our own choosing, I might add), and see the divine?


Landscape with Olive Trees


It takes practice. But look at the beauty just beyond those bars. Look at the way your daughter holds her sister’s hand when they hop out of the car at school. Notice the laundry your husband folded to save you some time. Look at the flowers he planted. Take a moment to let a wave of gratitude sweep over you when you nuzzle your nose into your son’s smushy, just-out-of-the-bath cheeks. Feel the quiet reassurance that you are a part of something much greater than an afternoon of cleaning Nutella off the walls.Take some time each day to bask in the beauty around you. It is there if you only have eyes to see.







On the Road to No-Yellingville: Eliminating Temper Triggers

When I first started thinking about this project back in January, it began as a goal to go for one entire year without yelling at my children. Let me restate that. One. Entire. Year. Well, that went out the window by about Day Three. What I learned very quickly from that initial phase is that it would take some groundwork before I made that dream a reality. It’s kind of like I got started on a road trip to No-Yellingville without packing any bags, checking a map, getting a tuneup, checking the tires, or filling up on gas. I had a destination in mind, but I hadn’t really done any work to get there. Or, as a friend of mine recently reminded me about meal-planning: fail to plan, plan to fail. What I needed in order to be a peacemaker in my own home was deceptively simple: I needed a plan.

So I started taking a personal inventory. What are my triggers? What makes me feel frustrated, angry, upset, and impatient? What can I do to minimize or eliminate those triggers in my day? How can I create an atmosphere in my home that makes me feel peaceful? Being the Type-A gal that I am, I made a list. Oh, how I love a good list.

So, here’s my list of my own personal Top Four Temper Triggers. These are the things that make me especially crazy and want to go postal from time to time. Your list may be similar or completely different. I’ve ordered them from what I’ve found to be the easiest fix to the hardest.

Hunger and Fatigue

You know how a toddler gets really cranky when they are tired and hungry? Guess what? Adults do, too. This is an easy fix. Take care of yourself. Listen to your body. Eat, drink, rest. This won’t eliminate the challenges in life, but man they are easier to face on a full stomach.



Clutter can really drive me to the brink. It makes me want to yell, actually. I believe that for most people, your environment has a very real effect on your state of mind. I have several systems I have devised over the years for keeping the mess in our home to a minimum, but there are a few that, to me, are key. First and foremost, before dinner every night, we take 15 minutes to clean up. This has been a routine in our home since my oldest was a toddler. In addition to teaching my kids how to pick up after themselves and just generally keep an orderly home, I’ve found that the added bonus is this: a much more peaceful and relaxing dinnertime. And this goes for any time of day, really. It’s so much easier to disconnect from the distractions and focus on one another when there isn’t a pile of junky toys on the floor all around us (Don’t get me wrong, your toys may be very nice. Ours turn junky pretty fast). Also, de-cluttering seems to lessen the effects of I-Can’t-Find-My-Stupid-Keys! Syndrome, and Where-The-Heck-is-My-Brush?! Complex. Things are easier to find, and tempers are slower to flare. Aside from our nightly 15-minute pick-up, I also deep clean and de-clutter every Monday. For me, being a peacemaker in this sense is very literal. If I want a peaceful environment, I need to find ways to make it peaceful. It doesn’t just happen. There is a good amount of plain old work involved.

Being in a rush

Whether it’s rushing to get to school/church/anywhere on time, or just rushing the kids out of the car in this stupid Arizona heat before my face melts off, the rush of the day can be exhausting, and infuriating. When I am in a hurry, I am generally not a very nice person. I struggled for a long time with trying to relax amid the rush. But, guess what? I have a secret..I found an even better way. Stop hurrying. Create a plan the eliminates the rush.


If you find that you are constantly running late while getting the kids ready for school every morning (like I did), make a plan and wake up earlier. The half hour or so of sleep you will lose is absolutely worth it. Create a morning routine with your kids that gives you plenty of time to eat breakfast and laugh together and say an unhurried family prayer. Create something that works and stick to it. In our family, we even created a strategy for getting out of the car faster on hot days. I spoke with the kids about it, and we mapped out a plan for unbuckling and packing up our things while the AC is still blasting, and then getting out on one side of the car in a single file. And, on the off days when something goes wrong and you are feeling rushed, just accept the fact that you are late and move on. Decide what it is important to you (to me, that’s being on time for school and church), and beyond that, let the chips fall where they may.

