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"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...

Monday, November 30, 2015

"Glory in the Lord" - Ponderize - Week 9

What a wonderful Family Night tonight!  I invited a brother, Alex Balinski, from our ward to come and teach our children about his website preparetoserve.com and his youtube channel with stories and testimonies from returned missionaries.

Living in this student area, there's a lot of change over, a lot of move-in's and move-out's.  It provides a wonderful opportunity to meet hosts of amazing people and soak up all the good they have to offer.  There is so much talent, so much heart and soul here. truly a gathering of Zion's finest.

I felt strengthened and inspired with every missionary story Alex shared with us tonight.  I think this one was my favorite:


I could listen to stories like these all day!  These are the things that sustain me.  I love that we have the opportunity to witness to one another about the truth and reality of a Father in Heaven who hears and answers prayers, who knows us all so deeply and is involved in the tiniest details of our lives.

So, with this fresh in my heart... this is my verse to ponderize for the week:

"Who can glory too much in the Lord? Yea, who can say too much of his great power, and of his mercy, and of his long-suffering towards the children of men? Behold, I say unto you, I cannot say the smallest part which I feel." - Alma 26:16

-Alicia

Greater is He

I drove my kids to their Monday/Wednesday class this morning and heard this song on the radio.  I love the lyrics, I know they are true!  Before my kids ran off, I kissed them and said, "Never forget that there is nothing you can't overcome with God.  He lives within you because you are His children."  My son, Micah, smiled but didn't say anything.  Kaylee kissed me back as usual and skipped off.  I watched as Micah held the door open for his little sister.  A sense of pride filled my heart.  I wonder where their lives will take them?  What giants will they face and what will be the storm-tossed sea they will have to learn to step out onto?  I pray they will always remember who they are and that with faith in Christ... all things are possible.

"Greater Is He"
by, Blanca
(1 John 4:4)


I face a giant
In over my head
Help me to look up
I take a deep breath
And take the next step
Though I may be weak
I know Who is with me

And greater is He living in me
Than he who is in the world
Whatever may come, His strength is enough
My heart is at peace, for greater is He

I face an ocean
The waves are raging
Help me to look up
You’ll do what I can’t
And I’ll walk on dry land
I’ll step out on the sea
‘Cause I know who is with me

And in His name, giants will fall
And in His name, oceans will part
And in His name, there’s nothing we won’t overcome
This is our God, this is our God
This is our God, this is our God

-Alicia :)

Saturday, November 28, 2015

To God Alone

I woke up this morning with this song in my head.  It's officially the Christmas season.  And well, this isn't exactly a song written for Christmas but I think it should be...

Because, the true magic of Christmas is found when we lose ourselves, when we forget about what we want and think instead of how we can give.  Something incredible occurs when we focus on the beauty and good all around us and recognize God's hand.  The magic and glory of Christmas is when we have our eyes opened and our hearts filled with gratitude and wonder for the miracles that are constantly occurring.  Our souls feel lighter and we hunger for so little because we see that we already have so much.  The greatest and most valuable gift to all of mankind has already been given in the most humble way.  Everything we have ever needed is found in and through our Savior and His Priesthood authority.  We don't care about popularity, praise, position, or power.... Our cup runneth over when we kneel at His feet and worship Him, the only One worthy of such things.  This is the attitude that allows peace to enter into our hearts and fill us with good will and sincere love for our fellowmen.

Why wait for the Christmas season?
I believe in Christmas all year and every day of our lives.

"And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." - Luke 2:13-14


by, Aaron Shust

Can You take me by the hand?
Can You use me as I am?
Break me into who You want me to be

When the time is finally right
Will You open up my eyes
And show me everything You want me to see?
This life is not my own

To God alone be the glory
To God alone be the praise
Everything I say and do
Let it be all for You
The glory is Yours alone
Yours alone

Take the offering I bring
You want more than what I sing
Can I give You every part of me?

Turn these pennies into gold
Take this life I call my own
Until I'm running after Your heart
I'm needing to let go

To God alone be the glory
To God alone be the praise
Everything I say and do
Let it be all for You
The glory is Yours alone

We will rise and we will fall
But You remain after all
You're glorious and beautiful
You're beautiful

To God alone be the glory
To God alone be the praise
Everything I say and do
Let it be all for You
The glory is Yours alone

The glory is Yours alone
Yours alone
Yours alone
-Alicia

Friday, November 27, 2015

In the Last Days

I didn't realize how much of the Book of Daniel speaks of the last days before the Savior returns. I want to share some things I learned today and my own interpretation of them.  Please take it with a grain of salt because I'm not a scholar by any stretch of the imagination.

Anyway, I found some really interesting verses in Chapter 11.  In this chapter and the previous ones, there are lots of prophesies about kingdoms of the earth being at war with one another.  It makes mention of this one great kingdom "of the north" that is greater than all the others and is very proud and boastful.  (I think it's talking about America.)

In Daniel 11:30 it says that this king  (ruler(s) of America or possibly rulers in the United Nations) will "have indignation against the holy covenant... and have intelligence (or show favor) with them that forsake the holy covenant."  
To me this sounds like the government will turn their backs on the covenant keeping members of the church and show favor to the apostates.

But this is not all... in verse 31 it says that this government or kingdom will with "arms stand on his part" (In other words... armed forces will rise up) and "they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength (our beautiful Temples!!) and shall take away the daily sacrifice and they will place (or set up) the abomination that maketh desolate."  

Is it hard to believe that we could get to the point where the U.S. Army would be called to keep us from our temples or maybe even destroy one?
Has it been so long that we have forgotten Kirtland or Nauvoo and the army's attempt in Salt Lake City?

It goes on to say in verse 32 that the wicked will corrupt the apostates or those who have violated their covenants "by flatteries."

Lest this all be doom and gloom, don't lose heart.... their is good news that follows:

In the second half of verse 32 it says, "But the people that do know their God shall be strong and do exploits (or firmly resist the flatteries)."

Verse 33 "And they that understand among the people shall instruct many"  and it says that some will be martyrs.

But look here in Chapter 12 verses 3 and 10.  I love this:
"And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they shall turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever."
"Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand."

Daniel 12:11-13 says that most of this will happen within the span of just about four years which I find interesting because that's the length of a U.S. president in office. We are coming up on an election year...hmm.  I'm just saying. (Again, take it with a grain of salt.)

Well, no matter what happens in the next several years.  I'm reminded of a wonderful talk by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland entitled "Terror, Triumph and a Wedding Feast" he says:

"We should watch for the signs and read the meaning of the seasons, we should live as faithfully as we possibly can, and we should share the gospel with everyone so that blessings and protections will be available to all. But we cannot and must not be paralyzed just because that event and the events surrounding it are out there ahead of us somewhere. We cannot stop living life. Indeed, we should live life more fully than we have ever lived it before. After all, this is the dispensation of the fullness of times.... The first is from section 101 of the Doctrine and Covenants. If you recall, this revelation came as the Saints who were gathered in Missouri were suffering great persecution—were at the very height of their persecution. Mobs had driven them from their homes. Hostility, even hatred, followed them from county to county as they sought refuge. These frightened Saints lost land, livestock, clothing, furniture, crops, and a host of personal possessions. Threats of death were heard every day. I suppose, at its worst, this was the most difficult and dangerous time—may I say “terror-filled”—that the Church had ever known. Later on names like Haun’s Mill and Liberty Jail would take their place in our vocabulary forever.

