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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...

Friday, January 29, 2016

Keep Believing

Three days out of the week I have the privilege of walking from my home up to BYU's campus to attend my American Heritage class.  As I walk the seven blocks to the bottom of the hill and pass the rows of apartments and houses, one by one students will emerge from the various doorways and head north on the parallel streets.  At first it seems like there is only four, maybe five of us in view but then as the bottom of the hill draws nearer, the number is closer to fifteen or twenty students coming from all directions.  I commence my way on the steep path, the buildings from campus rise into sight there is now one long stream of students filling the walkway in front of me and behind me, forty or fifty.  When I reach the crest of the hill and pass through the first row of buildings, suddenly I'm in a sea of thousands of students. It's glorious!  Each day I experience this,  I think of a story I heard from a devotional and how the vision of one young man helped turn the tide of despair and restore the hope of the BYU dream.

By 1913, a new wave of financial problems was threatening the university’s future. BYU faced mounting debt. Faculty salaries were so low the teachers ran farms to survive, returning home to irrigate between classes. Its cornerstone laid in 1907, the Maeser Memorial Building sat silent and unfinished for years. Finally, it seemed, the only way to finance its completion was to divide the land on Temple Hill into housing lots and sell them. A student named Alfred Kelly was selected to promote this idea during a commencement speech, but the assignment troubled him. Early one morning he walked to the top of Temple Hill to pray. What he saw that morning as he looked out across the valley left an unforgettable impression upon all who heard him relate it the day of his address, because what Kelly saw was you.

“Gradually the morning light advanced across the valley floor toward the spot where I stood. I closed my eyes partially to the advancing light and was startled by the strange vision that seemed to appear before me. The advancing sunlight took on the appearance of people, thousands of young people who approached me, their arms laden with books. I turned around to find the area behind me illuminated as well. In that light I saw hundreds of buildings, large and beautiful temples of learning. Those young people passed by me and entered in. Then, with cheerfulness and confidence, they turned toward the east and lifted their eyes heavenward, where, again becoming part of the sunlight, they gradually disappeared from my view.”

Kelly sat down to a stunned silence. Suddenly Jesse Knight leaped to his feet, pledging several thousand dollars to BYU. Others followed suit. Eventually, under the direction of President Joseph F. Smith, the Church assumed the school’s remaining debt. Finally, the future of the university had become secure.

The Lord evidently had a plan for the ground the campus now occupies—as He always had for BYU. He would not let even its leaders prevent its divine destiny. Such divine intervention on the things that matter most to the Lord is a comfort to me, knowing He can intervene to correct my lapses in judgment or vision. - (A House of Dreams - John S. Tanner)

What young Alfred Kelly experienced that morning was nothing short of prophecy.  It gave the people something to hold on to, to believe in when everything in the moment seemed hopelessly lost.

In this devotional Brother Tanner also tells of a vision Karl G. Maeser had that too was prophetic.  It came just after his darkest moment when he was ready to quit the cause:

Maeser said,  “I am worn out and sick in spirit, . . . and with all my love for this Academy, I feel that I owe it to my very life, which is needlessly wearing itself out here in an apparently hopeless task, to accept any change that will promise me opportunities for permanent usefulness.”  He contemplated moving his family and taking a job at the University of Deseret (which is now University of Utah).  His daughter one day asked when the move would take place and he responded,  “I have changed my mind. I have had a dream—I have seen Temple Hill filled with buildings—great temples of learning, and I have decided to remain and do my part.”**

Maybe I'm a dreamer... but when the clouds of gloom hang drearily over our heads and it feels as if the end of struggle is nowhere in sight, when we are worn and beaten down from the tasks that surround us, we can learn from these stories of the past and remember that it's always darkest just before the dawn.  God sees the bigger picture of our lives.... and I promise it is full of glory, purpose, and Divine mission.

With that... here's my song for the day. Keep Believing by, Ryan Shupe


**Excerpt from DVD Passport to Destiny; taken from Wilkinson and Skousen, School of Destiny, 84–85; emphasis in original.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

My Wish for You

I wasn't going to post anything tonight but I had an old song come into my mind and thought I'd share it.  This is my wish for all those I love. Seize each day and make it beautiful my friends!!

by, Rascal Flatts

I hope the days come easy and the moments pass slow,
And each road leads you where you wanna go,
And if you're faced with a choice, and you have to choose,
I hope you choose the one that means the most to you.
And if one door opens to another door closed,
I hope you keep on walkin' till you find the window,
If it's cold outside, show the world the warmth of your smile.
But more than anything, more than anything

My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to,
Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small,
You never need to carry more than you can hold,
And while you're out there getting where you're getting to,
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too,
Yeah, this, is my wish.

I hope you never look back, but you never forget,
All the ones who love you, in the place you live,
I hope you always forgive, and you never regret,
And you help somebody every chance you get,
Oh, you find God's grace, in every mistake,
And always give more than you take.
But more than anything, yeah, more than anything

My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to,
Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small,
You never need to carry more than you can hold,
And while you're out there getting where you're getting to,
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too,
Yeah, this, is my wish.

- Alicia ;)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Humble, Submissive, and Gentle - Ponderize - Week 17

My nephew, Bryson, is currently serving a mission in Mexico.  In yesterday's letter he bore witness of the validity of personal revelation, of going to the Lord in fervent prayer and then turning to the scriptures for answers.  I greatly appreciated his testimony.  This is the method I have used through my life again and again.  I cannot even begin to number how many times I have had "custom-fit" verses jump off the pages at me.... just too many coincidences to be a coincidence.

My nephew's testimony came at a good time because I've spent a lot of moments reflecting recently on my own personal revelations.  I wonder if any of the men or women in the scriptures ever felt lonely with the answers they received.  
Did Mary ponder in her heart because she knew no one would believe her or maybe because she had a hard time even believing herself?  
How much did Abraham share with Sariah or even Isaac about the revelations he received?  
After Joseph Smith shared his experiences, people said he was crazy.
Were things so unbelievable that they had moments themselves where they too questioned their own sanity?

Joseph Smith learned to trust his initial revelations enough to move ahead even if he wasn't sure exactly what that looked like for him in the future: "to continue as [he] was until further directed. [He] had found the testimony of James to be true—that a man who lacked wisdom might ask of God, and obtain, and not be upbraided." - JSH 1:26

Alma had been given a very specific mission in his life.  He followed that instruction knowing "that the Lord God hath power to do all things which are according to his word."(Alma 7:8)
 Yet Alma was painfully and sorely rejected in ways I cannot imagine.  In fact it was so difficult that he said, "I was about to set my back towards this land forever"  but he didn't give up, why? Because he understood revelation and knew without a doubt it was from God.  He testified, " I have been commanded that I should turn again and prophesy unto this people." - Alma 8:24,25

I like what Joseph said, "to continue as I was until further directed."  
I feel that way sometimes.  
I don't have all the answers.  I only have been given instruction up to this point and it doesn't go any further into the distant steps.  I will trust that it will be unfolded "line upon line,... here a little and there a little"

I share some of the answers I've been given here but ponder most of it in my heart because it is the only safe place to keep them.  I know the Lord searches there. It is between Him and me for now.

