A Christmas without Santa

A year ago today, I finished my service as a missionary for
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
On my long plane ride home, one consistent thought plagued my mind–



There are lots of reasons that young members of the church choose to serve missions.
For me, it had something to do with debt.

I had this sense, from the time I was a little girl, that I was very blessed.
I knew that God had given me a good life;
And I was grateful.
I wanted to share the ultimate source of my happiness and peace.
I thought that if I could devote 18 months of my time to God,
I could somehow prove the gratitude that I felt.
My service would manifest the love I had for Him–
And I could “write off” all that I owed.
After my sacrifice, we would be even.

So I volunteered.
I was assigned to share the gospel in the Philippines.
And oh, how my perspective was changed.

I’ll never forget the moment that started my shift;
It was Christmastime,
I was walking down the street, eating a cupcake.
A young boy, with round, wanting eyes and rotted teeth, ran up to me–
He stuck his hand out, asking for my treat.
I had just finished the last bite and held only the paper wrapper remains;
I regrettably told him it was all gone
And that I was so sorry…
He grabbed the empty paper and popped it, immediately, into his mouth,
Swallowing it whole.
Then his bare feet and scrawny legs ran away;
His dirty, oversized shirt, overwhelming his disappearing frame.

After the shock subsided, I recognized what desperation meant.
My heart broke and the tears came.
I couldn’t sleep that night…
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the last time I saw hunger, struggle, or suffering.
And it was difficult for me to swallow.

I started to realize that I had never comprehended the gravity of my blessings.
18 months would not be an adequate “thank you”…
I could never repay God,
Especially, since there was never any money in my account to begin with.
My very life was already given as a gift from Him,
He granted my daily breath.
I also recognized His added love, hand, and help consistently;
He had given me a body, family, knowledge, opportunity, freedom, faith, agency, mercy…
Countless treasures that I had so ignorantly overlooked.
All this, on top of my already “borrowed” life.
I suddenly knew that even an eternity of devoted service, would still land me on the left.
In the hole.

When this understanding came, I panicked.
I recognized my own nothingness before my Maker.
The anxiety, worthlessness, and guilt welled up inside of me…
Until, one day,
God mercifully soothed my aching soul.
The thought came to my mind,

You were never meant to pay the debt.


That’s why He sent His perfect Son.
To make up the difference.
To bridge the gap.
To pay the unfathomable, insurmountable price–
For me. For you. For the whole human race.
And the most amazing miracle of all–
His grace is ENOUGH.
It is sufficient for all,
After ALL we can do.

So I found CHRISTmas in the Philippine rice-fields.

I felt God’s love for those people, like I’ve never felt during my existence.
I loved them like He did.
And I knew perfectly well that He loved them just as much as He loved me…
So why was it that I was born where I was born?
Why was it that I grew up going to Christmas parties, when this boy had never heard of Santa Claus?
Why was it that I didn’t have to wonder each day if I would eat?

I don’t yet fully understand all the reasons why…
But this much I do know,
Christ’s atonement was for us all.
We are all offered the same opportunity to come home.
To claim grace.
But the definition of “after ALL we can do” is very individual
and dependent on the given circumstances of our lives.
I will be accountable to a different degree,
because of my situation, opportunity, or blessings.

“Where much is given, much is required.”

The indebtedness that I felt was real;
But I was mistaken in thinking that a simple 18 months was sufficient to serve Him.
I owe my life to Him.
I don’t have to fight every day to survive,
So I can, and must, spend a lot more time and energy on serving His children.
It is my greatest pleasure and privilege to try to give
ALL that I am for ALL of my life…
So I’m worthy to claim His grace.
How overwhelmed and overjoyed I am–
That He already paid the debt.

Hopefully, we can all “remember” the reason for the season.
Why it is that we celebrate Christmas…
He is our greatest gift.
And we owe Him our best love, gratitude, and efforts;
This time of year, and always.




All women want to feel beautiful.

But there’s a sad and awful truth about most of us.
No matter what we have,
We never believe we’re good enough–
Pretty enough, skinny enough, tall enough, tan enough.
If we have curves.. we want less.
If we have less.. we want curves.
Bigger eyes, thinner thighs, smaller feet, longer hair.

With so many features and such variety on the physical frame,
The possibilities for critiquing are truly endless.


I went to a conference last week at UVU.
Stephanie Nielson,
the woman who was 80% burned in a terrible plane crash,
was the speaker.

She spoke of her life before;
her dreams, family, and aspirations.
She then described her accident, recovery, and experiences since.

Although her physical pain was no doubt excruciating,
Her explanations of emotional trauma were even more distressing.

She described the first time she saw her reflection after her accident.
Working up the courage just to face the mirror, took over 5 months.
She panned up from her chest.. analyzing her chin, lips, nose…
Parts of ‘her’ that no longer looked like her.
She said the panic and pain rose–
Until she found her eyes.
Her eyes were the same. Green with gold specks.

