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The Purest Love

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

Saturday, December 31, 2016

So long 2016!

Wow, what a year! 
1. The City Center Temple dedication and cultural celebration. 
2. Alexa's High School Graduation. 
3. Stake boundary changes and the formation of our new Stake. 
4. Kaylee's Baptism.
5. Saying farewell to the ward family we love so much.
6. Saying farewell to my dear sweet friend, Lou (1929-2016).
7. Alexa's Baptism.
8. Moving into a new place, a new home, a new ward.
9. Changes to our family boundaries and becoming foster parents.


When this year started off, I had no idea how completely different our lives would look at the end.   It has been beautiful, painful, eye-opening, heartbreaking, exhausting, and glorious!

I take comfort in knowing that God is with me, fighting my battles. Who knows what this next year will bring? So long, farewell, 2016.

-Alicia

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Grace for Grace

"Dear Lord,
So far today, am I doing alright.
I have not gossiped, lost my temper, been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or self-indulgent. I have not whined or complained.
But I will be getting out of bed in a minute, and I think that I will really need your help then."


- unknown


Many of life's solutions seem so much easier in words than the actual application.  I can start my day off with prayer and scriptures.  I can study the life of Christ and His teachings.  I can make resolutions for the day. And then some drama will unfold with the children, some conflict arises, or something won't work how it's expected too... and the real test of my character begins.    


You know those uncomfortable moments at the end of the day, where you review how you handled each situation and realize that you could have done better?  I consider those reflective moments to be a blessing, an opportunity to learn and try again.


I read in the New Testament this morning, "My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him: For whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth..." (Hebrews 12: 5,6)
The Lord knows we are going to stumble and fall, that we won't be the ideal father, the ideal mother, or the ideal anything.  He knows we won't be perfect.  And when we offend, when we mess up... we must be quick to apologize and set it right. It's the repentant soul who displays real faith and real courage.


Popular BYU Professor and LDS speaker--Brad Wilcox--said,
There should never be just two options: perfection or giving up. When learning the piano, are the only options performing at Carnegie Hall or quitting? No. Growth and development take time. Learning takes time. When we understand grace, we understand that God is long-suffering, that change is a process, and that repentance is a pattern in our lives. When we understand grace, we understand that the blessings of Christ’s Atonement are continuous and His strength is perfect in our weakness (see 2 Corinthians 12:9). When we understand grace, we can, as it says in the Doctrine and Covenants, “continue in patience until [we] are perfected” (D&C 67:13).


I'm also learning that the specific things we pray for can make a huge difference in how we handle each situation:


  • I am discovering that it's better for me to seek for understanding rather than pray for patience.  When I understand the situation more or the intent of another, patience follows more naturally.


  • I am discovering that it's better for me to offer prayers of gratitude rather than pray to have love for others.  When I'm filled with gratitude, love follows more naturally.

I'm grateful to know the Lord is all about second chances and new beginnings.  He delights to untangle the messes we find ourselves in and fill our souls with peace.  "Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby." - Hebrews 12:11


I pray your day is blessed with the unfailing grace and love extended to us through our Savior, that you feel peace... even in the middle of a storm, especially in the middle of a storm. Sail on.

-Alicia

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas

Merry Christmas!!! I hope yours has been absolutely beautiful!
I'm incredibly proud of my children and how every year they are so easily satisfied with the simple Christmas gifts they are given.  Not one complaint has come out of their mouths, only gratitude.  Our foster children have handled everything quite well too.  I'm so glad.   

One of the major highlights of my weekend has been the traditional Rawlin's Family Christmas Talent Show, held every 23rd of December at Joseph's sister, Merrit's house.  All of the nine children from my husband's family fly into town to be together and everyone performs on Merrit's stage.  If anyone can't make it, they join us through Skype. It's a huge get-together and is SO much fun!!






The second highlight of these last few days was to have my dear friend, Adrienne, and her family join us for making gingerbread houses.  Twelve children, tons of candy, and lots of hard frosting made for a really BIG mess... but it was worth it!


P.s.
Enjoy this new Christmas song, let the light of Christ shine through you, and make Christmas Everyday!!!