My scripture to ponderize for the week is this:
"And now [Alicia] I would that ye should be humble, and be submissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of god at all times; asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive." - Alma 7:23


Monday, January 25, 2016

A Marvelous Father

Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending the homecoming of my nephew, Dane.  What a solid, good, and pure young man!  I'm so incredibly proud of him.  He's such a naturally righteous soul: timid like a lamb on the outside but roaring like a lion with bold testimony on the inside.  Once, I asked his mother the secret to raising such an amazing kid.  She shook her head at me with surprise, "Alicia, you have no idea... honestly, he came that way.  He is unlike any other, I've never had a child so naturally obedient." I thought to myself, "She's been blessed with a 'Nephi.'"

The messages in Sacrament meeting yesterday were beautiful; centered on charity, the pure love of Christ.  Then Nephi... I mean Dane, concluded his testimony of miracles and angels (both seen and unseen.) I smiled.

In Sunday school we discussed 1 Nephi 8 and the Tree of Life and in Relief Society we learned about the Kingdom of God established on earth as it is in Heaven.  

I took mental note of the talk referenced in Sunday school by Robert D. Hales entitled, "With all the Feeling of a Tender Parent." Still thinking of my sister-in-law's comment and the varying dispositions of our children... what about Lehi's children?  What a contrast between Nephi and his brothers! How much did this affect the emotions of their father?
  • "The hymn often sung by our pioneer ancestors tells us what to do: “Gird up your loins; fresh courage take. / Our God will never us forsake.”  That courage and faith is what we need as parents and families in these latter days.
  • Father Lehi had such courage. He loved his family and rejoiced that some of his children kept the Lord’s commandments. But he must have been heartbroken when his sons “Laman and Lemuel partook not of the fruit” representing the love of God. “He exceedingly feared for [them]; yea, he feared lest they should be cast off from the presence of the Lord.” - Elder Robert D. Hales
Lehi was an incredible father; devoted, loving, and true to the Faith!! Some of his children chose to follow his counsel and others refused.  In all of his ups and downs, joys and heartache... I can't help but wonder if he ever just needed some affirmation for his valiant efforts, some reassurance that he was a good father, a marvelous father, regardless of the choices his children were making. (If he lived down the street from me, I'd take a moment to tell him that.) ;)
  • "Our worthiness will not be measured according to their righteousness. Lehi did not lose the blessing of feasting at the tree of life because Laman and Lemuel refused to partake of its fruit. Sometimes as parents we feel we have failed when our children make mistakes or stray. Parents are never failures when they do their best to love, teach, pray, and care for their children. Their faith, prayers, and efforts will be consecrated to the good of their children. "  - Elder Robert D. Hales
Also, if  Lehi were my neighbor, I think I'd encourage him with this too;
  • "Remember, remember all the days of your [fatherhood]: 'Ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.'
  • Rely on Him. Rely on Him heavily. Rely on Him forever. And 'press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope.'  You are doing God’s work. You are doing it wonderfully well. He is blessing you and He will bless you, even—no, especially—when your days and your nights may be the most challenging." - Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
I offer my prayers for all those parents who strive so diligently to keep that brightness of hope alive in the midst of storms and pending gloom.  Keep shining!  Your light is seen by many and it warms their hearts... God will bless you for keeping that fire burning in your soul! It's beautiful!

-Alicia ;) 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Rule of Law

I've been fascinated with the reading assignments in my American Heritage class.  Some of my recent ones have been: John Winthrop's - A Model of Christian Charity, James Harrington's The Commonwealth of Oceana, and my personal favorite, John Locke's - Second Treatise of Government. This might be boring to some but it's very interesting to me because these concepts and principles were highly studied, closely examined, and adopted by the Founding Fathers of this great nation.  They were principles designed to organize a government that would protect and uphold the natural rights and freedom of the people.

Maybe it’s because I’m paying my own way to go to school or maybe it’s because I’m a mom approaching my 40’s that causes me to feel more hungry for knowledge than ever before… I don’t know but whatever it is, this education experience is very precious and extremely valuable to me.  I guess the older I get in life, the more I realize how little time I have and how much more there is to learn.

As I’ve been studying about these various systems of government, I can’t help but ask myself; What kind of government have I been running in my home? How do I protect the freedom of my children? Do they understand our family laws and the purpose behind them? Do they have a say in the way these laws are created and enforced?

John Locke teaches that government is not about ruling the people but about protecting them.  Every person has inalienable or a natural right to life, liberty, and property.

"The power, then, that parents have over their children, arises from that duty which is incumbent on them, to take care of their off-spring, during the imperfect state of childhood.  To inform the mind, and govern the actions of their yet ignorant [youth], till reason shall take its place." - John Locke (Second Treatise of Government)

How do we inform the minds of our children or govern their actions while they are young?
I believe they need clear vision... for the scriptures say, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” - Proverbs 29:18

About five or so years ago, my husband and I attempted to increase the vision of our children by establishing a mission statement. We recite it once a week in our home and it’s been very helpful...  But after studying Locke and his view of a free government, I see more and more the need for written and enforced law agreed upon by family consent. I interpret this to look like some sort of family council.  I must admit that this is something my husband and I have only talked about but have never officially established.  

"The liberty of man in society, is to be under no other legislative power, but that established, BY CONSENT, in the commonwealth" - John Locke (Second Treatise of Government)

I searched the definition of Commonwealth and discovered:
Common = Shared
Weal = prosperous and happiness (1828 Dictionary)

God has written law for His children in order that we might find happiness... We call it the scriptures and the words of the living prophets.  We rely upon this law to give us direction and we consent to follow through covenants.  But some laws aren’t so easily accepted...

President Boyd K. Packer taught:
" Parents know, and one day you will know, that there are times when parents and we who lead the Church must extend tough love when failing to teach and to warn and to discipline is to destroy… In spite of criticism or opposition, we must teach and we must warn." - Boyd K. Packer (Oct. 2000)

As parents, we have a serious responsibility to teach and warn.  In our families, I personally believe that consent to such warnings or law comes more readily when we have a clear understanding and vision of their purpose.  If we are to “inform the minds” of our children we must also adequately help them see the dangers and pitfalls of this world and establish boundaries that protect their freedom.

Our children must know the great purpose of "law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom.... where there is no law there is no freedom... freedom is not, as we are told, a liberty for every man to do what he lists."- John Locke (Second Treatise of Government)

A nation without law is anarchy not freedom… So also, a family that has no law, has no freedom.

Our homes must be established and founded.  Rules must be clear.  I don't think gathering a family to counsel together has to be long or drawn out, complicated or fancy.

