6 Year Baptisversary

6 Year Baptisversary

Six years ago today I did the single best thing I’ll ever do for myself.  Going in I was really nervous, but at the same time very sure of what I needed to do and what Heavenly Father needed me to do.

My caregiver and I change into all white for my baptism.

My caregiver and I change into all white for my baptism.

Only six weeks prior I was bound to a wheelchair due to debilitating joint pain, but that day I walked on my own to feet toy all sogrens kydrome.   all white.  My friend was in white as well so she could help me downt he steps into deeper water only to wait shivering back at the waters edge while she watched and waited help me out again.

With a smile and a nod bewteen me and the young missionary performing the ordinance, I sat down in a chair.  With a tip of the chair I  was completely submerged backwards.  Under the water for that split second was so serene, and as I came up out of the water I felt a inner calm, and sweet delicate peace that would never leave me.

The day was March 7th 2010.  It was the day I was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  The following Sunday I was confirmed a member of the church and received the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

With the elders before my baptism

With the elders before my baptism

The decision to get baptized has infintely blesssed my life.  From the sweet calm in my soul that the Spirit brings to the love I feel for and from my Heavenly Father and my savior Jesus Christ to the life long friends I’ve made and to the knowledge have about Heavenly Father’s plan and purpsoe for me, I am so grateful to have these tender mercies in my life.  And to commemorate my baptism, I painted this page in my illustrated scripture study journal.

6 Year Baptiversary Painting

Alma 7:14-16

14 Now I say unto you that ye must repent, and be born again; for the Spirit saith if ye are not born again ye cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye may be washed from your sins, that ye may have faith on the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, who is mighty to save and to cleanse from all unrighteousness.

15 Yea, I say unto you come and fear not, and lay aside every sin, which easily doth beset you, which doth bind you down to destruction, yea, come and go forth, and show unto your God that ye are willing to repent of your sins and enter into a covenant with him to keep his commandments, and witness it unto him this day by going into the waters of baptism.

16 And whosoever doeth this, and keepeth the commandments of God from thenceforth, the same will remember that I say unto him, yea, he will remember that I have said unto him, he shall have eternal life, according to the testimony of the Holy Spirit, which testifieth in me.

Read About My 4 Year Baptism Anniversary

Read About My 3 Year Baptism Anniversary

Read About My First Baptism Anniversary

Crafting My Testimony

Crafting My Testimony

 

Illustrated Scripture Journal - Moroni 10:2-5

Illustrating your scripture notes can help you gain deeper insight into even the most familiar scripture.

Sometimes despite all we do, it can feel like our testmonies are hanging on by a unraveling thread.  It’s so easy for us as mere mortals, to get sucked into the humdrum of life.  We feel out of control.  We percieve ourselves as victims of either circumstances outside our control or at the mercy of other peole’s harmful decisions.  How easly we forget or even give up our agency, our ability to act for ourselves, to make our own decisions, and to reep either the rewards or consequesces of our actions because we forget who we are.  We forget we are children of a dvine being.  We forget that Heavenly Father’s greatest power is also His greatest gift to us.  We forget that just like our Father in Heaven, we too are creators.

As creators we aren’t just bystanders in the game of life.  We are the players.  But when it feels like we are just watching everything happen around us, we do better to remember that we have the same creative spark in us as Heavenly Father does.  Whether it is exercising our ability to create human llife or singing a hymn, creativity brings us closer to the the unvierse’s preeminent creator, God.

As I said, sometimes my testimony feels like it is just hanging on.  I”ve come to realize that this is a result of me ceasing to be a creator in my own life.  I get caught up in fear and worry and anger, and forget to use creativity in all asepcts of my life.

I’ve decided to counteract this tendency by using creativity to enhance my testimony.

I hadn’t been able to go to the Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in a very long time due to one prologued hospitalization after another.  To bring my focus back to the Temple, a friend and I made custom Temple Recommend Holders  We used scrap paper and the We R Memory Keepesrs Photo Sleeve Fuse tool.  I added sequins and a mini key inside to shake areound.  I got to go to the Temple two weeks ago and it was fun to use my new holder.

Handmade Temple Reccomend Holder

Handmade Temple Reccomend Holder

I’ve had a hard time with Scripture Study lately.  With all the time in the hosptial, it’s hard to stay with a good habbit.  I decided I need to study and ponder the scriptures more than just read them to really have a desire to read every single day.

I decided to start an illustrated scripture journal.  I’ll make an entry for my favorite scriptures I encounter each day and week. Here’s what you need to know to make your own:

  1. Illustrating the Book of Mormon

    Affix the scripture onto the journal page

    Search The Scriptures

  2. Find a scripture you want to journal while doing your daily scripture study.  Look for somethign that jumps out to you and speaks to your heart.  Listen to the Holy Ghost. He will guide you to the right scripture.  I chose Moroni 10:2-5.

  3. Trim It
  4. Cut out the sripture you’d like to use  out of an inexpenive extra missionary copy of the Book of Mromon.  (Actually to do this properly you’ll need two Books of scripture – one for the front sides of the pages and one for the back side of the pages.)

  5. Affix Your Verses
  6. Glue the scripture to a page in an art journal.  I used a journal with watercolor paper so I could use water-colors and other mediums in it.

