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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...

Monday, February 29, 2016

A Song and a Prayer - Ponderize - Week 22

I discovered a new song a few days ago.  Whenever I listen to this, I imagine Enos and what a deep and soulful prayer looks and sounds like - To cry out to Father in Heaven, begging for answers, begging for the Spirit to guide, to open my eyes, to forgive me for everything I am blind to and for everything I lack, to take me out of my place or set me where I need to be. - To offer up all my gratitude for this moment of prayer, knowing I can empty out everything in my heart and lay it before Him and not feel condemned for any foolishness displayed.  I'm grateful that He sees it all - He is my safe place.  "He answers privately, Reaches my reaching In my Gethsemane, Savior and Friend. Gentle the peace he finds for my beseeching. Constant he is and kind, Love without end." (Where Can I Turn for Peace Hymn 129

When I think of hunger, I also think of  Psalms 23 and how the Good Shepherd leads me to green pastures and streams of living water.  In Him I have my everything.  It is from Him, from His spirit where all goodness and mercy flows.  His rod and staff (His word and Priesthood) comfort me.
   
by, Mercyme

"Hungry, I come to You for I know, 
You satisfy.

I am empty but I know Your love,

Does not run dry.
So I wait for You,

So I wait for You.
I'm falling on my knees,

Offering all of me,

Jesus, You're all this heart is living for
Broken I run to You, for Your arms

Are open wide.

I am weary but I know Your touch
Restores my life.
So I wait for You,

Oh I wait for You.
I'm falling on my knees,

Offering all of me,

Jesus, You're all this heart is living for."

"My soul hungered and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto Him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto Him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens.... And I, Enos, knew it would be according to the covenant which he had made; wherefore my soul did rest." - Enos 1:4, 17

-Alicia

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Tour the Temple

This is a really cool in-depth tour of the symbols and design of the new Provo City Center Temple.  We watched it as a family tonight.  Enjoy!


From the Meeting

We had some great talks in Sacrament Meeting today.  I wrote down all the verses, poems, and quotes that were shared by each speaker.  My daughter is sick this Sunday... so after the meeting I stopped by home to check on her.  I had a moment to grab her some soup, help her get comfortable, and then post the notes I took before heading out again to give a lesson in Young Women's.  :)

- Alicia
Happy Sabbath!

1st Speaker - 

“To love another person is to see the face of God.”
― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

 "The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator." - Alma 30:44

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." - John 3:16

"If ye love me, keep my commandments." - John 14:15

2nd Speaker -

Under the stars we realize how small we are... and yet we are everything to Him.

“I know not by what method rare
But this I know, God answers prayer.
I know that he has given his Word
Which tells me prayer is always heard
And will be answered soon or late
And so I pray and calmly wait.

I know not if the blessing sought
Will come in just the way I thought
But leave my prayers with him alone
Whose will is wiser than my own
Assured that he will grant my quest
Or send some answer far more blessed.”

― Eliza M. Hickok (Read by, President Monson)

"O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit." - 2 Nephi 9:10

"There is a simple cure for the terrible malady of forgetting God, His blessings, and His messages to us. Jesus Christ promised it to His disciples when He was about to be crucified, resurrected, and then taken away from them to ascend in glory to His Father. They were concerned to know how they would be able to endure when He was no longer with them.  Here is the promise. It was fulfilled for them then. It can be fulfilled for all of us now: 'These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.' ( John 14:25–26)" - Elder Henry B. Eyring

"These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." - John 15:9-13

(The brother who spoke quoted this portion of Elder Holland's talk)



"O to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be!
Let thy goodness like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee
Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love
Here's my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts aboveO to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be!
Let thy goodness like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee
Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love
Here's my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above"

3rd Speaker -

"We love him, because he first loved us." -1 John 4:19

" I remember that thou hast said that thou hast loved the world, even unto the laying down of thy life for the world, that thou mightest take it again to prepare a place for the children of men. And now I know that this love which thou hast had for the children of men is charity; wherefore, except men shall have charity they cannot inherit that place which thou hast prepared in the mansions of thy Father." - Ether 12:33-34

"Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.  By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God" - 1 John 5:1-3

(She shared three thoughts from this verse)
1. First we must seek to love God
2. We seek to love everyone around us with this purest love.
3. We show our love by keeping His commandments.

4th Speaker -

How do we feel God's love?  We must first believe!
The first principle of the Gospel is faith.