"The best leaders are not those who work themselves to death trying to do everything single-handedly; the best leaders are those who follow God’s plan and counsel with their councils.

“Come now,” said the Lord in an earlier dispensation through the prophet Isaiah, “and let us reason together” (Isa. 1:18). And in this dispensation, He repeated that admonition: “Let us reason together, that ye may understand” (D&C 50:10).

Let us remember that the basic council of the Church is the family council…  I testify that we can bring the full force of God’s revealed plan for gospel governance into our ministries as we counsel together." - Elder M. Russell Ballard - Counseling With Our Councils - 1994

With these things in mind, I'm excited that my husband and I are going to be starting our own family government, where we can “open the floor” for each child to share their issues, for us to teach and inform them, warn and guide them, but also listen and establish written laws together, to allow them voice, to give clear vision, and where we all can consent and maximize on our freedom.  We'll be learning as we go... I'll keep you posted.  :)


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

"As Often As Thou Inquired" - Ponderize - Week 16

I'm a little late in posting my Ponderize scripture again but trust me, I've been thinking of this one since Sunday.  Sometimes through prayer and fasting, the Lord gives you certain verses that apply so perfectly to your life and mission.  The verses become treasures in your heart and you draw upon them again and again.  The entire section of D&C 6 has become quite meaningful to me for several months now because it came after "much fasting and prayer" at just the right moment in my life.

This whole week I've been thinking of these verses:

"Verily, verily, I say unto thee, blessed art thou for what thou hast done; for thou hast inquired of me, and behold, as often as thou hast inquired thou hast received instruction of my Spirit.  If it had not been so, thou wouldst not have come to the place where thou art at this time.... I say unto you , if you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things.  Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter?  What greater witness can you have than from God?" - D&C 6: 15, 22-23


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Even Superman

I must have been about 6 or 7 years old when I had this dream: I had it a few times and so I've never forgotten it: I was walking up the hill towards my school and was several blocks away when out of the blue, Superman swooped me into his arms. We were flying just above the trees and I was stunned with disbelief at who was carrying me. I asked him, "Where are we going?" And he answered as if it should have been obvious, "Why to school, of course!" Then he flew a little lower to the trees and plucked me a banana.  I thanked him for the gift and said, "I just love bananas." He smiled dashingly and responded, "I know."

At that age, I was crazy in love with Christopher Reeve and my brother had a Superman poster of him in his room that I constantly gawked at. I’m sure it was just the result of me watching one too many Superman movies while eating peanut butter-banana sandwiches before bedtime. Either way, this is most certainly where my obsession began.

 In 1996, about 11 years after my dream of flying to school with my favorite hero, I started signing my name with a star, symbolically meant to fit the Superman symbol at the center.

Through all these years, I've never stopped signing my name with that special star because I believed in a power within me, a power that reaches beyond anything in this world.

This morning I studied in Personal Progress under Individual Worth.  The value goal encouraged us to study our patriarchal blessings along with a few conference talks on the subject of our divine mission.  Whatever the Lord calls us to do in life, I believe He qualifies us for.  I believe that through His strength, all things are possible, even the seemingly insurmountable.

Audrey Hepburn once said, "There is no such thing as impossible, the word itself says, 'I'm possible'"  I believe this is true not because of our own making but because we are sons and daughters of God, the most powerful being in the universe!  It's humbling, when you really think about it (and that's not a bad thing, it's good to be humble.)  We are less than dust without Him and we should recognize this everyday and always... but I don't think He wants us to forget our true identity.  We are not of this world, we are "spiritual beings having a human experience."  I guess you could say that's what the  "S" in my signature has come to mean "Spirit daughter of God." Or "Strength in the Savior."

Yesterday, I was depressed because I have this dream of changing the world (even if it's just one person at a time) and well...  I felt like in my sincere effort, all the doors were being slammed in my face.

The Relief Society Lesson from Howard W. Hunter on Adversity was encouraging for me.  "Doors close regularly in our lives, and some of those closings cause genuine pain and heartache. But I do believe that where one such door closes, another opens (and perhaps more than one), with hope and blessings in other areas of our lives that we might not have discovered otherwise." I reflected on this quote again and again.  Soon these words from one of my favorite Ryan Shupe songs began to play over in my mind as if it was on repeat:

"Give me eyes to see 
to perceive, to believe, to imagine the possibility 
the possibilities"

I prayed, "What is there to discover?  What is there to learn?  What other doors will open because of the ones that have been shut?  If I've hit a wall it just means there's another way through it."  The Lord doesn't send us on missions to fail. The Lord has shown me glimpses of what He expects of me and I've been giving it my very best shot.  Heaven knows I have. But sometimes I question my very best efforts especially when I keep getting shut out.  Why do I keep trying?

As I studied about patriarchal blessings this morning and my particular mission, the words from the song danced around in my head again:

"Give me eyes to see 
to perceive, to believe, to imagine the possibility 
the possibilities"

I finally went to my Spotify to play it in full. In doing so, it drew me into more Ryan Shupe songs and I couldn't help but reminisce on another favorite of mine.  It just seemed appropriate with all that I've been feeling.

I know who I am. I am a daughter of God with incredible worth and power because of His grace and the capital "S" that is part of my very being.  However hard I try, I can't do it on my own.  I get discouraged sometimes from the hurt and pain the effort causes and need to remind myself that it's for my good.   Rejection, weaknesses, difficulties, misunderstandings, and sorrow all help to keep me humble and on my knees before the One who makes all things possible for me.  I just need to remember this.

"Even giants fall
And every dog eventually has its day
And Achilles has a heel
And even bones of steel can break
And even Superman, even Superman
Even Superman, even Superman, yeah

'Cause even Superman has kryptonite
And though he tries with all his might
Even Superman falls to his knees
Beggin', "Please, please, please, please"

"And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong." - 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

With my Savior... I'll make it through whatever changes may come. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

When One Door Closes...

My husband called me from work this afternoon, knowing I've been going through a deep struggle these past several days. I told him how frustrated I was with myself because I can't seem to get over this slump.  I can usually bounce back from other situations much quicker.  "What's wrong with me?" I asked him.  He paused for a moment and lovingly encouraged, "You'll get through this.  Don't be so hard on yourself.  I know your intentions were good.  But there's nothing you can do about that.  Maybe while you're down in that pit of sorrow, maybe you can look around, scrape up some things, and find exactly what it is you're supposed to learn from it all."  Then he suggested I read lesson #3 from the Relief Society manual, (Teachings From President Howard W. Hunter) and he said that if any time in the near future I find him in one of his slumps, he wanted me to know I had full permission to remind him of this lesson too.

I've read the lesson twice since his phone call.  He was inspired and I thank my Father in Heaven for a husband who knows me so well, who knows my heart and my intentions.

Lord, I pray, help me see the blessing in my situation at this time.  Help me see what lessons I need to learn from it all and what changes need to be made in my heart.