Although there were many moments of strength and peace,
Stephanie battled daily the depression and devastation of her new reality.
She said sometimes she didn’t feel like a woman anymore.
More like a monster.
And at first, she never wanted her children to see her again.
She longed to look as she did before. To move as she once did.
To live like she always had.


It hit me, in that moment, how heartbreaking it is that we scrutinize or detest parts of our physical appearance.
What if what we do have– was taken away?
Wouldn’t we all plead to have it returned? Restored?
Wouldn’t we love and long for that part…
The part that we used to loathe?


Stephanie was asked by the audience what essential steps she took to start loving herself again.
Her answer,
“I looked for the good in and around me. So I could feel grateful…
Mostly, I learned to love myself because I knew the alternative.
And I didn’t like that alternative.”


I started asking myself what exactly she meant…
What is the alternative to loving yourself?

Self-consciousness. Hate. Criticism. Doubt. Frustration. Fear. Discouragement. Depression.
Forgotten blessings.
Missed opportunities.
Unrealized potential.
Wasted life.


I was at Lake Powell this last summer with my family.
One morning, I went to put my swimsuit on
and just stared at myself in the mirror.
From my toes to the top of my head,
I analyzed everything that was ‘wrong’ with me.
Those negative, and all too familiar, thoughts and feelings filled my mind.

But this time, another thought entered…
“I am 22 years old. I’m in the prime of my life.
My physical ‘looks’ will only age and digress from here.
If I can’t learn to love myself now–
What makes me think I ever will in the future?”

I realized that loving myself had to begin that very day.
I wasn’t going to spend my life feeling negative.
‘I didn’t like that alternative.’
After all, I have a strong, healthy body that breathes and moves.
A heart that beats and understands.
Eyes that see, a nose that smells,
Hands that can lift and serve.

And isn’t that beautiful?
Shouldn’t my physical frame merit some adoration for what it DOES and CAN do…
Instead of criticism for its limitations or perceived ‘imperfections’?
Culture and society cannot decide and define what is an ideal body…
So why do we let them?

The truth is, being beautiful isn’t about physicality at all.
Stephanie was proof of this.
Although her frame had been burned and scarred…
Her soul radiated absolute loveliness.

Beauty is confidence.
Happiness. Selflessness. Gratitude. Goodness.
Beauty is loving yourself;
So that ultimately, you can love others.
It is IN you.
So embrace yourself today and be Be[YOU]tiful.

The Truth About Weddings

Let me share a little something about getting married.
The wedding day is anticipated to be the crowning event of every girls’ existence…
We’ve built up to it for years;
Watching videos, swooning over gorgeous couples, making our perfect Pinterest boards.
The day we’ve dreamt of all our young lives.

When my time finally came,
I realized it wasn’t just picking out my favorite dress and being in love.
There was A LOT of preparation that went into it.
I had to make endless decisions… expensive ones…
About things I didn’t really care about.

Table cloths, cake flavors, party favors, invites, venues,
center pieces, tents, flowers, signs, vases, food…

Trust me, the list goes on and on.

Planning became my day job.
And not just mine…
It was a total family affair.

I started wondering as the day came closer, if it was really worth it.
“Why are we not just taking this money and going to Hawaii with the fam?”
“Why didn’t we choose to just do a dinner with close friends and call it good?”
“Why spend our day stuck in line, exhausted, talking to a bajillion of our parent’s friends we hardly know.”
By the time all these thoughts had surfaced,
We had invested and the invitations were printed.
There was no going back.

So I decided a few things beforehand…
I was done worrying about the fluff.
I was going to enjoy this day and remember what it was REALLY all about.
Love. Family. Eternity.
Celebrating the beginning of life with Park.

You best believe we were gonna celebrate.

August 21, 2015.
The day we thought would never come– finally did.
I must admit,

It honestly was the GREATEST celebration of my entire life.

Which I almost hate to say,
Because it adds to the stereotypes and false expectations.
But it was absolutely magical;
I just want you to know WHY.

Not because my hair and make-up were amazing…
They most definitely weren’t.
Not because we had the most delicious cake…
Ours didn’t show up until 9pm— lopsided and the wrong color.
Not because everything ran smoothly…
We had some definite hiccups along the way.

It was the most wonderful day of my life because;

I promised myself and my all– to my closest friend.
I felt great peace and confidence that I had chosen the person to best complement and complete me.

I celebrated with all of my existing family.
I gained another amazing family.
I started my very own family.

We felt so flooded with love from our friends, relatives, and neighbors.
Days before, many started serving, setting up, and preparing for us.
We watched people work from morning to night..
just so we could enjoy our day.

So many came to support us and show their excitement.
Family, old friends, teachers, loved ones—
People who had impacted our lives in some way… were there.