-Alicia

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Not Alone

These last couple of weeks have been so incredibly hard.  My foster daughter is an extremely stressed little three-year-old.  Her trauma is so intense that she's like a lighted fuse all day long. It takes the slightest event to set her off in full-blown aggression; she'll scream the most piercing scream, flail her arms, and kick the floor for twenty minutes straight.  I'll get her settled and then she'll want something else and explode again. When she's not throwing horrible tantrums she's clinging to my leg, sitting on my lap, or begging me to hold her in my arms.  It's like she knows she's been misbehaving and is extremely anxious her behavior will cause me to not want her with me anymore, so she panics and goes to the opposite end of the spectrum and clings so tightly.  It's hard because after all that acting out, I really don't want to even be around her, let alone hold her.

Her melt-downs are like an addiction, a habit she can't seem to kick. I've never been so exhausted in my life.  My oldest son had tantrums that were pretty bad where he would make himself vomit but even though those were difficult to deal with, these ones with my foster daughter are so much worse!

My husband has been checking on me everyday from work.  He's worried for me because he too understands the intensity of our situation.  He gave me a blessing Sunday night.  We actually had the foster kids go to a neighbor's house Sunday so we could have a family counsel with just our bio- kids. We can see that foster care is wearing them down too.  The all said they want to quit.  I don't blame them.  They've been so good through all of this though, and they've showed incredible patience.  We decided as a family that we're going to keep going for a little longer and just take things one day at a time.

I spoke with the children's therapist yesterday.  I explained how awful this has been. After diagnosis, they've increased the children's trauma levels. The therapist been working in the foster care system for 20 years and has dealt with hundreds of cases.  She listened to everything I could tell her for nearly 40 minutes.  As I described the hellish circumstances, she nodded her head sympathetically and said, "Welcome to the new normal. It may even get harder from here. That's why there is such a high turn-over rate if foster parenting.  But what I've seen with you, these children are doing so much better than they were, so much better!" Somehow, I found comfort speaking with her even though I know things are still going to be hard. 

I've discovered that this whole ward I moved into helped raise these kids for two months, it wasn't just the one couple.  I don't know how many people have come up to me at church who have said they had the children stay at their house for a day or so.  They must have been watched by at least ten different families in that short time (maybe there was a sign-up sheet being rotated around, I don't know). One woman, after Sacrament Meeting last Sunday, looked me straight in the eye and asked how I was doing.  Tears began to flow and I described the difficulties with the children I was having, especially the younger one.  She hugged me and said, "We had them only for a day or two and I know exactly what you're talking about. I can't even imagine what it must be like for longer than that." 

I don't know how many foster parents who have the luxury that we do. We are surrounded by a neighborhood who has helped carry the crushing weight and who understands our circumstances first-hand. I'm comforted to know that we don't have to do this alone.

-Alicia

Monday, December 19, 2016

Immersion

I'm not doing the Ponderizing verse each week anymore but I'll certainly be pondering and sharing thoughts on scriptures as I feel impressed here on my blog.

My husband has started a fun Book of Mormon project that will span over a few days for me to complete.  I had a good time with my scripture studies this morning because his project helped me pick apart and zero-in on the take-away of each verse.  I need this type of study because it's so easy to slip into casual reading where I'm not really pulling much out of the scriptures.

My husband's Precepts Project comes at a good time in my life, especially with how hectic everything is! Now, more than ever, I need a good, clear, solid focus to start my day, to remind me of the precepts that will set my mind and heart in the right direction.

This whole concept of scripture study reminds me of one of my very favorite quotes by Spencer W. Kimball.  He said:

“I find that when I get casual in my relationships with divinity and when it seems that no divine ear is listening and no divine voice is speaking, that I am far, far away. If I immerse myself in the scriptures the distance narrows and the spirituality returns. I find myself loving more intensely those whom I must love with all my heart and mind and strength, and loving them more, I find it easier to abide their counsel.”

I've seen this time and time again in my own life.  I'm so grateful for the scriptures!
-Alicia

Friday, December 16, 2016

Carrying me through...

I haven't really known what to write lately.  There is so much on my mind in this new life of mine that I can hardly find the words to sort through it all: parenting the foster kids and my own children, upcoming parent and court visits, my upcoming semester at BYU, homeschooling, the holidays, and everything in-between.  I try to keep a pulse on each family member and pray they are all coping well and doing okay.

