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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

That Which is Not Seen

"Verily, verily, I say unto you that mine eyes are upon you.  I am in your midst and ye cannot see me." - D&C 38:7

My eyes are mortal, they are limited.  My physical vision can only see so far.  So when I read verses that speak of those things that cannot be witnessed with my own eyes, it draws my attention.  How can we see without tangible evidence?  What realms beyond mortal sight, beyond physical touch are as accessible and real as the air I breathe and the ground I walk on?

“One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.”- The Little Prince

How does one see with the heart?
The Savior spoke to the people in parables because they "seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand... For this people’s heart is waxed gross" - Matthew 13:13 - 15.  I searched this scripture in other versions and the heart is described as calloused or dull. The rest of verse 15 describes that the ears and eyes are also dull and closed.  When I think of a heart waxing gross, I think of fatty arteries, build-up from caring for things that have no value.

Maybe in this mortal life, we try to view things backwards?
First with our eyes, then our ears,
and then with our hearts.
Relying first on the physical tangible evidence saps us dry.  It's far too broad, far to extensive, too general and vague to give any real direction.  We become anxious or care about meaningless things, leaving no room in the end for faith in one's heart.

Maybe if we just flip things around, the proper vision will be opened to us?
First with our hearts,
then with our ears,
and eventually with our eyes.

Even in the darkest moments of life, even in the places where we cannot see the end from the beginning or what's on the other side,.. Even if the curtain is drawn, even if we don't know what's around the bend or where we are going, we can still feel safe and secure as if we could see.  If our hearts are set upon God, we have hope... not because of our vision but because of His.  The heart is the home of affection and when we sincerely love the Lord, we seek to lean on Him.  I imagine this much like an affectionate child laying their head on their father's strong chest, listening to his soothing voice.  The child won't understand everything in that moment but he trusts that someday, eventually he will know what his father is teaching him, and his eyes will be opened.  What comfort this gives!

In our Father's arms, our hearts are warmed by trust and faith in Him and we are given strength to carry on despite that which is seen or not seen.

Why do I believe in God?  Why do I believe in someone who I cannot see?
Many years ago I kept a quote on my bedroom wall that answers this:

"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen. Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."  - C.S. Lewis

"To the glory of God... we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal." - 2 Corinthinas 4:15-18

I believe because I feel it in my heart first,
Then I lean on my Father and listen
And trust that eventually my eyes will see.

-Alicia

"We see such a limited part of the eternal plan He has fashioned for each one of us. Trust Him, even when in eternal perspective it temporarily hurts very much. Have patience when you are asked to wait when you want immediate action. He may ask you to do things which are powerfully against your will. Exercise faith and say, Let Thy will be done. Such experiences, honorably met, prepare you and condition you for yet greater blessings. As your Father, His purpose is your eternal happiness, your continuing development, your increasing capacity. His desire is to share with you all that He has. The path you are to walk through life may be very different from others. You may not always know why He does what He does, but you can know that He is perfectly just and perfectly merciful. He would have you suffer no consequence, no challenge, endure no burden that is superfluous to your good.

To gain unshakable faith in Jesus Christ is to flood your life with brilliant light. You are no longer alone to struggle with challenges you know you cannot resolve or control yourself, for He said, “If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me.” (Moro. 7:33)" - Richard G. Scott - Obtaining Help from the Lord (Oct. 1991)

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

"Trees of Righteousness" - Ponderize - Week 13

This is my verse for the week:

"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

-Alicia

The Refiner's Fire

I've accomplished my goal of finishing the Old Testament before the end of the year.  In the last few pages I studied, there are a couple of verses that have stood out to me:

"I will bring the [righteous] through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried:  they shall call on my name, and I will hear them:  I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God." - Zechariah 13:9

"Who may abide the day of His coming? and who shall stand whe He appeareth? For He is like a refiner's fire" - Malachi 3:2

As I read these verses, the last part of the hymn "Consider the Lilies of the Field" began to play in my mind and I found myself humming, "and make their hearts as gold."

I did some research about the refining of gold and of silver and discovered that gold is refined at 1,947° F  and silver at 1,450º F.  It is at these unbelievable temperatures that the dross surfaces, turns into a powdered condition in which it is driven away by an air blast.  http://biblehub.com/topical/r/refining.htm

The intensity of the heat and the way in which the dross surfaces and blows away is absolutely fascinating to me. It sounds agonizingly painful when you consider in the scriptures that we too must be refined.  The ways in which this happens for each of us varies almost as much as the stars in the sky. But to know the purpose and the end result can bring an immense amount of peace.

What fires must I go through? God only knows. And maybe it's better that I can't see exactly when and how.  I don't think these are the kinds of fires we "escape" from.  I cannot run away, the flames continue to burn.  I find hope in knowing that the Lord is good and sees what is best.
 "[He] will bring [me] through the fire and refine [me]... and try [me]... and [I] shall call on His name and He shall hear [me]."  How many times will I cry out from the pain?  I don't know... but He will hear me every time and I will have courage to remain in the flames... And he will "make [my] heart as gold."  I trust this and it gives me peace.

"Here then is a great truth. In the pain, the agony, and the heroic endeavors of life, we pass through a refiner’s fire, and the insignificant and the unimportant in our lives can melt away like dross and make our faith bright, intact, and strong. In this way the divine image can be mirrored from the soul. It is part of the purging toll exacted of some to become acquainted with God. In the agonies of life, we seem to listen better to the faint, godly whisperings of the Divine Shepherd.

Into every life there come the painful, despairing days of adversity and buffeting. There seems to be a full measure of anguish, sorrow, and often heartbreak for everyone, including those who earnestly seek to do right and be faithful. The thorns that prick, that stick in the flesh, that hurt, often change lives which seem robbed of significance and hope. This change comes about through a refining process which often seems cruel and hard. In this way the soul can become like soft clay in the hands of the Master in building lives of faith, usefulness, beauty, and strength. For some, the refiner’s fire causes a loss of belief and faith in God, but those with eternal perspective understand that such refining is part of the perfection process.

