All good things must come to an end. (A bloggy farewell.)

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It’s time.

This blog was born in the basement office of our Minnesota home during the Fall of 2008. Matt was working full-time and going to law school at night. My children were 5, 4, and 1 years old. I felt inspired to follow Elder M. Russell Ballard’s call to use the internet for good and decided to focus on motherhood, since I was in the trenches myself. The title Diapers and Divinity was my attempt to juxtapose the daily with the divine and, like the tagline says, find faith in motherhood. In a world where motherhood is undervalued and not fully understood for the sacred role it is, the blog journey was an important one for me. I can’t say how much it inspired anyone else, but the process of looking for the moments of joy and meaning in all the routines of my life brought me a lot of personal insight and growth. It truly became a vehicle by which I began to see myself (and all mothers) the way God sees us, and that stirred up a testimony and determination in me to keep moving forward and approach my job with more reverence and more dependence on heavenly help. It has been great. I met so many wonderful people through blogging, many of which I can now count among my “real-life” friends.

When I started the blog, my children looked like this:

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And now, almost 6 years later, they look like this:

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No more sippy cups, no more car seats, and definitely no more diapers.

And I’ve grown up some, too. I’ve been able to write a little, I sometimes teach a religion class, and I occasionally have speaking opportunities. Even so, I still hold fast to the fact that my greatest responsibility and my greatest legacy are both wrapped up in those three faces in the photos. So, in part, that’s why I need to let some things go and constantly recalibrate my priorities. Bigger children demand my time in different ways–homework, activities, chore supervision, transportation, etc.–and that time always goes better when I don’t have too many other “obligations” fighting for space in my mind and attention. (I also feel like I need to return to writing in a personal journal.)

Don’t simply retire from something; have something to retire to. ~Harry Emerson Fosdick

Thank you, thank you, thank you to all the friends and family and acquaintances and lurking strangers that have made my little cyberspace feel like a cozy chat in my family room. There are so many wonderful women sharing their voices for good on the Internet now, and I trust there will be no void left by my little collection of blog posts.

To keep up with any other happenings in my world, go like/subscribe/follow my Facebook page and go here to catch up on anything else you might have missed.

If you’re landing on the blog for the first time and want to browse a little, here are some of the more “popular” posts that we’ve shared here, plus the General Conference Book Club was really fun while it was up and running–learn how to do your own here.

33 General Conference Activities for Children
Pride and Prejudice and preference
Preparing children for General Conference (+ packet links)
General Conference Mastery
Preparing Yourself for General Conference
Crunching Numbers
Can of Worms: A Mormon Woman’s View on Womanhood
Surviving Summer (in a nutshell)
The Moral Force of Women: Some connections
The Beauty Paradox
Pornography: Satan’s Power Tool
Lessons learned from Mary
I hate playing with my children.

Much love,

Stephanie

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Things I might have blogged about if I were a better blogger.

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I promise I was a pretty good blogger in 2009. And maybe a couple of other years, too, but lately, I’ve just been lame at it. The kids are bigger with bigger needs, and just getting through the homework-chores-dinner hours taxes most of the remaining intelligent cells in my brain. I’m teaching one class at BYU this semester, and I love it, but the preparation and grading takes up a good deal of my “free” time… at least enough of it that I feel like I have a good excuse for mediocre housekeeping. I haven’t been writing nearly as much as I’d like to, and I’m trying to figure out what I need to drop out of my life to make it happen. I do have a book coming out soon, but it’s not all mine. I wrote one chapter in it and the rest of the chapters are written by ladies I’m honored to share some pages with. It looks like this, and I’ll be sure to share the news when I know it has hit bookshelves:

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If I had been a better blogger, here are a few things I might have written about.