Yet in that frightening time the Lord said to His people:

Let your hearts be comforted concerning Zion; for all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God.

Zion shall not be moved out of her place, notwithstanding her children are scattered.

They that remain, and are pure in heart, shall return, and come to their inheritances, they and their children, with songs of everlasting joy, to build up the waste places of Zion—

And all these things that the prophets might be fulfilled. [D&C 101:16–19]"
- Elder Jeffrey R. Holland - Sept. 12, 2004 




I'll close this post with this verse:

"O man greatly beloved, fear not: 
peace be unto thee, 
be strong, yea be strong." 

- Daniel 10:19

-Alicia :)


Thursday, November 26, 2015

ThankFULL

"Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; 
yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, 
that he may watch over you in your sleep; 
and when thou risest in the morning 
let thy heart be FULL of THANKS unto God; 
and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day."
 - Alma 37:37

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Random thoughts of gratitude - in no particular order:
  • I'm thankful for my parents: Our family wasn't perfect growing up.  It was a rough road for all of us but I'm so glad that my parents are still together.  I'm so thankful that they haven't given up on life, the Gospel, their children, or each other.  
  • I'm thankful for my husband: No matter what his struggles have been, he's constantly faithful in daily prayer and scripture study and has never sought for excuses to avoid Sacrament Meeting.  He has far more faith than he gives himself credit (but he's the kind of man where credit for anything doesn't really even cross his mind) I love that he's humble and genuine.  He works hard every single day and does his very best to provide.  He is interactive with the children, he plays games with them, reads them stories, shows genuine interest in their work, listens to what they have to say, teaches them truth, shares his testimony of the Gospel regularly, he wrestles and plays, he's goofy and smart.  He's easy to converse with.  He thinks deeply about life. He's very fun to be with and he's mighty fine to look at, mighty fine. ;) I love his family and that it's so big.  I love their traditions, the closeness they share.  I love that we have awesome get-together's all throughout the year and that our kids have regular sleep-overs with their many cousins. 
  • I live better than a queen:  Go back 300 years and beyond to the dawn of time - Q: Who had indoor plumbing and hot water? Who had several articles of clothing to choose from? Who had swift transportation protected from the elements with heating and air-conditioning? Who had music or entertainment to listen to any time they wanted, any style they wanted? Who had machines that did their washing? Who had lighting in every room with covered floors and painted walls? Who had plenty of food and never went hungry? Who had access to books, education, and learning larger than any library could hold? A: Not even royalty had all of these things.  Conclusion: I live better than a queen.
  • I'm thankful for my children: Each of them have helped me grow and have taught me things far more than I could ever have learned without them.  I love their different personalities.  I love that they aren't afraid to be unique.  I love their creativity. They all make friends very easily, with any age or any background.  They are inclusive and non-judgmental. They enjoy being around each other. They really don't demand much and they are easily entertained with the simplest of things life has to offer.
  • I'm thankful for music:  This has to have its own category because music is my life-blood.  I could never live without it. It makes my day brighter and my soul lighter.  Depending on the style I can instantly find healing, touch heaven, feel joy, laughter, playfulness, energy, excitement, fun, give expression, share passion, and feel motivation. 
  • I'm thankful for the Gospel:  I could go into further detail but it would take so much room to expand on this one.  Just read other posts on my blog and you'll see why I feel so incredibly blessed to have this truth.
  • I'm thankful for God's creations: Where do I even start? I love campfires, starry nights, thunder and lightning storms, waterfalls, ocean waves, evergreens and the smell of pine.  I love the crunch of autumn leaves, the splash of spring puddles, the warmth of the summer sun, and the sparkling stillness of freshly fallen snow.  The list goes on and on... It is truly glorious!  
-Alicia

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Shelter From the Storm

I'm studying the Book of Mormon again (a little slower this time).  I'm also working my way through the Old Testament.  The brave stories of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego have been fresh on my mind.  The culture tide that is sweeping away so many of our young adults has been heavy on my heart. You know how in Helaman 5:12 it warns "when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds... his shafts [directed or barbed in sharp attack] in the whirlwind, yea... his hail and his mighty storm...[that] shall beat upon [us]".  Well, it's not a matter of "when" anymore... it's happening now.

Have you ever been in a category five hurricane or tornado?  I haven't but I've seen pictures of the devastation.  Imagine heaps of wood, metal, and glass shooting at you from all directions at 180 mph. 
Aftermath of Hurricane Andrew - 1992
Category 5 damage: flipped car and destroyed buildings
Before something like this ever happens the people of the community hear numerous urgent warnings over the air waves from the news anchors.  "Run for cover! Find shelter! Head for a safe place!"  

I looked up images of storm shelters last night.  I was amazed at some of the stories of people emerging after the whirlwind to find nothing but devastation and rubble for miles and miles.  I'm sure their first thoughts as they step out uninjured and surveyed the scene, were thoughts of gratitude for the one little safe place they had for their family.
Moore, Oklahoma - 2013
In the Gospel, where is our shelter, our safe place?  

"And the Lord will create upon every dwelling-place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for upon all the glory of Zion shall be a defense.  And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and a covert from storm and from rain." - 2 Nephi 14:5,6  Isaiah 4:5,6

I love this description!  Every time I read it I think of the Provo Temple.  It was designed to look like a cloud around the base and the spire used to be almost orange to represent a pillar of fire.


Look at those words in the verse again, "a place of refuge, and a covert from storm" isn't it beautiful and comforting to know we have these in so many areas of the world?  

What makes this place safe?  How does it rescue us and help us be anchored in such trying times?  Why do we run to the temple?  Of course the most central focus of the temple is Jesus Christ, He is the foundation and cornerstone.  The temple helps us understand our true identity and purpose.  It helps us discover who we are and who we are meant to become.

The temple also helps us understand who the Lord has appointed as true messengers to guide and teach us in our mortal journey.  In every single temple the baptismal font is built upon the backs of twelve oxen.  There is a reason for this! The number represents the twelve tribes of Israel.  It is a place of gathering back the branches of Jacob's tree.  Twelve is also the symbol of the priesthood, a symbol of covenant.
Phoenix, Arizona Temple
Early this Monday morning, I sat on the bench in the baptistery of the Provo Temple and gazed out at the font. For the previous two days my head had been spinning about the negative voices of the world calling after and leading astray so many of our good members.  I thought of the recent Facebook conversation I participated in and the young women involved.  I thought of this girl's father and how many tears he has shed on her behalf.  Knowing some of his stories, I reflected further... "He has gone through so much anguish for this daughter on so many levels - pleading and praying for her physically and spiritually. How much more burden does this man have to shoulder? Lord, how much?!" Alma 4:15 played in my mind, "Having seen the afflictions of [this] humble follower of God....[I] began to be very sorrowful; nevertheless the Spirit of the Lord did not fail [me]."  My heart ached, and I prayed, "Lord, isn't there something I can say or do to help rescue these children?" I opened the Book of Mormon to where I am in my personal study.  