In our extremities, it is possible to become born again, born anew, renewed in heart and spirit. We no longer ride with the flow of the crowd, but instead we enjoy the promise of Isaiah to be renewed in our strength and “mount up with wings as eagles” (Isa. 40:31).

The proving of one’s faith goes before the witnessing, for Moroni testified, “Ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith” (Ether 12:6). This trial of faith can become a priceless experience. Stated Peter, “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:7). Trials and adversity can be preparatory to becoming born anew.

A rebirth out of spiritual adversity causes us to become new creatures. From the book of Mosiah we learn that all mankind must be born again—born of God, changed, redeemed, and uplifted—to become the sons and daughters of God. (See Mosiah 27:24–27.)""  - James E. Faust - April 1979 "The Refiner's Fire"

-Alicia
(Faith Through Fire)
 

Monday, December 28, 2015

William Madison Wall

He was his great grandfather and he was my third great grandfather.  Kay Wall lives just down the street from me.  The first question I asked Kay when I met him was if he was related to William Madison Wall.  A couple of months ago, Kay loaned me a book called, "Out of Captivity" by, Rallet C. Lund.  It contains the childhood story of our shared ancestor.  Each Sunday for the past couple of months I've been reading a chapter of it to my kids.  I had no idea the kind of trials William Wall went through.

Born in Illinois, he was the second oldest of four boys, raised in a good Christian family with loving parents. His mother died when he was eight while giving birth to his youngest brother.  After his mother's death, they went to live with their grandparents.  Being re-located meant his father had to look for new employment.  He wasn't having much luck and decided to further his options in distant towns.  One morning before his father went to search for work, William begged him not to leave.  He said he felt like something bad was going to happen to his dad but he didn't know what.  His father insisted and set out in spite of William's pleadings.  He never returned.  No one knows what happened to him.  They believe somewhere along the way he was robbed and murdered.

Williams grandparents were old and couldn't handle the four orphaned boys.  They split them up and sent them to foster homes.  William was ten years old when he was made to live with the Barton family.  They treated him like a slave and he was forced to eat and sleep in the barn.  In the summer he was chained up like one of the animals and in the winter Mr. Barton kept William's shoes locked in the house so he wouldn't try to escape.  For food, he received only a little bit of bread, water, and meat drippings a couple of times a week.  Sometimes he was so hungry he would eat out of the troughs of the cattle or pigs.  He slept in a burlap sack and had only the clothes on his back to wear.  William received daily beatings from Mr. Barton and his sons and lived as a slave for four years.  

The winter William was fourteen, he escaped from slavery and walked for almost a month with bleeding frozen and bare feet.  He found a few places here and there to chop wood or clean stables in exchange for food and sometimes a place to sleep.  He eventually met the Haw's family.  They were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  They took him in as one of their own.  Later, he fell in love with one of their daughters and they married.  

What I have shared here is such a small little fraction, such a simplified version of his story.  It doesn't really do him justice.   It has been incredible to read.  I can't say for sure if the kids look forward to hearing a new chapter each week but I certainly do.  In my personal scripture study, I am in the last two chapters of Malachi.  I love the verse about the spirit of Elijah, about turning the hearts of the children to their fathers.  My heart has been turned to this father of mine.  I love the faith he had through all that he endured.  His prayers were constant and he trusted in God.  In his short lifetime, he accomplished amazing and miraculous things.  I am honored to be one of his children.  

William Wall ended up joining the Church and became a great pioneer for the early saints in the Utah Valley.  He was a sheriff and a bishop of Provo's 3rd and 4th ward.  He led the construction of the road through Provo Canyon and has a statue built in his honor called "Journey's End."  The town of Wallsburg, near Heber City, is named after him.

Buried in the Provo City Cemetery 

-Alicia
Walk With Me


I found this article on Family Search:

Deseret News
CENTENNIAL LEGACIES
By Nicole K. Young, Staff Writer
Published: Sunday, Sept. 29 1996 12:00 a.m. MDT

Captured in bronze 
A 20-foot man riding a horse attracts a lot of attention in Heber City.
The bronze sculpture of William Madison Wall, Wasatch County's legacy project, stands alone in Heber City Park.

But there is a reason the statue is located in the southeast corner of the park, away from the playground, away from the picnic areas.

If you look at the statue at just the right angle, at the time of day when the sun is setting behind the Wasatch Mountains to the west, it looks like Wall is riding down the mountain, coming home to the Heber Valley.

"This is my home . . . This is my journey's end."

This is the theme of the statue, said its sculptor, Peter M. Fillerup, who recently moved from Cody, Wyo., to Wasatch County.

When Fillerup first came into the valley, he felt the spirit of the valley and its residents. The statue symbolizes that spirit.

"He (William Wall) has the spirit of the people that are here," said Fillerup.
Wall, born in Rockingham County, N.C., on Sept. 30, 1821, traveled with the 7th Mormon Company to Utah in 1850.

In 1858, Wall was among the first cattle ranchers to settle in the Heber Valley. His ranch was located at the mouth of Provo Canyon on the south end of the valley. Wallsburg is named after the colonizer....

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Traditions Old and New

"If we will build righteous traditions in our families, the light of the gospel can grow ever brighter in the lives of our children from generation to generation." 
- L. Tom Perry

Burning Bright On the Darkest Night
The first new tradition our family participated in is all about "light growing brighter."  It happens every 21st of December, the darkest night of the year, the Winter Solstice.  My friend Alicia and her husband Stan invited us to join them in their annual tradition of making candles out of real bee's wax.  Stan's father, and grandfather were bee keepers and he and Alicia are the ones today who keep the family honey making business buzzing. :P  Alicia is one of the amazing and talented ladies in our home school co-op group.  It's so fun to have her share with us her wealth of knowledge of how the bees make the wax and the process they go through to extract it.   I reminded Chandler that his name means, candle maker or light bearer.  He rolled his eyes at me, "I know mom.  How many times do you have to tell me that?" I smiled and ignored his grumpy attitude, glad he at least made the decision to come along with us that evening.   It really was a great Family Night and we look forward to doing it again a second time next year.