" I feel my Savior's love
In all the world around me.
His Spirit warms my soul
Through ev'rything I see.
 I feel my Savior's love;
Its gentleness enfolds me,
And when I kneel to pray,
My heart is filled with peace.
 I feel my Savior's love
And know that he will bless me.
I offer him my heart;
My shepherd he will be.
 I'll share my Savior's love
By serving others freely.
In serving I am blessed.
In giving I receive.
He knows I will follow him,
Give all my life to him.
I feel my Savior's love,
The love he freely gives me."

- Children's songbook pg. 74

My father and I had the experience of "sharing the Savior's love" to a woman from my ward.  We were her hometeachers.  She was a widow with four children.  When her kids grew older, her first daughter passed away.  She lived in a humble house with no heating.  We would chop wood for her and visit with her.  It was a wonderful experience helping this sweet woman and we felt our Savior's love for her as we served her.

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." - John 15:13

 "I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me,  Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me....Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me Enough to die for me! Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me!" - Hymn 193

"I’m confident that there is no choice, sin, or mistake that you or anyone else can make that will change [Our Father in Heaven's] love for you or for them. That does not mean He excuses or condones sinful conduct—I’m sure He does not—but it does mean we are to reach out to our fellowman in love..." - Elder Ronald A. Rasband

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Sunrise


“Grace shall be as your day”—what an interesting phrase. We have all sung it hundreds of times, but have we stopped to consider what it means? “Grace shall be as your day”: grace shall be like a day. As dark as night may become, we can always count on the sun coming up. As dark as our trials, sins, and mistakes may appear, we can always have confidence in the grace of Jesus Christ. Do we earn a sunrise? No. Do we have to be worthy of a chance to begin again? No. We just have to accept these blessings and take advantage of them. As sure as each brand-new day, grace—the enabling power of Jesus Christ—is constant. Faithful pioneers knew they were not alone. The task ahead of them was never as great as the power behind them." - Brad Wilcox

Feeling Grace

"Warm rays of sunlight stream down upon me and dance across my face.
Darkness is dispelled as the morning breaks.

I breathe in the crisp refreshing air that follows a summer rain.

I smile.

I breathe deep again.
I feel blessed, I feel free.

I am home.

A new day has arrived,
I am rested and renewed.

Hope is alive,
It pulses through my veins.

There is nothing I fear,
I am safe here.

And it's only the beginning..."

By, Alicia Rawlins 2009

Friday, February 26, 2016

Meeting the Challenges



"Oh Lord, my heart..."

I went to another cottage meeting last night about Comprehensive Sex Education.  My friend Kim, who is an assistant to the president of Family Watch International, spoke again.  They're still in the process of finalizing their documentary and have one more interview from World Congress that remains to be included.  The information is 100% accurate.  I've done my own homework in this and have spent countless hours pouring over and reading through the organizations I learned about at the United Nations last year: Planned Parenthood, International Planned Parenthood Federation, Sexuality Info and Education Council of the United States, United Nations Population Fund and others. The research of Alfred Kinsey, the father of the sexual rights movement, is more painful than my heart can take.  Three-hundred-seventy-one children from ages five months to thirteen years were "experimented" upon, sexually molested and raped in the name of science.  And the curriculum coming out of these organizations strongly tied to this man is approached the same way a pedophile seeks to gain the trust of their victims. It's terribly, terribly sickening.

I got in my car last night and just sobbed for these children.  How could Alfred Kinsey have gotten away with what he did?!... And not only gotten away with it... but how did these organizations who supported him and his research make it off the ground and WHY are they still thriving?

This morning during my scripture study,  I read the verses I've been ponderizing for this week and then opened to where we are reading as a family.  The music of  Paul Cardall, "Gracie's Theme" and "I am a Child of God" played in the background as I read Alma 31: 30-33.  I thought of the innocent who have suffered and continue to suffer and I could not hold back the tears.

O Lord God, how long wilt thou suffer that such wickedness and infidelity shall be among this people? O Lord, wilt thou give me strength, that I may bear with mine infirmities. For I am infirm, and such wickedness among this people doth pain my soul.

 O Lord, my heart is exceedingly sorrowful; wilt thou comfort my soul in Christ. O Lord, wilt thou grant unto me that I may have strength, that I may suffer with patience these afflictions which shall come upon me, because of the iniquity of this people.