“When [the difficulties of mortality] humble us and refine us and teach us and bless us, they can be powerful instruments in the hands of God to make us better people."

"I have observed that life—every life—has a full share of ups and downs. Indeed, we see many joys and sorrows in the world, many changed plans and new directions, many blessings that do not always look or feel like blessings, and much that humbles us and improves our patience and our faith. We have all had those experiences from time to time, and I suppose we always will. …

… President Spencer W. Kimball, who knew a good deal about suffering, disappointment, and circumstances beyond his control, once wrote:

Being human, we would expel from our lives physical pain and mental anguish and assure ourselves of continual ease and comfort, but if we were to close the doors upon sorrow and distress, we might be excluding our greatest friends and benefactors. Suffering can make saints of people as they learn patience, long-suffering, and self-mastery” [Faith Precedes the Miracle (1972), 98].

In that statement, President Kimball refers to closing doors upon certain experiences in life. … Doors close regularly in our lives, and some of those closings cause genuine pain and heartache. But I do believe that where one such door closes, another opens (and perhaps more than one), with hope and blessings in other areas of our lives that we might not have discovered otherwise." - Howard W. Hunter


Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Power of Pure Testimony

Alma the younger is overwhelmed with what is happening among his own church, among his own people.  They had all made covenants in the waters of baptism and yet "the people of the church began to wax proud... they began to be scornful, one towards another...their began to be great contentions, envying, and strife, and malice... he saw great inequality, ...lifting themselves up with their pride, despising others."  (Alma 4:6,8-10,12)  

"Now this was the cause of much affliction to Alma, yea, and to many of the people who Alma had consecrated to be teachers, and priests, and elders over the church." (Alma 4:7)
(Notice that those who served with Alma, those he had set-apart as teachers and leaders also grieved for what was happening.)

What a heavy burden this righteous man of God carried on his shoulders.  It "sorely grieved" him. He searched, pleaded, and prayed for answers and came to the conclusion that there was "no way that he might reclaim them save it were in bearing down in pure testimony against them."  He reminded them of the generation who had gone before them. It wasn't just his testimony he bore but he strove to remind them of the testimony of their parents and grandparents.  And he lists off these things that happened to them basically saying, "Don't you remember them, how they gained hope and salvation?"

Your parents and grandparents had these blessings:
  • Delivered by the mercy and power of God (5:4)
  • Delivered out of bondage by the power of His word (5:5)
  • Delivered their souls from hell (5:6)
  • He changed their hearts (5:7)
  • He awakened them out of a deep sleep (5:7)
  • Their souls were illuminated by the light of the everlasting word (5:7)
  • The bands of death were broken (5:9)
  • The chains of hell were loosed (5:9)
  • Their souls did expand (5:9)
  • They did sing redeeming love (5:9)
Then he asks them "what is the cause" of the great miracles that took place with them.  How were all of these things possible?  He answers his own question,
"I can tell you."(Alma 5:11-13)
  • They believed the Prophet
  • They believed the Prophet spoke the words of God
  • According to faith, there was a mighty change of heart as they applied the Prophet's words
  • They humbled themselves
  • They put their trust in God
  • They were faithful to the end
I think the part that stands out to me here is the "pure testimony" that Alma bore to the people was mostly that of his father's testimony.  His father left a powerful legacy.  I wonder what affect it would have if we were to tap into and share as frequently as possible with our children the testimony of their grandmothers and grandfathers?  That seemed to be the common answer that stood out to me at World Congress 9 this year. Read their testimony to your children. Send it out in a weekly or monthly email, in a text message, or pin it up and frame it on a wall where they can see it every day.  Make it an opening tradition to read every FHE.  However it is done, put that pure testimony out there for them to be reminded constantly. 

Now of course we must constantly use the "pure testimony" of the prophets and apostles too; scriptures both modern and ancient.  But there is power in using the testimony of a grandmother or grandfather because even when the faith of the children waver even in God (in the unseen), they cannot deny the existence of a grandma or grandpa.  They had incredible faith, they believed!


Thursday, January 14, 2016


My kids have the opportunity of participating in the Cultural Celebration and Temple dedication for the Provo, City Center Temple.  They had their first dance practice last night.  Afterwards, my son came home and told me the song they are performing to was "Reaching" by, Audiomachine.  I thought to myself "That's perfect! Absolutely perfect" because whenever I think of Audiomachine, I think of their album, "Tree of Life."  This temple and the Tree of Life have long been tied together in story for me. 
  • "To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified." - Isaiah 61:3

This temple is a symbol of incredible beauty, shining like a light, a symbol of a new life, of redemption from the ruins, of triumph through tragedy, and holiness out of heartbreak... How glorious it is, to rise from the ashes, and constantly reach to a higher and more noble place no matter the cost.  Through Christ, all things are possible.  The Lord is aware of our every need and every struggle.  He is mighty to save and there is nothing we can't make it through when we rely and trust in His wisdom and grace.  He is so very good... all is well... all is well.
  • "This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 3:13
  • "For ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to saveWherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. " -2 Nephi 31: 19-20
  • "He saw other multitudes pressing forward; and they came and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree." 1 Nephi 8:24
-Alicia :)

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Custom-Fit Collision Course

My husband shared this incredible article with me last night about this couple who survived a horrific car wreck and walked away with only minor injuries.  But the most impressive part to me was the display of their faith.  Amen to everything she says at the end of her Facebook post a thousand times over.  The miracle is not that they were saved from the wreckage.  If one had been killed in the crash or permanently injured, they still would have seen it all as an opportunity to testify.  That is the real miracle.  Our Father has beautiful plans and purpose in the tiniest details of our lives.  I believe this, I believe it with all of my heart... no wait... I KNOW this!
Someday it will all be unfolded before our eyes and we will see just how many custom-fit "collisions" were meant to crash right into you and me.  It's nothing short of glorious. ;)

 "If there's anything you read out of this novel I'm typing up here it's this: I want everyone to to know the love and the power of God. He has a purpose...and it's so clear that NOTHING...not even a car accident like this one will cause his plans for you to change. We are put on this beautiful earth for a reason and the reason is to help people know Him. We are made to show and share His love. And if it takes a car wreck like this for me to get to do that then I would do it all over again. I'm praying that everyone who reads this can get a glimpse of Gods faithfulness. He is GOOD. And working. And the plans he has for YOU and your life aren't going anywhere. Good or bad, what you want or what you don't want...it's God's doing. It's his plans unfolding. It's his kingdom coming. Embrace the struggles and the joys of this life! Without a doubt it's a miracle we're alive, but more than that it's simply Gods plan for us. We're so grateful for this wreck and all it will do in our lives. We are blessed to be okay. And so in love with the amazing God we serve." - Arika Stovall

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

"Tears in Heaven" - Ponderize - Week 15

“No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God … and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire”  - Elder Orson F. Whitney?

