Welcome to episode twelve of the Real Life, Real Passion podcast. Today our guest is the talented Michelle Zollinger Tams.
Michelle is a loved member of the community with a strong sense of spiritual identity, an infectious positive attitude, and a loving smile. She recently completed her Life Eternal also known as the SMILE pendant and is working on two books she is hoping to have published by December. In this episode we do a deep dive into how we can tap into our inner creativity and find joy and meaning in life.
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Michelle is an artist. She loves to learn and though she has had some university training, life has been her greatest teacher. She loves to learn by seeing and by doing.
“I am a right brained thinker, I dream in symbols, and I feel in color.”
Anything creative or artistic brings joy, whether it is literature, poetry, writing, painting, or playing in the mud. She loves composing music and really anything that has to do with the arts. She’s a creative person, “a right brained thinker, and creative doer.”
Life Eternal (SMILE) Pendant
She was inspired to create the SMILE pendant from images that kept coming into her head. That process isn’t unusual, it happens a lot with different projects she works on. They “seem to come in full on cinema” and the scenes pass by giving her visual cues.
For this particular pendant, when the symbolism came, she didn’t really understand it at first. She was reading the scriptures and came across 2 Nephi 9:39, and it says, “spiritually-minded is life eternal.”
At that moment, she thought, “I really am a spiritual being having a physical experience, and I feel homesick for my Heavenly Father.”
Michelle feels like she knows who she was before. She didn’t have the limitations then that she does now, and she wants to keep her mind there—spiritual.
When Michelle meets people she connect through feelings and loves to exchange thoughts. People matter to her, so when she talks, she engages. “I just want to see them shine!”
Spiritually Minded Is Life Eternal
When the pendant originally came about, it was intense for a couple of reasons. She had recently been divorced and she was finally creating the life that she wanted for herself. Unfortunately, she didn’t feel like she could do that before.
Compasses and other symbols are very meaningful to her. Michelle loves the symbolism of the temple. On temples of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the sun moon and stars symbolize the three degrees of glory.
These symbols ring true for her, and make her fill up with light from the inside out.
The piece is called the Life Eternal pendant and is also known as the SMILE pendant, which is the acronym for Spiritually Minded Is Life Eternal. On both sides, the acronym and the words are displayed. On the back side, a sun is pictured over a compass, and over top of an eight-point star. Underneath that image, is the circle and the square.
The meaning behind those symbols is that when you center your life on Christ, you will have the direction and the power to create heaven on Earth.
The other side of the pendant also shows the sun, moon, and stars. The 12 tribes of Israel are represented by the 12 stars on both sides of the pendant. It reminds us that we are not limited. God wants us to have what He has.
Usually, “our only limitations are what we give ourselves.”
The pendant is a reminder that we are meant to do amazing things, we are all different, and Heavenly Father will help us accomplish what we seek to do.
Calling and Purpose
“My calling in life is to return to my Heavenly Father. But on my way back, I want to lift, inspire, and encourage everyone to go after their talents and their gifts.”
Michelle is like a little spark plug, she seeks ways to ignite our limitless potential, and encourage us to develop our divine gifts.
One of her favorite things is watching people embrace their gifts and act on thoughts or impressions that they have. “I just love seeing people shine. I think it’s the most beautiful thing ever.”
She strives to be a good wife, mother, and grandmother. And she also believes that it is her responsibility to not return to her Heavenly Father without using and edifying her talents.
She is on a quest to become her true self.
Advice for Finding Our Purpose
“I think a lot of us actually know it [who our true selves are] when we are little.”
When we were children there were no restrictions, no expectations, and we could live in our imaginations.
Think back to your childhood and remember those things that brought you joy. Those things will help you discover your true self.
When Michelle was little, her mom said that she was great at entertaining herself, even for hours at a time. All she needed was her Mary doll, some blocks, and her bean bags. She would sit and create little worlds with her blocks, and create dialogue with her dolls.
If you look at her now, she is a writer. She is creating worlds and dialogue, she just uses words now instead of dolls and blocks. She also creates worlds in the art work she does.
As you walk into Michelle’s home there are several unfinished paintings hanging on the wall. It’s something she does that on purpose. They are a reminder to enjoy the process of creation. Something does not have to be completely done and perfect to enjoy. It’s also a reminder that she’s not done and perfect either. Every time she walks by, she can visibly see how far she’s progressed.
