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The Purest Love

"The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of transformation. It takes us as men and women of the earth and refines us into men and wom...

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Snapshots

I haven't taken as many photographs from this summer as I would have liked. But here are a few snapshots from the past several days...



We spent a few days last week at East Canyon State Park renting a couple of lake-side cabins with our friends, the Nimers.  Suzanne and I rented a couple of inflatable kayaks to make things a little more fun. 
Joseph and I got up before everyone else the first morning and took off on the first Kayak. We arrived to find Kaylee waiting for a turn. 



I brought along an inflatable pool raft I found at the thrift store. I figured it was worth the $3 just to see if it would work. (Never-mind that it's actually a camping mattress.) 
It could be a pool raft. ;)




Now, I completely regret not getting a picture of  my favorite part about our lake trip with the Nimers, so this image I thugged from google will have to do. It actually resembles almost exactly what we saw, except the moon was a little bigger.
 One of the evenings after we put the kids to bed, when the sky was full of stars, the four of us (Cory, Suzanne, Joseph, and I) snuck back out on the lake in our kayaks. Joseph brought his green lazer pointer and showed us the constellations: Sagittarius (the teapot), Cygnus (southern cross), Scorpius, and others. Then we gazed at the horizon as the glow of the moon began to crest above the mountains - It rose slowly with a brilliant light and the lake shimmered like glass in the reflection.  It was absolutely magical!





A few days ago, I was able to take my parents, Alexa and Connor, and Kaylee to the Missionary Training Center Open House. I made them lunch first and then treated everyone to the Creamery afterward. Alexa and Connor came back to my place for another hour or so to just talk more.








Yesterday, Miriam had her first day of public school since she was in Kindergarten. Even though she only has half her classes on the high school campus and the other half at home, she was terribly nervous to be in a setting with well over a thousand students. I held her as she cried and then offered to pray with her. I promised her that there would be at least one person in each class she would connect with wonderfully... and that promise was fulfilled. Best of all, when I picked her up at the end of the day, she was beaming with excitement to discover she gets to share her last class with her very favorite friend, Elise. 



Sunday, August 13, 2017

If Thine Eye Be Single

The Savior admonishes in the Sermon on the Mount for us to "Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven." (Matt 6:1)

He also counsels, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matt 5:16)

So, the question I have is this... What is the differentiating factor determining if our alms or good works "before men" are so terribly wrong or so incredibly right? I believe that it all centers on our intention. We might ask ourselves if our righteous deeds are done with the intent to be "seen of men" or to "glorify [our] Father which is in heaven"? 

"The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light." (Matt 6:22)

The point here again is that our vision, our focus, our intent must not be divided. We can't have half our desire to glorify God and the other half to glorify ourselves. The Savior in His sermon also makes it clear that "no man can serve two masters".  (Matt 6:24)

"Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matt 6:33)

Light will be added unto you, brighter and brighter. This is how we shine... By doing good works, giving alms, fearlessly loving, and simply serving others - all the while "taking no thought of [ourselves]" being 100% focused on giving credit where all credit is due, to our Father in Heaven.

-Alicia

Monday, August 7, 2017

Steady as she goes!


This last week of summer vacation, our family is going to spend a couple days hiking, camping, kayaking and rafting with the Nimer family. This is our last push for making fun memories before all our schedules go crazy after school starts.

Provo's district starts on the 15th this month.  I'll have two kids in high school now! (Well... part-time high school). Chanlder and  Miriam really like the idea of being homeschooled with their core classes and taking their extracurricular on campus. So, every-other-day I still get to have all my kids home. :)

I start school up again at BYU on the 5th of September. I'm taking a nutrition and wellness class that's twice a week, early in the morning. I'm keeping my schedule light because of foster care. I just never know when we're going to get "bonus kids" or how long they will stay.  There's always a bit of necessary adjusting after the first few days and nights of a new placement.

Every new school year, I feel like I'm jumping in to a big ocean of unknowns and changes. Every year is so different from the last. Challenges will present themselves through trying to balance the kid's school, my school, Joseph's work, Chandler's new job, foster care, and my church calling.  I read this quote this morning and think it's a good reminder amid all the scheduling:

It can be tricky trying to take things slowly in our daily hectic schedules. But remember the story of the tortoise and the hare? "Slow and steady wins the race." Speaking of "steady," I read a verse in Helaman 15:8 today that talks about freedom resulting from being "firm and steadfast in the faith"

President Uchdorf put it another way, "If life and its rushed pace and many stresses have made it difficult for you to feel like rejoicing, then perhaps now is a good time to refocus on what matters most.