  1. Matt and I started watching Sherlock and I liked it, but then like every other show, they end up sticking stuff in there that ticks off my prude filter, so I kind of decided not to watch it anymore, which basically means I’ve re-watched every version of Jane Austen’s novels, Elizabeth Gaskill’s novels, and Jane Eyre over and over whenever I need some kind of a TV fix. (Another reason this would not have been a good blog post is because it’s basically just a whiny, run-on sentence.)
  2. Matt and I also went on a date last weekend and had real conversations about life and stuff. It was lovely. We discussed how some friends and acquaintances are going through some really hard things in life right now. This next thing I’m going to say is not meant with any disrespect whatsoever to people who find themselves in difficult circumstances, but sometimes it feels like people’s lives are crumbling all around me and I feel almost delusional about my own life…. like either I live in a Twilight Zone of a semi-charmed life, or maybe I’m supposed to be having a major crisis or come-apart right now and I’m just not seeing it. Does anyone else ever feel like that? Then I think that maybe I need to brace myself because there’s probably a huge, gut-wrenching tragedy right around the corner. Because it’s my turn, right? And I have nothing else profound to say about that except that it’s really a weird conversation to have with yourself, so again, not a good blog post.
  3. Lest you misinterpret the previous statement to mean I have a perfect life, I’d like to point out that I have had a bad case of manic parenting lately. I go through these long stretches where every.single.thing. my children do is irritating and disappointing to me. I get frustrated and handle things the wrong way. Then I (gratefully) snap out of it for a little while and am able to see them as they really are:  GOOD children. Children, not little people who should act really smart and mature and logical like me. (Oh, the irony. Please do not mention in the comments that I am not qualified to write a book about motherhood. I already know that. Trust me. Yet I did anyway. Life is weird sometimes.) There have been moments where I have felt God gently reach down into my heart and put an idea there about how to do things better. I try it, and *ta dah,* it works soooo much better than the way I was acting before. I mostly think that this stretching stage in mothering has two reasons: #1) End of winter. Spring fever. And a horrible case of wanderlust. (Oh, how I want to abandon all responsibilities and read books on beaches around the world!)  And #2) I am speaking at BYU Women’s Conference in May. (Yes, I still see the irony. Stop it. Pay attention.) My assigned topic is “Come unto Christ and be perfected in Him,” so I just realized this week that maybe I’m having some of these experiences to teach me how much I need to rely on the Savior to compensate for my weaknesses and to enable me with ideas, and stamina, and even power. Maybe he’s teaching me that so I can teach it right at Women’s conference. Now, this probably could have been a decent blog post except for the fact that it’s awfully self-revealing and a little humiliating.
  4. When certain topics get all heated in the news, I feel defensive of the testimony I have and the gospel I love. Part of me wants to abandon my efforts to be loving and civil and start yelling things like, “That is so stupid!” The other part of me knows that emotional, knee-jerk reactions are counterproductive. Who am I to judge what’s stupid or not unless I’ve really walked in someone’s shoes? Maybe I strongly and fundamentally disagree, but I need to account for the blessedness of my own experience, my own testimony, and frankly, some of my spiritual “gifts” (as in faith or understanding I might have, not because I earned them or deserved them in any way, but because maybe I’m lucky—super lucky—that God saw fit to provide me. I don’t know how to explain it without sounding snooty, but the scriptures teach that every person has gifts from God, and different gifts go to different people so we can learn from one another). People with  different experiences, different kinds of faith, and different sets of gifts are not my enemy, and they do not come to conclusions the same way I do; It’s my job to develop empathy for them, treat them kindly in my words and reactions, and yet still not abandon what I know for myself to be true. For example, I loved the Church’s recent response to the OW activists’ request for access to the General Priesthood meeting because their answer was polite, direct, and clearly explained the doctrinal precedence for their response. I’m paying attention because I want to be able to respond to things the same way. I forgot to mention that there is a third part of me (What can I say? I’m multi…parted.) that wants to unplug from Internet, my phone and news altogether and run away to a beach and read boo–… wait, I’ve already explained that before. Moving on.
  5. General Conference is coming! General Conference is coming!

    Here’s a link to my Pinterest board that is full of ideas for preparing for and getting the most out of General Conference. I’ve collected a lot of great stuff there. Don’t even try to do more than a couple of them at a time or you will want to run away to a beach and … you get it. Just pick a few that might work for you and your family, but most importantly, spend some time getting yourself spiritually ready to hear the will of the Lord. Here’s something I wrote about that a while back: Preparing Yourself for General Conference.
  6. I’m mostly done now. Here are just some things that I liked a lot lately, so I’m passing them along like an Internet favor from someone who actually blogs or something.
  • I stumbled upon this old conference talk that I had never heard before and it is so beautiful. It talks about the women in Christ’s life, and I don’t know how I’d never come across in my previous studies. It’s called “Even As I Am” by Mark E. Petersen.
  • Have you seen this video: WWII Widow’s Journey for Reconciliation? It made my eyeballs sweat a little. How sweet and good is she?
  • Elder Tony Perkins gave a devotional at BYU last month called “Nevertheless I Went Forth.”  It ranks up there in my Top 3 of talks that have ever been given about getting answers to prayer and making big decisions. Good stuff I tell you.
  • I started playing QuizUp on my phone. Heaven help me. I have never played phone games or Facebook games or anything before, but I have no TV shows to watch, remember? (I can totally kick your pants on the Grammar quizzes.)
  • Some friends of mine started up a new Facebook page called Mormon Women Stand. If you feel strongly about supporting living prophets and defending the principles of the Family Proclamation, and you want a safe place to gather with other women who do too, you might want to check it out. It has garnered almost 4,000 likes in less than a week since launching. Not bad.