  7. Take Colorful Notes

    Take notes on the scripture in vivid colors of words and images.

    Mark It Up

  8. Mark the scriptures with the words and phrases you want to highlight or that are especially meaningful to you.  For this I use Staedtler Triplus Finelliner Pens because they have an exceptionally small felt tip point and don’t bleed easily.

  9. Illsutrate with Inspiration
  10. Using watercolor colored pencils, draw your thoughts on the scripture in words and images.  This really made me think about the deeper meanings contained within the versus I chose.

  11. Continue to Illustrate

    When using watercolor colored-pencils, started painting water over parts of the illustration.

    Make it Vivid

  12. If you are using water colored color-pencils, next go over all your drawings with a paintbursh and clear water.  This will make all the colors blend and appear more vivbrant.

  13. In The Details
  14. Finally, go back over the words and other key drawings with felt tip, metallic, and other kinds of pens.  Make sure you title the journal page with the scripture reference and date.  Add a page number in the lower left corner, so that Iyou can make a table of contents of all the scriptures in the front of the journal.

Not only am I pleased with what I created, but I learned a lot more from this intense and creative study session than I had during many attempts to sit down and read scriptures.

Illustrated Scripture Journal - Moroni 10:2-5

Add details with metallic or other pens.

Maintaining a testimony can be difficult when life doesn’t go the way we want, but I have a testimony that as we engage in our divine creative abilities we will realize our potential, purpose, and a relationship that’s closer to Heavenly Father and Christ than we ever realized.

Paradox of Man

Paradox of Man

Sometimes being human can be painfully lonely.  It’s amazing to me how alone I can feel sometimes even knowing I have a loving family and a caring circle of friends who mean the world to me.  At times I think this very essential sense of loneliness originates from the feeling of being dwarfed by the universe.  Thoughts might come like, “If I’m just a speck in this great vastness, what do I mean to the bigger picture?  How do I fit in?  How do I even matter?  What difference can I even really make when there’s so many others out here.”

I came across this quote on my best friend’s mission blog.  Sister Eskander is currently on a mission for the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  This quote was by Dieter F. Uchtdorf, an Apostle in the LDS Church.  It read:

This is a paradox of man: compared to God, man is nothing; yet we are everything to God. While against the backdrop of infinite creation we may appear to be nothing, we have a spark of eternal fire burning within our breast. We have the incomprehensible promise of exaltation—worlds without end—within our grasp. And it is God’s great desire to help us reach it.
– DIETER F. UCHTDORF, You Matter To Him

This does more than answer my questions.  It brings peace and comfort to my soul.  Through the knowledge in this Gospel, I know who I really am. – a Spirit child of God.  I know the the bigger picture and my role in it.  I know how much I matter to my Heavenly Father.  And I know the difference I can make.

I loved this quote so much I decided to design an illustration to go with it.  I sent one to Sister Eskander, and now I’ll share it with you.  To help us all remember who we really our.  Our eternal heritage and exalted potential.

Paradox of Man Illustration1

This is a paradox of man: compared to God, man is nothing; yet we are everything to God. While against the backdrop of infinite creation we may appear to be nothing, we have a spark of eternal fire burning within our breast. We have the incomprehensible promise of exaltation—worlds without end—within our grasp. And it is God’s great desire to help us reach it. - DIETER F. UCHTDORF, <a href="https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2011/10/you-matter-to-him?lang=eng">You Matter To Him</a>

This is a paradox of man: compared to God, man is nothing; yet we are everything to God. While against the backdrop of infinite creation we may appear to be nothing, we have a spark of eternal fire burning within our breast. We have the incomprehensible promise of exaltation—worlds without end—within our grasp. And it is God’s great desire to help us reach it.
– DIETER F. UCHTDORF, You Matter To Him

You Matter To Him – Dieter F. Uchtdorf

The Lord uses a scale very different from the world’s to weigh the worth of a soul.

 

1If you repost this illustration please give me credit and link back to this post! Thanks!

Be Mine: Valentine’s Day

Be Mine: Valentine’s Day

Today was Valentine’s Day.  That means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.  So whether you thought today was  a day to eat lots of chocolate or a day to send lots of love notes or even a day made up by a card company, I think today was a good reminder to appreciate the love we have in our lives.  Sometimes it’s overwhelming to think about how much I’m blessed with love in my life.  It’s  funny, even though I occasionally have feelings of loneliness or not being cared for, when I start really thinking about the blessing of love in my life, I realize my cup is overflowing.

 

Valentine's Day Love Card Front

Valentine’s Day Love Card Front

One main source of love in my life is my friends and family.  Their love and support through even the darkest of times strengthen me.  And I have some much love for them in return.  One of the main ways I show my love is through crafting.  So I made some Valentine’s to give to some of my closest loved one.

Valentine's Jar Flowers Card Front

Valentine’s Jar Flowers Card Front

Best Friends Love Heart Valentine's Day Card Front

Best Friends Love Heart Valentine’s Day Card Front

Valentine's Jar Flowers Card Inside

Valentine’s Jar Flowers Card Inside

Best Friends Love Heart Valentine's Day Card Inside

Best Friends Love Heart Valentine’s Day Card Inside

Unfortunately Valentine’s Day only lasts one day, and now it’s already come to a close… until next year. But all the grand Valentine’s gestures don’t have to be a once a year thing. Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t wait to shower each other with tons of extra signs of affection until there was a designated day? I for one want to strive to spread a little bit more Valentine’s Day love during the other 364 days of the year.