Every 23rd of December
The next tradition is every 23rd of December we gather with all of my husband's siblings and parents at his sister's house in Alpine.  We feast on delicious food and take turns doing a family talent show or skit on the stage in their basement. Anyone who is out of state watches the show through Skype. It ranges from piano or violin playing, reader's theater, reciting poetry, family trivia, or singing Christmas carols.  The main rule is to have a great time.  After all the performances we go back upstairs and treat ourselves to my father-in-law's traditional sweet rolls,"Bert's Buns." 

Then here's my favorite part; we all get a copy of the famous Rawlin's Photobook.  Me and Joseph's seven sisters rotate through designing and coordinating the photographs of everyone in the family from the past year.  It's hard to keep track of a growing family of nine children but that's why we use the wonderful tool of the internet.  No matter where anyone is living in the world, they access our family photo book for the year and upload pictures on to their assigned pages. It results in a book that includes everyone, captures priceless memories, shares our stories, and inspires greater love and unity.  We've stopped doing gift exchanges even with the grandchildren.  This is hands down everyone's favorite gift from the oldest in the family to the youngest.  After we open the latest Rawlin's Photo Book edition, everyone spends over an hour reading, laughing, reminiscing, and enjoying it together.


Christmas Eve
Our own little family Christmas Eve tradition has gotten more fun since we decided to try my friend Suzanne's idea of a Shepherd's Dinner.  We give the kids their own special candle and eat on the floor by the light of our Christmas tree.  The food is simple: grapes, pomegranate, fresh vegetables w/ hummus, pieces of cheese, a fresh loaf of uncut bread, and some kind of meat or fish.  (stuff a shepherd would eat)



The kids get a little restless after dinner so before we continue with the old-world theme, we watch my favorite Christmas movie, "It's a Wonderful Life."  Then we do our reading of Luke 2.  (We've given the kids the option to dress up as the characters but every year they would rather use our Bethlehem Nativity pieces and act out the scriptures with them.)



After the Nativity, we unwrap our new Christmas Book, a tradition we started in 2011 or 2012.  This year our book was "The Tale of Three Trees" by, Angela Elwell Hunt.

Then we send the kids off to bed.  They like to sleep in the same room together and stay up all night watching more movies.... usually, The Grinch and Elf.  It's the only time of year where I'll let them watch as many movies in a row as they want.

Christmas Morning
Before we open any presents, we have a family prayer of gratitude. We read "The Living Christ" and share briefly what we want to give our Savior the new year.  For breakfast, we always invite a neighbor who lives alone to share our traditional strawberry, cream cheese, french toast. We hope that by doing this our children will learn to reach out to others on Christmas day, to think outside of themselves and see that the most meaningful thing is not the gifts but being in the presence of people who love you.  This year it was my dear friend, Lou.



Well, there you have it.  Traditions old and new.  They give us purpose, meaning, and direction.  And in the words of Tevye, “Because of our traditions, everyone knows who he is and what God expects him to do.”

-Alicia

Thursday, December 24, 2015

"Let me be real!"

My sweet friend, Ramona, shared this story with me.  This is perfect!  It was well worth the time it took to listen to it.  Of course I was in a puddle of tears while I watched.  This is absolutely beautiful.  I appreciate the story of Joseph, Mary, and Christ "being real."  It connected deeply with me and was so refreshing to hear:

"The reason I came, the reason I was sent was to be real, to feel everything you've felt, to know everything you need because I needed it too, to hurt like you hurt, to cry like you've cried, laugh like you've laughed, skin my knee like you've skinned your knee, and have my heart broken like your heart has been broken.  I came so that one day or one winter night, when you come face to face with your defeat, your moment of absolute need, you can say, 'You know this too.  Be with me and lead me through it.' And I will." - Baby Jesus (A Walk One Winter Night - by, Al Andrews)

(This year for our Christmas Eve book, I've purchased a favorite of mine for 20 years, "The Tale of Three Trees" by, Angela Elwell Hunt.)  
Next Christmas Eve, this book Ramona showed me will be the book I buy for my family.  


Since this is a story about a Nativity scene, these are a few from my home and from the past:
..........................
Our traditional family Luke 2 reading on Christmas Eve with my siblings.
 Guess which one is me?
Me with my Joseph 2013
Miriam sculpted and painted this cute little nativity out of polymer clay.
Nativity Kaylee made in her primary class.
Micah's popsicle stick nativity.
My cousin Elizabeth (Liz) has made me a couple of these.  Kaylee's middle name is Elizabeth, named after my beautiful cousin and my dad's mother (it was her middle name).  
Our olive wood nativity we bought in the streets of Bethlehem 2007.

To close this post, enjoy this song that goes with the book. 
Nichole Nordeman "REAL."  
Again, thank you, Ramona! This one will definitely join my list of favorites.


Merry Christmas!!
Keepin' it Real!

-Alicia

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

"I Could Not Deny It" - Ponderize - Week 12

"I was born in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and five, on the twenty-third day of December..." - Joseph Smith

Just two days before Christmas in the small town of Sharon, Vermont, he was born; A prophet called of God to restore the truths of the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ.  Joseph Smith was honest and sincere with a pure heart and desire to know the will of the Lord for him.  He did exactly as James 1:5 directs and sought for answers through humble prayer.  Verses 24&25 of his history are my very favorite:

"...It was nevertheless a fact that I had beheld a vision. I have thought since, that I felt much like Paul, when he made his defense before King Agrippa, and related the account of the vision he had when he saw a light, and heard a voice; but still there were but few who believed him; some said he was dishonest, others said he was mad; and he was ridiculed and reviled. But all this did not destroy the reality of his vision. He had seen a vision, he knew he had, and all the persecution under heaven could not make it otherwise; and though they should persecute him unto death, yet he knew, and would know to his latest breath, that he had both seen a light and heard a voice speaking unto him, and all the world could not make him think or believe otherwise.