So there you have it, folks. All the stuff I would have blogged about if I weren’t so busy just living it.

Book reviews: His and hers.

When Matt and I were engaged, we had our first fight over scripture study. Yep. It turns out that we were both passionate about the scriptures and the gospel, but with different interests and different study methods. He liked to study things like signs of the times and how to get your calling and election made sure. I was more into understanding grace and the role of charity. Neither was too intrigued by the other’s enthusiasm. We’ve had to figure it out over the years.

Deseret Book sometimes offers to send me books in exchange for an honest review on my blog. I love reading things that enhance my personal gospel study, so I welcome the opportunity. I only accept books that I have an interest in reading and owning, and occasionally I come across one that I think Matt would like, too. The review today is for two books: one for him, and one for me.

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Matt’s Review: Living in the Eleventh Hour by Robert Millet

There are a wide range of emotions one feels when thinking about the last days and the return of the Savior. Among them are feelings ranging from excitement and apprehension to outright fear. As a father charged with the protection and maintenance of my family, I want to know what are the most important things that I can be doing now, today, to ensure that my family is prepared for what lies ahead. There are many who focus on temporal preparedness and amassing large stores of emergency supplies and provisions. This seems wise, for we have been warned and live in tenuous times. However, as I listen to modern prophets and apostles monthly and semi-annually, one recurring theme that rings clear to me: it is most important to be spiritually prepared to meet the Savior. One can build the envy of doomsday preppers the world over and all would be for nothing if one cannot find the faith and self-discipline to serve one’s neighbors, live in harmony with the Gospel, and keep covenants made, thus qualifying for eternal life.

Brother Millet eloquently describes common feelings we may have, and situations we may find ourselves in as we ponder our standing before God and our current level of spiritual and temporal preparedness. Brother Millet’s knowledge and experience with the scriptures shows in his frequent and relevant citations to both Biblical and restoration scriptures. I found many new and relevant sources of further inspiration from our modern prophets and apostles, as well as a collection of scriptural references that will provide hours of thoughtful study on this important topic.  Far from an academic treatise on the topic, Living in the Eleventh Hour is compact, to the point and powerful.

My Review: In Tune by Gerald N. Lund

I love to teach and I’ve been doing it in many capacities for many years. I feel  like I’m slowly starting to get a handle on how the Spirit can “take over” the teaching experience and I can be more of an instrument than an instructor. Elder Lund’s book is well-organized and is an extensive collection of quotes and ideas related to the power of the Holy Ghost: its functions, its role, and its results. I like his definition of what teaching by the Spirit means:

Teaching by the Spirit takes place when the Holy Ghost is fulling His role and His functions with either the teacher or the learner or both.

I especially loved the chapter called “An Increase in Skills and Abilities” because of the way he explains that the Spirit does not just help us teach a lesson, but it makes us better teachers. This Elder Maxwell quote intrigued me:

“Of course there are individuals who are keeping their covenants who lack teaching charisma. Of course there are those whose lives are in order who are not exciting teachers. However, the Spirit blesses the efforts of all who live worthily. It endorses what they say or do. There is a witnessing authenticity which proceeds from the commandment keeper, which speaks for itself. Therefore, I prefer doctrinal accuracy and spiritual certitude (even with a little dullness) to charisma with unanchored cleverness.”

I also really liked how he clarified some of the misconceptions about fruits of the spirit and loved the chapters “Nourished by the Good Word of God,” and “Putting Ourselves in Tune–Drawing Closer to the Spirit.” I think I’ll use this book often as a good reminder about important teaching principles and how to tap in to the power of the Holy Ghost more in my personal life, parenting, and teaching.

Stroke of genius: A recipe for chores and cooperation

Recipe for Chores

I am neither a parenting expert nor a housekeeping expert, but occasionally I have a really good idea, and it works. Here’s the latest.

The most annoying question my kids ask me every day when I pick them up from school is: “What’s for after-school snack?” I don’t know what’s for after school snack! It’s frustrating that they expect me to have some kind of smorgasbord planned for their arrival when, honestly, they should be satisfied that I’m fully dressed when I pick them up. I got them breakfast before school. I make them dinner almost every night. Anyway, I try. I really do, but I usually don’t have anything spectacular for them to eat when they get home from school.