 O Lord, wilt thou comfort my soul, and give unto me success, and also my fellow laborers who are with me.... yea, even all these wilt thou comfort, O Lord. Yea, wilt thou comfort their souls in Christ.

 Wilt thou grant unto them that they may have strength, that they may bear their afflictions which shall come upon them because of the iniquities of this people. - Alma 31: 30-33

My husband walked into the kitchen and greeted me with a morning kiss.  He could see I had been crying and asked with concern what was wrong.  "The children... I'm just thinking about the children." I answered.  "It's hard for me to see that documentary again from Family Watch and to know what the Enemy is doing."  He hugged me understandingly and we discussed for some time about these last days and the hope we find in our Savior.  I pray for greater strength to fight these battles.  I need a strong heart for my soul at this time is in anguish.

-Alicia




Monday, February 22, 2016

"Not Distressed" - Ponderize - Week 21

I had the opportunity to talk with a young woman from my ward this morning who will be moving away soon.  She told me how much she doesn't want to leave and how frightened she is to start over. "Change can be so hard." I related to her as I remembered June of 1990 - It was the first time I had ever moved to a new place.  I was terrified. But looking back, it ended up being a huge blessing.  It lead me to the right seminary teachers, the right young women's leaders, the right friends, the right everything that I needed as an anchor through some of the most difficult and stormy days I would face in my family. The Lord knew the best place for me to be.

I could see the worry on my young friend's face as I looked her in the eyes.
"Can I show you something?" I asked.
She nodded approvingly.
I opened up the Old Testament and pointed to this verse:
"They that sow in tears shall reap in joy."- Psalms 126:5
She read the words and looked back at me waiting for an explanation.
"Whenever I've reached different crossroads or approached big changes in my life... almost everything I was worried about never ended up happening or it never turned out as bad as I thought it would.  In fact, some of the most beautiful things in my 'garden of life' have come from those things that brought the most pain and I'm actually grateful for them now.  Like rain is to soil, any tears you cry will help seeds of joy to eventually grow."
She swallowed back the emotions beginning to surface and nodded again.  I could see she wanted to believe it.
I hugged her with assurance, letting her know of good things to come.  I testified of the Lord's love and guidance.

"Joy"- That's where I started my studies off this morning.  It lead me to some verses in the New Testament which I think will be the ones I ponderize this week:

"For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body." 2 Corinthians 4:6-10

I searched through some talks related to this scripture and found an excellent one given in October of 2002 by, Neal A. Maxwell.  (I highly recommend listening to the entire sermon, it's beautiful!)

"Regarding trials, including of our faith and patience, there are no exemptions—only variations (see Mosiah 23:21). These calisthenics are designed to increase our capacity for happiness and service. Yet the faithful will not be totally immune from the events on this planet. Thus the courageous attitudes of imperiled Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego are worthy of emulation. They knew that God could rescue them. “But if not,” they vowed, they would still serve God anyway (see Dan. 3:16–18). Similarly, keeping the unfashionable but imperative first and seventh commandments can reflect the courage which three young women displayed anciently; they said no with their lives (see Abr. 1:11).

Therefore, we can be troubled on every side, but nothing can really separate us from the love of Christ (see 2 Cor. 4:8; Rom. 8:35–39); worldly anxieties are not part of being 'anxiously engaged' (D&C 58:27). Even so, as Peter urged, we can and should cast our cares upon the Lord, because He surely cares for us! (see 1 Pet. 5:7). Oh, brothers and sisters, the awaiting emancipation of such trusting surrender!" - Neal A. Maxwell Encircled in the Arms of His Love

"Whatever will come our way
Through fire or pouring rain
We won't be shaken

Whatever tomorrow brings
Together we'll rise and sing
That we won't be shaken"


- Alicia :)


Sunday, February 21, 2016

"You Can't Close My Heart"

Have you ever heard of The Freeze?  Members of the church in Ghana were banned by their own government from gathering in meetinghouses and missionaries were kicked out.  If they were caught, some were arrested for trying to hold sacrament meeting in their home.  This ban lasted 18 months from June,1989 to Nov. 1990.  This was not a restriction God-imposed but one of man, even still... there was so much good that came out of it.  One brother in this story said something he learned that I'll never forget, "You can close my mouth, but you can't close my heart."