There will be a day when "God shall wipe away all tears from [our] eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." - Revelation 21:4

I know this and find great comfort in this truth!

Understanding the Pain of Separation

I've made a goal to buckle down and work on my Young Women's Personal Progress.  I've chosen every Tuesday morning to be my day for this.  It's pretty easy to record online and I can enter my journal notes right there on the website.  As young women leaders, we're all going to take turns letting the girls know how our own progress is going and we hope it will inspire them to keep moving on theirs.

This morning, I spent some time studying about the Atonement and the Plan of Salvation.  In the church, these are fundamental doctrines we have learned over and over our entire lives.  With the frequency of these topics, it might be easy to lose interest but I was really grateful to take a moment, read the scriptures related, and reflect on a couple of questions.  "How does the knowledge of these teachings affect my actions, help me understand my identity, and strengthen my faith?"

Understanding that we are literal spirit children of God, that we lived with Him before we came to earth, that we knew each other, is an incredibly amazing teaching.  It's unique to the Restored Gospel but I believe that there are many outside the church who have been given a sense of this great truth:

"We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience." -Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” 
― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

Our spirits are eternal in nature.  This tangible light has a life-span we cannot comprehend. Joseph Smith expounded in his King Follett Sermon;

"I want to reason more on the spirit of man; for I am dwelling on the body and spirit of man—on the subject of the dead. I take my ring from my finger and liken it unto the mind of man—the immortal part, because it had no beginning. Suppose you cut it in two; then it has a beginning and an end; but join it again, and it continues one eternal round. So with the spirit of man. As the Lord liveth, if it had a beginning, it will have an end. All the fools and learned and wise men from the beginning of creation, who say that the spirit of man had a beginning, prove that it must have an end; and if that doctrine is true, then the doctrine of annihilation would be true. But if I am right, I might with boldness proclaim from the housetops that God never had the power to create the spirit of man at all. God himself could not create himself.

Intelligence is eternal and exists upon a self-existent principle. It is a spirit from age to age and there is no creation about it. All the minds and spirits that God ever sent into the world are susceptible of enlargement."

God is an eternal being, we are all eternal beings.  God is all about gathering, about "oneness", about togetherness.  Even when we speak of being separated from God, it is not His undoing but our own.  He is not the one who severs ties, who divides relationships, or breaks apart - these are things that exist in the physical and temporal realm.  And those who never learn to live by and receive Christ's spirit will be bound to this physical and temporal plane of existence.

This must be why there is pain in separation, because such an experience flows completely contrary to our Divine nature.  Nevertheless, it is a necessary part of our growth and learning.  Everything that hurts us, that is painful, ministers to our mortal education here on earth. But with the Gospel lens of truth, we have a glimpse of Heaven and we are given strength to endure.

"Though otherwise 'lively,' hope stands quietly with us at funerals. Our tears are just as wet, but not because of despair. Rather, they are tears of appreciation evoked by poignant separation. They will change, erelong, to tears of glorious anticipation. Yet the emptiness is so real and so restless it initiates a retroactive inventory of what is now so painfully missing, doing so, however, while forecasting fulness and resplendent reunion!" - Neal A. Maxwell

"When such a friend from us departs,
We hold forever in our hearts
A sweet and hallowed memory,
Bringing us nearer, Lord, to thee." - Hymn #293

We could try to numb ourselves and pretend there is no ache, no pain when we are separated from those we love but such an attempt would only prove to dull the Divine attributes inherent within us and thwart our progress.

"Moreover, we can’t fully appreciate joyful reunions later without tearful separations now. The only way to take sorrow out of death (or separation) is to take love out of life." - Elder Russell M. Nelson

We find hope in Christ, knowing that He has bridged the gulf of the great divide and through His great atoning sacrifice, there is no such thing as the end, there is no such thing as separation, no more farewells and no more goodbyes.  We find our our way "home" in eternal principles.

"There is no end to matter; There is no end to space; There is no end to spirit; There is no end to race. There is no end to virtue; There is no end to might; There is no end to wisdom; There is no end to light. There is no end to union; There is no end to youth; There is no end to priesthood; There is no end to truth. There is no end to glory; There is no end to love; There is no end to being; There is no death above. There is no end to glory; There is no end to love; There is no end to being; There is no death above."


Monday, January 11, 2016

Come Together

Organizing the inventory on the shelves in the back room of Sears shoe department was my responsibility when there were very few customers on the sales floor.  I was seventeen and though it wasn't the most exciting part-time work, it still gave me a paycheck.  I beat the boring doldrums in the backroom with my multi-cassette anthology album of The Beatles.  No doubt that when my headphones were in, I unknowingly serenaded a few passing customers to "Hey Jude."  I must have listened to that anthology a hundred times.  Something close to an obsession, I went through a phase of my own Beetle's mania.  Have you ever looked up the lyrics to "Come Together?" Yeah.... all this time, I've been singing it wrong.  I always wondered what it meant by, "hold you in his armchair or Morris Jumboo." (Those lyrics, even when they're sung right, never made sense anyway.)  Toe jam football?  Joo joo eyeballs?  Those guys were so high but I still loved them.

I seem to associate everything in life with music and for some reason, every time I hear a talk on unity or Zion, "Come Together" begins to play in my head (not exactly saturated with religious analogy, I know.) Even still, one morning, I thought it would make the perfect wake-up song to bring our kids out for family scripture study. so I turned on the living room speakers and I sang into the hall, "Come together, right now... and we'll read."  Don't try that at home, your kids will hate you forever.  (Just saying.) It was fun for me.

But speaking of coming together, of unity, and of studying scripture.  I've been thinking about the gathering that is happening in these last days.  Traveling to the United Nations and experiencing World Congress last year helped open my eyes to this incredible miracle that is happening right now.  People of all faiths and religions, Jews, Christians, and Muslims all working together to defend religious freedom and the family.

President Henry B. Eyring expounds on this principle:
"We see increased conflict between peoples in the world around us. Those divisions and differences could infect us. That is why my message of hope today is that a great day of unity is coming...

The Lord’s prophets have always called for unity. The need for that gift to be granted to us and the challenge to maintain it will grow greater in the days ahead, in which we will be prepared as a people for our glorious destiny....  
You have seen evidence, as I have, that we are moving toward becoming one. The miracle of unity is being granted to us as we pray and work for it in the Lord’s way. Our hearts will be knit together in unity. God has promised that blessing to His faithful Saints whatever their differences in background and whatever conflict rages around them. He was praying for us as well as His disciples when He asked His Father that we might be one. The reason that we pray and ask for that blessing is the same reason the Father is granting it. We know from experience that joy comes when we are blessed with unity."