I feel very stretched and I find very little time to myself. This is so hard, so incredibly hard, but I don't feel discouraged or overwhelmed (when normally in circumstances like these, I easily could be). I know that God has been carrying me through and I can feel His grace attend me. It's a blessing, a very real blessing.

-Alicia

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Throwback Thursday - Beautiful

 I know so many women who have a naturally beautiful face, no make-up needed to be absolutely gorgeous. (I envy that.) These women always seem to look so classy in their dress styles too. Truth be told, I've never been extremely confident about my looks or appearance. I feel like it is such a wasted effort. I would never call this insecurity of mine "humility," In fact, I consider it to be one of my deepest weaknesses. One way I try to cope with this insecurity is to remind myself that a wardrobe of fashionable clothes and a glamorous face doesn't matter at all to God.

We live in a world that is obsessed with appearances. People spend inordinate amounts of money and time to stay looking young and attractive.  They pour themselves into programs, magazines, lectures, and all the latest fashions to glamorize themselves, to gather attention, and to be recognized. Eventually, time will take its toll on all of us and this surface beauty will crumble to the grave.

In the New Testament, 1 Peter 3:3-4 says,
"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight."

Almost seven years ago, I wrote a blog post about true beauty:

When I was in my late teens my family had a wonderful couple for hometeachers, Brother and Sister Anderson. They were an older couple, probably in their late 70's. They always had a sparkle in their eyes and a smile on their face(I called it perma-grin). They were filled to the brim with gratitude for everyone and everything around them. I never heard a disparaging remark come out of their mouth. They spoke freely about God, His mercy and blessings. Their testimony of the Savior was not just in word but in the choices they made every day of their lives. They were a beautiful example of charity and oneness in marriage and of Christlike love for everyone. They shined so bright! I loved to be around them and glean from their wisdom.

About five years ago, I saw Brother Anderson in the temple...His physical health had declined for he needed to constantly be on oxygen and he carried a cane but he still had that strong and vibrant spirit... he hugged me and gave his regards to my family. His eyes shined as bright as ever and he still had that warmth of spirit that could soften any frozen heart.

I will never forget this wonderful couple! What an impression they made on me... they helped me see what true beauty is!


I still believe what I wrote back then;
I think sometimes, I just need a little reminder. :)
-Alicia






Sunday, December 11, 2016

Connecting

I finished my writing class last night.  For our final, we all had to give our own "Ted Talk". It was really fun preparing for mine.  I was terribly nervous but my classmates seemed to like it.  I spoke about children and the hard-wired aching they have to bond with their biological parents, no matter their upbringing.

My foster son knew what my presentation was about, and when I tucked him in bed last night, he was anxious to hear how my final went.  He asked if I talked about him.  I told him that I did for a small moment and that it was good things.  He smiled as he pulled the blankets shyly up to his nose, "Miss Alicia... I bet you did really good." I thanked him for his confidence.

Micah has moved downstairs to sleep on the couch now.  It was his choice for the move but I think it was a good one because it seems like the relationship with his foster brother is less strained this way. For the most part, they are getting along quite well. Micah is incredibly resilient and compassionate, he just needed a little space at night.

Things are getting more comfortable with my foster son. He is opening up to me more and more. He only asks deep questions and carries serious conversation when I'm alone with him. It's really great to see the thick walls come down when I sit at his bedside every evening.

Tonight, we will be surprising our foster children.  Their siblings are passing through our city on their way back home with their adopted family.  They, and the rest of the other adopted kids to that family, are going to eat dinner with us. This is the first time I get to meet their adoptive mother face-to-face and I'm really excited.  I can tell she is an amazing woman.  I feel like it's going to be a really good experience.

-Alicia

Monday, December 5, 2016

"All that [I] need" - Ponderize - Week 62

I like taking my kids to class with me at BYU. They always fight over who's turn it is since I only allow for one of them at a time.  All of them love it!  Well, almost all of them.... Chandler is the only one who doesn't really care to attend with me but he still loves to use the campus for his studies.  It works out great for him because he's only enrolled at the high school for his extracurricular classes. All his core classes are online so he can do those anywhere there is a computer.  His favorite thing is to use my student ID and password for the computers on campus to do his schoolwork.

This week is the last of my semester.  My foster son wanted to join me in my class tonight. He sat pretty quietly as he read the books he brought.  I was proud of his behavior.  