“I would encourage people to think back to when they were little kids and think about what made them happy.” Those moments of joy are like little hidden gems, glimpses of your true self.
Another resource for finding your true self is to look at your patriarchal blessing. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints both Michelle and I have had the opportunity to go to a Patriarch and have these special blessings given.
Michelle specifically wanted to know what Heavenly Father wanted her to do. Instead, He gave her one line that had nothing to do with what she was supposed to be doing. The beauty in this is that, Heavenly Father knows us individually and He knows what we need to hear. He trusts us to figure out the rest.
Michelle describes herself as “a wildfire”. She tends to be a bit stubborn, so she thinks that maybe if she would have been told everything, she might have rebelled against it because she doesn’t like to be told what to do.
She has used what she was given, and blossomed because of its freedom. She has used her agency to choose good.
“I think Heavenly Father looks down and just smiles, at His children. Coming into their own and remembering themselves. Or using their talents for good. I think it just brings him joy.”
Michelle has been taking pictures with her eyes since she was little. She would arrange things a certain way, and if it felt off, she would shift it around until she liked it. As an adult she has taken some online classes to develop her talents.
Online resources are great because, “when you’re a mom, you can’t always get away from home, so it’s awesome that the Internet’s there and you can look up and learn different tools.”
It’s kind of like a puzzle. You know when you are on your last puzzle piece and you smooth it around until suddenly it just clicks—it just “fits.” Talents and gifts are like that. Creativity, and creating just feel natural.
Michelle has learned to trust herself. To trust her process, and to trust what she likes. “It’s kind of like putting your fingers up and framing what you see, and if you choose to look on the beautiful things and the bright side, I really think that that is what magnifies in your life.”
There is opposition in all things. Whenever we step outside of our comfort zones, decide to develop a new talent or pursue a goal, we will be faced with opposition. The opposition is not a sign that you should give up, in fact it is just the opposite. Whenever you set out to do something amazing you will have to do something hard.
You will probably encounter failure, but that’s OK. In fact, it is failure that will teach us what we need to learn to become better.
“You will either step forward into growth or you will step backward into safety.” – Abraham Maslow
Michelle first started working on the pendant in 2012. Since making jewelry was not her strong suit, she knew she had to reach out to other people if she was going to make it happen.
She doesn’t know a stranger, so she decided to go in and talk to Joe Needham at S.E. Needham jewelers in Logan, UT. She asked him if he knew how to do what she was trying to do, and if he was willing to help her.
She had already loaded her design into Adobe Illustrator, so everything was very clear. Needham said that he had a 3D program and a C&C, and offered to help her.
They talked about cost he opened up and shared some his contacts with her so that she could move forward in the process of manufacturing the pendant.
A Few to Start
Michelle always wears her pendant, and at first she only made a few for her family and friends. She wasn’t sure if it would ever go further than that.
The pendant faded away into the background for awhile, but something kept bringing it back to the forefront of her mind. So, she tried a different manufacturer, and although he did excellent work, we was super busy. Soon, another year and a half had gone by with no progress. She decided that it wasn’t going to work if it continued at that pace.
An Unexpected Opportunity
Heavenly Father brings people into your life that you may not be expecting. He provides opportunities and opens doors for you that you may not have found alone.
The person that Heavenly Father brought into Michelle’s life next was David Vandivere. Michelle’s husband Mat breeds and raises miniature Schnauzer’s. David and his wife Dianne had come to her home to buy one of their puppies. While he was there, he mentioned to Michelle that he was an artist.
There was something that instantly clicked between the two of them. They talked and she showed him her Life Eternal (SMILE) pendant and a few other projects that she had worked on.
He looked at her work and said that her Life Eternal (SMILE) pendant would be a really great thing to have in the gift shop down at Temple Square in Salt Lake City. He thought it would be a great fit because of its sculptural design and use of church symbols.
Later, she found out that David works for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints down on Temple Square at the church office building. He sent her his contact for the gift shop, and a year and a half ago, Michelle reached out to Annette Burdette, sent in some pictures, and asked if she would be interested in carrying the pendant in her store. She said yes!
Then, like it often does, life happened. Life became busy with the adoption of their baby girl, multiple surgeries, and problems manufacturing locally.
She decided to call her pewter manufacturer in Rhode Island who was able to refer Michelle to Jill Kenik in Missouri to help re-create a new 3D master for manufacturing. Michelle gave Jill a call, and everything was done in two weeks.