I am inspired by the numerous blessings born of the trials and heartache they went through; Opportunities were expanded, they experience greater unity, stronger conversion, and a depth of appreciation for the simple gifts of the Gospel.

I know with all my heart that if we stay fixed and focused on our Savior, the very things that hurt the greatest and cut the deepest will cause the best things to grow.

-Alicia


Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Depth of God

Just some verses and a couple of quotes I've been focusing on in my studies.  I'm grateful for the wisdom of God, for His all-knowing and all-seeing understanding.  I'm grateful that I can put full confidence in the direction He points me and in the learning experiences He gives...  for I know that He sees the bigger picture.

-Alicia

"Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.  But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." - 1 Cor. 2:9-10

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." - Isaiah 55:8-9

 "Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend." - Mosiah 4:9

"The Lord worketh in many ways to the salvation of his people." - Alma 24:27

"By small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise."- Alma 37:6

"The Lord will lead us along, just as promised. He balances giving to the Church and its people the needed, specific directions, with providing the relevant learning experiences, including having our faith and patience tried in order to be strengthened. Thus He leads us along, but He desires that during that process we take His yoke upon us in order to learn of Him by our personal experiences. We surely feel the weight of that yoke at times, but the path is clear." - Neal A. Maxwell

"A universal God is actually involved with our small, individual universes of experience! In the midst of His vast dominions, yet He numbers us, knows us, and loves us perfectly."- Neal A. Maxwell


Thursday, February 18, 2016

A Tribute to My Mother-in-Law


This week my mother-in-law celebrated her 73rd birthday.  I felt it fair to say something about her since I've written a little about my father-in-law in a previous post.  Shirley is an incredible woman who never seeks attention and is always content to serve quietly behind the scenes.

When I first met my husband's parents,  I recognized Shirley as the classy-dressed brunette, always graceful, Spanish / English teacher from my middle school.  What a small world!  Who could have known that the same woman I had passed in those 7th - 9th grade halls would one day be the grandmother of my children?

When she was a teenager living in California, she was introduced to the church and was soon baptized. She served a full-time LDS mission to Uruguay where she became fluent in Spanish. After her mission, she moved to Provo to go to BYU where she met her husband.  Just under the span of nine years, she bore eight children. (Four years after her eighth, she had her ninth.)  I think the longest standing calling in the church she has ever had was Gospel Doctrine Instructor because she did such a fantastic job teaching.

My mother-in-law is a gifted author.  She has written numerous articles for the church magazines and has published a few of her own books.  I've been especially grateful for her talents in this area these past ten months when I've been in school.  Any paper I've had to write, she's been more than happy to edit for me.

She has been a wonderful support to my father-in-law and has remained steadfastly loyal to him through thick and thin, day-in and day-out.  Through every hardship she has been right there at his side.  She loves greatly, lives faithfully, serves quietly, and prays constantly.  I admire her stamina.

I don't know many people who have absolutely no complaints about their in-laws; This is why I feel so fortunate to have married well enough that I have nothing but gratitude and deep respect for each of mine, especially my mother-in-law.

-Alicia

"I pray that you will understand the words of Jesus, 'Love one another as I have loved you.' Ask yourself 'How Has he loved me? Do I really love others in the same way?' Unless this love is among us, we can kill ourselves with work and it will only be work, not love. Work without love is slavery.

 Little things are indeed little, but to be faithful in little things is a great thing.

A sacrifice to be real must cost, must hurt, must empty ourselves. The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace."
 - Mother Teresa

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

What a Friend!!

This is a song I really wish was in our hymn books. One might recognize the tune from "Israel Israel God is Calling."  The version I have here is from Newsboys so it's not the rhythm we're used to singing in my church but every time I listen to it and focus on the words, I feel the Spirit.  I'm so thankful for prayer, for the atonement, for the intercession the Spirit makes when I cannot find the words.  It fills me with hope and peace knowing that no matter how big or small the issue - if it is weighing on my heart - My Father in Heaven and Savior know, They care about it, and I will have the aide of Heaven to help me through.   I'm so thankful for the vision, the serenity, the courage, the hope, the joy, the direction, the forgiveness, the love, and comfort I find in my Savior.  He truly is my greatest Friend!

-Alicia


 
"What A Friend We Have In Jesus"

What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!

O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
all because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged;
take it to the Lord in prayer.

Can we find a friend so faithful
who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
take it to the Lord in prayer.