So it was with me. I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation." - Joseph Smith

What happened to Joseph in that sacred grove and the visions and visitations that followed were miracles in this modern day!  I think sometimes when we hear or read of these things that it might seem distant to us, as if experiences such as these are out of our reach.  We may say to ourselves,  "I know I can pray but I doubt that God would ever open a vision to me or give me answers to questions such as these." Who are we to limit God? "My beloved... have miracles ceased? Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither have angels ceased to minister unto the children of men."- Moroni 7:29

Joseph Smith and his counselors in the First Presidency gave the following instructions to the Saints who were gathering to Nauvoo:  “God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what He will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them, for the day must come when no man need say to his neighbor, Know ye the Lord; for all shall know Him … from the least to the greatest [see Jeremiah 31:34].” 

With any personal decision or challenge we might face in life, we can rest assured that the heavens are open and we can receive divine guidance in our sphere of jurisdiction.  "Even the least Saint may know." It is the essential element of faith.

Joseph Smith taught, "Miracles are the fruits of faith."  He said, "The best way to obtain truth and wisdom is not to ask it from books, but to go to God in prayer, and obtain divine teaching.” 

"[I] believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost."  I believe in them with all of my heart and soul.  Not even the smallest doubt exists in my mind of their reality.  When I pray, I know I am addressing my good and gracious Father.  He knows me intimately and cares for me with a love I cannot comprehend.  I have a Savior who redeems me, who lifts me back up after every fall, who knows my every heartache because he has experienced every pain.
This is my foundation.  I have learned this by faith.  I have learned this from sincerely praying and holding nothing back as I pour out my soul.  I have learned this by seriously studying the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon.

 I'm a little late in choosing my verse to ponderize this week.  But this is the one I have selected.  I think it is fitting both for the restoration of the Gospel and with Christmas in two days.

"I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it." - JSH 1:25


-Alicia

by, Josh Groban

Children sleeping, snow is softly falling
Dreams are calling like bells in the distance
We were dreamers not so long ago
But one by one we all had to grow up
When it seems the magic's slipped away
We find it all again on Christmas day

Believe in what your heart is saying
Hear the melody that's playing
There's no time to waste
There's so much to celebrate
Believe in what you feel inside 
And give your dreams the wings to fly
You have everything you need
If you just believe

Trains move quickly to their journey's end
Destinations are where we begin again
Ships go sailing far across the sea
Trusting starlight to get where they need to be
When it seems that we have lost our way
We find ourselves again on Christmas day

Believe in what your heart is saying
Hear the melody that's playing
There's no time to waste
There's so much to celebrate
Believe in what you feel inside 
And give your dreams the wings to fly
You have everything you need
If you just believe 

Just believe



Friday, December 18, 2015

Only the Beginning

My nephew, Dane, returns home from his mission in January.  I can't believe it's been two years already.  What a faithful and dedicated missionary he has been!  I am so very proud of him.  As he's approached the end, he has felt very torn.  He has expressed in his letters his desire for more time.  How can it be over when it seems as if he's only just begun? There is still so much to learn, so much more to be done.

As I've pondered about this bitter-sweet moment for my nephew and the closing of his mission, I can't help but parallel it to our lives here on earth, how fast the years will go and how soon we will be called home.  Even if it isn't until we are ninety years old, will we look back at our life's mission and desire more time? What a blessing it is to know that it will not be the end, that we will go on learning, that we will continue to grow and that the sweet associations we enjoy here will be even sweeter, more beautiful, and far brighter in heaven.

Thank goodness that in the big picture, death is not the end.  We will continue on.

"One school is finished, and the time has come for another to begin." - Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Victor Hugo observed,
"The nearer I approach the end, the plainer I hear around me the immortal symphonies of the worlds which invite me. . . . For half a century I have been writing my thoughts in prose and verse; history. . . . I have tried all. But I feel I have not said a thousandth part of what is in me. When I go down to the grave, I can say, like so many others, 'I have finished my day’s work,' but I can not say, 'I have finished my life.' My day’s work will begin again the next morning. The tomb is not a blind alley; it is a thoroughfare. . . . My work is only beginning." 

-Alicia


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Reality Check

My husband and I met with our social worker, Mr. Baxter, to turn in all of our adoption papers.  Man, the questions they have you fill out -They want your whole entire life story!  Between me and my husband, we turned in 40 typed pages! The social worker said we filed everything very quickly and that most people don't turn their papers in so fast.  I thought that was funny because later, he conducted a small interview and asked how long our courtship was.
I responded, "We were engaged after 5 weeks from our first date and married 11 weeks after that."
Mr. Baxter tipped his glasses down to raise his eyebrows at me.  Joseph smiled wryly and told the story of our first kiss (which was his first kiss)  "She's always been a fast mover. When she knows something is right, she doesn't hesitate, she moves!"
"Well, I guess that explains why you two are getting everything set in motion with this adoption so fast."
We had a great visit and everything went well.
Near the end of the interview he informed us with what he called "a reality check."
"I must tell you that most young birth mothers are looking for a 'Ken and Barbie' couple, one with a nice big house and preferably no other children.  It may be very difficult for you to find someone who would be willing to give their baby to you... you're an older couple with children of your own already and you live in an apartment."
"I'm not too worried," I said "We have fasted and prayed about this and have received a very clear answer.  I feel confident that the Lord will make it all happen in His way and timing." My husband smiled with agreement.
"Well then, if all goes well, you should be able to get your profile up by January sometime."
"That's what we're hoping."  We shook Mr. Baxter's hand and thanked him as he wished us the best.
He's coming back again on Monday to interview our children and inspect our home.  It's been great motivation for me do some deep cleaning. I feel good about things.  Our apartment may be small and not very stylish but I can say it's clean.