So what can you do to keep the Valentine’s Day spirit year round?

  1. Love Connection

    Text, Email, or Call your loved ones to let them know you care and are thinking of them.

  2. As You Wish

    Tell the people in your life, “I love you” often and sincerely.

  3. Sweet Gifts

    Little token gifts now and then make loved ones feel remembered.  Remember it’s not about how much you spend, but about how much thought you put into it.  It can even be something handmade like a card.

  4. Heart to Heart

    The most profound way to show your love is simply by being there for your loved one as they experience the ups and downs of life.  Be a listening and compassionate ear!

What other ideas do you have to create an atmosphere of Valentine’s Day love all year round? Please leave your suggestions in the comments!

Fancy Valentine - John 3:16

VALENTINE
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
John 3:16

Sand Through My Fingers

Sand Through My Fingers

"And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours.  And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more." D&C 78:18-19

Riches of Eternity
created by Lauren Soffer

Life is hardly ever what we expect it to be.  The harder we try to plan out our lives, the more God shows us that He has bigger things in store for us.  Like when you try to hold sand in the palm of your hand.  Relax your grip completely on your life and the pieces of your life all fall through the cracks.  Plan your life too tightly and it all starts to slip through your fingers despite your best efforts.  But God’s hands are infinite.  He can hold all the sand of our lives and more.  He won’t let any sand slip away if we allow Him to help us hold it.  We simply have to turn to Him and ask for His help, love and guidance in ALL things.

Sand in it’s size is much like the minutia of our lives.  Tiny in the grand scheme of things.  When struggling to hang on to the little granules, we often forget to pull back and see the larger picture.  We are worried about loosing a few grains of sand when we are standing on the beaches of infinite blessings if we would only look around and realize it.  Not that each grain isn’t important, but we shouldn’t let it distract us from remembering who we are and where we are going as divine children of Heavenly Father on our journey back to Him.

But in the topsy turviness of life, all this is all to easy to forget.  And suddenly you aren’t just loosing sand, you’re up to you’re being consumed, even suffocated by it.

A few months and a lifetime ago… or back in November, I celebrated my 30th Birthday with a Mocktail Soiree.  I was surrounded by numerous friends and family and had a wonderful time.  I was in good health, and I was able to walk around the party.  That night was a high point for me, and I had no idea I was headed for a very low point just a week or so later.  I had plans for how I would spend the next several months.  Plans I intended to keep.

Lauren's 30th Birthday Mocktail Soiree

Lauren’s 30th Birthday Mocktail Soiree

Then a series of events led to a serious health decline that landed me in the hospital with my life at stake.  A series of serious infections caused the autoimmune disease I have, Myasthenia Gravis, to flare making me unable to breathe on my own so that I required a ventilator just a week after my party.

Life is strange.  Unpredictable and sometimes difficult to comprehend.

As I fought for my life in the hospital, some might wonder if I was left asking why God would allow me to withstand this hardship.  Why would God allow me to suffer so much?  And if that’s the case, what does it say about God?

In the World, Not of the World by Greg Olsen

In the World, Not of the World by Greg Olsen

To which I would answer, I asked nothing of the sort.  Though it might be tempting to blame God when things go “wrong” in our lives, that is an entirely counterproductive approach.  Heavenly Father provides us trials in our lives as a backdrop against which to bloom and grow.  Without it we would never progress and become more like our divine parents.  My health trials have given me a chance to learn things about myself that I may not have otherwise (or may have taken much longer to learn otherwise).  I have become more sensitive to the needs of others and to my own needs.  I have become more introspective and intuitive.  I have gained faith and perspective that even the seemingly worst things come with spiritual gifts.

He also gives us trials as a chance to practice choosing and agency – or being utilizers of His gift of freewill.  When we exercise our divine right of freewill and choose good, we can grow closer to Heaven Father.

It is hard to see this larger picture when in the moment.  Just like it is hard to see the beach for what it is when grappling with the granules of sand.  But when we put the sand of our lives in God’s capable and infinitely wise hands the landscapes of eternity will become more apparent to us.  And for that we will be blessed even more than we can fathom now.

“And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours.

 

And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.”

 

D&C 78:18-19

Sandy Hands

Sand slips through fingers.

Feel The Love:  Helping a Loved One Through a Difficult or Life Threatening Hospital Stay

Feel The Love: Helping a Loved One Through a Difficult or Life Threatening Hospital Stay

It’s been a long nine weeks.  Another nine long weeks I’ve spent in the hosptial with whole month spent in the ICU.  I’m supposed to go home in the morning finally.  I’m hesitantly relieved.  I don’t want to be disappointed.

Being in the hosptial for any period of time is really hard.  Probably one of the hardest if not the hardest thing I’ll ever have to do.  Espeically when the stay is super long and the reason is life threatening involving ICUs, ventillators, comas, and the like, it’s especially important to feel the love of those around me, to know that I am not alone in this.