I can’t put into words the gratitude we felt by the time the night ended;
It was humbling and overwhelming.
Park might have shed a tear or two…
And even though my cheeks ached,
I couldn’t wipe the stupid grin off my face.

So what I really want to say,
is THANK YOU to everyone who made it so special.
It will be a forever highlight of our lives.


I also learned though, that a wedding is just that–
A highlight.
Not the crowning moment of existence.
Life doesn’t build to that day…
And then decline.
At least, it doesn’t have to.

August 21st was a wonderful beginning.
My new opportunity to share everything with the person I love most–
Adventure, trial, stress, growth, fun, sacrifice, love, aging, children, dreams, struggles…
Our relationship offers happiness to seize and potential to develop.
God wants us to progress through adversity together,
While finding joy in the journey.
Learning to work through the bad and focus on the good.

The greatest wedding truth–
There’s no more end to us and our relationship.
We hold the promise of eternity.
What a beautiful promise it is.



One of my favorite childhood stories is You are Special by Max Lucado.
It’s about a little community of wooden people called Wemmicks.
All day, every day the Wemmicks do the same thing—
They give each other stickers.
Gold stars or grey dots.
The beautiful Wemmicks— the smart ones, the talented ones— receive gold stars.
Grey dots are for the clumsy, the unattractive, the simple-minded.
One little Wemmick, Punchinello, had acquired a lot of dots.
Sometimes Wemmicks gave him dots, just because they saw that he already had so many…
Punchinello was so overwhelmed, he didn’t want to go outside most days;
Obviously, a wooden person with so many bad marks, wasn’t worth anything at all.
One day, he met a Wemmick who had no stars and no dots.
Punchinello was fascinated; he had never seen anyone like her.
He learned from his Carpenter the reason she was sticker-less…
“The stickers only stick if you let them.”


In the world of every woman there are critics.
Critics who try to peg us with a certain value…
The first one we greet every morning is the mirror.
Every zit, extra pound, or surfacing wrinkle stares back at us.
We pick and pinch and panic…
Trying to make presentable our mess of a self–
that apparently hasn’t grasped the concept of ‘beauty sleep’.
The critics sneak in next through the phone.
We can scroll through pins and insta feeds and find signs of perfection.
Perfect outfits, perfect vacations, perfect relationships, perfect bodies…
Seemingly perfect lives.
We might go to school or work or the gym—
Judgements, verbal or not, are passed by peers, friends, and even strangers.
We zero in on our perceived flaws,
They become insecurities…
Stuck, like stickers, at the forefront of our thoughts.
Although we are surrounded by competition, comparison, and judgement,
We often become our own worst critics
The stickers only stick if you let them.


At first, Punchinello can’t comprehend that the stickers don’t matter,
Or that he’s worth more than his marks.
The Carpenter, his creator, teaches him another important lesson;
“Remember, you are special because I made you.
And I don’t make mistakes.”
He assures the little Wemmick that he loves him and that he’s important.
As Punchinello turns to leave,
he starts to think the Carpenter might just be telling the truth…
As he does, one of his grey dots slips to the ground.


There was a time in my life when I had acquired a lot of my own dots.

I was on a college cheer team;
I constantly compared my body and skills against my teammates.
My grades were worse than they had ever been.
I was in love.
My boyfriend and I were making plans to be married–
(I had my dress, we had a date)
Until he called one day… and called everything off.
I can’t describe the devastation, embarrassment, and insecurity I experienced at that time.
I didn’t feel good about anything, especially myself.
My failures hung heavy;
Grey dots, blatant and obvious, for all the world to see.
With destroyed self-esteem, I went to see a counselor.
I’ll never forget his advice.
He told me that whenever I felt worthless, alone, or weak…
I should picture myself in the same room with my Maker–
Try to imagine what He might say.
I thought my encounter with Him, might be a lot like Punchinello’s with the Carpenter.
“…I made you. And I don’t make mistakes.”
The more I thought about it, the more I believed it.
I started to shed my own marks as I remembered–
I was loved and valued by Him. 
Communing with my Creator became a daily essential.
It brought sweet peace to my heart and belonging to my soul;
Providing protection from the world’s marks.
The more time I spend with Him, the more I understand
who I am.
I am special–
Important and worthwhile simply because
He doesn’t make mistakes.


I had to share this little video Park put together!
I’ve always loved watching his work–
He has a way of helping others see the world the way he does.
Each one has a little piece of his soul.
Hope you enjoy as much as I do ♥



In honor of my recent engagement,
I wanted to share a little about why I chose to marry Park.
Of course there are lots of reasons–
But for today, how he helps me embrace my essence.

Parker and I have been friends for a lot of years.
7 to be exact.
Before he left to serve an LDS mission, he wrote me a letter.
He thanked me for being a good person,
And said that it was who I was, more than how I looked
that made me attractive to him.