Today, after the kids were off to school, I walked from room to room in the house. I felt overwhelmed by the amount of work required to get everything tidy again. How can three smallish people make such big messes and so quickly? How?! I dreaded cleaning it all up, and felt like I shouldn’t have to. I didn’t make the messes. So I decided that instead of spending my energy cleaning up after them, I’d rather channel my energy into a plan to get them to clean up after themselves.

My idea: A treat. They love a home-baked snack. They also love to cook with me, but I don’t do it with them as often as I should, or even as often as I’d like to. So I decided to wrap all those “rewards” into one. I realize that this is not a good daily chore plan, but when you’re feeling overwhelmed about all that has to be done and you need to rally the troops to really chip in and help, this worked like a charm.

The plan:

I found a yummy recipe that had approximately as many ingredients as chores I wanted them to do. I cut and pasted the ingredients list into a Word document, enlarged the font and line spacing, then printed it out.

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Then I turned the paper over and wrote down the tasks I wanted done around the house.

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Then I cut the papers into strips, with the ingredient on one side and the chore on the other,

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And rolled them up and put them into a bowl.

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(This is how helpful my cat was during this process.)

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I put the chore bowl on the table with some fruit for after-school snack and then waited for the kids to come home.

CAM00484I showed them the recipe and explained that they needed to do the chores to earn the ingredients. When everyone had earned all the ingredients, we would make the cake together.

It worked. They jumped right in and divided the papers among them.

CAM00489See? Magic. At one point, Clark said, “When there’s a really good reward, it almost makes the chores fun.” It’s like he knew I needed a slogan for my blog post or something. ;)

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They finished their work quickly and without complaining. They each had ownership for their own ingredients and, once earned, could measure them out and add them to the recipe when called for.

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We made the cake, ate it, and they were happy and pleasant. There was still a little bit of clean-up to be done, but it was way more manageable than my house was earlier, and now I can walk from room to room in my house and smile at the improvement.

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How about you? In a moment of “crisis,” have you ever had a stroke of parental genius that actually worked? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. Sometimes we all just need a few new tricks to try.

What do the prophets say about [insert your hot-button issue of choice here]?

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Anyone who has read my blog for a while knows that every once in a while I get fire in my bones about something and I have to let it out. I have to write my thoughts “out loud” and I have to bear my testimony about it and promise the things that I know to be true. Usually it’s about one issue in particular (for example, see the previous catharses about pornography, the power of women , and the sanctity of family). Today it’s about all of those issues and many more. I don’t know about you, but lately my Internet content has been flooded, and I mean overwhelmingly filled, with discussions and commentary and articles and studies and arguments and status updates and diatribes about these issues and many more like them– gay marriage, abortion, vaccination, alcohol laws, government corruption… fill in the blank. The list goes on (painfully so).

If you feel confused and overwhelmed by some of these issues, I just want to tell you that this is the very reason that God gave us prophets. We have a living prophet and apostles, called to the whole world, to speak on behalf of the Lord and make His will known to us. The words of living prophets, like the iron rod in the vision of the Tree of Life, help us have a safe and clear pathway of truth even when surrounded by dark mists and pointing, mocking fingers. Lately, I have felt sadness when I see people I love and admire post things online that are contrary to what the prophets have taught us. I know these people love the Lord, and I think they love and try to sustain the prophet, but I fear they may not be paying attention to him.

This morning my family read from 2 Nephi 32. Verse 7 jumped out at me.  I’ve never marked it or paid attention to it before, but today, Nephi’s words captured the way I feel and reaffirmed to me the importance of practicing due diligence in our study of these issues.

I am left to mourn because of the unbelief, and the wickedness, and the ignorance, and the stiffneckedness of men; for they will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness, even as plain as word can be.

This is what I know to be true: Many people have many different opinions on many different issues, but so does God, and He “revealeth his secret unto to his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7) Do you want to know what God thinks about marriage or abortion or pornography? Find out. Take the challenge from Nephi: search knowledge. Sure there are plenty of “experts” and websites out there who are happy to tell you more than you want to know. The answers–the true answers, the right answers–are there for the taking if we do the asking.

Type the “issue” into the search engine at gc.lds.org (collection of general conference talks) and see what the prophets and apostles–whom we’ve sustained as prophets, seers and revelators–have said. A lot of talks and resources will pop up. You may be surprised how much is available. Read all of them. Study them. Ponder them. Invite the Spirit to help you see the issue through spiritual eyes. Like Nephi said, the knowledge is given “in plainness, even as plain as word can be.” Trust that God is using his prophets to help you know the truth. Then cling to those truths. Let them be an anchor to you in a constantly shifting and angry world.