After the hour was finished, I walked my foster son over to the vending machines to let him pick a treat.  I think that's what he was looking forward to the most. He's envied the other kids when they've return from one of my classes with treats in hand.  He picked a soda and a pack of gum for his reward, skipping along with delight.

He wanted me to give him a tour of the whole campus. I walked him through a couple of buildings and drove him past a few more but said I'd have to save the rest for another time.  He seemed to really enjoy the opportunities this evening, asking when he'd be able to join me for class again. I told him I'd start up a couple more classes in January.  He was happy about that.

I've really enjoyed this semester.  So far, I'm getting the highest percentage grade out of everyone in my class (something I was not expecting at all).  I'm really excited about my final presentation for Saturday night. We're all giving our own short little Ted Talks; Mine will be about foster parenting.  I shared a portion of it in peer review today and got some great feedback. I'm so grateful I have this opportunity to go to school.  It is my dream come true!!  

I'm feeling really blessed in my life.  I think a good scripture for this week is 2 Corinthians 9:8,

"God is able to bless you abundantly, 
so that in all things at all times, 
having all that you need, 
you will abound in every good work." 

(NIV version)

-Alicia :)

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Behind the Scenes

Foster care certainly has its challenges. Its exhausting and often overwhelming... but I have found the challenges are met far easier because of the help from my amazing children.  My appreciation for each of my biological children has increased a hundred fold this past month as I've watched them adapt to their new life with their new siblings. They have displayed more patience, more compassion, more resilience and more creativity than I ever thought possible. They are truly amazing!

My husband has shown great strength too. I'm so proud of his perseverance and patience. He is a wonderful example to me of humility and obedience before the Lord. I'm so incredibly grateful I have him at my side in this difficult journey.

We've had so many people from our new ward tell us that they've witnessed our foster kids make leaps and bounds of improvement since they've been placed with us. Honestly, so much credit goes to my husband and children.  My contribution is such a small fraction.  This has been a huge team effort.  There's no way I could move forward in this calling without each of them. I am richly blessed!

-Alicia

Friday, December 2, 2016

Missing the Memories


Our City Center Temple has been closed for a short time. So this morning, some good friends and I took the kids to do baptisms at the other Provo Temple where we used to go to every Monday.  It was the first time returning for early morning baptisms there since our new temple has been dedicated.

 This morning caught us a little off guard as a feeling of sadness pressed on our hearts. Chandler said he felt it too. Maybe it was just because it was our first time returning there since our big baptism group would go, and we kept expecting to see old friends... only to be reminded that it's all part of the past now.  It just made us sad because we miss those friends and those memories so deeply.
-Alicia

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Light the World

Today is the day: The worldwide day of service! 

From now until Christmas, we will consciously look for ways to reach and serve people in a way we would imagine the Savior doing. 

From my own experiences, I'm FOREVER grateful and will always hold in my heart those who have shined their LIGHT in my life and made my world so much brighter.


Dec. 1:  Jesus lifted other's burdens. What will you do today to lift another's burden?
#LIGHTtheWorld




Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Quest for Grace


The Quest for Saving Grace in a World Obsessed with Saving Face
by, Alicia Rawlins