Having our hearts and spirits knit together in purpose, in love, in light, and in truth is the way to joy.  I have experienced this for myself and know it to be true.
It's no coincidence to me that right smack in the middle of Lehi's and Nephi's vision of the Tree of Life, you find this verse, "And blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day, for they shall have the gift and the power of the Holly ghost; and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb; and whoso shall publish peace, yea, tidings of great joy, how beautiful upon the mountains shall they be." - 1 Nephi 13:37

No matter how fiery the trial that comes, no matter the struggle, no matter the midst of darkness or the persecution that settles around us, I pray my heart will never lose courage.  I pray I will keep the vision of hope alive, the vision of Zion and trust that "They that be with us are more than they that be with them." (2 Kings 6:16.)  
For "There is hope smiling brightly before us, and we know that deliverance is nigh." -Hymn 19


Saturday, January 9, 2016

For the Ordinary

Ever make yourself a commitment when you wake up in the morning to be a little better at something than you were the day before?  And maybe it's because you're too overly focused on that virtue that you miss the mark?  I don't know but I did not feel very patient yesterday.  It wasn't like I was rude or mean but I was definitely below par and I wasn't as grateful as I should have been.

It could have been associated with starting my day with shopping for kids clothes.  Shopping is not my idea of fun.  I like to get what I need and get out!

I tried to make things a little more exciting by taking the children and their friends to a dollar movie afterwards.  Miriam wanted to pick "Goosebumps" because she read all the books.  Chandler didn't like the idea but decided because it had Jack Black in it, he might enjoy some parts.  (Truth be told, it was pretty lame and I kept volunteering to go out to the lobby to re-fill the kids popcorn bucket.  Shhh just let them think I was doing it to be nice.)

Anyway, I began to feel disappointed in myself for not smiling more, for not... well... being happier.

At the end of the day, as I was driving home from the Wash Hut with a van full of laundry, I thought to myself, "You kinda bombed it today, Alicia.  Come on, you can do better than this."  I pulled into the apartment and my husband rushed down the stairs to help me bring the baskets in.  He was happy and helpful and had a spring in his step.  I was so glad to close the day with his bright attitude, glad that I have him and my four beautiful children.  And I was glad when I woke up this morning because I get to start over and try to be a little better today.

This is my take-away for the week- this is what truly matters most... 
I just need to practice this more.  :)

"Instead of grumbling and murmuring, we should be consolidating and reflecting, which would not be possible if life were an uninterrupted sequence of fantastic scenery, confrontive events, and exhilarating conversation.

Patience helps us to use, rather than to protest, these seeming flat periods of life, becoming filled with quiet wonder over the past and with anticipation for that which may lie ahead, instead of demeaning the particular flatness through which we may be passing at the time. We should savor even the seemingly ordinary times, for life cannot be made up all of kettledrums and crashing cymbals. There must be some flutes and violins. Living cannot be all crescendo; there must be some dynamic contrast.

Clearly, without patience we will learn less in life. We will see less; we will feel less; we will hear less. "Ironically, “rush” and “more” usually mean “less.” The pressure of “now,” time and time again, go against the grain of the gospel with its eternalism.

There is also in patience a greater opportunity for that discernment which sorts out the things that matter most from the things that matter least. The mealtime episode of the Savior in the home of Mary and Martha is an example. Anxious, impatient Martha focused on getting food on the table while Mary wisely chose “the good part”—companionship and conversation instead of calories—a good choice, the Savior said, which would not be taken from her." -Elder Neal A. Maxwell - 1979 BYU Speech - Patience


Friday, January 8, 2016


Just FYI:  I got this message from blogger.  I'm not quite sure everything entails but it seems that
 it will affect blog readers from receiving notifications.  If any of my blog readers follow through a Non-Google Account, you will no longer receive notifications starting January 11th.  You will need to sign up for a Google Account and re-follow in order to continue getting the notifications.  

With Patience, Possess Your Soul

"The Lord seeth fit to chasten His people; yea, He trieth their patience and their faith."
 - Mosiah 23:21

This is where I am in my personal study of the Book of Mormon right now.  My goal is to finish the whole book before the first of June. I'm a little hung up because I feel like I've circled around this verse over and over for the last several days like a hawk anxious to devour that one word I desire so greatly.  I can't really say it has slowed my progress in my scripture study because it's led me to search out more scriptures and words of the prophets that relate to patience.

As a result, this BYU speech from Neal A. Maxwell has been on repeat all week for me.

We learn in Romans 5 that "tribulation worketh patience."
Go look up tribulation in a thesaurus and tell me if that's something you want?
(adversity, grief, heartache, burden, persecution, sorrow, suffering, trial, affliction, and more)
But it says right there in the scriptures that these are the very things that "worketh patience."

These tribulations come into each of our lives in various ways.  We all have them but they take different forms. They break us and bring us to our knees causing us to "seek the face of the Lord".... for it is only in Him we find peace and strength beyond our own.

Let's go back to Romans 5:3,4 and take a closer look:
"we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;and patience, experience; and experience, hope"

I can't help but notice that "work" and "experience" are in the same sentence and when I see that, I envision some sort of Godly resume.  "What is your 'work experience?'  What skills have you acquired through your opportunities to practice?  How much training have you had?"

The answer may go something like this:
"Well, Father, every time I have come against some sort of tribulation, be it grief, heartache, sorrow, burden, persecution, or suffering of any kind... I have sought Thy face through deep and sincere prayer. through fasting, through searching Thy word.  I have learned of the Savior, that He has experienced this exact same thing, that He understands completely, that He is mighty to save and will help me and make me stronger through it all.  I have come to know something of His omniscience. As I look back on all of the other trials of my past, I can see so clearly that He knew what was best and that His timing was perfect, absolutely perfect.  I've had opportunities to 'lose myself' to evaluate my motives and see where I have been selfish and correct that.  Most of all, I have come to feel of Your love, Your grace.  I've witnessed how personal and involved You have always been in my life and it has caused me to want to be more personal and involved with those who I have committed to love.  THIS has been my experience time and time again... and I have hope... I am filled with hope!  Because of these things, my faith has grown, deeper, taller, and stronger... Because of Thee, I can be patient in any circumstance."

In other words, Romans 5:1-6 is a cyclical ascending pattern:
Tribulation >> Seek the Lord in faith >> experience (and everything that entails) >> Greater faith and awareness of His grace >> Hope >> Patience >> Tribulation

" In your patience possess ye your souls." - Luke 21:19

"Those with true hope often see their personal circumstances shaken, like kaleidoscopes, again and again. Yet with the “eye of faith,” they still see divine pattern and purpose (Alma 5:15)." - Neal A. Maxwell - A Perfect Brightness of Hope

I know that God sees the bigger picture.  His plan is perfect and He knows what is best for me at just the right moment, at just the right time in my life.  It's all about the experience.