And my friend and family have really risen to the occasion over the last 9 weeks.  I couldn’t be more grateful for everything they’ve done for me.  They have been my emotional and spirital life support while on physical life support most of the time in the hosptial.  I can’t thank them enough.

When your friend or family memeber is extremely ill in the hosptial and ICU it’s hard to know what to do or say.  Here’s some of what I appreciated the most to serve as an idea guide to helping support someone through a rough hosptial stay:

  1. Call or text ahead.
    Let the person or the family memeber staying with them that you are coming so they can be prepared or let you know if its not a good time.  For example, the person might be in a proceedure or be sleeping when you plan on coming.
  2. Ask what you can bring. Often times ICUs have restrictions on live flowers and other things that can be brought in.  Very sick patients often have dietary restrictions, allergies, or simply aren’t eating at all.  Don’t be afriad to come right out and ask what the situation is before you bring something.  Your thoughtfulness will be appreciated.
  3. Bring reminders of life outside the hosptial. The most amazing awesome thing my friends did for me was decorate every inch of my room with photos and artwork and Christmas decorations for the holiday.  My friend Katy took photos off my own facebook accooutn and got them printed out and posted them in a giant collage covering an entire wall under the window to remind me of all my friends and happier times.  I have photos of my dog, myself as a kid doing fun things, my family, and other fun stuff.  She also took a calendar with photos of Christ which is extremely important to me as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and got them laminated then hung them all over another wall.  That allowed me to feel the Spirit of God in my hosptial room and be constantly reminded of my Savior’s and God’s love for me.  Other friends decorated for Christmas since I spenddt the holidays in the hosptial as well.  They put up gingerbread men, wreaths, garlands and more.  My mmom got me a tiny Christmas tree and a star.  My room had to have been the most amazingly festive of the whole hosptial because everytime anyone came in to give to a treatment or do a proceedure the ooo’d and ahh’d over my decor!  It brought joy to everyone who entered my room, and especially me!  I am so grateful to everyone who took the time to do it
  4. Promote Health If you think that you are sick, don’t come and visit!  A person in the hosptial has a weakened immune system and can get much worse from a simple cold.
  5. Remember Their Other Family and Pets If you can offer to help out with their other family members who may also need things during this time as well as their pets who don’t stop needing walks, love and attention while your friend is in the hosptial for prolongued periods.
  6. Listen and Love The most important thing you can do is just listen, love and otherwise be a emotional and spiritual support while your loved one goes through this hard experience.  They need your listening ear to vent sometimes, to cry sometimes, to worry, and be angry sometimes.  They need your kind words to comfort always, to remind them you love them always, to be in their corner always, to boost them up when they are down, and to always be their friend and support and cheerleader.  Remind them how much they are loved and missed by everyone else.
  7. Visit!!! Phone calls and texts are great, but nothing beats an in person visit when you are lonely and scared in the hosptial for long periods of time.  And the longer the hosptial stay goes on the worse it feels, but the less people tend to remember to come because the novelty of it starts to wear off.  Don’t forget your friend is still going though it in the hospital just because it’s been going on for 2 months!
  8. Don’t Unload Don’t tell the person in the hosptial how hard it is for you to see them in the hosptial.  It only makes the patient feel like a burden.  Of course you are worried and stressed yourself but make sure you talk about it with someone who isn’t as close to the person as you are and definitely not the patient themselves.
  9. Be Yourself If all else fails just be yourself.  The person that the patient missed from when they were well and wants to see is YOU!  Don’t overly worry about what to say and how to act.  They just miss you and want to be with their friend or family member.  They want your company and comfort that only you know how to give because you are the only person who is you.  The worse thing you can do isn’t to say or do the wrong thing but to do nothing and make the patient feel completely forgotten about and abandoned by you.
  10. Bring Them Home! When your loved one in the hospital makes it home, don’t forget about them then either!  They often will be stuck at home for some time and need just as much love and attention brought to them there as they did in the hosptial.  So bring them home!

I am so grateful for my friends and family who did everything I just described above and so much more!  They made it possible for me to emotionally and spiritually survive this hosptial stay.  It really wouldn’t have been barable without all of you so thank you soooo much!!!  I am especially grateful to God and Christ.  They are always there for me and I know that this too shall pass and even this difficult trial I have endured will be for my benefit.  I know it is slowly and rather painfully shaping me into who I am to be someday.  But the pain was made less by some photobombs and a lot of love from friends and family.

Thank you!  Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!!!!!!

Reopening My Box of Hope

Reopening My Box of Hope

Wouldn’t it be amazing if, during our darkest hour, we could reach under our bed and open up a box of hope?  A “box of hope” could be a figurative thing that we reach inside ourselves or out to God to find.  But sometimes you need something more. Sometimes you need a literal box of hope.  And that is just what I created for myself during my darkest hour.

When I was 16 years old, during my senior year of high school, I was immersed in a deep and serious clinic depression.  My Obsessive Compulsive Disorder had just been diagnosed but was not yet under control.  I had constant intrusive thoughts of hurting myself – of ending my life.

Looking back I really had amazing self control on the whole.  But I could only handle so much.  The second time I caved in to the constant bombardment of intrusive images of self-harm, and I ended up cutting myself using razor blades my parents had forgotten to hide out in the garage.