Strength comes not from frantic activity but from being settled on a firm foundation of truth and light. It comes from placing our attention and efforts on the basics of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. It comes from paying attention to the divine things that matter most."

The pressures of daily living, raising a family, work, school, service in the community and church, can feel like tumultuous ocean waves beating upon us. There's a old nautical phrase the sailors say, "steady as she goes." Steady. Steadfast. Keep the course of what matters most.

Basically, as long as I make sure to always slow down enough to make time for my daily spiritual nourishment and the daily spiritual nourishment of my family, I can feel peace in the middle of a storm.

President Ezra Taft Benson testified that, "When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives. Our love of the Lord will govern the claims for our affection, the demands on our time, the interests we pursue, and the order of our priorities."

-Alicia

Friday, August 4, 2017

Where'd the wisdom go?

This is the face of a sixteen-year-old kid who is NOT AT ALL excited to get his wisdom teeth pulled.



I was excited though because I wanted to see how Chandler would act when he was loopy in the post-op.





The Dr's. Office had a wall with quotes with crazy things said by other patients coming out of anesthesia. I figured Chandler would say some pretty funny stuff so I had my camera all ready.


It felt a little long waiting...
......
...


This is the face of a mom having way too much fun making selfies with the writing on the wall.



Finally, when the surgery was over, we got some video footage of Chandler as he was waking up... and he certainly WAS loopy. I'm glad he was on the happy end of loopiness because the teenage girl who left the office before us was an emotional mess, screaming and crying.




Chandler wasn't emotional at all. He wasn't angry or aggressive either.  He was just fascinated with the after-effect sensations of a completely numb face and fuzzy finger-tips.




I discovered that Chandler can out-swear any sailor... even a drunk sailor. I have never heard him use so much colorful language in such a short span of time in all my life!
Every other word was *f* *a*  and  *s*.

I couldn't help but wonder how conscious he was of it. I tried a couple of times to correct him.  It lasted less than two seconds after his apology, "Oh, sorry about that....*bleep * bleep *bleepidy bleep*"


Remember the photo I took before his surgery? This one...


Well... This is the face of a sixteen-year-old kid having way too much fun knowing he can totally get away with his little potty mouth in front of mom and blame it on the sedation drug.



The drug wore off shortly after being home and he was back to his old self  - censored but grumpy. He'll cheer up soon though. He gets all the ice cream and movies he wants for the next couple of days. What teenage kid couldn't be happy with that???

Okay...well...



...I had a good day though.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Overcoming the World

"Behold [the author of all sin] had got great hold upon the hearts of the Nephites; yea, inosomuch that they had become exceedingly wicked; yea, the more part of them had turned out of the way of righteousness, and did trample under their feet the commandments of God, and did turn unto their own ways, and did build up unto themeselves idols of their gold and their silver." - Heleman 6:31

What causes people who were once enlightened by the Spirit of God to let the adversary gain such a great hold on them? 

In the verse quoted above it says that the Nephites "turned out of the way of righteousness...and did turn unto their own ways."  I think that's the root of the problem, they began to turn more inward, more selfish, more concerned about building up themselves than building up the kingdom of God.

So, how do we build God's kingdom here on earth? How do we stay focused on what matters most? How do we overcome the pride, the selfishness, and the arrogance that plagues so many? Elder Neil L. Andersen taught in this last conference, "Overcoming the world is not one defining moment in a lifetime, but a lifetime of moments that define an eternity."

If we examine our every-day choices, even the ones that look good on the outside, we must ask ourselves, "Where is my heart? What is my sincere motivation in doing this?" I think then we will begin to discover which direction our hearts are turned.

"The meek are able with regularity to peel off the encrustations of ego that form on one’s soul like barnacles on a ship." - Neal A. Maxwell (Meekly Drenched in Destiny)

Elder Andersen stated that "Those who overcome the world develop an all-encompassing love for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ... Overcoming the world means turning ourselves outward, remembering the second commandment: 'He that is greatest among you shall be your servant.'"

Our "turning" pivots on simple every-day choices, seemingly small things that seep into our lives and distract us from the right focus - Social media is one example. It's a great tool to connect with people, to offer encouragement, and to bear testimony of the Gospel....  but it can also become a terrible distraction, a vacuum that sucks a person's view into a narrow little hole of self-centeredness. It all depends on our motives. Are we out there for gain or for God?