"We are not witnesses alone in these things; for God also spake them unto prophets of old.
 But behold... they despised the words of plainness... sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall." - Jacob 4:13,14

I reflected over and over on these words. They "looked beyond the mark." They missed the whole point, the plain and simple truths.  The storm was upon us.  We shouted and waved.  We pointed to the children where the shelter was "Get inside! Take cover!"...and they ran right past it looking for something "more appealing" less "restrictive," imagining something more significant. 

"However frustrating outside critiques may be, the bigger obstacle to finding sanctuary is when we begin to misunderstand our own beliefs—when we allow our faith to be diminished and trivialized. That can occur if we rewrite our own history, concluding that 'my mission wasn’t that meaningful' or 'I didn’t really have that experience.' In so doing, we fall prey to the situation described by George Orwell in his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four when he wrote: “Who controls the past . . . controls the future: who controls the present controls the past” (Nineteen Eighty-Four [New York: Penguin, 1950], 32).

At our worst, we caricature our own beliefs, making them seem small, insignificant, and slightly embarrassing. In the end we come to believe that our religion is no more than a series of interesting social customs and that our faith is as easily discarded as an unwanted gym membership." - Jeffrey F. Ringer - Finding Sanctuary

How is it that our culture has come to reject our very foundations of freedom?  How can we save our children who are being led astray?  "According to the scriptures, this stone shall become the great, and the last, and the only sure foundation, upon which the Jews can build. And now, my beloved, how is it possible that these, after having rejected the sure foundation, can ever build upon it, that it may become the head of their corner?" - Jacob 4:16, 17

The Lord of the vineyard, after all His labor, all His digging, all His nourishing and pruning, saw the branches of his beloved tree begin to perish and He cried, "It grieveth me that I should lose this tree." (Jacob 5:11) In an effort to save it He called servants to labor with Him.  Together they "did go and labor with their mights" (Jacob 5:72).  Even though the tree was dying for a time and it seemed as if there was no hope, the tree was revived and their efforts were not in vain. The Lord rejoiced saying, "I have preserved the natural fruit, that it is good, even like as it was in the beginning. And blessed art thou; for because ye have been diligent in laboring with me in my vineyard, and have kept my commandments, and have brought unto me again the natural fruit, that my vineyard is no more corrupted, and the bad is cast away, behold ye shall have joy with me because of the fruit of my vineyard." - Jacob 5:75

There is another temple in Provo.  It will be dedicated next March.  It stands as a symbol of redemption.  It proves that even if one has been ravished by storm or fire, even if it looks as if all hope is lost or that they will never return.... that there is a bigger part of the story to unfold we don't always foresee and that God is "mighty to save!"

Hold on and never lose hope!  "God's in His heaven.  All's right with the world." - Browning
Provo Tabernacle - December 2010
Provo City Center Temple - Present Day
Let it be known:
 "To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified." - Isaiah 61:3

This is my testimony.
-Alicia

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

"To the Promised Land" - Ponderize - Week 8

"Hold on thy way!"

"For behold, it is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ, which will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss, as it was for our fathers to give heed to this compass, which would point unto them a straight course to the promised land.

 And now I say, is there not a type in this thing? For just as surely as this director did bring our fathers, by following its course, to the promised land, shall the words of Christ, if we follow their course, carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise." - Alma 37:44-45

Fence or Ambulance?

Around ten years ago, I bought this DVD Standards Night Live by John Bytheway.  Chandler took to it right away and has probably watched it more than 30 times since then.  It has been very well played in our home.  I give it four stars and two enthusiastic thumbs up!

I'd encourage any parent to take advantage of "screen time" like this for their kids. Start them on this stuff as young as you can.  In our family, every Christmas and Easter these types of DVDs and EFY talks have become a well anticipated favorite gift our children receive.

In his devotional, Brother Bytheway recites a poem as he expresses the need for God's standards, for God's commandments and relates them to guard rails or fences.  I love the imagery and feel like it is very effective when we use it in our efforts to teach our children the "why" in this wonderful Gospel:


The Fence or the Ambulance
By Joseph Malins

‘Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed,
Though to walk near its crest was so pleasant;
But over its terrible edge there had slipped
A duke, and full many a peasant;
So the people said something would have to be done,
But their projects did not all tally.
Some said, “Put a fence around the edge of the cliff;”
Some, “An ambulance down in the valley.”
But the cry for the ambulance carried the day,
For it spread through the neighboring city,
A fence may be useful or not, it is true,
But each heart became brimful of pity
For those who slipped over that dangerous cliff;
And the dwellers in highway and alley
Gave pounds or gave pence, not to put up a fence,
But an ambulance down in the valley.
"For the cliff is all right, if your careful," they said, 
"And, if folks even slip and are dropping, 
It isn't the slipping that hurts them so much 
As the shock down below when they're stopping." 
So day after day,as these mishaps occurred, 
Quick forth would those rescuers sally 
To pick up the victims who fell off the cliff, 
With their ambulance down in the valley.
Then an old sage remarked, “It’s a marvel to me
That people give far more attention
To repairing the results than to stopping the cause,
When they’d much better aim at prevention.
Let us stop at its source all this mischief,” cried he.
“Come, neighbors and friends let us rally:
If the cliff we will fence we might almost dispense
With the ambulance down in the valley.”
Better guide well the young than reclaim them when old,
For the voice of true wisdom is calling:
“To rescue the fallen is good, but ‘tis best
To prevent other people from falling.”
Better close up the source of temptation and crime
Than to deliver from dungeon or galley;
Better put a strong fence ‘round the top of the cliff,
Than an ambulance down in then valley.

"We can choose to see commandments as limitations. We may feel at times that God’s laws restrict our personal freedom, take from us our agency, and limit our growth. But as we seek for greater understanding, as we allow our Father to teach us, we will begin to see that His laws are a manifestation of His love for us and obedience to His laws is an expression of our love for Him." 
- Sister Carol M. Stephens - Oct. 2015 General Conference


My heart feels very heavy today for those who view "the fence" or God's laws as restrictive to our personal freedom.  I wish there was a way I could convey the liberty and incredible love that accompanies those who give heed to our Father in Heaven.  I wish I could express how freeing life can be for those who seek His word and consistently follow His ordained servants.

-Alicia

Monday, November 23, 2015

My Old Friend

Photo taken Jan. 5, 2015
Yesterday, I spent the late afternoon with my 86-yr-old friend, Louis Crandall.  I took my youngest daughter with me for the visit.  She adores him.  Any time she peers out our living room window and sees Lou on his morning walk, she stops whatever she's doing to run out and greet him with an enormous hug.

One day as he was walking by, we both ran out to him.  Lou stopped in his tracks and acted as if he hadn't seen me in years, "I was just looking up at your window and wondering what you might be doing right now... and here you are!!" I hugged him and replied, "Well, I was just thinking how I needed something to cheer me up and there you were."