Afterward I was on the phone with my therapist at the time.  She was telling me I was at a crossroads… that if I chose to continue down this path of cutting I would probably end up in a hospital.  I wasn’t really listening to what she was saying.  Instead, I was transfixed by what was sitting on the desk in front of me – the candle-lighting piece my mom had made for my younger sister’s Bat Mitzvah.  She had glued this tiny shells all over the outside of it go with my sister’s tropical theme.  And it struck me then with incredible intensity how very beautiful those tiny shells were – how simply amazing it was that something SO tiny could be SO beautiful.  And if something that tiny in life could be that beautiful… well all of life was beautiful and precious as well.

I rushed to get off the phone with my therapist.  I knew that I had to find a way to hang onto this feeling.  I had stumbled upon my internal box of hope!  But I knew that it wouldn’t be easy to tap into again.  I had to find a way to make it physical while it was fresh in my mind.  I had to find a way to remind myself of this epiphany every day because I knew there would be many dark days ahead where I would desperately need to draw on my box of hope.

So I had my mom (who is good at crafty things) help me cover an old shoe box with some bright pretty wrapping paper.  I wanted my box of hope to be private and inconspicuous on the outside.  I didn’t tell her what it was for, but perhaps sensing my urgency she kindly helped me anyway.  Then I took the box upstairs to my room and set to work.


IMG_1262Going through pictures and old magazines I decorated the inside of the box with things I wanted to do with my life, places I wanted to travel, people who cared about me, things that filled me with hope.  I hadn’t yet found out if I had gotten into USC Film School (a few months later I did), so I put a picture of a director’s chair with “USC Alumni” written on it.  I glued in some of the very shells that had led me to make the box to remind me of how beautiful life could be.

 

IMG_1263

I put a picture of myself as a child to remind myself of happy memories of my childhood innocence.  I was obsessed with The X-Files and desperately wanted to know how it would all end, so I put a picture of that as well.

Most importantly I wrote in large purple letters:

I CHOOSE TO CONTINUE LIVING

I WILL GET THROUGH THIS


IMG_1278Then it was time to fill the box.  Inside I placed a smiling drama mask to remind me of my love of theater and the creative arts since creativity had always sustained me during dark times and given me something to look forward to.


IMG_1265I placed my childhood comfort animals – my blanky, kitty, and lamby – inside.  Though nubby and threadbare from a lifetime of being loved the went into the box to remind me to always feel safe.


Next went the rug I wove myself while learning about Native Americans in elementary school.  I had always hated looking at it when I was younger because I hadn’t done it perfectly like my best friend Jennifer.  But over time I came to love it for it’s imperfections.  In the box, it reminded me that imperfection could be beautiful too!

IMG_1266


IMG_1277I put in a bracelet I made when I was 11.  All the beads were pretty by themselves but together well… it reminds me that you can have too much of a good thing.  But also to have fun and to have a sense of humor in all things.


IMG_1275Second to last I put in a rope I tediously made myself during Outdoor Education in 5th grade.  I spent over an hour with my hands going numb in an icy cold river laboriously pounding all the moisture out of a reed before braiding it into a rope.  It reminds me of the power of hard work.  And the rope itself, which could hold my whole body weight, reminds me to always be strong.


Finally I included a letter that saved my life one day.  I was home alone after school and feeling very suicidal.  I was searching for a knife to cut myself with.  Suddenly, I had a prompting to go check the mail before I got any further.  I almost never received any mail, but on that very day the following letter was there for me.

Letter

I cried when I read the letter.  It quite possibly saved my life that day.  I stopped looking for a knife and starting trying to figure out who could have sent it.  I didn’t think about hurting myself at all for the rest of that day.  The letter reminds me that I am loved even when I don’t realize it or it doesn’t feel that way, and that God is there working miracles in my life.


I looked at my box of hope every day for about a year. It got me through a lot of very dark hours and days and months. Then there came a time when I could carry my box of hope around with me in my heart, and I didn’t need to look at it so often.

Now it mostly sits in my closet, but I always know it is there if I need it.  But today I was talking with a friend who is going through a very dark time in her life, and I told her about it.  I offered to send her photos of it, but, I thought, why not go a step farther and share it here?  Perhaps there is someone else who needed a little box of hope today.

I first published this post on my Box of Hope in 2010 on my now mostly retired blog, NovelPatient which chronicled my life with multiple chronic illnesses.  At the time, I was surprised by how positively the post was received.  I have since realized that everyone needs a box of hope to draw on in times of trouble.  For most people that box is figurative.  But for me… my hope is now something I can pull out of the closest whenever I need it.  I can wrap myself in my blanky and see, feel, smell and touch the contents of box, encircled in eternal hope.

Has anyone else made a box of hope or something similar?  Please share and post about it in the comments!

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A Perfect Brightness of Hope

A Perfect Brightness of Hope

 Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.

2 Nephi 31:20, Book of Mormon

Yesterday my friend gave a talk in church, quoting this scripture.  It’s one of my all time favorites, and it inspired me to make this poster to hang on my wall to remind me of the importance of having a “perfect brightness of hope.”