Tense relationships

Like I said, these triggers were ordered from easiest to hardest. This one a little more tough to talk about. But it’s real, so it’s worth talking about. How many times have you gotten into an argument with your spouse, and then found that your temper flared for the rest of the day? How many times do venomous feelings like that get spilled onto an unsuspecting child? Oh, it’s just the most heartbreaking thing. But it happens all over the world, all the time. No marriage or family is immune. And, it goes the other way, too! How many times do frustrating interactions with your kids turn into gruff and depleted interactions between parents? Outside of that, how many times does a completely taxing day at work turn into a harsh and unpleasant evening at home?


We are all humans. We have emotions, and those emotions are complex. No human being – male or female – is going to make it through this life having happy, joyful, fulfilling experiences every second of every day. Relationships, like emotions, will have their ups and downs. That is life. But the truth is: tense relationships make tempers flare. It is the responsibility of the peacemaker to evaluate those relationships and strengthen them where they are weak. For me, that meant things like reading The Five Love Languages and sharing that book with hubs. It meant going to a Positive Discipline class and learning how to strengthen my relationships with my kids. It meant reading books like the Peacegiver and applying those concepts to relationships across the board. Peaceful relationships calm the soul. Again, they require work. But anything worth having requires work.

So, there you have it. The top four things in my life that trigger my temper. There are more, but I’ll stop there. What’s on your list? What makes your temper flare? Better yet, what’s your plan to fix it?




What is The Peacemakers Project?

What is The Peacemakers Project?
Welcome to The Peacemakers Project! TPP began as an idea while standing at my kitchen sink last January. I could hear my kids arguing during bath time for the millionth night in a row, my husband (bless his heart) was losing his temper (and justifiably so), and I was yelling at all of them from the sink….all while on the verge of crying over my dirty dishes. It seemed that the chaos of daily life had a chokehold on my family, and my home had become anything but a sanctuary. I knew that changes needed to be made, and I knew that, like all change, it probably should begin with me. The idea kept coming back to the subject of peace. As the year progressed, this idea grew, and I began formulating a goal, a plan, and finally, a project. Summing up this venture into a tidy little paragraph has been a goal of mine for months now. As it turns out, I think it may be easier to introduce you to TPP with a short list of what this project is not.
What’s not in a name?
First off, I feel the need to say that I wholeheartedly love and respect the English language – and have made every attempt to ensure that at least the title of The Peacemakers Project is not grammatically incorrect. I struggled for days with the decision whether or not to add an apostrophe to the word “peacemakers” in the title. After all, it would seem that it is my project, and I am attempting to become a peacemaker in my life, and therefore, it is a possessive term and needs an apostrophe. But, alas, ’tis not so. This project is not just about me. This is about teaching myself and my family how to find inner peace, how to peacefully interact with the world around us, and ultimately how to inherit every blessing promised with the phrase, “Blessed are the peacemakers…”. Here, the term “peacemakers” is meant in the plural sense, especially as the scope of this project widens and begins to include a larger audience. Therefore, in the end, the apostrophe was most decisively and purposefully omitted. So, there you go (and I’m hoping against all odds that I didn’t make some glaring grammatical error in that paragraph while waxing poetic about apostrophes).
The Peacemakers Project is not the end, but the means. 
I am not now, nor will I ever claim to be an expert on the subject of peace. I am very often anxious, nervous, frustrated, and on the verge of losing my temper. I am – just as this blog is – a work in progress. TPP is meant simply to be an exploration into a subject that has always proven fascinating, yet elusive to me. This one topic has been a goal of mine for so long that I was willing to devote an entire year of my life to studying it. From books I’ve read, to art I have seen, insights I have had while building bridges with my family and friends, and quotes and music that have encouraged me along the way, TPP will (hopefully) capture it all. My goal now is to share that journey with you.
Whose not a hipster? Me!
My last admission to you is this: I am not cool. It’s the cold, hard truth. I lost my cool factor somewhere between 2006 and the present, amidst episodes of cleaning up vomit at 2 a.m., singing off-key lullabies, wearing maternity pants at Thanksgiving (you know, a year after I had my third baby), and literally breaking a sweat while wrestling four small children at church with my husband. Cool went out the window a long time ago. I make no pretenses about that. But I do want you to know that it has taken me nearly one full year to build up the courage to publicly share exactly how uncool I am. How I do yoga in my closet every morning to keep from yelling at my kids, for example. Total nerd. I have been terrified of sharing all of the nerdiness that makes TPP what it is. But I had a rather touching insight while volunteering in my daughter’s Art Masterpiece class last month. I saw a small quote on the wall attributed to Anne Tucker that simply stated, “All art requires courage”. While I hesitate to make the inference that my amateur writing could or should be called “art”, I was deeply impressed by that small plaque on the wall and I have made it my own personal mantra. The only reason I share that is because I think we all have something to offer if we are just willing to put it out there, no matter how vulnerable it makes us. I am not perfect. I am not even close. But, you know what I am?
I am trying.
And that’s what TPP is. The Peacemakers Project is a collection of insights: a yearlong study dedicated to the topic of peace, and what that looks like in an otherwise ordinary life. From parenting, marriage, and keeping my home from looking like an episode of Hoarders, TPP is a peek into the life of one woman that is simply trying. It’s nice to meet you. Now let’s get started, shall we?
The Olive Trees – Vincent van Gogh