Honestly though, if ever I am down or feeling discouraged about anything, I love to visit my dear friend.  I remember one time this last January or February I got a horrible hack-job for a hair cut.  I was so embarrassed.  I wanted to get my mind off how unattractive I felt.  I decided to make a treat  for Lou and pay him a visit.  Surely, he would make me feel better.  He was grateful to see me and noticed my butchered new doo.  (I may have drawn attention to it by the insecure way I kept waving my hands near my head and apologizing for my appearance.)  Bless his pace-maker heart, he offered to buy me a wig!  He was so sincere. It made me feel better in a way that I hadn't expected.  Here this sweet man practically begged as he tried to console me, insisting he would get me a wig as soon as the next day.  I couldn't help but laugh out loud.  The manner of his consolation was absolutely hilarious and took me completely off guard  - like someone trying to comfort a huge fat woman by begging to buy her a beautiful moo moo.  I gratefully refused his offer and told him I'd stick with beanies and bandanas for a while.  Even typing this makes me smile.  That was a moment definitely worth holding in my memory.

Yesterday, we visited for nearly two hours.  I recalled the talks in Sacrament Meeting about gratitude.  This is why I love being around Lou...  If there was ever a man who personified such a virtue, it's him.  He always seems to find the good in every situation, even though he's had so many struggles.  He lost his wife when he was 69 yrs. old.  He remarried and lost his second wife 3 years ago. All of which I know has brought him enormous heartache but he never mentions it.   When he speaks of his life, his wife, his children, and grandchildren, he always does so with soulful appreciation.  I know he gets very lonely and I know his back and feet are in constant pain and yet every other word that comes out of his mouth is "thank you" and "wonderful."  How can one not be inspired by such a person?

-Alicia

Friday, November 20, 2015

In the Middle of Babylon

I am so excited to be in the Book of Daniel now!  I love the stories of these four young men, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  Their greatest quality was truly their non-worldliness.  Now, this is a story about four amazing young men and I love seeing this in the men and boys of today.  I also love this quality when I see it in women.

It is so clearly obvious and apparent to me when I am with a Zion-hearted sister in my church, the way she talks about life, the way she consistently dresses, the way she handles social media or guards the media streaming in her home, they way she reaches out to others regardless of who they are (cliques are unheard of for her.)  I love how she shares her faith, how humble she is (and doesn't even know it), how she views and speaks about her spouse or each of her children, and the list goes on.  I love that she is so counter-culture.  My best friend, Suzanne, is this way.  My friend, Carol, is this way... My friend, Kanani, is this way...  In fact all of my deepest and closest friends are this way.  This is why I treasure and love them so dearly.

I found this really great talk given April, 2006 by, Elder David R. Stone - Zion in the Midst of Babylon  I've copy-pasted the part that really jumped out at me.

"Daniel and his brothers refused to do that which they believed to be wrong, however much the Babylonian culture believed it to be right. And for that fidelity and courage, the Lord blessed them and 'gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom'  Dan. 1:17

Seduced by our culture, we often hardly recognize our idolatry, as our strings are pulled by that which is popular in the Babylonian world. Indeed, as the poet Wordsworth said: 'The world is too much with us' (“The World Is Too Much with Us; Late and Soon,” in The Complete Poetical Works of William Wordsworth [1924], 353). 

In his first epistle, John writes:
  • 'I have written unto you … because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one... Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world'  1 Jn. 2:14–15
We do not need to adopt the standards, the mores, and the morals of Babylon. We can create Zion in the midst of Babylon. We can have our own standards for music and literature and dance and film and language. We can have our own standards for dress and deportment, for politeness and respect. We can live in accordance with the Lord’s moral laws. We can limit how much of Babylon we allow into our homes by the media of communication.

We can live as a Zion people, if we wish to. Will it be hard? Of course it will, for the waves of Babylonian culture crash incessantly against our shores. Will it take courage? Of course it will.

We have always been entranced by tales of courage of those who faced fearsome odds and overcame. Courage is the basis and foundation for all of our other virtues; the lack of courage diminishes every other virtue that we have. If we are to have Zion in the midst of Babylon, we will need courage."- Elder David R. Stone, Zion in the Midst of Babylon

-Alicia

Thursday, November 19, 2015

God Doesn't Waste Time

I can't say much of what is happening right now but I do feel that miracles are already in the works.  The very same night after I wrote my last post, my brother-in-law, Jeff, called my husband out of the blue. Excitedly, he informed Joseph that he had just recommended him for a job where his starting pay would be a great deal more than what he's getting now.  Jeff has no idea that we've been considering adoption, (I don't think any one in our families know, unless they follow my blog.)  And I think the only people who knew that Joseph has been wanting a change of occupation is me and a couple of others.

Anyway, this is all happening so fast...
Through word-of-mouth and high recommendations from Jeff, the only thing my husband had to do was send in his resume and the company has already called him in for an interview on Monday.

Is this timing just merely a coincidence?  I guess we'll see but I don't think so.  If he gets this job it could mean big changes, possibly even moving to Salt Lake.  I hope not.  I am so in love with where I live right now.  But, even still I know that God sees the bigger picture and I've never doubted that.  He has been preparing my heart to let go.  I will submit to wherever He leads us.  I trust Him.

Wow, so many things to think about...

-Alicia

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

When You Believe - Ponderize - Week 7

Here's my verse for the week:

 "If God had commanded me to do all things I could do them. If he should command me that I should say unto this water, be thou earth, it should be earth; and if I should say it, it would be done.  And now, if the Lord has such great power, and has wrought so many miracles among the children of men, how is it that he cannot instruct me" 

And this quote from Elder Holland goes with the scripture perfectly.  
I love how he says, "this is how worlds are created."

"Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ—that is the first principle of the gospel. We must go forward, as it says in K. Newell Dayley’s hymn commemorating our pioneers of the past, 'with faith in ev’ry footstep.'  But like those pioneers, you do have to keep taking them—one step and then another and then the next. That is how tasks are accomplished, that is how goals are achieved, and that is how frontiers are conquered. In more divine language, that is how worlds are created and it is how your world will be created.

God expects you to have enough faith and determination and enough trust in Him to keep moving, keep living, keep rejoicing. In fact, He expects you not simply to face the future (that sounds pretty grim and stoic); He expects you to embrace and shape the future—to love it and rejoice in it and delight in your opportunities.

God is anxiously waiting for the chance to answer your prayers and fulfill your dreams, just as He always has. But He can’t if you don’t pray, and He can’t if you don’t dream. In short, He can’t if you don’t believe." - Terror, Triumph, and a Wedding Feast -BYU Devotional Sept. 2004, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

-Alicia

The Miracle Factor

We know absolutely nothing about the process of adoption and the consultant we met with yesterday had only one hour to dump out as much information on us as she could before her next appointment.  Needless to say, when she finished, we were both a little overwhelmed.  I was clueless about how much legal work, time, research, and money is needed for adoption.  I looked at the stack of brochures, pamphlets, and business cards the consultant left us with and thought,  "It's certainly going to take a great deal of energy for us to slice through all this homework."