This morning in my scripture studies, I read a verse and thought of how this has all come to be.  I'm overwhelmed with gratitude.  It is nothing short of a miracle.  Something has changed in my husband, I can't describe it.  I never thought I would see him so enthusiastic about this or about life.  The Spirit has rested upon him these past few months in a way that I've never seen before.  He's been happier, more resilient, more faith-filled, and more at peace.  We both know that the Spirit has been guiding us.  We trust this and because we trust the character of our Father in Heaven we know that it will all work out.  This is His will for us.  Here's the scripture I read:

"And [we] do this for a wise purpose;  for thus it whispereth [us], according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is in [us].  And now, [we] do not know all things;  but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, He worketh in [us] to do according to His will." - Words of Mormon 1:7

I know it's true.  We may not be the poster couple but it doesn't really matter.  The "reality check" is this is God's work not ours... And when it comes to the things of this world, I honestly believe "sometimes having more is really less." We will be led in the right direction and there is nothing to fear.

-Alicia


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Praying for My Friend - Ponderize - Week 11

I believe in the power of prayer.  I believe that every time we approach the Lord with sincerity of heart that He hears us, even those things impressing on our mind that we can't seem to find the words for.  I trust in His great wisdom, and find comfort in the truth that He sees the bigger picture and knows what is best for us in every moment of our lives.  I know that "[I] cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, [He helps me to] be of good cheer, for [He] will lead [me] along." - D&C 78:18

Life is like a marathon that we are not meant to run alone so I believe the Lord places certain people in our lives who give us hope, people whose influence inspires us to keep going, to keep trying.

"Since we are what we are by the impacts of those who surround us, those who surround themselves with the highest will be those who change into the highest.  There are some men and some women in whose company we are always at our best.  While with them we cannot think mean thoughts or speak ungenerous words.  Their mere presence is elevation, purification, sanctity.... Friendship is a spiritual thing.  It is independent of matter, or space or time.  That which I love in my friend is not that which I see.  What influences me in my friend is not his body but his spirit.  He influences me about as much in his absence as in his presence." 
- Henry Drummond

We cheer each other on in our race most often through the channel of prayer. James encourages us, "Pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." - James 5:16

 I was reading a talk this morning from Elder Bednar about prayer.  He said, "Praying earnestly for others, both those whom we love and those who despitefully use us, is also an important element of meaningful prayer. Just as expressing gratitude more often in our prayers enlarges the conduit for revelation, so praying for others with all of the energy of our souls increases our capacity to hear and to heed the voice of the Lord." - Elder David A. Bednar, Pray Always

I trust the words of the Prophet James and Elder Bednar.  I have a friend who shoulders such heavy burdens that I wish with all my heart I could somehow carry it for him. Especially when he is the very friend who brought light back in my life, gave me hope, and helped me through a terribly difficult time.  If he only realized how deeply I pray for him.  I hope he knows that he doesn't always have to be strong.  No matter who we are or what our circumstances may be I think it's to be expected that we will stumble more when the load is heavier and it's possible we might become discouraged by the fact. But do not be dismayed.  President Uchtdorf encouraged the brethren in a recent priesthood session:

"Brethren, there may be times in our lives when rising up and continuing on may seem beyond our own ability. That day on a snow-covered slope, I learned something. Even when we think we cannot rise up, there is still hope. And sometimes we just need someone to look us in the eyes, take our hand, and say, 'You can do it now!'

We may think that women are more likely than men to have feelings of inadequacy and disappointment—that these feelings affect them more than us. I’m not sure that this is true. Men experience feelings of guilt, depression, and failure. We might pretend these feelings don’t bother us, but they do. We can feel so burdened by our failures and shortcomings that we begin to think we will never be able to succeed. We might even assume that because we have fallen before, falling is our destiny. As one writer put it, 'We beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.'

...Brethren, our destiny is not determined by the number of times we stumble but by the number of times we rise up, dust ourselves off, and move forward." -  President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, You Can Do It Now

This morning after my prayers, I opened up my scriptures to a place I already had bookmarked.  My eyes fell upon a couple of verses that I've decided to "ponderize" for week 11.

"My beloved [friend], I rejoice exceedingly that your Lord Jesus Christ hath been mindful of you, and hath called you to his ministry, and to his holy work.  I am mindful of you always in my prayers, continually praying unto God the Father in the name of his Holy Child, Jesus, that he, through his infinite goodness and grace, will keep you through the endurance of faith on his name to the end."- Moroni 8:2,3

-Alicia
"The Purest Love"



by, Tenth Avenue North

I won't run, I will stay
I'm not leaving you
I know there's friction here
The struggle makes us new

I wish you never thought you had to go
Wish you never thought you had to leave
Together we can lift each other up
We can build a shelter for the weak

No man is an island, we can be found
No man is an island, let your guard down
You don't have to fight me, I am for you
We're not meant to live this life alone

I see fear in your eyes
There's no safety here
Oh, my friend, let me in
I will share your tears

I wish you never thought you had to go
I wish you never thought you had to leave
We can always lift each other up
We can build a shelter for the weak, come on

No man is an island, we can be found
No man is an island, let your guard down
Please don't try to fight me, I am for you
We're not meant to live this life alone

Through trouble, rain, or fire
Let's reach out to something higher
Ain't no life outside each other
We are not alone
Through trouble, rain, or fire
Let's reach out to something higher
Eyes open to one another
We are not alone

No man is alone
Why you try to fight me
We don't have to do it alone
We don't have to do it alone
We don't have to do it alone



Sunday, December 13, 2015

What Shall I Give the Child?

I was having a conversation about adoption with a friend of mine the other day, she thoughtfully mentioned a woman she knew who also has recently decided to adopt.  I instantly recognized the description of the woman my friend spoke of because she's a homeschooler too.  I had seen their family photo on social media advertising themselves to find a birth mom.  The picture of their perfectly clean and dressed children flashed in my mind.   This woman and her husband run their own music business, their children all play instruments, or take other lessons.  They have a gorgeous home that is impeccably organized and the list goes on.