Thursday, January 7, 2016

Makes Me Smile

I danced around the kitchen making dinner preparations.  Onions were simmering on the stove while the rest of the ingredients were spread across the counter in what I call "organized chaos." Tuned into my favorite songs, I peeled and chopped one vegetable and then peeled and chopped another, so engrossed in my music that I didn't care about the monotony. The girls were playing at the edge of the table and I could hear them chattering in the background.  I wasn't paying attention to their game until I heard Kaylee shout, "But mom!!"  She sat despondently tucked in at the table's end staring down a small bowl of peppercinis.  Miriam wiped her hands on a dishtowel and insisted wisely, "You need to eat the food that is good for you."  I realized that when Kaylee had shouted my name she wasn't talking to me but to her "pretend mom."  This was going to be interesting. I turned down my music just enough to inconspicuously listen in on their dialog as I continued peeling and chopping.
"I don't like this stuff, it's gross," Kaylee continued to protest. "I want a cookie!"
"First you need to eat that.... and this too." Miriam placed a bowl of peas next to the one with peppercinis.
Kaylee pretended to sob as she dangled a pinch disgustedly in front of her face.
Her acting was quite good.... a little too good.  I couldn't help wonder how many times my "drama queen" had duped her real mother.
"What game are you guys playing?" I asked.
Miriam responded, as she opened the fridge for more vegetables, "Healthy Mom."
I busted up laughing, "That's the name of your game, Healthy Mom?"
I couldn't help wonder if this role-play was some sort of psychotherapy coping method they had conjured up for the trauma of facing so many dreaded vegetables.

Yesterday morning, my husband and Micah were eating their breakfast as I studied from my books.  Something triggered the memory of the girls game the day before and I began to tell the story to Joseph. Listening in, Micah interjected, "Yeah, I know that game.  It's called Healthy Mom."  His statement made me laugh even harder.  I didn't realize it was so popular.
Every child's world of imagination must have a hero and a villain. The question is: which one am I... the hero or villain?
Either way, it makes me smile.


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Guardian Angels - Ponderize - Week 14

The first Sunday of this year started off in a wonderful way.  I've been thinking about guardian angels in my life. They are as real on earth as they are in heaven, though it takes faith to believe it.

I imagine that the angels we can't see view us much like someone looking through a glass window from an upper room.  We don't have any real proof they see us but we still somehow sense their benevolent watch. They hear us and observe quietly, yet most often from our vantage point, we can neither hear nor observe them in return.

Sometimes, they feel much closer to me than behind the glass of a distant window and I wonder how this is possible.  It's more like how the energy of the sun touches me: I can feel its warmth even though it's 93 million miles away.  The rays penetrate deep inside me from the top of my head clear down to my feet.  Such a presence is so close that it's undeniable!  I feel the sun though I cannot touch it.  I am comforted and content knowing that this beautiful radiant light will always be there in my sky even when it has set beyond the horizon and my eyes are dimmed by the dark of night.  Then, I will look up into the ocean of stars and see that the sun has not passed away, it has not diminished or faded.  Rather, it has multiplied beyond number in glorious splendor.

"Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them." - 2 Kings 6:16


Monday, January 4, 2016

Back to School

Winter Semester started for me today.  My stomach has been full of butterflies.  My husband reassured me that he felt nervous every time a new semester began for him too.  He often worried how he would be able to juggle everything in his new schedule.  I must have been running on pure adrenaline because I feel like I just plowed through this day at full speed. I had an extremely early morning, orthodontist appointments for the kids, grocery shopping, meal prepping, laundry, my class, and artwork to package and ship.  And I got it all done, what a blessing! I actually don't feel tired but I really should get to bed.

Walking up to campus today brought me those same feelings I had as I stepped out as an official student last April.  I'm sure I made some people curious because I couldn't wipe the grin off my face.  Someone still needs to pinch me because even though this semester will be my 5th class here, I still can't believe this is happening.

  Oh, by-the-way... my class this semester is American Heritage.  I absolutely love learning about the foundations of this country and the things that made it great and am thrilled to have this class. The book I'll be studying is called, "A City on a Hill" based off the scriptures found in Matt 5:14-16.  My teacher, Professor Madsen, served as our bishop three years ago.  I'll still never forget that Sunday in March where I had two witnesses confirm the direction I was heading.  Earlier that week, I had gone with my friend Suzanne to listen to a seminar my other friend, Jennifer, was speaking at.  Her subject was discovering our mission in life by studying our patriarchal blessing.  I sat on the edge of my seat and elbowed Suzanne, "I've got to go back to school.  I know this now.  I need to apply to BYU."  She was surprised at my statement but full of encouraging words, "That would be awesome! You should totally do it.  You go!"  The thought made me giddy and I couldn't shake it the rest of the week.  When Bishop Madsen had me visit him in his office to extend a calling to me that Sunday, he didn't know what had been on my mind but he was inspired.  When the appointment was over, he stopped me as I was leaving with my hand turning on the door knob,
"Wait, just one more thing... for whatever it's worth... You have a lot of gifts Alicia... and well... don't sell yourself short.  I'm not telling you to go back to school but I'm not telling you not to go back either."
That was confirmation #1 for me.
I smiled and shook his hand thinking to myself, "Funny he should mention it... the week I've been contemplating about that very subject."
I rounded the corner and made my way to the Relief Society room where my friend, Sherrie, was putting away chairs.  She asked how my husband's new job was going and then asked if I had considered going back to school.  "Funny you should ask that." I responded.  And thought to myself, "Confirmation #2!"
 I had known for years that I wanted to go back but imagined it would happen when all my kids were grown, not now while they're still young.  I guess the Lord was trying to tell me He had other plans.

I began to apply to BYU's art program but every time I sat down to do it, I had a stupor of thought and couldn't bring myself to make any moves in that direction.  Everything at home and with our schedules began to fall apart too.  I remember writing in my journal how I was hitting one wall after another.  One year later, I knew that I was not meant to pursue art at BYU. (This must have been the reason I felt so blocked when I began to apply for it.)  Instead, the message came crystal clear to me that I was to go into writing and speaking.  With writing, I feel comfortable because I can deliberately lay out my words, edit, use spell check, search in a thesaurus, and so on... but with speaking, it's a little harder... I feel like I'm sorely lacking composure, articulation, and vocabulary.  What I wouldn't give to share the deep things of my heart without blubbering or melting into a puddle of tears every time!

I've spoken about all this before and the events that followed in my older post "The Weak of the Earth."  I suppose that's what makes me smile so much and why I can't seem to wipe the cheesy grin off my face whenever I'm on campus.  However weak I am, I have never felt more perfectly guided in my life, as if the Lord had me by the shoulders and was giving me step-by-step direction to exactly where I needed to be.  It's an awesome feeling to know that God is at the helm!

Taking only one class a couple of times a year means graduation day is pretty far away for me.  But I have no complaints because I'm finding so much joy in this journey back to school!