Michelle was so excited and so nervous. It had been a year and a half since she had talked to her contact in the Salt Lake City gift shop. Refusing to let fear get in her way, she called her up and the gift shop was still interested in carrying the pieces.
“It felt right and it felt really good. I want to bring light and I wanted it to be a piece that could open dialogue to share the gospel.”
An Impact Around the World
Michelle has given pendants to four of her oldest nephews to take with them as they served two year missions for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
One of her dear nephews Benjamin Zollinger went to New Zealand for his mission. She brought one of her pendants over to him at his farewell and said, “This is for you whether you keep it or whether you find someone on your mission that you feel would benefit from it. Go ahead and give it away.”
While Benjamin was serving in New Zealand, he had a beautiful contact with someone who ended up joining the church. He gave them the pendant as a way to remember that being spiritually minded is the way to find eternal life.
The process of completing the pendant has been a long road. There’ve been a lot of ups and downs, twist and turns, and detours along the way.
At one point, Michelle even had to redo her packaging. She had used the wrong scripture. Instead of a 2 Nephi 9:39 she had 2 Nephi 0:30. She had accidentally hit the zero instead of the nine. In her defense, they are right next to each other on the keyboard. And while she did worry about it, she couldn’t sleep the first night, she had an epiphany. It was an opportunity to make her packaging better. And she did. She changed it, fixed the scripture, and made the entire package better.
Life happens; and the right timing doesn’t always mean our timing. As long as we just keep moving forward, it will all work out in the end.
One of Michelle’s favorite quotes is from David A. Bednar from his message Being an Agent to Act.
“First we act, then the power comes.” – David A. Bednar
“I truly believe that, if we act in faith, the power will come.”
A lot of times in life we walk, placing one foot in front of the other sometimes without enough light to see where your foot is going to land. The big picture isn’t clear, but you know that you can take this one step.
Heavenly Father knows the big picture. When we choose to move forward, He will help us see enough to take the next step. “I testify that that is true.” He will help us.
Even if it’s the long way around like Michelle had to take, it took five years to complete the pendant. It doesn’t matter how long it’s been, or how long it will take. What matters is that you act. Keep moving forward. Because despite her stumbling blocks, Michelle finished, and now she can share it.
Philosophy About Self-expression
Do what makes you happy. Give yourself permission to try a variety of different things.
“Give yourself permission to have an adventure.”
“Whether it’s rock climbing, or throwing paint on a canvas, or throwing darts… it doesn’t really matter. Give yourself permission to enjoy your life, to take chances, and see if you like it.”
The worst thing that can happen when you try something new is that you don’t like it. But what if you love it? You can always try something else, but if you never try, you’ll never know.
Take music for example. There are so many different genres. Maybe you don’t like a particular genre, that’s fine, but that doesn’t mean you don’t like music. Michelle has come across an artist in an interesting genre that combines metallic and Celtic music, and it’s beautiful.
Don’t be afraid to try new things even if it sounds a little strange.
Be Who You Are
Michelle’s advice when you are building your gifts and talents is to “stay true to who you are.”
Don’t go through life trying to impress other people. At the end of the day you have to live with yourself. You need to be comfortable in your own space.
If you choose to go forward with things that you love, doors will open for you. You will find people to help you and lift you along the way.
Just give yourself permission to have an adventure, whatever that is for you. You don’t have to like it, but you might love it.
Fear is false evidence appearing real.
Don’t let fear get in your way. Everything is always much bigger in your head, than it is in real life, and it can keep you from moving forward.
To overcome fear, Michelle suggests having a confidant. Someone that you can be yourself with. Where you can open up and be as weird as you need to be.
Jeff Goins just released his new book Real Artists Don’t Starve, and one of the concepts from this book is that Starving Artists think that they have to do everything alone. But real artists, Thriving artists, collaborate and they work with other people, and they work to build themselves for the benefit of others.
A great example of this is the friendship between J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.
Other People Can Help
For a while Michelle was struggling, and her oldest nephew Micah Todd Roberts and his beautiful wife Christy, ended up Facetiming her. He was so upset and worried and said, “Aunt Michelle, I need to rant,” and she asked who it was about and he said her, which caught her off guard. He continued, “last night I was crying because of you.”
Michelle thought that she had hurt him in some way. She felt so bad, and he said, “No, you don’t understand. How can I help you achieve your dreams of getting your books done?”