My friend continued to tell me a story about a recent amazing and outstanding accomplishment of this woman.  I can't even remember what the story was because I started to zone out .  I could feel my train of thought switching tracks and the nagging shoulder demon climb aboard;  "Look at everything this woman has to offer the new little baby she adopts; a spacious gorgeous home, beautiful clothes, professional music, karate, and dance lessons.  What can I offer?  What would make a birth-mother choose me when there are women out there like her?  I can't offer any of those things."

That night as I knelt to say my evening prayers, the feelings of inadequacy continued to weigh heavy on my heart.  A memory from before I  met my husband entered in my thoughts: I was hanging out at my boyfriend's house when I overheard his mother in the other room gossiping that I reminded her of Eliza Doolittle, so unrefined and uneducated.  (Thank goodness I dodged that bullet for a mother-in-law!!)  But even though it was 20 years ago, her words echoed hauntingly in my mind as I knelt in my living-room to pray.  I poured out my soul to God.  I shared with Him my desires to care for this little child despite everything I lack.  "I'm not very well educated but I'm working on that.  I can't offer professional music or dance lessons... but I promise my home will be filled with music and dancing.  I can't offer lots of space for the child to live in because our apartment is not that big... but I promise their will be no shortage of room in my heart.  I can't promise stylish clothes because I've never been good at keeping up with fashion... but every day I will strive to clothe them in the armor of God."  I prayed until I fell asleep and awoke only slightly enough to drag myself to bed.

The following morning, this song by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was playing like angels singing in my head, "What Shall We Give "...  I got up and searched for it on Youtube.  Tears immediately streamed down my face as the image of the Christ child in a lowly manger struck my heart.  Did Mary and Joseph feel inadequate like me?  Did they wish with all their souls that they could provide only the finest for their newborn baby?  In this moment, the Spirit whispered to me a beautiful and valuable lesson,  "Alicia, the very Son of God was born into far more humble circumstances than yours.  What are the gifts that truly matter most to Him?  He's not concerned with material things or how well your children fall in line with the social upper classes.  He wants them to fall in line with Him... and anyone, with any background, in any circumstance can do that."  Grateful for this revelation, I felt comforted and my heart was at peace.

What shall I give this child?
The same thing I give to my Lord and Savior.  I will give love and affection, praise and adoration.  I will give my whole heart and soul.
-Alicia





Friday, December 11, 2015

The Gift of Listening

Once, I heard it said that when others listen to us it stirs creativity in our minds and hearts and inspires us to soar to greater heights.  I know I heard this somewhere and I should have written it down because I've searched and searched for the exact quote but can't find it now.  But in the process of searching, I found some other quotes that follow along the same line.

How grateful I am for those who listen!  I don't think they realize how much it motivates me just knowing that my voice is heard. It gives my words a destination, a place to rest, to belong to, and be held... instead of floating aimlessly in space.

These three quotes express this sentiment more clearly than I could on my own:

"What we call poetry does not simply set the heart free spontaneously, emerging when one is overwhelmed.  A simple recitation of a song when one is deeply moved does not make one cheerful, and does not bring sufficient satisfaction to that person.  Therefore, one finds consolation by making others listen to his song.  When others listen and they are moved, then one's heart brightens up considerably.... When we enquire about the origins of poetry, we see that it is crucial for poetry to have someone listen to and be moved by it.  The original nature of poetry is to provide words with patterns and to make them last long with the voice... There is no better way for someone to cheer up than by knowing that others have listened to his poem and have been moved by it.  If the listener is not moved, one's heart will hardly be set free." -  Norinaga Motoori

“When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand. Ideas actually begin to grow within us and come to life...It makes people happy and free when they are listened to." ― Brenda Uelande

"Writers are listeners as well as observers – not just to their own souls and the heartbeat of the world, but to the souls of others as well.  Listen to the world, and it will listen back." - Susan Hodgetts

To those who read this: with all my heart, thank you for listening!!
Today, I will strive to be a better listener to everyone around me than I was yesterday.
-Alicia

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Christ-in-us = Christmas

I've never been one who enjoys shopping, especially Christmas shopping.  I'm grateful for the internet because it cuts down the hassle immensely.... no crowds, no lines, and the whole "grabby" consumer atmosphere.   Now, I really do enjoy buying presents for other people but I prefer giving gifts that have meaning, that spark happy memories. I struggle when it feels like all I'm giving is just more "things."

"Come, my brethren, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come buy and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price.  Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy." - 2 Nephi 9:50, 51

This isn't an official Christmas song but as I listen to it, I think of this little math equation (Chirst-in-us = Christmas).  It's so very true.  I treasure deep connection with friends and family.  This is what truly makes me happy and it just can't ever be bought from a store or stuffed under a tree.  It only happens when we all take our personal journey's to become one with Christ and in doing so we connect deeper with each other.


Earlier this week I found this quote from President James E. Faust that I think fits perfectly with the equation I've been pondering:

"We all enjoy giving and receiving presents. But there is a difference between presents and gifts. The true gifts may be part of ourselves—giving of the riches of the heart and mind—and therefore more enduring and of far greater worth than presents bought at the store.

Of course, among the greatest of gifts is the gift of love.... He whose birth we celebrate has told us that all of the law and the prophets is contained in loving God and our fellowmen. James called this 'the royal law' (James 2:8). The Apostle Paul said, 'To know the love of Christ … passeth knowledge' (Eph. 3:19). In the First Epistle of John we are told, 'Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God' (1 Jn. 4:7).

....The message of this season that is applicable throughout the year lies not in the receiving of earthly presents and treasures but in the forsaking of selfishness and greed and in going forward, seeking and enjoying the gifts of the Spirit, which Paul said are 'love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law' (Gal. 5:22–23)." - President James E. Faust - Dec. 2001

Happy Holidays my friends!  "Let us love one another: for love is of God" This is Christ in us... this is Christmas.
-Alicia

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Weak / Strong - Ponderize - Week 10

I really can't find the words to write today.  But this verse speaks to me;

"I give unto [you, Alicia] weakness that [you] may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all [those] that humble themselves before me;  for if [you] humble [yourself] before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto [you]." - Ether 12:27

-Alicia

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Aunt Sylvia - Part 3

The following is taken from part of my Great Aunt Sylvia's book, "Victory Through Suffering."  It's her story of how she survived a Japanese Concentration Camp.