Suicide and Possible Causes
The topic of suicide strikes a chord all too familiar with me. In the past 25 years, I have had a number of very close family members (namely; my dad, my brother, my sister, and my husband) crash so low that they've lost any desire to live and have been in complete despair; they have either attempted or seriously contemplated taking their own life. It's a problem that can't be overlooked or swept under the rug. We need to confront it and face it head on. Utah ties third in the nation for the state with the most reported serious mental illnesses (SAMHSA). It also ranks among the top 20 states with the highest suicide rates (Suicide:20), and as of this summer, we rose even higher in the charts when our suicide rate spiked among the youth (Hatch). This leaves us desperately begging to know what could be the cause of so much hopelessness and loss of self-worth.
No one really knows why Utah ranks as one of the highest in suicide. There are many theories trying to explain the reasons for so much depression: some speculate that altitude, understaffed medical counselors, not enough treatment centers, and greater access to guns are the problems (Hatch and Kim). Some articles, (Knoll) argue that the spike in suicides among young Utahans has everything to do with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saint’s policy change regarding gays and lesbians who choose to marry or have sexual relationships with the same gender (First Presidency). Though all of these things are surely contributing factors, there’s more research to be done before we can identify all the possible causes. Though it seems there could be a correlation between the suicides and the Church’s new policy; it doesn't take into account those who have never experienced same-gender attraction, who also feel suicidal. Neither, does it take into account all of the efforts the Church has made to reach out and express love to its gay members (Mormon and Gay). Is there a more underlying issue to Utah’s suicide problem--one that strikes closer to the root--which, if fully recognized, would help people of all faiths be more aware and enabled to assist in prevention? I argue that this suicide epidemic is not so much a matter of religious law or policy, but a matter of how we, as individuals, choose to value and internalize our worth, how we are dependent on how others regard us, how we connect--socially and as families. We tend to unfairly compare ourselves to people around us and fear how we fit into the big picture; we misunderstand God’s love, His accessibility, and His grace.
I love living in Utah and find it to be a wonderful place to settle down, to raise my family.  There are so many friendly, happy people, and they seem to enjoy it here too.  Even according to NBC News, Utah is one of the happiest states in America (Dubois). So, why the high number of suicides? An interesting report published in 2011 by the University of Warwick, observed recent research that some of happiest places in the world have the highest suicide rates. University of Warwick researcher Professor Andrew Oswald said, "Human beings rely on relative comparisons between each other... Discontented people in a happy place may feel particularly harshly treated by life. Those dark contrasts may in turn increase the risk of suicide” (Happiest Places). Time Magazine also published an article that showed more research supporting this claim entitled, “Why the Happiest States Have the Highest Suicide Rates,” revealing that our tendency to make comparisons with our neighbors may play a role (Szalavitz).

Being Aware of Triggers
One of the major downfalls of human nature is our tendency to associate our worth with how well we measure up to everyone around us.  Today's digitally social world only compounds the problem when we advertise and compare all our "good" on the street corners of Facebook and Instagram, secretly hoping no one ever sees "the bad" and "the ugly" tucked away in the creaky old cart behind us. A recent social and clinical psychology report stated that “If people portray themselves as happier than they actually are, then perceptions of the happiness and well-being of one’s Facebook friends are likely to be distorted.”  The study goes on to point out that the spontaneous social nature of Facebook and other social media increases the level of daily comparisons which “increase[s] [the] daily depressive symptoms” (Steers). We wear out our days doing everything we can to have the picture-perfect life, comparing and competing, to save face, to one-up our peers, to avoid being looked on as weak or broken. In doing this, we place unrealistic expectations on ourselves, on our children, and on others. We become obsessed with hiding our flaws and putting on a mask. We drag these same fearful behaviors into almost every large social sphere, our circle of friends, our schools, and sadly, even our churches.
Cause and effect fully considered: If people spend their days comparing the lows of their life to the highs of everyone else’s, they will always come up short. They will never feel beautiful enough, popular enough, rich enough, smart enough, or righteous enough.  
This pattern of comparative thinking is not based on a healthy fear of God; rather, it is based on the fear of not being socially accepted and can lead to a lifestyle of perfectionism, which in turn can lead to serious depression. In fact, under the word “perfectionism” in Mosby’s Medical Dictionary it states that “failure to attain the [perfectionistic] goals may lead to feelings of defeat and other adverse psychological consequences” (Mosby’s).
A goal to be perfect is a good thing in religious context; after all, it is a Biblical command given by Christ to “be perfect”. But some interpret this to mean, if they don’t obey and perform every commandment with complete precision and exactness, they become unworthy of God’s love and help. The Atonement of the Savior and His unfailing grace become skewed, lost in a long list of rules, commandments, and laws. What does Christ mean then when He instructs us to be perfect even as He is?   The Hebrew word translated as “perfect” is tamim and means, among other things, “whole, sound, healthful” and “having integrity”(Francis).  The Septuagint—the Greek translation of the Old Testament—uses the word teleios (the same word used in Matthew 5:48) to mean perfect in the sense of “complete” and “entire” (Lust).  I love that definition of perfect: “to complete or make whole”. It is only logical that something must first be incomplete in order for it to then be made complete. We are all broken but with God as our Great Physician, He makes us “whole, sound, and healthful”/ perfect.
We have the responsibility to recognize if we are prone to approaching our standards with an unhealthy perfectionist mentality and or projecting that same mentality on others, especially in our religions. Terryl L. Givens, a practicing Mormon and a professor of literature and religion at the University of Richmond,  addresses controversial issues in his own faith fairly and without bias in his book, People of Paradox. He tells of the special challenges that are posed to those prone toward perfectionism--how it can trigger a negative outcome in a religion that is highly monitored through returning and reporting and a belief that they can one day be like God (Givens pp. 308-309). If people can admit they are perfectionist prone, they’re more likely to catch themselves before the mixture of their religion becomes problematic. It’s an emotional coping technique Dan Siegel--doctor of child and adult psychiatry--calls “name it to tame it”.  This is something to be aware of in all faiths. The key component is to make sure we don’t forget to emphasize our infinite worth God and the role grace plays in all our reporting and self evaluations.