He had her watch a little YouTube video about a children’s book called Your Special Gift by Max Lucado. It talks about how we are all given gifts, and we need to focus on what we do best.
He said, Michelle, you’ve always been a storyteller. I always remember your stories and your ability to bring me into different worlds. He said, “use your time on your best stuff. What you feel really passionate about, what you do really well… you’ll find other people to help with the rest.”
She sat there and consciously tried to let go of control, and embrace the fact that she doesn’t have to do everything on her own. Her nephew said, “I couldn’t help crying, because I just want to see you succeed.” What can I do?
You Have an Impact
That experience has been incredibly liberating and also very humbling for Michelle. To know that people care about her and the things she’s working on, and to know that they are invested in her. She could be herself. She was enough.
You never know who you are affecting. Being true to what your gifts and your talents are or even just being true to who you are as a person will affect those around you.
Let Others Help You Reach Your Dreams
Her nephew offered to be her accountability partner and call once a week, to make sure that she moved forward with her goals and dreams.
His degree is in business and his wife’s degree is in marketing. They were a great to get feedback from for the packaging of her pendant. She could send her ideas to them and talk things out with her close friend Beth McConnell, and she made her dream happen. Heavenly Father provided little angels all around her to help with the things outside of her strengths. Those angels could say and do what she couldn’t for herself.
Sometimes we are open at different times, and when those opportunities come, Heavenly Father will give us what we need. He’s not going to force us, He wants us to have our agency, but He will definitely give us little opportunities of learning, sharing, growing, and meaning. And if we just open our mouths, and talk, it’s amazing what opportunities come our way.
Room For Everyone
There is always room for everyone to succeed. It’s not just reserved for the elite, there’s room for everyone. We are meant to be limitless, not limited.
Michelle’s dad is someone she looks up to, for a couple of reasons. He was a hard worker, he lived what he believed, and he was a nurturer.
Her dad had Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS). It is a disease that affects the nervous system that controls voluntary muscle movement. Nerve cells are gradually lost, muscles become weak, and eventually those muscles are nonfunctional.
Her dad was a farmer, and had to work with plumber boots on. She remembers he looked a bit like Frankenstein. But he made an effort to get out and move every day. He’d always tell her, “best day yet, Michelle.”
She would worry that he was hurting, but he would reaffirm that it was, “the best day yet.” He would do a little click with his mouth and his eyes would sparkle.
On Memorial Day in Thatcher, UT she was at the cemetery. Brother Marble was talking with her and shared his favorite memory about her dad.
Brother Marble said that he had crawled into the ditch, to help brother Marble’s Dad who was aged. He was trying to set the ditch so that he could irrigate. Brother Marble said that he went over to help her Dad out. He probably could have picked her dad up easily at that point, since he had shriveled down to maybe 140-145lbs. But her dad walked all the way down to where there was a flat enough area that he could pull himself out.
He did what he could for as long as he could.
Her dad loved what he did. He was a farmer, and one of her favorite moments was looking out their sliding glass door in the fall. The wheat had turned a beautiful golden color, and it was early in the morning so the dew was dancing on the tops of the heads of the wheat. The wind was blowing and the wheat literally looked like the waves of the sea. He said, “look at that. That is my sea of gold.”
She saw that he put effort into things that he loved. And that he enjoyed the fruits of his labor.
Michelle’s mother Fawnice is an inspiration as well. Fawnice was the oldest daughter to an inactive family. Although her mother had a hard upbringing, she chose to not be like her parents were when she was younger. Michelle’s grandparent’s weren’t horrible people, but they had their challenges and her mom wanted a different life. At a young age Fawnice went to church by herself. She made a commitment to her Heavenly Father and followed the Savior’s example. She made a conscious choice at the age of 12, of what she wanted.
She wanted a man who honored the priesthood, who would take her to the temple, a man who chose to stay active in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Both her parents were intense and passionate personalities, who fell in and out of activity in the church. Her life was not always easy.
“I adore my mother. I think she is an elect lady, she is such a great example and she loves me unconditionally in all my quirkiness.”
There are many authors that have had an impact in her life, but two she loves are C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.
“I love that they had such a volume of work that hadn’t even been published. So much more history… They did things that they loved. They shared stories about things that were important to them.”
Her two greatest influences were definitely her mom and dad. They taught Michelle the gospel. But her best memories of her parents teaching was non-verbal, they didn’t preach or lecture to her, they were living examples.