"A disciple of Christ is not alarmed if a post about her faith does not receive 1,000 likes or even a few friendly emojis. Overcoming the world is being less concerned with our online connections and more concerned with our heavenly connection to God." - Neil L. Andersen

Online or in person, I believe the more we focus on our personal gain, popularity, or prestige- the more arrogant we become. A life without the Savior, the true vine, causes our Divine beauty to dry up and wither. But on the flip-side, the more our hearts are turned to our Father in Heaven, the more sincerely we are focused on the Savior, the more we lose ourselves, the more confident we become - and we blossom and grow into radiant humble disciples of Christ.

-Alicia


I don't need my name in lights
I'm famous in my Father's eyes
Make no mistake
He knows my name
I'm not living for applause
I'm already so adored
It's all His stage
He knows my name

I'm not meant to just stay quiet
I'm meant to be a lion
I'll roar beyond a song
With every moment that I've got
True to who You are
You saw my heart
and made
Something out of nothing

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Sweet Sixteen



Chandler turned 16 yesterday! It's hard to believe he's growing up so fast. 
I love him more and more every day. He's such a good kid and he's incredibly gifted.

I'm amazed at how fast he picks up on things, especially with computer software and writing music. He really does have a photographic memory. 

He landed his first job a couple days ago too.  
He's starting next week as a drafter at an architecture firm. 
I'm very excited for him because I know he's going to be awesome!


My friend, Suzanne, made Chandler his own little cake. :)



Monday, July 31, 2017

Pour Out Your Soul and Have Faith

When Helaman's army was struggling in battle, there's a couple of verses that are reminiscent of my own struggles and my own battles in my life. It's almost as if I could write these very same words.

"[I]did pour out [my] soul in prayer to God, that He would strengthen [me]..."
"And it came to pass the Lord our God did visit [me] with assurances that He would deliver [me]; yea, inosomuch that He did speak peace to [my] soul, and did grant unto [me] great faith, and did cause [me] that [I] should hope for our deliverance in Him. And [I] did take courage..."
- Alma 58:10-12

For me the "deliverance" doesn't always mean my particular trial or struggle has been removed from my life but more so I am strengthened beyond my natural capacity to handle it... peace and hope enter my heart, and the Spirit of God blesses me to take courage, to get up, to march forth in my battles knowing the Savior is leading the way.

-Alicia

Thursday, July 27, 2017

I'm Happy!


I had a wonderful birthday today! Joseph kept asking me what I wanted as a gift. I said, "I'd love for you to go with me on a morning hike up to the top of Squaw Peak." My wish was granted! 

Aug. 19th - the two of us are going to
tackle that mountain in the background. :)
In the evening, Joseph took me out to my favorite restaurant, Indian Palace. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Life and the Light

Sometimes, I wonder how often we really consider the power of God. How often do we let discouragement, fear, vain ambitions, conceitedness, insecurities, or disbelief get in the way? I believe that our Father in Heaven is a God of miracles and that he is anxious to provide ways to help us through every hardship. We discussed as a family tonight about how most adversity can be the key element to self discovery..and more importantly, Christ discovery.

This Mormon Message "Because of Him" has been on my mind for the last couple of days. I've been asking myself how much I really trust in and consider the power of our Father in Heaven and Savior. Pondering more fully such sacred truth fills me with reverence and awe!

In my scripture study today, these verses stood out the most:

“See that ye are not lifted up unto pride; yea, see that ye do not boast in your own wisdom, nor of your much strength. Use boldness, but not overbearance; and also see that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love; see that ye refrain from idleness… learn wisdom, that ye may learn of me that there is no other way or means whereby man can be saved, only in and through Christ. Behold, he is the life and the light of the world. Behold, he is the word of truth and righteousness.” - Alma 38: 11,12 &9

It doesn't really matter what is happening in my life at the moment... There is "one thing that is needful" to always remember.  The truth of Who God is and my relationship with Him, brings me an immense amount of peace.. come what may. 

He truly is the God of Love and the God of miracles!


-Alicia


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Children in Crisis

We've taken in two foster children for crisis care and will have them for about a week. This kind of care is short-term for children with severe needs until permanent placement is arranged. We have an 8-yr-old boy and a 5-yr-old girl. The social worker gave us a heads-up informing us that both children are severely autistic, so they don't speak much and what little they do speak is in Spanish. The girl is still in diapers but it's not so bad, she's really cooperative when it comes to letting me change her..

These kids may have high needs because of how severe their autism is but I can recognize right away that their spirits are both very sweet. They were so nervous when they were dropped off. I wasn't sure if they were ever going to warm up. But after a couple hours, it was incredibly rewarding to able to break through the first barriers.