(See Previous Accounts)
Aunt Sylvia - Part 2
Aunt Sylvia - Part 1

Walk With Me

"Necessity: The Mother of Invention"

"We were each ordered to make a garden (39 inches square).  Our court yard had a brick floor, which we had to pull up and dig the soil with a table knife.  Watering it with prayer, I asked that with the Lord's blessing we might be able to eat of the fruit when we needed it most.  The first three tomato plants I planted under my window.  They grew very slowly in an alley with a high cement wall preventing sunlight.  However, when they did start to bear fruit, they did well.  One of them grew higher than I could reach and bore over seventy-five tomatoes.  It still had over twenty unripe ones when I left.  The four plants had over 240 tomatoes.  Encouraged by this, we planted in the garden more tomatoes, celery, and onions from roots all found from the kitchen garbage.  These were all doing well when we had to leave the garden to follow orders to move on to another camp.

Some have asked, 'Were there no joys in camp, no celebration days?'  Ah, yes.  Necessity is the mother of invention and so we were kept busy in times of dire necessity, inventing ideas to keep little hands and minds occupied with other things than the hard and drab circumstances surrounding us.

To entertain the boys, I took little pieces of wood and carved a head, made hands and arms of wire, then dressed them as dolls.  These were the scraps from carpenter work.  Later these ideas grew and they were dressed to imitate Bible characters or foreign costumes.  Some other people suggested I make some gifts for their children.  In this way the Lord enabled me to make a little cash to buy my share of camp rations.  We had to buy for two meals a day.  How marvelously the Lord supplied even from people we did not even know.

One day near Christmas, the boys were asked what they wanted (a very unwise question for camp days) Mark said he wanted a little wagon to carry blocks in .  Paul wanted a 'pikulan man' (a native coolie carrying baskets on a pole over his shoulders).  Now how was anyone to get such things in camp conditions?  The Lord gave me ideas.  I used a small wooden cheese box for the body of the wagon, wires made the staves, from wood I cut the wheels and with a piece of bamboo mat I made a cover.  Out of an old pair of pants I cut and stuffed an elephant to draw the cart.  Mark was delighted with it.  The coolie was more of a problem.  I found a handle of a wire toaster, stuffed it with cotton, then put cloths over that.  Pill boxes and a stick made the burden he carried.  These little surprises in their way made life more endurable for the children.

Perhaps the most difficult problem was the customary birthday cake.  Once I made a cake from grated cassava and baked it in a frying pan.  Another pressed together as cookies.  For candles we used wax on string or tiny injection vials (with drop of oil and string)  What delight it gave even these crude inventions.  They were content and thankful with little favors."

-Aunt Sylvia

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Jonah's Grateful Prayer

I just finished reading Jonah chapter 2:  I'm impressed with the prayer Jonah gives while in the belly of a whale.  I like how he acknowledges the countless times God has heard his prayers.  He's in the dark, has no idea what will happen next and promises, "I will look again toward thy holy temple." He says that he will look there because when he was overwhelmed, encompassed about, and feeling dragged down, that was the place where he felt his prayer was heard.  (See Jonah 2)

As I pondered Jonah's grateful prayer while "imprisoned" in the dungeon belly, I thought of a talk by Elder Holland, "Lessons from Liberty Jail."  It is interesting to me how some of our most miserable experiences can become our most sacred and revelatory moments. In our extremities we pray more deeply, seek more earnestly, and reach more sincerely.  Those moments on our knees crying out, we've received answers and promises we can trust completely.  We know with certainty that the Lord has heard our prayers thus it makes the place in which we prayed hallowed and sacred ground.  I love the way Elder Jeffrey R. Holland describes it:

 "In what sense could Liberty Jail be called a 'temple,' and what does such a title tell us about God’s love and teachings, including where and when that love and those teachings are made manifest? In precisely this sense: that you can have sacred, revelatory, profoundly instructive experiences with the Lord in any situation you are in. Indeed, you can have sacred, revelatory, profoundly instructive experiences with the Lord in the most miserable experiences of your life—in the worst settings, while enduring the most painful injustices, when facing the most insurmountable odds and opposition you have ever faced.

In one way or another, great or small, dramatic or incidental, every one of us is going to spend a little time in Liberty Jail—spiritually speaking. We will face things we do not want to face for reasons that may not be our fault. Indeed, we may face difficult circumstances for reasons that were absolutely right and proper, reasons that came because we were trying to keep the commandments of the Lord. We may face persecution, we may endure heartache and separation from loved ones, we may be hungry and cold and forlorn. Yes, before our lives are over we may all be given a little taste of what the prophets faced often in their lives.

But the lessons of the winter of 1838–39 teach us that every experience can become a redemptive experience if we remain bonded to our Father in Heaven through it. These difficult lessons teach us that man’s extremity is God’s opportunity, and if we will be humble and faithful, if we will be believing and not curse God for our problems, He can turn the unfair and inhumane and debilitating prisons of our lives into temples—or at least into a circumstance that can bring comfort and revelation, divine companionship and peace."

I love that part.... "the divine companionship of peace."  To me, this peace is the soul at rest. It has let go of the need for every answer, it sees purpose in the pain and no longer tries to kick and beat and wish the heartache away.  It hurts... but what can be done about it? It's part of the experience and like a wounded soldier who bravely moves forward one foot in front of the other across the battle lines; he no longer worries about his aching body or whether he'll make it out alive or not, he perfectly trusts that his soul and mission are in the hands of his Creator.  His only concern is to remain valiant to the cause, for the duration of the war... however long that means for him.  If he dies, he dies... if he lives, he lives...  either way, his heart is at peace and he is ready.