That was the first time a boy had ever suggested to me
my insides were more important than my out.

After he came home, I was 17 and finally able to date;
But I was young, immature, and afraid of commitment.
(Like most 17 year olds… in my defense)
Over the course of the next 3 years, I drove the poor guy crazy.
I was attracted to him and loved the way I felt around him,
So I couldn’t stay too far away…
But I would never let myself get too close either.

He took me out and we casually spent time together, on and off, over all those years.
We built a great friendship.
Park was there for me in some of the hardest and most confusing times of my life.
He never pushed me, or tried to take our relationship to a romantic level.
He knew I wasn’t ready and he was willing to just wait.

I always knew he cared a lot about me,
And it was a real kind of love.
Not just passionate or shallow…
But the stuff that would stay.

As I got older and wiser,
I realized that boys I dated actually liked me for different reasons.
They were each drawn to unique aspects of my looks or personality.
I started to notice that I would feed the parts of myself that were most important to that specific boy…

If he appreciated my sense of humor or humility,
I’d try to be more fun or humble.
If he liked my energy and drive,
I’d be more energetic and driven.
If he was attracted to my body and looks,
I’d spend more time at the gym and hair salon.

I came to understand that I needed a boy who loved all the most important parts of me;
Because those were the parts I would focus on.
The parts I would feed.

After so many years of Park supporting my dreams and potential–
I started to realize he had always believed in me and recognized my best traits.
He encouraged goodness, confidence, strength and spirituality.
I was my best self
and closest to the person I wanted to be,
when I was with him.

After I finally got home from my mission,
It was obvious to me that he was exactly what I wanted and needed.

He’s proven to be just that.

I’m a perfectionist,
One of my greatest struggles is loving and accepting myself.
When I get overwhelmed by my weaknesses or too critical of my flaws…
He tells me he loves me,
That I am enough,
And he just wants me to “love myself the way he does.”

I feel like it’s the same sort of thing God wants to say,
Not just to me.. but to girls everywhere;
So, although it’s cliche,
I’m convinced he’s ‘heaven sent.’

I’ve learned we can’t rely solely on others to supply our self-esteem, peace, or fulfillment…
So I’m not suggesting that having a ‘Parker’
fixes my insecurities, or makes me into a perfect person.
But through his encouragement, patience, and love–
He’s helped me recognize just how important my own essence is.
If I just feed the best parts of me, the parts he appreciates most–
I’ll be happy, healthy, and whole.
The kind of ‘me’ I’ve always hoped to be.

I adore him.



I had a lot of fun putting together this video about motherhood!
The only problem is, it took a little longer than I anticipated…
But I decided we could all make a more conscious effort to ALWAYS remember and revere the mothers in our lives,
Instead of just celebrating them once a year.

So here’s to EVERY DAY being Mother’s Day!

I can’t post and pass up the opportunity to highlight my own mom.
There are a million things I love about her…
But this year, I’m especially grateful for her “motherly intuition”.
I don’t know if all moms magically come with spidey senses?
But my Tam Tam just knows what’s up.

Her greatest desire is the success and happiness of her children;
That love, teamed with her wisdom, make her the perfect
and confidant.
She not only wants what’s best for me, but she knows what that ‘best’ is.
I adore her.

Why Essence?

So I have this theory…
And a gut feeling that with your help, we could change the world.
All my lady friends out there–
Tune in, because this is for you.

I think we can all agree there are a lot of problems in today’s society.
For whatever reason, we are losing touch with what it really means to be a woman.
Which is resulting in all sorts of madness–

Problems like:
teen pregnancy, prostitution, substance abuse, self-mutilation,
eating disorders, depleted self-esteem,
lost fulfillment in marriage and motherhood, depression,
abusive relationships, pornography, forgotten priorities,
mid-life crises, infidelity, immodesty, promiscuity…

The list goes on and on.

I believe that all these problems stem from one simple thing..
Or ultimately, the lack of it.


The dictionary explains essence as being:
and core.

In other words, what we really are.
Not just a BODY,
but also a SPIRIT.
Essence is the “stuff” that makes up our soul.
When we forget our core or that which gives us substance,
We lose essence.
We lose ourselves.

With confused and forgotten worth, we don’t
demand respect,
find healthy relationships,
or ever become comfortable in our own skin.

Embracing essence becomes vital to our health, happiness, fulfillment, and success in life.
Every woman can claim the beauty and gifts that come with being uniquely feminine,
And the joy that results from being true to herself.

This blog won’t necessarily be about me or my life,
But a place to share struggles, strengths, and solutions.
So I’d love to hear from you!
I’ll be posting tips and principles to help every woman embrace her own essence–
As I’m embracing mine.

Stay Tuned.
Much Love ♥
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