I think I'm still whirling in shock that my husband even agreed to this meeting.  For years he's been opposed to having more children and even more opposed to caring for someone else's.  I honestly don't know what has come over him, but I'll take it! :)

Last night we were discussing the cost and my husband expressed his concern for how long this process will take to scrape up all that is necessary.  I could sense the consultant's words were weighing heavy on him like an enormous boulder smashed right into the middle of our path.  I completely understood the feeling.  He told me that I might have to quit school but I disagreed.  I really think with just a couple of classes a year, my school won't be an issue.  Besides after this winter semester I will have enough credits to begin to apply for scholarships.  Then he said, "I'll tell you what, you make all the phone calls and gather the information on all the costs and we can sit down one evening and make a spreadsheet where we can visually compare our options."  I agreed and said that sounded just fine.  He paused for a moment then appended very sternly, "But Alicia... You have got to understand that as we lay this out in our budget and do the math we cannot write in one of the boxes 'miracle' as a factor.  A miracle just isn't something we can 'plan' for."

I sat there for a very long time in silence and remembered when we prayed in the temple shortly after we moved to BYU.  We had lived here for summer and fall semester when Joseph was laid off from his part-time job.  A few days into winter semester, he was offered a research job with his professor that equaled out to one-forth the income he had been receiving before we ever moved to BYU.  I didn't have a spreadsheet with me at the time but it didn't take much for me to do the math and see that there wasn't enough to go around no matter how hard we scraped.  I wrestled with the idea and prayed about our financial situation. I kept thinking, "If he takes this research job we will have nothing to live on.  There won't be enough to fill our needs." Then as my husband and I joined hands and I whispered a prayer for guidance, I envisioned myself with 5,000 people sitting at the feet of Christ (in Mark 8) staring at the few loaves of bread and fishes, I fiercely argued, "Lord, this doesn't add up!" I realized in that moment how ridiculous it seemed to "argue with the Lord."  Of course it didn't add up with the math I was doing... I had not included the miracle factor.

Shortly after that I was asked by our landlord to be the apartment manager for the duration of his mission with his wife.  This reduced our rent to $200 a month.  That was something I could have never foreseen.  But the majority of miracles we witnessed during that trial didn't come in the form of money but rather in the form of ability and capacity to make things work with what we had.  It came in the form of education, in the form of faith building and soul stretching.  We had been called to BYU.  We didn't know why or where or how everything was going to work out.  But we KNEW we were called to go.  I firmly believe President Monson's promise that "If we are on the Lord’s errand, we are entitled to the Lord’s help."

 If adopting a baby is something God is calling us to do, and I truly believe it is... then it will work out...  and yes, when we lay out all the boxes before our eyes, we can trust full-heartedly that there will be things we can't foresee.  Miracles must not only be factored in our equation but fully expected and central to our plans.  I believe this is one of the most valuable lessons we could ever learn in life:  To learn what our mission is and then jump in with both feet...  no fear.... just faith.

-Alicia

Monday, November 16, 2015

Watchmen on the Tower

I saw this coming.  When we made the change-over into 2015, I felt it so clear:  "There will come a threshing within the church this year that will try the faith of the people." And just before October's General Conference, I was discussing with my friend, Carol, "There is so much change in the air.  Can you believe we will be getting three new apostles?  But don't you sense there is more to this?  I feel like there will be policy changes that will try the faith of the saints. They may not necessarily be announced during conference but certainly will be just a few weeks after."
She affirmed that she had been having the same impressions.
Sure enough, there was a policy change on November 5th that has indeed been a threshing among members.

This morning I read in D&C 88:79-80 where the Lord commands us to get an education "Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms—

That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling where unto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you."

 I had the opportunity to go to the United Nations in March of this year.  That was an education I wasn't expecting. There my eyes were opened to the face of pure evil in the form of highly sophisticated organized groups operating under many institutions, nations, and names.... Names that no one would ever suspect because on the outside they "appear" to be doing a lot of good.  But the truth is they are "ravenous wolves in sheep's clothing" and underneath their motive is wicked, primarily driven by money and power.  The tragedy is that so many err because they are uninformed or misinformed and good people become pawns in the hands of these organizations.  If only people could catch a glimpse of what is really going on with the push for sexual rights.  It is an all-out fully-loaded cunningly devised attack to exploit and shred to pieces all that is sacred and holy.

Just over two weeks ago, I had the opportunity of attending World Congress of Families IX.  It was far more uplifting than some of the meetings I attended at the UN.  Instead of being a panel of talking heads banging themselves up against each other, it was refreshing at the WCF where everyone was unified on the real solutions to our social ills.  This was an international gathering of world and religious leaders who all agree on our need for a restoration of faith in God, protection of the family, of moral principles, and more protection of our religious liberty if we want to find healing in our homes and in our countries.

People may accuse me of being a conspiracy theorist but that doesn't bother me.  It's no surprise, we see this pattern in The Book of Mormon of which Joseph Smith said,

"The downfall of two great American civilizations came as a result of secret conspiracies whose desire was to overthrow the freedom of the people. 'And they have caused the destruction of this people of whom I am now speaking,' says Moroni, 'and also the destruction of the people of Nephi.” (Ether 8:21.)


Many factors that led to the destruction of the people could have been pointed out but notice how it was secret combinations that was the main cause.  

President Benson warned, "The greatest threat to... peace, prosperity, and the spread of God's work... is the godless conspiracy. There is no conspiracy theory in the Book of Mormon —it is a conspiracy fact."

This is one of the reasons why I esteem the Book of Mormon to be so crucial and valuable.  Those who make it their serious regular study will not be surprised in these last days to see all that will unfold.   Moroni says, “Wherefore, the Lord commandeth you, when ye shall see these things come among you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation, because of this secret combination which shall be among you” (Ether 8:14.)

As much as I've witnessed "behind the curtains" there are those who have seen and do see so much more.  No one on the earth has been more educated of "things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations" than those who have been anointed as prophets, seers, and revelators.  These men have been called of God to stand as vigilant guards.

Last week, I read in Ezekiel 33 where it speaks of these great "Watchmen" and how they have given us such fair warning:

"When I bring the sword upon a land if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman:  If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people;  Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head." - Ezekiel 33:2-4

It's a sad day when the words of the prophets are rejected.  The mentality is just like my little "Revised Hymn" I wrote several years ago:

Ezekiel 33:30-33 says this
"...your people [the prophet's people or members of the Church] are talking together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, saying to each other, ‘Come and hear the message that has come from the Lord.’ My people come to you [the prophets], as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice. Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain.  Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice." (New International Version)

I believe the words of the living prophets and apostles.  I think we tread on dangerous ground when we take their counsel lightly or when a policy it set in place to label it as one brought on by fallible mortals.  As seers they have a clearer view of "things as they really are"...  for they see that which is unseen.  Oh how we need to trust this!  I sustain them and uphold them with all my heart.  I am not afraid to speak the truth for the truth is my sword in battle.  These watchmen stand guard to protect the city not to control it.  I choose to listen and obey.