Perfectionism, Shame, and Disconnect
To further explain the concern we should have with perfectionism, I’ll now illustrate how it leads to shame, which can lead to disconnection, and other adverse effects. Brené Brown-- a well-known public speaker and best-selling author who holds a Doctorate of Philosophy from the University of Houston--has done extensive research in human behavior and describes it this way:
Perfectionism is not the key to success. In fact, research shows that perfectionism hampers achievement. Perfectionism is correlated with depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis or missed opportunities. The fear of failing, making mistakes, not meeting people’s expectations, and being criticized keeps us outside of the arena where healthy competition and striving unfolds...Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth. Perfectionism is a defensive move. It’s the belief that if we do things perfectly and look perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame (Brown pp. 128-129).
Perfectionism is not about striving for excellence; it’s not about “healthy achievement and growth”. Perfectionism is all about saving face to avoid shame. She explains that shame is “the fear of disconnection”. We especially feel shame in the areas of life where our choices affect our deepest, most valued, connections. Brown says, “We are psychologically, emotionally, cognitively, and spiritually hardwired for connection, love, and belonging.” She explains that “shame is the fear of disconnection--it’s the fear that something we’ve done or failed to do, an ideal that we’ve not lived up to, or a goal that we’ve not accomplished makes us unworthy of connection.”
It is interesting to note that in Dr. Brown’s research, she discovered twelve categories where shame surfaces the strongest in people. Of those twelve shame categories, eight are heavily mentioned in sermons and lessons of the Mormon faith and other Christian churches: motherhood/fatherhood, family, parenting, religion, addiction, appearance/body-image, mental and physical health, and sex (Brown pp.68-69). When we falsely believe we must be flawless in these areas in order to be worthy of God’s love or another’s love, then we set ourselves up for shame,  then fear, then isolation, then disconnection, and possibly thoughts of suicide.
Feelings of disconnection and isolation are extremely important to note because they instill such painful emotions. An association of mental health professionals from more than 30 countries recently published an article showing that in places where there is a higher level of good strong community connection, there is also a higher risk of suicide--especially for those who feel disconnected and especially among the youth (King).  In our churches and communities, we must be thoughtful of our neighbors, family, or friends who have begun to isolate themselves; seek loving ways to reach out to them and promote connectedness. We can certainly do this without compromising our own beliefs. It may be as simple as striking up a friendly conversation, offering a meal, or inviting them to a barbeque. Maybe all they need is a reminder that they are worthy of connection, worthy of interaction, worthy of community, regardless of their standing in any particular faith or religion.