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A Priceless Treasure

It's that same feeling, like running into an old friend you haven't seen in ages: I found my set of scriptures from 20 years ago. It was great to reminisce, to read the things I had noted in the margins and wrote between pages on post-it tabs.  The value of these reminders have not been lost over time rather the words have become sweeter to the taste.  My appreciation and testimony of these truths recorded from previous years have become more real to me in the present day.  I have witnessed for myself the validity of practicing such principles.  Mastering them is something I am far from...but we keep trying, right? I will most likely be working on these 'till the end of my days.

Here's a copy of some things written within the pages of my "old friend."

  • Pray Specifically!
  • Be quick to praise and slow to criticize.
  • Sacrifice will build the faith.
  • Lengthen your stride, enlarge your vision.
  • When in distress S.O.S. - Service - Obedience - Sacrifice
  • Education is an investment, not an expense.
  • Live your testimony. People are watching you.  Recognize the power within you.
  • Be clothed with the Armour.  Go to the temple! Be worthy always!
  • Be a brilliant stainless mirror that reflects back to God.
  • Eliminate selfishness, cooperate with each other , sacrifice, and give your best, consecrate your time and efforts.  We are a church of sacrifice.
  • If we haven't dulled our senses by excess, we can enjoy the simple things of life.
  • After you learn... Glorify God, not yourself!
  • Treasure up: possess it, own it, make it yours by living it.
  • Live truth - be a good example of integrity.  Do not hold truth slave to expedience.
  • Honor God - No one can surpass the life of Jesus Christ.
  • We set our own thermostats as to temptation.
  • Endure, press on, be firm and steadfast.
  • Do what you can do.
  • You are the generation that must be prepared to meet your God.  where are you standing in the battle?
  • Anyone who has an appropriate relationship with their Father in Heaven should not have to worry about their self esteem.  (1 Cor. 12) (Prov 20:27) (Psalms 18:28)
  • Be of good cheer even when there is nothing to be of good cheer about.
  • You can handle what lies ahead.  Remember the weaver, "The dark threads are as needful as the light."
  • To come unto Christ, we become very conscious of our weaknesses - if we are submissive, they can become our strengths.
  • Don't give up in the transition of changing.  Rely on the Atonement. 
  • Job did not charge God foolishly.  Suffering is part of the sweat that comes from working out our own salvation.
  • Have faith in the Lord's timing.
  • Sometimes our blessings come as bracings. "Thy will be done."
  • Never go a day without thinking about the Atonement.
  • It will be alright!
  • If opening our hearts is the way to understanding and to see Christ is to understand Him more fully..... Then you must open your heart to Him and His teachings to see Him.
  • Go Nameless!
  • Complete Selflessness!
  • How deep do you bury your weapons?
  • Whatsoever is good, cometh from God.
  • Don't let things you can't control - control you.
  • If you want the tongue of angels, then feast upon the words of Christ.
  • Cheer up.  You are free to choose.
"You and I have to learn to be righteous in the dark."- Brigham Young

"We must influence more than we are influenced." - James E. Faust

"True Christian soldiers are more than weekend warriors." - Neal A. Maxwell

"Not shrinking is more important than surviving." - Neal A. Maxwell

"We cannot have adequate faith in a Christ whom we do not adequately know." - Neal A. Maxwell

"My life is my message - Man radiates what he is, not what he pretends to be." - Sister Maxwell

"We have every reason to be optimistic in this world. Tragedy is around, yes. Problems everywhere, yes.  But look at Nauvoo.  Look at what they built here in seven years and then left.  But what did they do?  Did they lie down and die? No! They went to work!  They moved halfway across this continent and turned the soil of a desert and made it blossom as the rose... You can't , you don't build out of pessimism or cynicism. You look with optimism, work with faith and things happen."

 “By faith in God you can be attuned to the Infinite and by power and wisdom obtained from your Heavenly Father harness the powers of the universe to serve you in your hour of need in the solution of problems too great for your human strength or intelligence”  - Harold B. Lee

-Alicia


Monday, February 15, 2016

Looking On the Heart - Ponderize - Week 20

What is "the heart" of something?... The core, the center, the life-blood.  Today in my scripture study, I cross-referenced back and forth in verses and found myself reading 1 Samuel 16 where David was chosen through the Lord's prophet.