Please. Pretty please. Even the not pretty, begging kind of please. Before you speak out on a major social or political or societal issue, study what the prophets have said about it. The knowledge you find will give you confidence to speak out in truth, and the people in your circle of influence will be pointed in the right direction by your words.

I testify that peace is found and sustained by hearing and studying and following the words of the prophets. I know that living prophets are completely in touch with the issues of our day and that the Lord is not silent on these matters. I cannot articulate how much comfort it gives me to understand how the Lord feels about things that the world is constantly fighting about. I promise that the prophets and apostles are teaching the same things Jesus would teach if He were here, so until He comes again, He has promised that “whether by mine own voice, or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38).

I know it and believe it so much it puts fire in my bones.

Goals. And trying. And failing.

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I like New Year’s resolutions. They do feel like a fresh, new start. And with the exception of a few superhuman individuals, the rest of us don’t always accomplish our goals with the same kind of perfection we intended. You know what? It’s fine. Really. Fine. The trick is to not be such a perfectionist that we abandon goals completely because we don’t like doing them less than perfectly. Sure, we can be more “perfect” by having fewer goals, but growth comes from the effort–from the stop and go, from the oops and up again, and from analysis and course correction.

My sister recently asked me about diminished motivation when goals start going sour, so I did a little research and found some great talks and articles that might be helpful in rekindling your goal-fire.

First, President Uchtdorf shared a recent New Year’s message called The Best Time to Plant a Tree. He says a lot of great things there, but this was one of my favorites:

“Another thing we need to remember when it comes to setting goals is this: We almost certainly will fail—at least in the short term. But rather than be discouraged, we can be empowered because this understanding removes the pressure of being perfect right now. It acknowledges from the beginning that at one time or another, we may fall short. Knowing this up front takes away much of the surprise and discouragement of failure.”

See? Permission. Here are a few more great talks to study, and some quotes from each.

Elder Ballard’s talk Keeping Life’s Demands in Balance reminds me to keep my goals in line with true priorities and treat those successes as the most important.

Many people have heavy demands upon them stemming from parental, family, employment, church, and civic responsibilities. Keeping everything in balance can be a real problem.

A periodic review of the covenants we have made with the Lord will help us with our priorities and with balance in our lives. This review will help us see where we need to repent and change our lives to ensure that we are worthy of the promises that accompany our covenants and sacred ordinances. Working out our own salvation requires good planning and a deliberate, valiant effort.

In Because of Your Steadiness, Pres. Eyring is mostly talking about home teaching, but he reminds me that a little more attention can help my efforts move from occasional to more consistent.

You may have learned endurance playing a trumpet, or throwing a football, or riding a bucking horse, or drawing a picture. But you learned what we all did. Effort only “now and then” didn’t take you far. The dreams that turned into reality stuck with you nearly all the time. You worked at them, either in fact or in your thoughts, every day and almost every hour.

President Uchtdorf is a master at reminding us to get up, get over it, and move on. In You Can Do it Now, these words encourage me to keep working on my goals for my own growth and not worry about the rest:

No one likes to fail. And we particularly don’t like it when others—especially those we love—see us fail. We all want to be respected and esteemed. We want to be champions. But we mortals do not become champions without effort and discipline or without making mistakes.

Brethren, our destiny is not determined by the number of times we stumble but by the number of times we rise up, dust ourselves off, and move forward.

Finally, the talk Stay on the True Course by Elder Carlos Asay reminded me that I am more likely to be successful if I keep my eyes on the Savior and trust that when I do fall, he will be quick to save and get me on my feet again.

The need to remain focused on eternal goals is illustrated in the biblical account of Jesus walking on the sea and Peter’s desire to do the same. Peter progressed over the water so long as he looked to Christ. But when he diverted his gaze away from the Master and allowed fear and doubt to enter in, he began to sink. … We must reaffirm the goal that matters most and press toward it “looking forward with an eye of faith” (Alma 32:40).

So if you’re in a mid-January state of disappointment, pull out your resolutions again, get on your knees again, and get back to work. And give yourself permission to repeat the process as needed. I think we might be doing better than we give ourselves credit for.

Merry Christmas.

Today I’m feeling so much about Jesus Christ.
So happy he was born.
So awed he died.
So grateful He lives.
He is All that is Holy and Good.
There’s nothing to do about that except celebrate and follow Him the best I can.

This is my favorite Christmas song, “What Child is This?” My favorite part (while thinking about all He is and was and will be): “This! This is Christ the King.”

What child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The Baby, the son of Mary.

So bring him incense, gold, and myrrh,
Come, peasant, king, to own him.
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone him.
Raise, raise a song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The baby, the Son of Mary.

Merry Christmas.