-Alicia



Saturday, November 14, 2015

Beyond Understanding

We gathered with loved ones to celebrate my nephew's baptism the weekend after October's General Conference.  With the prophet's and apostle's words of counsel and wisdom still fresh on our minds, there was plenty to talk about.  I had a very pleasant visit with one of the aunts from my nephew's "other side of the family." My brother-in-law, Russ, joined our discussion as he pulled up a chair and sat down next to us.  Our conversation shifted to the movie, Just Let Go, my husband and I saw the night before:
As he listened to our review, I asked, "Have you heard the story of Bishop Williams?"
He recalled, "Yeah, that's the man who lost his two kids and pregnant wife in a car accident, right?"
"Yes, and there's a Mormon Message about him that came out several years ago. His process of grief is very intriguing."
We shared our various thoughts and discussed our limited views on his experience.
Russ suggested to me, "You'd would probably enjoy reading C.S. Lewis' book, A Grief Observed."
I responded with my love for C.S. Lewis' writings and told him, "I've read a few of his books but I haven't read that one.  I'll have to check it out."
Eagerly, I went to the library that same day and picked it up.

About a week or so later, I sat next to a very sweet woman in our Stake Choir who recently became a widow.  Before Stake Conference began and the congregation started to trickle in, I asked her how she was doing.  She confided and opened up her sorrow to me.  She said that approaching each new day without Lloyd was like trying to operate life with half her body severed off.
I told her that her description sounded very much like C.S. Lewis' words when he lost his wife.
I asked if she had read A Grief Observed and explained the book to her.
"No. That sounds like a great one though.  I need to look it up."
"It is really good and it's less than 100 pages.  I'm in the middle of reading it right now."
We took our seats as the organ began to play.  The meeting was about to start.
During the various talks, I continued to think about my grieving friend.
For one of the rest hymns the choir and congregation sang, "Onward Christian Soldiers."
As we stood, I wrapped my arm around this dear woman as a gesture to encourage her onward in her battle.  I could feel that she was weary and worn.  She reciprocated with a grateful sigh and wrapped her arm around me.  Each time we sang the chorus, I envisioned her angel husband as the one holding her.  After the song was over she said with tears in her eyes, "Lloyd loved that hymn."

Her story, Bishop William's story, and C.S. Lewis' book has left me thinking very deeply.  In all of these cases, they went through a period where they begged and wished to have just one more moment with their loved one.  But it was not to be and no amount of pleading with God could bring them back.

Lewis mourned, "Suppose that the earthly lives she and I shared for a few years are in reality only the basis for, or prelude to, or earthly appearance of two unimaginable, supercosmic, and eternal somethings.  Those somethings could be pictured as spheres or globes.  Where the plane of Nature cuts through them - that is, in earthly life- they appear as two circles (circles are slices of spheres).   Two circles that touched.  But those two circles, above all the point at which they touched, are the very thing I am mourning for, homesick for, famished for.  You tell me, 'she goes on.' But my heart and body are crying out, come back, come back.  Be a circle touching my circle on the plane of Nature.  But I know this is impossible.  I know that the thing I want is exactly the thing I can never get."

He goes on to describe the cruelty of God and his feelings of complete abandonment.   I was surprised to see the testimony of one so great as Lewis shaken to the very core.  He spent so much time preaching the word and wrote the most beautiful sermons on faith but he admitted when faced with this trial,  all his instruction was much easier said than done.

In his agony something beautiful began to happen though, and he gained some valuable insight.  He began to discover himself to see his own heart in a different light.  He reflected,"Only torture will bring out the truth.  Only under torture does he discover it himself." 

I found his thoughts about petitioning God very interesting:
  "You can't see anything properly while your eyes are blurred with tears.  You can't, in most things, get what you want if you want it too desperately:  anyway, you can't get the best out of it.... I have gradually been coming to feel that the door is no longer shut and bolted.  Was it my own frantic need that slammed it in my face:  The time when there is nothing at all in your soul except a cry for help may be just the time when God can't give it:  you are like the drowning man who can't be helped because he clutches and grabs.  Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear.

On the other hand, 'Knock and it shall be opened.'  But does knocking mean hammering and kicking the door like a maniac?  And there's also 'To him that hath shall be given.'  After all, you must have a capacity to receive, or even omnipotence can't give.  Perhaps your own passion temporarily destroys the capacity."

This description of panic and trepidation sound like an immobilizing fear to me.  How can we expect to exercise our faith and hold the outstretched hand of God when our fists are clenched so anxiously tight?  Like he said, "You must have a capacity to receive, or even Omnipotence can't give." 

 It seems as though the surrender doesn't come at once for anybody but rather through a process of time.  It's a constant struggle of letting go day after day, after day, like learning to walk again after having half your limbs severed.... all the while the battle cry sings out, "Onward Christian Soldier!"

There is beauty in surrender, a peace and rest that come to one's soul in the relinquishment of our will and trusting that God sees the bigger picture. Through it all we might ask a thousand questions.
And it may be with us as it was for C.S. Lewis "When I lay these questions before God I get no answer.  But a rather special sort of 'No answer.' It is not the locked door.  It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate, gaze.  As though He shook His head not in refusal but waiving the question. Like, 'Peace, child; you don't understand.'"

Maybe that's how we let go?... when we stop trying so hard to understand it all, to have every single question answered.  to embrace the  "peace of God, which passeth all understanding," peace that goes beyond what is explained, to trust as Browning said, "God is in His heaven, all's right with the world."  This "shall keep [hold together] our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."- Philippians 4:7

-Alicia

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Keep Shining!

 So grateful for my friends who make my life a little brighter by shining the light of Christ in their life!
This song goes out to them.  Thank you for blessing me.  You truly are the light of the world.

"Somebody needs you more than you know, 
Ignite and watch it glow beyond this world
Shining like diamonds and gold!"



Tuesday, November 10, 2015

"To Be Content" - Ponderize - Week 6

It was 4:00 and my husband still wasn't home from his meetings.  Sundays are very long for him so I thought it would be nice if he came back to a quiet house and took a moment to rest.  Besides, I couldn't resist a nice autumn stroll for a Sabbath evening. "Let's go walk around campus you guys.  Who wants to come?"  All of the kids jumped right up and eagerly grabbed their shoes and jackets.

We passed the duck pond and made our way to the stairs.  My 14-yr-old son and I chatted as we walked arm in arm and I laid my head on his shoulder. "Don't you think ducks are funny?  I mean, God must have a really great sense of humor.  The way ducks walk is one thing but listen to them when they quack.  Doesn't it sound like they're all sitting around cracking jokes?"
Chandler listened as another duck erupted into wild silly laughter.  He looked down at me and smiled with a nod of agreement.

We reached the top of the hill and my children bolted in two different directions. The younger three wanted to climb on the white fan-like concrete Tree of Wisdom, while my oldest sauntered off to have some time alone.  I sat on the steps of the Science building where I could catch the last rays of warm sunlight before it slipped beneath the horizon.  I could see my children playing in the distance.  I picked up my scriptures I had brought along with me and began to turn the pages.