Landscape with Olive Trees

Being the Glue

Mother-Child-Klimt-LI went to my Positive Discipline class again last night, and left poor David with all four kids at EVO. He was such a good sport about it, totally lied through his teeth and said they’d be fine. So I hurried off to my class, knowing that I had at least fed them all dinner and left the kitchen clean.

When I got home that evening, feeling renewed and encouraged by all I had learned in class, I walked in to a nice, quiet house. David had just gotten the kids to bed. But, well, the house wasn’t as clean as I had left it. I didn’t expect it to be clean at all. I know all too well the tornado that is involved with getting four children to bed on your own. I kind of chuckled, actually, as I rolled up my sleeves and washed the pile of dishes in a sink that had been spotless 3 hours ago. Like a super sleuth, I could tell exactly what had happened while I was away, just by the evidence all around me. They had obviously come home and eaten a second round of dinner, followed by what looked like massive amounts of ice cream. When the dishes were all done (again), I moved on to the kitchen table, tidied up all of the books that had been read before bedtime, and then moved on to the bedroom. I folded the laundry that had piled up on the bed, and fed Jack one last time before bed. The house was so quiet that I didn’t even mind the busy work. It was strangely relaxing.

As David stepped out of the shower, he said something that struck me.

“You know… you are really the glue.”

“The glue?” I said.

“Yes. It is just not the same when you are gone. The kids are crazy. The house is a wreck. There is a calm when you are here, and it is never the same without you.”

Although I knew he was being pretty generous in his assessment, the comment really warmed my heart. Because as a mom, isn’t that really what we are all striving for? Don’t we all just really want to be that calming influence, that warm blanket on a cold day that your whole family finds warmth and protection in? I know I do. I want them to know that as long as I am here, everything will be ok. Or at least, as ok as it can be in any given circumstance.

So tonight, as I prayed, I asked my Heavenly Father to strengthen me in being the glue. Because at this point in my life, that is just the kind of peacemaker I want to be.


Sometimes balancing motherhood and managing your home means that the only time you have available to go grocery shopping is late on a Saturday night after the kids go to bed. Like, 11 pm late. And sometimes because your husband is a small business owner undergoing an extreme amount of stress, that means coming home to a house full of sleeping people. And sometimes, while unloading all of the groceries by yourself in the middle of the night, you start to feel like no one gives a rat’s behind that you are doing what you are doing so they can eat breakfast tomorrow.

But at least the house is quiet.

So, maybe if they don’t notice, it’s okay. Maybe instead I can take a few minutes to notice them. I can look and see how peaceful Jack is when he sleeps. How the slow and steady movement of his little chest while  he breathes is evidence of God’s most perfect miracle, human life. I can look at my husband, who works so hard and deserves every single moment of sleep he can get. I can listen and hear Ava, Ella, and Dallin snoring away in the next room, grateful for them and their clean squishy faces. Hell, even our dog is cuter when she sleeps.

It’s okay if they don’t thank me while guzzling down their orange juice tomorrow, or thank me for noticing that we had run out of napkins. They won’t notice, and they shouldn’t have to. What they should notice, and I hope they do, is just how much I love them. How I would go to the moon and back again for them.

Even if that means going to Safeway alone on a Saturday night.