Perfectionist Parenting
Speaking of feeling worthy, I want to take a moment to reflect on how parental rejection can cause a child to form a twisted view of God’s paternal opinion of them. As I mentioned in the beginning of my article, my dad, my brother, and my sister have all either attempted or seriously contemplated suicide. I came to this realization after years of being away from home and having a family of my own. I could now see how my dad’s shame for his imperfections caused him to be disgusted with the failures or flaws in his own children, and his projected insecurities caused my siblings to assume that God must be equally disappointed and angry with them for their choices. I remember one evening about 11 years ago, when my father was admitted to a mental hospital to be put on suicide watch, my sister, who is a self-proclaimed atheist, suggested we say a prayer for my dad. I agreed that it was a wonderful idea. Within seconds of her suggestion though, she quickly declined to say the prayer and nudged me, “You better be the one to pray. God wants nothing to do with me. He’s much more likely to listen to you.” My heart broke for her, and I realized then that, in her mind, God was no different than her earthly father.
A perfectionist is extremely hard on himself/herself and especially hard on others. Parents who are perfectionists can do generations of harm. An article published in Psychology Today affirms that “parents who are obsessively concerned with mistakes raise children who are, too. And there's an interpersonal affect, transmitted by an authority figure in a child's life who is overly critical and demanding” (Marano). There is nothing wrong with  parents’ desire to push their children to excel, to get straight A’s, to strive for a more virtuous and successful life. These desires only become harmful when the parent’s motivating factor is perfectionism (to avoid blame, judgment, and shame). The message of worth fluctuates in the child’s mind, and all they hear from the parent is, “You are only worthy of my love when you can make me look good.”
Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, had a strained relationship with his perfectionist father. This relationship explained much of Michael's drive to become flawless in his sport. After reaching an all-time high in his successful career as an athlete, Phelps began to celebrate his achievements with riotous parties and heavy drinking. He was arrested more than once for driving under the influence, and when a photo surfaced of the intoxicated Olympian and when news spread of his arrests, Michael plunged into an all-time low, crashed rock bottom and contemplated suicide. In desperation Phelps reached out to his friend, retired NFL star, Ray Lewis, who gave him a Christian book entitled, The Purpose Driven Life. Michael said the book gave him hope and he began to believe in God, to understand his life had meaning, and that he was valued even though he had made some serious mistakes. In this healing process, he was even strengthened to forgive his father (Dance).

The Quest to Reconnect
Instead of fearing that our flaws will cause us to be disconnected, Brené Brown suggests that they can actually be the very thing that connects us, evoking empathy and compassion (Brown). Think of the hopelessness that could be avoided if our worth was not associated with our perfectness. How could we help prevent suicide if we spent a little more time focusing on the Atonement and God’s unconditional love, reminding each other in small and simple ways that we all belong? In the New Testament, the apostle Paul recognized that his flaws helped him have a greater connection to the Savior. He said,
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh...Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me (2 Corinthians 12:9-9 NIV).
Made perfect in weakness? That hardly sounds like perfectionism. Perhaps God never intended for us to be without our failures and our flaws? Again, I emphasize that perfectionism is not the same as striving to be perfect through Christ. President of Brigham Young University, Kevin J. Worthen, gave an address where he said that in our striving, failure is “a critical component”. Perhaps, through understanding what “be perfect” really means, suicide and depression wouldn’t be so much of a problem, especially in such a religious region?
There are so many reasons why people consider or attempt suicide; I’m not saying that unhealthy comparing/competition and false association of individual worth are the only reasons, but hopefully, through this paper, they can be considered more. Maybe our loved ones who suffer with depression, who feel they don’t belong, who feel they will never measure up, could be infused with hope once again if we sought for ways to connect with them. Maybe we could seek to show them that their worthiness to be loved is not revoked because they aren’t perfect or because they sometimes fail. Maybe if we all worried a little less about what others think of us, worried a little less about saving face, we might be able to preserve a few lives by directing our attention to saving Grace.