The girl is in her own little world and makes hardly any eye contact as she hums and rocks herself. The boy is able to interact a little more. Right before bed, they both shed some tears as reality began to settle in that they were staying in a completely unfamiliar place. In an effort to calm them and help them feel a little more secure, I had the idea to play the relaxing music playlist Chandler listens to when he sleeps at night. I figured since Chandler has high-functioning autism, these children on the other end of the autistic spectrum might appreciate his style of nighttime music. My assumption was right - It instantly made a difference.

Then, I pulled out a couple of back scratchers to add to the relaxation. The girl liked it right away- but the boy seemed startled by the touch. He recoiled and made a few whimpering noises. I gave him some space and just let him watch me scratch his sister's back. After a moment of watching and seeing that he was safe, he rolled onto his stomach and let me scratch his back. Every other minute, the boy and girl would glance over their shoulder with their big brown eyes so full of questions. I'd smile and whisper, "esta bien, esta bien." Then they'd smile. After 30 minutes, I had them both sleeping deep and comfortable.

I did a late-night rush to the store once they were asleep to pick up some of their favorite foods their social worker listed for us.

I'm really glad we could be available for this crisis call. Joseph, Miriam, Micah and Kaylee have all been great helpers so far with this too. Chandler is away for the week at a scout-camp so I'm not quite sure what his reaction will be. He'll only be with them a few days though. I feel good about everything.

-Alicia

Friday, July 14, 2017

No More Tears

Liz and her husband, Brett




I got news early this morning that my cousin, Jordan, took his own life. He was a soldier in Iraq and suffered a great deal from PTSD. He had just returned home and was living with his sister, my cousin Elizabeth (Liz), and her husband.  They had been trying to help Jordan. I can't even imagine what Liz is going through right now.

Liz is one of my favorite persons in the world! She's absolutely gorgeous inside and out! Liz works full-time as an amazing nurse in the NICU at Primary Children's. She considers it an incredible blessing to care for newborns everyday because Liz has spent all her marriage unable to have children of her own. Her trial of being childless has been overwhelmingly heartbreaking - yet, she forgets her struggles and is constantly serving others.

She's one of the most Christ-like, self-less, loving friends and family members anyone could know.  She has a mother heart who desires to nurture and care for every soul. There are countless numbers of people who look to Liz as a brilliant light in this dark world -I know her brother, Jordan, did. She loved him so much!

I messaged my cousin this morning with prayers and sympathy.  I dedicated a few songs to her because music is healing for me. - It hurts to see her go through so much and know that there is so little I can do to help!




Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Invincible

My little Kaylee turned 9 yesterday! She spent most of the day with her two favorite friends, Leah and Hannah. She picked her favorite music as I drove her and her friends around. She has this song called "Invincible" by, Skillet that she loves to play. I think she knows all the words by heart! It makes me laugh because it sounds a little rough for her personality. But then again, I think I surprised my parents with the hard rock I loved as a kid.

I like the fact that Kaylee has a little edge to her. Happy Birthday to my sweet, petite, Kaylee, who deep down inside is really as TOUGH AS NAILS!!  I love you! You really are invincible!!






Head, Heart, Hands, and Health



Every year I make adjustments and changes to the way I homeschool my kids. This year, through my neighbor, I discovered a really great resource called 4H. I had heard of 4H club in high school but for some reason I always thought it was some kind of agriculture club. It's actually more of a family support group. The four H's stand for Head, Heart, Hands, and Health.

They offer free events and activities to strengthen family bonds and provide service opportunities to inspire family purpose. Children older than nine years old can be assigned a personal mentor. The mentors are college-age young adults who volunteer as a big brother or sister, who visit with your child for one hour each week helping them with their schoolwork, inspiring them in their talents, talking with them about their goals, anything to help develop your child and prepare them for the future.

Chandler hasn't really warmed up to the idea. Miriam and Micah resisted at first but when they met their mentors, they really loved it! Kaylee is in the process of being assigned her mentor. 

Last week, I was able to take my whole family camping in Wyoming for four days through the 4H program. They gave us our own cabin and provided us with food each day.  All we had to do was plan and teach other families a game one of the evenings and pay for our own river-rafting trip. 

What meant the most to me was being able to get Joseph out where he wasn't bothered by work or finances, where he could be with us and just enjoy some relaxation. It seemed to help him pull out a little from his depression for the time we were there. I was so grateful for that!