It’s a good reminder of the responsibility we have in life. We are teaching even when we aren’t speaking. We can have a tremendous impact on others, for good or for bad. It is far better to choose the positive, and let the negative fall where it may.
That can be hard. Sometimes we might need a time out, which is totally fine. In fact, she highly recommends time outs for parents. Give yourself some time and a chance to re-center. This allows you to be intentional about what you say and lets you act instead of react to any given situation.
Michelle wants to uplift, encourage, and to nurture.
Distraction is Michelle’s nemesis. She’s pretty sure that she was ADD growing up even though she was never diagnosed. Her mind is continually running… “ok I’m going to go do dishes, oh wait I didn’t do the laundry, oh wait I’m supposed to write, oh the baby’s crying…”
We expect things to go from A to B. When really it’s more like A.1-23, 30-2,000 before you finally get to B.
There is power in writing things down and crossing them off. When she was little her mother would reward her with a silver star when she completed something on her list, her reward now is to cross things off.
A dry erase board is fabulous because when you finish a goal you can leave it up there crossed off and write new goals underneath, or erase it and start fresh. Either way it lets you focus on what you are working towards and helps to mitigate distraction.
Frustration is another one of Michelle’s challenges. She sometimes gets frustrated that she isn’t where she expects herself to be.
She is able to overcome distraction and frustration by breaking down her goals. She breaks them down to very small steps, which makes them much more attainable. Goals with out an action plan can seem grandiose, and out there where someday you might reach it. A plan allows you to create steps to get there and to make it a reality.
Writing things down helps her make progress toward getting things done. She doesn’t beat herself up about the things that aren’t done yet, but the list helps her know what needs to be done and what she has to do to make those things happen.
Three months ago, Michelle was staring at her computer. She was frustrated and trying to get herself to write and work. Her husband came in and said, “you know, Michelle, you are your best self when you are creating. And we deserve your best self.”
When he said that, it reminded her that it fills her up to be creative. And she overflows onto everything and everyone.
“Be true to who you are, be creative,” because, “we deserve your best self.”
Another great piece of advice that she loves, is that “imagination is worth the time.” That was personal revelation given to her from Heavenly Father.
Imagination is worth the time, the energy, and the journey.
There is a reason why we are inspired, there is a reason why we have bursts of fantastic ideas. Listen to those promptings. If they are good, if they bring joy, or if they bring a smile, you should do it.
“Imagination is better than knowledge” – Albert Einstein
Advice For Developing Talents
First, ask yourself what you want to do and why.
You can have great ideas, but if you don’t know why you are doing it, it makes it hard to sustain. If you think “ah I’m going to pick up a brush and paint,” why? If it is an intrinsic motivator, then you are on the right track.
Also, trust your own creative process.
People tend to put themselves into boxes. Boxes are another one of Michelle’s nemesis’.
Boxes are other people’s expectations. And we don’t belong in another person’s expectation. We belong to be as Heavenly Father intended us to be, uniquely ourselves. He gave us all gifts and talents and we are all different.
Don’t Be a Perfectionist
Don’t fall into the trap of perfectionism. Don’t be a perfectionist.
Perfectionism is the biggest stumbling block Michelle has seen with any artist. Many creative individuals have unrealistic expectations of where there are “supposed” to be. Just enjoy the process.
Remember the unfinished paintings on her wall? They remind Michelle of her progress. She is learning. With each project she learns and develops more. She can look at say one as see what she learned about technique on it, see what she liked, what she didn’t like, what she would change next time or fix before it’s finished.
Painting is similar to life. Whether you are doing acrylics or oils, if you don’t like it, then you can always paint over it. If you like one part, keep it and paint over the rest. But learn to embrace when you make mistakes. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Let yourself laugh and see what happens. Sometimes what we think is a mistake can end up being one of our favorite parts of a project.
Take a Break and Step Away
It’s important to take breaks and step back away from the canvas when you are painting—to get an overview. They recommend that you step back at least 15 feet.
When you are in the moment, and you are working on a painting, you are really up close, you don’t see the big picture. You have to step back to see if what you are working on fits with the whole canvas.
In life, when we are going after our dreams, or being artistic, or trying to reach our goals, sometimes we need to take a step back and enjoy the view. Appreciate what you have accomplished and look for the little jewels that you have in there. Otherwise you might miss them altogether.
You Have an Audience
“I really believe that no matter what you are doing, there will be an audience for what you are doing.” That audience might not include everyone, but it doesn’t need to.