My mind was in another place as I drifted off in thought, "It's hard to believe we've lived here for seven-and-a-half years.  We've never lived anywhere longer than two.  I love this beautiful place.  How many times have I taken the children to play on this campus just to be a little closer to Joseph while he studied?  It has been the perfect playground for them.  Where does the time go? They've all practically grown up here.  I love the feeling that resides in this place and all the experiences we've shared as a family on this campus.  We've learned so much.  Through my husband's schooling, we learned to live on very little but it never felt small.  So often Joseph would worry about our circumstances and I'd reassure him "Honey, I live better than a queen, we all live like royalty. Everything is wonderful."
  
I looked out again across the campus to where my children were still climbing.  I smiled and began to say a silent prayer of gratitude.  I glanced down at my opened scriptures again and thought "I'd better read while I still have a moment to myself."  Turning aimlessly through the pages of the New Testament my eyes fell on verse 13 of Philippians 4 (our family scripture) "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." I love this simple truth.  I know that through my Savior, I can and will make it through all things that are required of me.  My eyes scanned up to verse 11, "For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content."  I stopped and thought about the word, "content." It seems to be such a peaceful word: No fear, no anxiety... no want.  I read the verse again, "For I have learned."  How ironic that my education has only just begun here and yet I feel I've already had some wonderful life-lessons.  "I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." 

Contentment is so closely tied to gratitude.  It is truly the key to peace.  I pondered some more.  "Have I truly learned to be content? No, there are still things I want that I may never obtain... and no matter how I try to suppress them, the desires remain like a lingering hunger."
I read verse 12  -"I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need."  I am certain this hunger I struggle with won't last forever.  I trust that if I'm patient the Lord will fill the void as I continue to learn the principles of gratitude and contentment.  Being thankful is really the key.

My eyes moved up the page to verses 6&7; "Be careful for nothing [or don't be excessively concerned about anything, don't worry]; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding shall keep [hold together] your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." 
Again I read the words "supplication with thanksgiving."
It sounded like an oxymoron, to beg but at the same time be grateful.
I guess in my mind I assume that if I'm grateful then I won't ask for anything.  It must mean that our hearts are thankful for the ability to take our crys and longings to the One who is fit to carry us through them.  After all, it is "Christ which strengtheneth" us.

How can I be strong in this?
Psalm 23 began to play in my head and I could hear the Tabernacle Choir sing, "My Shepherd will supply my need.  Jehovah is His name."  As I imagined myself joining the alto section full of heart and soul. I glanced across the column to verse 19, "God shall supply all your need...." Perfect. Just perfect.  I love it when thoughts and scripture sync like that.

I said another silent prayer.  The sun had set and I began to shiver from the cold.
I picked up my scriptures and called for my children.  As I headed back home and took in the sights around me, I pondered again, "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content."  I know I haven't fully learned this yet.... but I'm getting there.  Eventually, I will get there... but I often need reminders.  So this is my verse for the week, sweet and simple.

-Alicia

P.S.
I found this in a talk today.  I love it because it fits perfectly with all that I've been thinking of.  I am so richly blessed. God is generous and good.  I have right here and now far more than I deserve.

"Isn’t it ironic... that we will often travel many miles to see the wonders of nature or the creations of man, but yet ignore the beauty in our own backyard?

It is human nature, I suppose, to seek elsewhere for our happiness. Pursuit of career goals, wealth, and material rewards can cloud our perspective and often leads to a lack of appreciation for the bounteous blessings of our present circumstances.

It is precarious to dwell on why we have not been given more. It is, however, beneficial and humbling to dwell on why we have been given so much.

An old proverb states, 'The greater wealth is contentment with a little.'"

Friday, November 6, 2015

Into the Unknown

My second pregnancy was a difficult one.  During my third trimester I was bed-ridden with preeclampsia.  Labor was awful, my body went into shock, my placenta wouldn't deliver, and my blood pressure was on the verge of triggering seizures. I don't remember much from that morning, by the time the Dr. bundled Miriam up and placed her in my arms, I was unconscious.  A few months after her birth I kept having dizzy spells and passed out on one occasion but it wasn't related to the preeclampsia.  Turns out it was because my iron levels were extremely low and I had Anemia.  Just a few months after the birth of my second daughter, Kaylee, I had the same symptoms of Anemia but this time the Dr. said I had way too much iron in my blood. He said he had ruled out the possibility of Hemochromatosis. (A was a mouthful of a word I had never heard before.)

He informed me, "Alicia, the average female has a ferritin level of 12-150 ng/mL.  Your blood is showing levels of nearly 1,000 ng/mL.  We've already ruled out one thing but high ferritin could also be an indication of disease, this is why we often see such levels increase in the elderly.  But since you're still so young we will need to run some more tests."

The Dr.'s words frightened me.  He told me they needed to rule out fatal diseases like Cancer or Lupus.  I drove home that day imagining myself battling with either one of these and I just couldn't wrap my brain around it.  Never before had life seemed so fragile, it felt surreal.  For the next several months I went back and forth to the Hematologist to have my blood drawn.  I was relieved when the test results for both these diseases came back negative.  The Dr. was still scratching his head at why my iron level was so high. Disease or no disease, such levels were toxic and he suggested a series of phlebotomy treatments to lower it.  I wasn't sure how well I would handle regular "draining" because of my small frame, I've never been a good candidate for giving blood.  Gratefully, I didn't need to go through with it because the levels of ferritin began to decrease on their own. My health soon returned  after those few months and everything was back to normal.

I am certain that this unsolved mystery alone was one of the fears keeping my husband from wanting to have more children, not to mention his fear of providing financially, and his fear of his own emotional stability.  Around the time my youngest turned three, I begged Joseph for another child.  I fasted and prayed, I felt good about it.  I tried to persuade him that if the Lord intended for us to have more children, that everything would be okay, things would work out, and we would be fine.  He was in such a depressed state and with despondency he answered, "Honey let's not talk about it anymore.  Let's not pray about it, or fast about it.  I think we're done."  So, I never bothered him about it again.  It was incredibly heartbreaking for me.  But I moved on and began to prepare myself for the "next phase" of our life.  I sold our crib, got rid of strollers, and car seats.  The huge bag full of maternity clothes I had been hanging on to was finally taken to the thrift store.

Seven-and-a-half years have passed since my youngest was born.  I'm a student now at BYU and have accepted this as part of my "new phase" of life.  Imagine my surprise when a month ago, my husband approached me and expressed his desire to have another baby.  My jaw dropped to the floor.  I should have been excited about this but my emotions were very mixed.  Of course I would love another child but the idea had been packed away for so long, it took me a moment to process.
 "Are you serious?" I asked him.  "Are you sure this isn't a 'bi-polar high' and next week you're going to dip down and be deeply opposed?"
"No, I'm serious...  But I understand if you don't want to now because it's been so long.  I just don't want my depression to be the thing that is stopping us from doing the Lord's will.  I would hate to live with that all of my life, knowing that my fear was keeping us back from having more children."