Hope is what keeps me going most days.  It keeps me positive.  It helps me endure to the end.  Without hope I couldn’t have faith, which is hope in action.  Taking action increases my faith and that gives me more hope.  It builds upon each other wonderfully.

I am so grateful to have hope both in this life and hope in the next through my Savior Jesus Christ.  Through Him all things are possible.  Through His atoning sacrifice I can return to live with Him and my Heavenly Father again.  And that gives me eternal hope!

Feel free to download my poster. Or download the poster in black & white for easy printing.  I only ask that you please provide attribution and link back to this page when reposting the image!  Thanks and enjoy!

Crafting Handmade Greeting Cards

Crafting Handmade Greeting Cards

All Wrapped Up With A Bow Birthday Card

All Wrapped Up With A Bow Birthday Card

Most people feel that snail mail is dead.  When they want to communicate favor email, cell phones, text messages, Facebook, and Twitter over sending a letter through the United States Postal Service.  But most people I know still love receiving heartfelt cards and other physical mail.  I know that I always feel warm and fuzzy when I get a card from someone I love in the mail.  In fact, a well timed letter in my mailbox most likely saved my life as a teen.  That’s why I make it a point to devote a large portion of my crafting time to card making.  I enjoy making them and I know that people get a kick out of receiving them.  At the very least, it’s certainly better to get one of my cards in the mail than a bill. Over the years of card making I’ve picked up a few useful tips for making beautiful handmade greeting cards more effectively.

  1. Save Your Scraps:

    I keep a large file organizer or all of my scrap papers, organized by color.  This is so useful for making cards which don’t require large pieces of paper for purposes of decorating.

  2. Plan Before You Plant:

    I always cut and lay everything out (including stickers which I explain next) before I glue down anything.  Following a measure twice, cut once philosophy results in much more efficient card making and more professional looking cards.

  3. Pre-Sample Stickers:

    Sometimes it’s hard to plan out where to put stickers without actually placing them, so I cut out the stickers still on their backing so I can place them on my layout without sticking them down.

Here are some examples of cards I’ve made:

Floral Gem Birthday Handmade Greeting Card

Floral Gem Birthday Handmade Greeting Card

Floral Moving To A New Home Handmade Greeting Card

Floral Moving To A New Home Handmade Greeting Card

Floral Bird Collage Handmade Greeting Card

Floral Bird Collage Handmade Greeting Card

Mother's Day Flower Handmade Greeting Card

Mother’s Day Flower Handmade Greeting Card

Dear Friend Handmade Greeting Card

Dear Friend Handmade Greeting Card

Beautiful Daisy Handmade Greeting Card

Beautiful Daisy Handmade Greeting Card

Vintage Butterfly Handmade Greeting Card

Vintage Butterfly Handmade Greeting Card

Without Any Pain – a terznelle poem

Without Any Pain – a terznelle poem

Without Any Pain

by Lauren Soffer

Jesus Praying in Gethsemane

Jesus Praying in Gethsemane

Who would I be without any pain?

Trapped potential hidden, unclean

Who would I be without any pain?

 

Crippling imperfections so easily seen

As yet untouched by Refiner’s flame

Trapped potential hidden, unclean

 

Molten transformation won’t leave me the same

Crack under pressure or become something more?

As yet untouched by Refiner’s flame

 

Flame creates bounty, blessings restore

Shimmering radiance, brilliant as the Son

Flame creates bounty, blessings restore

 

Not my will but Thy will be done

On bended knee my heart rises in song

Shimmering radiance, brilliant as the Son

 

Faithful contrite glorified strong

On bended knee my heart rises in song

Who would I be without any pain?

Who would I be without any pain?

Crafting A Particularly Perfect Excerpt

Crafting A Particularly Perfect Excerpt

The Particulars Cover

The Particulars Cover

Writing a novel from start to finish is an extremely challenging feat, but I discovered that creating the novel itself is a synch compared to crafting an engaging and well-written pitch.  How could I distill over 100k words into just under 250 words while still maintaining the essence of the plot, characters, and style of the book?

It is no easy task.  I struggled and wrestled my way through over fifteen drafts each seemingly worse than the last.  False starts and failed endings.  It took me a long time to get to what I finally settled upon, but I’m not convinced it’s ready.

I need your help!  Please read my pitch, and lend me your constuctive critique.   What’s working?  What isn’t working?  Does it pull you in?  Do you relate to the characters?  Does it make you want to read the book?  What can I do to make it stronger?

The Particulars Pitch
by Lauren Soffer

Please excuse Professor Veril Maloit as he passes out cold.  He’s just standing up to accept the biggest honor of his writing career only to fall flat on his face.  To Veril’s astonishment, his girlfriend, Samantha Elderhopper, is selected to become an apprentice to the elite group of writers known as The Particulars, and his lifelong dream of joining the enigmatic organization is in shambles.

While recovering, Veril overhears a conversation between the group’s Grand Master, Cameron Johanson, and another Particular about making unsuspecting people disappear.

Is something sinister afoot?  Tracy, the opinionated incorporeal voice that’s following Veril around certainly thinks so.  Chances are he’s finally going out of his mind, but as Veril investigates, he stumbles upon a Particular conspiracy, witnessing the society’s crimes for himself.  The famous authors are secretly vampires sucking juicy details out of people to infuse their writing with vivid realism, erasing their victims from memory to all but Veril.