Take the SMILE pendant as an example. It might not hit home for a lot of people, and that’s fine. They don’t have to. But there are be some people that will truly love it, and the meaning and symbols will really speak to them.
“I think whatever you do, you’ll find the following.” You’ll find, “the people that resonate with what you’re doing. Don’t worry about who doesn’t like it, enjoy the people that do.” Focus on the positive.
As a writer, Michelle loves words. She loves the impact that they have, and she loves how much power there is behind them.
In her blue room, she has a sign that says, “If we did all the things we were capable of doing, we would literally astonish ourselves.”
She has another quote posted on her white board by David O. McKay.
“Your thoughts are the architect of your destiny.” – David O McKay
Brooke Shaden is a talented photographer. Her specialty is self portraits and they are done in a really beautiful and artistic way. Michelle has taken one of Shaden’s photography classes, and her assignment was to find six words that describe her. Michelle thought of six words that reminded her of herself, and when she actually put those words on her white board, up on her wall where she could see them, those words started to manifest into everything she does.
When she is doing things in alignment with those words, Michelle knows that she is being true to who she is. It doesn’t matter what she is doing, it will carry her stamp, it carries with it how Michelle sees the world, and how she feels about things.
Diversity is Beautiful
The world would be a pretty boring place if everyone were the same. But we’re not and that’s one of the wonderful things about being on this planet. We get to enjoy everyone.
Each person has their own style. Think of Monet and D’Vinci, the greats and how beautiful they are, or modern artists like Josh Clare.
“The differences that we accept about ourselves, that we pour into what we do, is what makes it beautiful.”
Words Are Powerful
Words can make things happen, and words can resonate in your body.
When Michelle was in college she took a public speaking class. In that class she learned of an experiment conducted by Dr. Masaru Emoto. The experiment studied the effects that words and images have on water.
In the study they sampled water and then crystallized it after speaking various words so they could see what it looked like at a micro level. The results were astounding.
Anything that was negative was deformed. It was discolored, asymmetric and dark. In contrast, words that Emoto used that were positive like angel and beautiful were all perfectly symmetrical geometric shapes, “almost like lace.”
When you consider that our bodies are over 60% water, that is significant.
What we tell ourselves and what we allow other people to tell us, that we hold in, can be a trapping if it is negative. Negativity doesn’t belong in us. “We are not meant to be limited.”
Michelle has quotes all over her house, and although her kids might not consciously read them, subconsciously they see them, feel them, and hear them every time they walk by.
She has a quote going up and down her stairs that says, “you are my favorite person in the whole wide world, like ever in the history of ever.” Her kids see that every day and know that they are loved.
With Power Comes Responsibility
“I think we need to be careful, of the power that we wield with using words.”
Michelle’s mom grew up in a very practical time, she was a secretary, and was able to work and bring in income for their family. When Michelle was growing up, she wanted to be artistic. She remembers her mom saying, “Michelle, just be practical.”
Her mom meant well, and Michelle doesn’t have any anger towards her mom, because she was trying to make sure Michelle would be prepared if she ever needed a skill to fall back on. Well, she followed her mom’s advice and took the secretarial course and absolutely hated it. It ended up being used later when she needed those skills, but she delayed following her true passion.
That’s what she means when she warns us to be careful with the power of our words. Even though she had good intentions, it was a different path than the one Michelle felt she needed to follow.
Throughout her life, Michelle has noticed that a lot of people have opinions about other people’s lives. She’s decided that, “no one has the right to an opinion about another person’s life. They do have a right to love that person.”
We are all on a very personal journey. No one’s journey is going to be the same. It’s not meant to be the same.
“If you are not there to celebrate and lift, walk away.”
Be intentional about the words that you say, and the words that we say to ourselves inside our head are just important as the words that we verbalize.
A lot of us have a broken record, and it keeps playing the same things over and over. The only way to stop that is by choosing to talk to yourself nicer, and fill yourself with light.
Use great books, great movies, uplifting music… the more light you have, the less dark can stay.
“Darkness shrinks when light increases.”
“I want everyone to feel light and love,” Michelle says, “if I ever get to the point where I can walk in a room and everybody just feels good, not because of me, just because they know that I love them sincerely. That would be an amazing place to be.” That would be success.
There are three books that are a big influence in Michelle’s life right now.
- The Book of Mormon. This book of scripture is one of the biggest influences in Michelle’s life. She uses this book in everything she does. She finds it especially helpful when she is designing, or writing, and it even affects the way she sees her photographs.