For weeks now my mind has been caught up in a whirlwind.  The thought of carrying and holding another infant in my arms feels me with a flood of emotion.  Every baby I see at church, at the store or with my husband's family seems to be a reflection of a future child and my eyes well up with tears.  I envision my other kids affectionately doting over and loving on a new little one like proud parents.  I imagine what wonderful experiences they would have caring for a baby.  Memories play like choirs of angels in my mind as I recall the magic of when each of their soft tiny bodies laid on my chest, their sweet breath touched my face, and I smothered every little part of them with kisses.

Then a little bit of fear creeps in...  I begin to think of my education and how I will manage to fulfill both dreams. I begin to worry about the mystery of my own health and what it could mean.

It has been said that courage is not the absence of fear but the faith and power to step forward in spite of it.

It truly is a miracle that my husband is wanting another baby.  Now, I can't be the one to let this pass. I don't need to give up my dream of BYU or stop taking classes in order to have another child and I don't feel like I need to let health issues prevent me either. (As far as I know, my body is currently strong.)  I find courage in stories of other women who have completed their schooling while still bearing children. If I didn't know of their success, I'm not sure if I would dare so much to keep going but they inspire me to step into this unknown world; brave, bold, and full of faith. So... I'm running with this.  I'm leaving it all in God's hands.  It is up to Him.
If the Lord sees fit to bless me with more children....  then hallelujah!
I'll be ready for the change.  Everything will work out.  It always does.

"Take me to the magic of the moment
On a glory night
Where the children of tomorrow dream away
in the wind of change." 

-Alicia


Thursday, November 5, 2015

Learning to Let Go

Colors of gold, crimson, and yellow shine with fiery splendor in the evening sun,
Swaying in the branches like elegant silk fans waving in the hands of royalty.  
Majestically stunning are the canopies of leaves that fill the trees of autumn.  
A kaleidoscope of delicate parasols dance gracefully away and blanket the ground.  
I am filled with wonder as I lay on this vibrant patchwork spread beneath me.
Gazing up at the decorative boughs above, I watch quietly as more colors fall.
It's strange how beautiful the death of a leaf can be.    
The wind, like the Spirit, pulls each one from the grasp of the tree's fingertips,
What am I supposed to learn from this?
It whispers to me, "There are moments we hang on to and others we let go."
Perhaps this is the lesson God is trying to impress upon my heart;
To let go of my own interpretations, to release the need for all the answers,
To be at peace with the unknown, embrace the magic of the present, 
And trust myself to the wind no matter how vagrant I feel.
I close my eyes and question how I got here.  I guess it doesn't matter.
I breathe in deep the crisp harvest air and delight in the taste-
It's refreshing like sipping hot spearmint and chamomile tea on a winter's night.
All of creation is in the hands of God.  I nestle into the earth and feel heaven holding me.
I am not alone but am cared for like His finest and most precious jewel. 
He holds my future through every season.  I trust Him with all of my heart.
Happy day, all is well.

-Alicia



Tuesday, November 3, 2015

"A New Heart" - Ponderize - Week 5

I chose this verse to be the one I ponder on this week because currently all my scripture study, both personally and with my family, seems to be pointing to it.  As I ponder this verse, I will also think of Elder Renlund's talk "Preserving the Heart’s Mighty Change."

"And I will give them one heart, 
and I will put a new spirit within you; 
and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, 
and will give them an heart of flesh:
That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, 
and do them: and they shall be my people, 
and I will be their God."

-Alicia

The New Heart In Us

Paul Cardall is a popular pianist and musician who was born with congenital heart disease.  I've been listing to many of his compositions for nearly a decade now.  He had a blog I used to follow before he had surgery to receive his new heart in 2009.

This morning I was reading through the Old Testament (I am determined to finish it by the end of this year.) As I read Ezekiel 11:19 - 20.  I remembered back in 2009 a conference talk based off of this scripture.  It was the conference one month following Paul's miraculous heart transplant.  The timing was so perfect that it left an indelible impression on my mind and I've never forgotten it.  Elder Renlund spoke about the human body's natural reaction to reject a donor heart and what a recipient must do in order to preserve it.  He explained:
  • "In each heart transplant recipient, the patient’s own body recognizes the new, lifesaving heart as 'foreign' and begins to attack it. Left unchecked, the body’s natural response will reject the new heart, and the recipient will die. Medicines can suppress this natural response, but the medications must be taken daily and with exactness. Furthermore, the condition of the new heart must be monitored. Occasional heart biopsies are performed wherein small pieces of heart tissue are removed and then examined under a microscope. When signs of rejection are found, medications are adjusted. If the rejection process is detected early enough, death can be averted."
  • "Surprisingly, some patients become casual with their transplanted hearts. They skip their medicines here and there and obtain the needed follow-up less frequently than they should. They think that because they feel good, all is well. Too often this shortsighted attitude puts the patients at risk and shortens their lives."
This leads me to ask two questions, 
First, "What does this new heart or new spirit look like in our lives?" 
In my Book of Mormon study, I just read these verses that seem to have the answer. (2 Nephi 21:2-5 or Isaiah 11:2-5)

"And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord;
And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord; and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears.
 But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.  And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins."

With this we can conclude that this is what the new heart looks like :
  1. A Spirit that brings wisdom and understanding, (Also See Galatians 5:22-23)
  2. A Spirit that gives direction and builds strength,
  3. A Spirit that instills knowledge and Fear-of-God (not of man)
  4. This deep reverence for the sacred will be all his joy and delight.
  5. A Spirit that won’t judge by appearances, won’t decide on the basis of hearsay.
  6. A Spirit that will judge the needy by what is right, and render decisions on earth’s poor with justice.
  7. In the New Living Translation verse 5 interprets righteousness being the girdle of our loins as  "wearing righteousness like an undergarment" (I love to think about this in regards to the covenants we make in the temple.) 
Our family scripture study just happens to fall upon these verses in Mosiah.  It lines up perfectly with where I am in my personal study of both the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon. I love how the message is consistent! It says that everyone, "must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters; And thus they become new creatures" - Mosiah 27:25-26

Just as with a physical heart transplant, the patient must take measures to prevent their body from rejecting the new heart, so it is with this new Spirit.
This leads me to my second question:
"How do we keep the blood of Christ flowing and pumping through the veins of our soul?"

  Elder Renlund answers:
  • We must "frequently assess the condition of [our] spiritually changed hearts." We must "not simply assume that all was well. By figuratively examining [our]changed hearts, [we can] identify any early hardening or rejection and treat it."
This frequent assessment or regular biopsy I believe is done through consistent recurrent visits to the Great Physician, through sincere daily prayers, through weekly partaking of the Sacrament and pondering the Lord's Atonement in our life, through asking how we can turn outside of ourselves, to humbly let go of what we want and follow the self-less life of the Savior.  We need to be willing to follow "the prescribed course" He sets for us as we seek His word through scriptures, priesthood counsel, and revelation.  As we do this and endure to the end He will help our weary hearts stay alive forever.

-Alicia