Sunday, January 3, 2016

Aunt Sylvia - Part 4

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 3
Aunt Sylvia - Part 2
Aunt Sylvia - Part 1

Walk With Me

"God Specializes in Things Thought Impossible"

One day there was rumor that the whole camp was to be moved.  All had high hopes it would be to the coast and then home.  The hours of preparations were strenuous as we were allowed only 60 lbs per person.  Finally we were marched to the train where we were crammed in for one day and two nights.  Children dropped with fatigue in the floor or behind our backs on the tiny narrow benches, while mothers perched on the edge and fought sleep to keep the children from being trampled to death.  One never knew when the Japanese would plod through the mass of humanity in search of someone.  At length, in the middle of the night (at about 2 AM) we arrived "somewhere" and were commanded to get off the train immediately, leaving baggage on the train.  our luggage was thrown out in a heap on the ground and brought to the camp later, as a pile of rubbish.  We searched through it trying to find something familiar.

The crowded trucks were whizzed off into the night, and ushered us into the crowded "Bandjir Biru" camp.  There we were given 18 inch space to lay our mat (this was on boards on top of saw horses).  Such an anti-climax after days and nights of intense strain, when we were hoping for the best... it was too great a disappointment.  We could not restrain the tears.  I opened my eyes in our new room with 118 people.  Some rooms had 500 to 700 in one room.  After those terrible weary nights of packing and travel, only His grace could sustain the shock.  One could only say, "How long, Lord, how long?!"

There were five rows of skinny mattresses on boards laid on saw horses.  People were passing in the isles almost continually.  Noise, coughing and talking were incessant day and night.  There was no quietness.  Our main problem was to concentrate sufficiently in this throng to pray and meditate on the Word.  This was our only strength for the day.  He must be first.  Many precious lessons were learned even midst the turmoil.  Our privacy for the family altar was only a mosquito net.  I praise the Lord for the intense interest and desire of the children to learn about God.  Even in this crowded room they were able to learn about the Lord.  even in this crowded room they were able to concentrate.  Their chief concern grew to be the eternal interests.

After a time, it became apparent that this constant strain and confusion began to wear on the children and even on myself.  Dr. Domste insisted that we needed other accommodations if possible.  She suggested the prison cell.  This did not sound very inviting but anything was better than what we had.  Although she made out the order for us, we heard nothing further.  When the day for moving to the cells came, no word had arrived for us.  The lady in charge of our room said there were so many and that it was impossible.  I said nothing but believed the Lord had a plan for us in this impossible situation.  God specializes in things thought impossible. I kept the matter before Him, asking that He be glorified.  About noon on the last moving day, Dr. Domste questioned me, "Why aren't you moving?"  I explained that no word had been given me.  Taking the matter up immediately, she found the cell and told me to move to the on in B-C section.

It did not take long to get moved.  The Lord had heard my prayer.  You will note in the plan, the three sections of cells (50 in each) with a court in the center.  Each cell made for one person, almost 5ft X 6.5ft.  As compared to the large, crowded room, this was a haven of the rest!  Just to look at bare walls instead of a sea of eyes was a relief.  The unceasing din of voices was dimmed.  How I rejoiced for the prison cell!!

Alas, our privacy was short-lived.  Many more people were brought to camp, and it necessitated crowding 4-5 into a cell made for one prisoner.  We had to share our tiny cell with a lady and her boy.  The boys were obliged to sleep on the floor with the lady on the boards above them.  My mat was on the stacked suitcases at the foot of her bed.  The boys had no places except under the bed.  Even to eat, they sat with pan in hand under the edge of the bed while eating or playing.  No wonder they did not know how to sit in a chair when they returned to the United States.

-Aunt Sylvia

Friday, January 1, 2016

Don't Look Back

New Year's Eve preparations were fun yesterday.  The kids and I dug through old party stuff to find some things to hang around the house.  Miriam hung streamers everywhere.  Kaylee helped blow up balloons and cut out hearts for daddy.  I gave Micah a stack of construction paper and he went giddy over making a "New Year's Party Hat." (Isn't it lovely? Here I am modeling below.)  

Chandler wasn't "in" on making the decorations.  He found this website where he can design his own football jersey's and it's been his "new obsession."  He fantasizes about initiating a Stake football team since we have church basketball.  If his wish ever comes true, he's the man for the jersey design.  Apparently, we will be called "The Provo East Stake Tigers" and will sport some stylish crimson and gold uniforms.

 Anyway, most of us continued to decorate.  I jammed out to "Don't Look Back" by, Boston a couple of times until my kids began to complain about stupid "old" music.  I informed them that it was called "classic" not old... "classic rock!!"  (Secretly, I know they loved it.  And I'm pretty sure they were awed by my air guitar solo.)  Regardless of their opinion, I still think the song was perfect for the day.  
Speaking of "Don't Look Back".... Do you remember Lot's wife?  She looked back.  
Remembering this caused me to remember "Remember Lot's Wife," a talk by Elder Holland about not looking back.  So I went back and found the talk to listen to.  It was great to remember.  ;) 
(Whew, That was fun!) 

"As a new year starts and we try to benefit from a proper view of what has gone before, I plead with you not to dwell on days now gone, nor to yearn vainly for yesterdays, however good those yesterdays may have been. The past is to be learned from but not lived in. We look back to claim the embers from glowing experiences but not the ashes. And when we have learned what we need to learn and have brought with us the best that we have experienced, then we look ahead, we remember that faith is always pointed toward the future. Faith always has to do with blessings and truths and events that will yet be efficacious in our lives."

"Perhaps at this beginning of a new year there is no greater requirement for us than to do as the Lord Himself said He does: “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more” (D&C 58:42).

"The proviso, of course, is that repentance has to be sincere, but when it is and when honest effort is being made to progress, we are guilty of the greater sin if we keep remembering and recalling and rebashing someone with their earlier mistakes—and that “someone” might be ourselves. We can be so hard on ourselves, often much more so than with others! - Elder Jeffrey R. Holland "Remember Lot's Wife"

I gleaned two messages from this talk:
1. Live in the present with hope for the future.  Don't long to re-live the glory days of the past thus wishing away the here and now.  Count your blessings. Shape and build your life with gratitude.
2. Don't look back at other's mistakes or your own.  Let them go, let people repent.  Forgive and forget as if it never happened.  Allow Christ's atonement to work in your life. Give others and give yourself the gift of a brand new day.

Elder Holland describes such forward thinking as faith!
"Let people repent. Let people grow. Believe that people can change and improve. Is that faith? Yes! Is that hope? Yes! Is it charity? Yes! Above all, it is charity, the pure love of Christ." 

The mutual theme for this new year is "Press Forward with a Steadfastness in Christ."

"Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life." - 2 Nephi 31:20

I love that!  It reminds me of Joseph Smith's call for faith:
 "Shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory." - Joseph Smith

Let's strive for greater faith, hope, and charity this year as we keep putting one foot in front of the other, practicing each day sincere genuine gratitude and show forth an increase of love.  We have so much to be hopeful for. Don't look back.  
Good things come to those who press forward.

Happy New Year!