- One of her favorite books is Accomplishing the Impossible: What God Does, What We Can Do by Russel M. Nelson. He reminds us that if you want a blessing, then you need to study the law that it is predicated upon. God means for us to do the impossible. We aren’t meant to be “ordinary”. Everyone has their own great. “It’s not about comparing, it’s about becoming.”
- The third book on her list right now is called The Peter Potential by David Butler and Emily Belle Freeman. This is a book that she regularly gives away. It is about our potential and the invitation that we all have to be uncomfortable, to go on an adventure, and to rise when we fall.
The Book of Mormon is a book that continually generates ideas and inspiration for her when she reads it. All three of these books have an impact on Michelle, regardless of what she is doing in her life.
“What you surround yourself with and what you choose to embrace is what’s going to influence you.”
The world is full of good things. Good books, good movies, good art, good music. Be intentional with what you surround yourself with.
Tools and Resources for Life and Happiness
- Putting Heavenly Father first is a great way to bring happiness into your life. Michelle loves walking in the morning. She puts in her ear buds and listens to the scriptures or conference talks as she walks. Not only is it an opportunity to get a great perspective, but it is also a chance to have a quiet moment to herself to be uplifted.
- Schedules are a great tool for getting things done. Michelle admits that she is not great with schedules, but she realizes the value they have. “I would do a lot more and be a lot more productive if I” used a schedule more, “but I’m still learning how to balance my life.”
- Another great help for health and happiness is to use quiet moments alone to recharge.
- A great support system is so important. Between Michelle’s kids and her husband she feels loved and supported. If she tells them she has an idea and wants to write, they ask, “why are you still in this room then? Go write.”
There are two things she has learned to do every day, that just make her life better: making her bed every morning, and doing the dishes before she goes to bed every night.
As bizarre as it may sound, making her bed is very important. It’s the biggest piece of furniture in her room, and when it’s made, “I have made the whole world better.” It is a great feeling to walk into your room and seeing the bed made.
Doing the dishes every is another big one. If they are done at night then “I don’t have to see them in the morning.”
These are two simple things she does every day actually make a difference. “It’s the small and simple things that make my day better.”
Small and Simple
Life can really be boiled down to the little things, “you can get out of the way of boulders, it’s always the pebbles that trip you up.”
Remembering to do a prayer in the morning is a great way to start the day. Whenever Michelle is writing, or working or doing something creative, she likes start the whole session with a prayer, “I ask Heavenly father specifically to help magnify my abilities, to help me be more than I am on my own. And I can promise that He will give you the power, the power will come when you do that.”
The most important thing is to remember to include Heavenly Father in your life. He’s not going to dictate to you but He wants to hear from us, and He wants to be a part of our lives.
Sometimes a great way to feel joy and happiness is to get outside in the sun for a little bit. Or to listen to the sound of a baby’s laugh. It is one of the most magical sounds in the world. “It’s like you fill up from your heart out… It’s angelic, it’s infectious, it’s so fun.”
Life is all about taking advantage of precious little moments. Take the time to enjoy them and appreciate where you are at. Don’t be upset or angry about where you aren’t. Accept where you are and love it!
Upcoming Book Releases
Michelle has two books in the works right now: Lucy, the Box, and the Dragon and the Bloodstone Compass.
Lucy, the Box, and the Dragon
In Lucy, the Box, and the Dragon, the first draft is done. She’s keeping it really hush hush and not sharing a lot about it, but she share that the story came to her in a dream.
“I feel so good about it because it reminds me to follow my true North, and to be OK with what I know I’m supposed to be doing for me and letting go of anybody else’s expectations.”
That is really liberating.
The story is a fable, and it has a moral at the end of the story. Michelle loves Lucy, the dragon is magnificent, and the boxes are interesting.
Michelle hopes to have it published by December so keep a look out for it. There is a piece of jewelry that goes with the book as well. She says she’ll share the story behind that piece in the next interview.
The Bloodstone Compass
The other book she is working on is called the Bloodstone Compass. She is hoping to finish that up soon as well. This story also has dragons.
Michelle loves fantasy and the world of magic. She also puts a lot of truths into her books, things that she knows to be true. “I write what I believe.”
There’s dark and there’s light, opposition, obstacles, and a lot of fun in the adventures. The Bloodstone Compass is Alicia and Celine’s story.
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