Works Cited

Brown, Brené. "The Power of Vulnerability." TEDxHouston, Jun. 2010, www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability. Accessed 15 Nov. 2016.  
Brown, Brené. Daring Greatly. Gotham Books, 2012, pp. 68-69, 128-129.
Brown, Francis, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1952.
Dance, Mark. "3 Antidotes to Pastoral Perfectionism." LifeWay Pastors, 17 Aug. 2016. www.lifeway.com/pastors/2016/08/17/3-antidotes-to-pastoral-perfectionism. Accessed 01 Nov. 2016.
Dubois, Lou. "New Study Reveals America's Most and Least Happy States." NBC News, 29 Sept. 2014, www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/new-study-reveals-americas-most-least-happy-states-n213836. Accessed 15 Nov. 2016.
"First Presidency Clarifies Church Handbook Changes." The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 13 Nov. 2015, www.lds.org/pages/church-handbook-changes?lang=eng. Accessed 02 Nov. 2016.
Givens, Terryl. People of Paradox. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007, pp. 308-309.
"Happiest Places Have Highest Suicide Rates Says New Research.” Warwick University, 21 Apr. 2011, www.sciencenewsline.com/news/2011042210360000.html. Accessed 03 Nov. 2016.
Hatch, Heidi. "Utah Youth Suicide Now Leading Cause of Death for Utah Kids Ages 11-17." KUTV News, 05 Jul. 2016, http://kutv.com/news/local/utah-youth-suicide-now-leading-cause-of-death-for-utah-kids-ages-11-17. Accessed 02 Nov. 2016.
King, Will. "Close Community Connections May Be Risk Factor for Suicide." Good Therapy Blog. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 20 Sept. 2016, www.goodtherapy.org/blog/close-community-connections-may-be-risk-factor-for-suicide-0921161. Accessed 15 Nov. 2016.      
Knoll, Benjamin. “Is the Recent Rise in Utah Youth Suicides Reallly Such a Mystery?.” The Huffington Post, 05 Jul. 2016, www.huffingtonpost.com/benjamin-knoll/is-the-recent-rise-in-uta_b_10798286.html. 12 Nov. 2016.
Lust, J., E. Eynikel, and K. Hauspie, A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint, 2 vols. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1996.
Marano, Hara Estroff. "Pitfalls of Perfectionism." Psychology Today, 01 Mar. 2008 www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200803/pitfalls-perfectionism. Accessed 15 Nov. 2016.
"Mormon and Gay - An Official Church Website." The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, https://mormonandgay.lds.org. Accessed 02 Nov. 2016.
Mosby's Medical Dictionary. Elsevier, 2009.
SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. "State Estimates of Adult Mental Illness from the 2011 and 2012 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health." The NSDUH Report, 28 Feb. 2014, www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/sr170-mental-illness-state-estimates-2014/sr170-mental-illness-state-estimates-2014/sr170-mental-illness-state-estimates-2014.html. Accessed 2 Nov. 2016.
Steers, Mai-ly N., Robert E. Wickham, and Linda K. Acitelli. "Seeing Everyone Else's Highlight Reels:How Facebook Usage Is Linked to Depressive Symptoms." Guilford Press Periodicals. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 15 Oct. 2014, http://guilfordjournals.com/doi/abs/10.1521/jscp.2014.33.8.701. Accessed 12 Nov. 2016.
"Suicide: 20 states with highest rates." CBSNews, www.cbsnews.com/pictures/suicide-20-states-with-highest-rates. Accessed 03 Nov. 2016.
Szalavitz, Maia. “Why the Happiest States Have the Highest Suicide Rates.” Time.com. Time Magazine, 25 Apr. 2011. http://healthland.time.com/2011/04/25/why-the-happiest-states-have-the-highest-suicide-rates/. Accessed 16 Nov. 2016.          
Walton, Alice G. "New Study Links Facebook to Depression: But Now We Actually Understand Why." Forbes. www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2015/04/08/new-study-links-facebook-to-depression-but-now-we-actually-understand-why. Accessed 12 Nov. 2016.
Worthen, Kevin J. “Successfully Failing: Pursuing Our Quest for Perfection. BYU Speeches, 06 Jan. 2015, https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/kevin-j-worthen_successfully-failing-pursuing-quest-perfection/. Accessed 04 Nov. 2016.

Monday, November 28, 2016

"And Mary said..." - Ponderize - Week 61

In our church, we use the phrase "magnify the Lord in your calling" quite a bit.  I've been thinking what it means to magnify the Lord.  All too often, we might think this means exhausting ourselves to do more, be more, to run "faster than we have strength" in order to magnify our calling but we forget "the Lord" part.

In Luke 1:46, Mary, the mother of Christ said, "My soul doth magnify the Lord."

What does it mean to magnify something? It means to increase, extend, expand, intensify. 

If it is the Lord that is the one that is magnified first in our heart and mind then He becomes bigger, stronger, more powerful than the other things that may try to consume us... like our fears, our weaknesses, our anxieties, our doubts, and even our foolish pride.  

The problems and struggles we face may seem Goliath in size, but when our soul magnifies the Lord,  we see that God is bigger than any obstacle. With this knowledge, we can do as David did: We will "hasten and [run] toward" those giants, with full confidence that we "come to [our problems] in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel" so "that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel." (1 Samuel 17:45, 46 & 48)

Through a vision that daily recognizes and embraces the all-consuming presence and power of God, we see that God is greater, He's stronger, He is more powerful than any troubles we face, and we will come off conquerors!! With God, we need not fear.   

-Alicia

by, We Are Messengers