Terrified, he dreads forever losing Sam to the humanity devouring Particulars, but what can Veril do?  He knows nothing about hunting vampires.  Or so he thinks, until the delivery of a cryptic letter illuminates the murky details of his mysterious lineage.  Armed with a magic pen and inkwell, his creative writing skills, and a grab bag team of would-be heroes, Veril discovers that he’s the inspired author of his own destiny.

Thanks so much for your time and help!  It’s much appreciated.  You can leave your feed back right here in the comments, or you can email me at lauren@writerfly.com.

Cross-posted from The Particulars Blog.
Arms of His Love

Arms of His Love

Sometimes it’s hard to remember how loved each of us are by our Father in Heaven.  But we are each loved so profoundly that it is truly impossible for us to comprehend.  The more we open our hearts to feeling this love, the closer to Him we become.

This morning I woke up with a nasty eye and very contagious eye infection.  I opted to stay home from church rather than risk infecting everyone in my Ward.

So I spent the day reading through scripture while listening to awesome and free Especially For Youth music downloaded from lds.org.  While reading through the Book of Mormon this afternoon, I came across this scripture:

But behold, the Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love.

2 Nephi 1:15

We are each literally “encircled about eternally in the arms of His love.”  I felt the Spirit of Christ burning inside me when I read this scripture.  I knew how loved I am.  I wanted to create some art with those words, so I created the following image in Illustrator to remind me of how I felt when I read it.  Enjoy!

Encircled About Eternally in the Arms of His Love

But behold, the Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love.
2 Nephi 1:15

(Feel free to use the image as long as you attribute it to me with a link back to this post. Thanks!)

Planting Seeds of Faith with Visiting Teaching

Planting Seeds of Faith with Visiting Teaching

Visiting Teaching Flower Garden

Visiting Teaching Flower Garden

Christ charged us to love one another as He loves us.  He wouldn’t want anyone to be forgotten about or anyone to fall through the cracks.  I can’t think of a more organized way to make sure that all of God’s daughters are being taken care of than through Visiting Teaching.  Visiting Teaching is a crucial part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  It is a program that assigns Teachers in teams of two to minister to other women in the church.

LDS.org explains that The Purpose of Visiting Teaching Is to Minister:

How do we minister?

  • Pray daily for [the sister you visit] and her family.
  • Seek inspiration to know her and her family.
  • Visit her regularly to learn how she is doing and to comfort and strengthen her.
  • Stay in frequent contact through visits, phone calls, letters, e-mail, text messages, and simple acts of kindness.
  • Greet her at Church meetings.
  • Help her when she has an emergency, illness, or other urgent need.
  • Teach her the gospel from the scriptures and the visiting teaching messages.
  • Inspire her by setting a good example.
    (See “How Visiting Teachers Love, Watch Over, and Strengthen a Sister,” in Daughters in My Kingdom,page 123.)

“The purpose of ministering ​is to help others become true followers of Jesus Christ. Ministering to others includes:

  • Remembering their names and becoming acquainted with them (see Moroni 6:4).
  • Loving them without judging them (see John 13:34–35).
  • Watching over them and strengthening their faith ‘one by one,’ as the Savior did (3 Nephi 11:15; 17:21).
  • Establishing sincere friendship with them and visiting them in their homes and elsewhere (see D&C 20:47)” (Handbook 2,3.2.3).

When I was asked to serve in my Young Single Adult Ward of the Church as the Visiting Teaching Coordinator, I tried to think of ways I could inspire and remind the girls in the Ward to do their Visiting Teaching each month.  So, I decided to get crafty.  I (with the help of my friend Raquel) created a Visiting Teaching Flower Garden Box to provide a visual aide for the program.

The theme was planting seeds of faith with Visiting Teaching.  Through Visiting Teaching we can help build and strengthen each other’s faith and testimonies.  The idea was that each girl, each being a unique individual with special needs and talents, would each have her own flower with her name in it.  When each teacher Visit Taught her girl, she would turn her name around so that the flower was facing forward instead of the girl’s name, showing that she had planted a seed of faith in that girl.

  1. We used scrabooking flower pieces (from a craft store) in two layers with a small jewel to make the center of each flower.
  2. We then glued the flower to one side of a popsicle stick and the girl’s name to a small plaque on the other side.
  3. We then covered a large, fairly flat cardboard box with pretty scrapbooking paper.  I attached a sign I designed on the computer that read, “When you plant seeds of faith, flowers will grow – Visiting Teaching.”  We covered the corners of the box with ribbon to protect them and make them look more finished.
  4. We filled the box with bricks of green dry foam used to do flower arrangements (you can purchase this at any craft store as well).
  5. Taking a popsicle stick, we pushed rows of holes into the foam to hold each flower.  We made the rows at the front of the box deeper than the ones towards the back.  We also staggered the holes.  This made it easier to see allthe names and flowers once they were all in their slots.

The finished product was even more colorful and beautiful than I expected.  Putting it out at each meeting, seems to remind everyone to do their Visiting Teaching which is the most important part.