"Rest... is the mind at leisure from itself.  It is the perfect poise of the soul; the absolute adjustment of the inward man to the stress of all outward things; the preparedness against every emergency; the stability of assured convictions; the eternal calm of an invulnerable faith; the repose of a heart set deep in God.  It is the mood of the man who says, with Browning, 'God's in His Heaven, all's well with the world.'" - Henry Drummond

-Alicia





Thursday, December 3, 2015

Save the Children


Ellen and Me - Oceanside, CA
She was born just two weeks after I was.  We both stayed in Utah Valley Regional's newborn facility.  I was premature so I was there a full month but she was there for only a couple of days.  Did our parents pass each other in the hall and give a friendly wave?  Did the same nurse check in on us?  If so, our paths wouldn't cross again until twenty-one years later.

The first time I met Ellen, she was on leave from the Marines to visit her family for the summer.  She joined the Marines just after her brother, Jason.  It was hard for me to believe the stories of her beating all the men from her unit in arm-wrestling contests.  She was an inch or so shorter than me with a nice slender figure.  It was obvious she was toned and fit but she just didn't seem the type.  She was a perfect ginger with shoulder length red hair, a porcelain complexion, ruby red lips, hazel green eyes, and a splash of golden freckles.  I couldn't imagine her being that tough... but the stories were true.  There was a presence about Ellen, a quiet sort of wisdom.  She seemed like she was ten years older than me even though we were almost the exact same age.  I couldn't put my finger on why I felt that way.  I remember being impressed with how much she adored her brother's humor. "Oh stop, Joseph," she laughed, as my soon-to-be husband jokingly posed for her camera in a lurpy stance.

What was it about Ellen that made me feel like she had experiences beyond her age?  Joseph and I must have been married close to three years when I think I discovered the reason:

"She has a daughter? I never knew your sister had a daughter?"
"Yeah, Ellen got pregnant just before I left on my mission." My husband said. "She was sixteen at the time.  I don't remember ever meeting her boyfriend, he took off pretty fast when he got the news and was never heard of again."

A part of her wanted to keep the baby and find a way to struggle through everything all on her own but she knew she wasn't ready for such a lonely undertaking.  The day she gave birth and signed the relinquish papers was the hardest day of her life.  She held her tiny baby girl in her arms, kissed her perfect bronze skin, and caressed her soft black hair.  Tears flowed down her cheeks in an endless stream as she gazed into her little girl's big dark eyes.  She wished she could stop the clock from turning and hold this moment forever.  Finally, it was time;  The nurse walked in, wrapped up Ellen's baby and took her away to her new family.  The hole that remained in Ellen's heart refused to be filled. Joining the Marines was a good excuse for her to get away from all of the surroundings that haunted her and fix her mind on other things.  She had to learn to be tough.

Cruel consequences forced her to grow up much faster than most girls her age.  Her choices launched her into a foreign world.  Such a rude awakening is enough to bring one crashing to their knees.  A strange sort of tender mercy in the form of heartbreak caused her to make serious pivotal changes and she began from that point to turn her life around. She had experienced so much in such a short period of time... no wonder she always felt so much older than me.

Seventeen years after giving her baby up for adoption, Ellen's daughter found and contacted her.  It was a beautiful reunion and the hole in her heart was finally filled.

In March of this year, I listened to a woman tell quite a different story of her teenage pregnancy experience, as I sat in one of the presentation rooms of the United Nations.  The woman described the horrific emotional scars that plagued her after the abortion.  She withdrew into a world of isolation and attempted to end her own life.  No one ever told her that she would experience such a hellish aftermath. "No one ever told me," she thought. And that's when it hit her.. That's what she needed to do, speak up, warn, let the other young mothers know, gather similar stories like her own and tell people.  She began an organization called Silent No More.  I searched the website later that week and listened to one experience after the other.  The stories moved my heart to deep compassion.

I don't think there has ever been a year in my life where I've had so many thoughts of teenage pregnancies and the abortion crisis.

So, when my husband came to me wanting to have another baby, I poured out my heart to him.  I told him that I wanted to save a child and not just the infant... I wanted to save the child who was bearing that baby.  We prayed and my husband felt the Spirit witness to him that this was right and good.  He's 100% completely and totally on board, it's amazing!! There really aren't many closed adoptions now days, in fact ours will be open.  They've discovered that the child does much better when he or she knows who their biological parents are from the very beginning.

I find it more than a coincidence that in the group of homeschoolers I was divinely led to a year ago, one of the moms has successfully adopted three children.  We've talked several times recently and she's given me some great advice.  It was comforting to know she was able to adopt her newest baby for $3,000.  I know everything is going to work out.  I believe with all of this we will witness miracle upon miracle.  That's just the way God works when you step out into the dark with the light of faith.

-Alicia

"Abortion is not the answer. This only compounds the problem. It is an evil and repulsive escape that will someday bring regret and remorse.

Marriage is the more honorable thing. This means facing up to responsibility. It means giving the child a name, with parents who together can nurture, protect, and love.

When marriage is not possible, experience has shown that adoption, difficult though this may be for the young mother, may afford a greater opportunity for the child to live a life of happiness.....

...Every home, regardless of the cost of the house, can provide an environment of love which will be an environment of salvation.
... It is the spirit in that home, the extension of the love of a good man who holds the priesthood of God and a good woman whose heart is filled with true affection and gratitude, and of children born of a sound marriage who have been nurtured and reared in an environment of peace and faith and security.
...Save the children. Too many suffer and weep. God bless us to be mindful of them, to lift them and guide them as they walk in dangerous paths, to pray for them, to bless them, to love them, to keep them secure until they can run with strength of their own" - President Gordon B. Hinckley - Oct. 1994


Rally this summer 2015 - To peacefully protest Planned Parenthood
Me, Carol Allen, Kanani Horito, and Ann Takasaki