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Snail Mail Love

Snail Mail Love

I love getting snail mail.  (I think everyone does really.)  But there’s only one thing I love more getting snail mail, and that’s sending it.  I enjoy letting my friends and family know how much I love them and how awesome they are.  What better way to do that than to write it out and stick a stamp on it?  I like to take it one level further by making the cards I send out by hand.

Using blank note cards, scraps of pretty papers left over from larger scrapbook pages, stickers, gems, and other embellishments, I try to make each and every card a little work of art.  I see it as a challenge to make each one as unique as possible – otherwise I just get bored with the whole process.  I usually spend longer planning the card than I do actually assembling it because to me the layout is the most important part, followed by the materials.

Here are some examples from Christmas:

And here are some examples from Valentine’s day this year:

Finally, here are some miscellaneous examples from some other occasions:

Why do I go to such great lengths to make greeting cards?  Well not only is it a fun creative outlet for me, but I never know what kind a difference a small gesture like a handmade card or a hand written letter might have in someone’s life.

When I was 16 years old, I was going through a very rough time emotionally.  I was struggling with under-treated OCD and suicidal depression at the time, and on this one particular day, I was feeling like harming myself, but something made me decide to get the mail.  I almost never got snail mail at that age, but when I peered into our mailbox there as a hand addressed envelope waiting for me.  Inside was a letter that literally saved my life that day.

That day I became so obsessed with figuring out who had sent the timely and exceptionally kind letter, that I was totally distracted from my dark thoughts.  (I did figure out who had sent it by the way.)  Someone else’s heartfelt consideration for me a few days prior, came in my hour of need.

It made me realize that small kindnesses like these can change someone’s whole life just as it had changed mine.  Someone else acted as God’s instrument and was an answer to my unarticulated prayer, so now years later I try to send out home made greeting cards as often as possible never knowing what effect I may have on someone I don’t even realize is in need.  I figure at the very least I’ll brighten someone’s day.  Just like someone did for me, I hope to pay it forward and forward and forward.

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National Novel Writing Month 2011

National Novel Writing Month 2011

The Particulars Cover

The Particulars Cover

This November, I’m going to be participating in National Novel Writing Month where I will try to write 50,000 words in one month.  I’m going to be picking up where I left off on The Particulars, my NaNo Novel from last November.  Here’s a short synopsis:

The Particulars is Lauren Soffer’s 2011 National Novel Writing Month Novel about Veril Maloit who knows he’s a pretty good writer, but not as amazing as The Particulars – an elite society of published authors who’s work outshines everyone else’s. He sets out to discover what makes them so fabulous by getting into their secret society writing group with the help of his prized graduate student and lover Samantha Elderhopper.  Veril is shocked to discover that the group of authors have a dark secret – they are vampires who suck the details out of actual people and things to make their stories so vivid. Now he is faced with a dilemma… beat them or join them.

To learn more about it, check out my latest update on my Particulars Blog.  You can also signup to read along as I write!

Scrapaganza

Scrapaganza

When I look back on the most rewarding experiences of my life, they are almost all to do with serving others.  Right now I’m working on a community service project called Scrapaganza.  Scrapaganza is a scrapbooking event at the Ronald McDonald House in Los Angeles that celebrates the beauty of every life as a source of inspiration.

Ronald McDonald House provides housing for families who have seriously ill and injured children in the hospital.  These parents and siblings are dealing with very difficult circumstances.  Scrapaganza will be a source of joy during this stressful time in their lives.

The event will be open to all families currently staying at Ronald McDonald House.  After an inspiring keynote, each family will create a beautiful scrapbook telling their personal story and celebrating joyous memories.  Expert scrapbookers will be on hand to lend support and assistance.

Scrapaganza is currently seeking volunteers and donations.  Find out how you can get involved!

Please help me spread the word by posting http://scrapaganza.org to your Facebook, Twitter, and etc!  Thanks so much for your support!

 

Faith Illustrated

Faith Illustrated

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, keeping the Sabbath day holy is extremely important to me.  But it can sometimes be a challenge to find activities to do on Sundays in keeping with the spirit of the day.  Normally I attend church for three hours and then come home to read scripture, church publications, listen to spiritual music or General Conference talks, or work on my calling in the church.  But I still usually find myself looking for something to do by the evening (it doesn’t help that I’m a night owl).

So this past Sunday night, I decided to put my skills with the graphic design program, Illustrator, to work to create some spiritual art.  I assembled it from various free vectors I found online combined with one of my favorite scriptures from The Book of Mormon.  The scripture reads:

Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust; and not be afraid; for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; He also has become my salvation.

2 Nephi 22:2

Salvation - 2 Nephi 22:2

2 Nephi 22:2

This is one of my favorite scriptures because it reminds me to find joy in my Heavenly Father.  It reminds me to rejoice in his way as I follow in his footsteps and sing his praises.  I also reminds me that He is the strength in my life, and, whether I realize it or not, He is there to lean on.  There are so many times in my life that he carried me and sustained me that I didn’t even realize in the moment.  And I am so very grateful for His presence in my life!

Despite the challenges they sometimes present, I simply love Sundays.  I love taking a day to bask in the Spirit of the Lord.  So I will continue to find ways to keep the Sabbath day holy week after week.

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