"For the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." - 1 Samuel 16:7

In the later verse, David is described as "ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to." Or in the modern language Bible it says David was "the very picture of health—bright-eyed, good-looking."  To me, this makes verse seven all the more significant. Someday David would become feeble and elderly and he'd lose that "picture of health." But that's not where the Lord was looking.

There's no way around it in life for any of us.   We all will grow old some day and with the price the world puts on appearances, we may wish and hope for a fountain of youth wherewith we could somehow switch out our inevitable cup of age and fragility. But at last, this cannot be.

We learn very young to analyze, observe, judge, and study... we do this through our first physical senses and most especially with our eyes.  But the "Lord seeth not as man seeth."  There is something incredible about God's vision that He wants us to discover here in this life.  There is so much beyond our physical experience.

From this last General Conference, Elder Bednar related this touching story:

"Several years ago I spent a Sunday afternoon with Elder Hales in his home as he was recovering from a serious illness. We discussed our families, our quorum responsibilities, and important experiences.

At one point I asked Elder Hales, 'You have been a successful husband, father, athlete, pilot, business executive, and Church leader. What lessons have you learned as you have grown older and been constrained by decreased physical capacity?'

Elder Hales paused for a moment and responded, 'When you cannot do what you have always done, then you only do what matters most.'"

Our Spirit is our core, our very center, the heart of who we are and who we will become and this is the means by which God judges, He sees, He communicates, and He loves.  Focusing on the true identity of others and nurturing /cultivating the Divine within ourselves (our heart, our Spirit) is the key to real lasting magnificent beauty, the kind that will never grow old, for the soul is evergreen...

-Alicia

"This is my desire consume me like a fire, 'cause I just want something beautiful" by, Needtobreathe

Sunday, February 14, 2016

As God Wants it to Grow

In honor of Valentine's Day here are some of my favorite talks on love and one of my favorite quotes:

"Instead of allowing yourself to be unhappy, 
just let your love grow as God wants it to grow. 
Seek goodness in others. 
Love more persons more -- love them more impersonally, 
more unselfishly, without thought of return. 
The return, never fear, will take care of itself."

- Henry Drummond

These talks have strengthened and helped the love in my marriage truly blossom and grow into something wonderful.  I have listened to them more times than I can count. They have helped me regain focus, to leave selfishness behind, and remember what truly matters most.  Self-help books and advice from magazines or popular authors could never compare to the truths found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He gave the perfect example and "We love Him because He first loved us." (Herein is the key to true power and true influence.) Christ was love personified.

1. However Long and Hard the Road
2. Remember Lot's Wife
3. How Do I Love Thee
4. Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments
5. Come What May and Love It
6. Meekly Drenched in Destiny
7. The Divine Gift of Gratitude

-Alicia  <3

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Daddy, did you know?

It's been a busy week as I've been preparing things for school where I have a big essay due and I have a lesson for church (I'm a little nervous to give.)
Also, we've invented a new fairy in our family (well, my mom invented her and I've carried on the tradition for sixteen years.)  The "Valentine's Fairy" comes every night for a whole week before the big day and leaves treats or trinkets with a cheesy little valentine note attached.... I mean really cheesy. :P  Anyway, it's my best friend's birthday on Monday too and I've wanted to prepare something nice for her.  Needless to say, there's been a lot of wonderful things to keep me busy.  I had a thought to call my brother, Kenneth. It's been a couple of months since we talked last over the phone.  But in all the rush, I just didn't get around to it.  He must have been thinking the same thing because he beat me to the call. (We seem to do that a lot.)  It was refreshing to take an hour spending time with him, an hour I don't think I had but it was extremely worth it. He shared a great story with me:

Kenneth and his wife, Kaylee, are expecting their second child.  Their first is Lily who is four-years-old. Ken and Kaylee live in Fort Worth, TX. They attend a wonderful Christian church on Sundays and send Lily there for pre-school during the week.  Job positions where my brother works have received cut-backs of nearly 58,000.  As they've worked their way from the bottom up to the more senior employees and it's now getting close to him.  He's been terrified to have another baby at this point especially because his wife will quit work and financially it just doesn't look good for him as a father and provider.

One morning, he lay in bed staring up at the ceiling, petitioning God for comfort, worrying about what was going to happen next and how things would ever work out.  Four-year-old Lily came walking in and stood at his bedside.  With an excitement in her voice she looked at her father and asked, "Daddy, did you know that God can do anything?  And did you know that Peter tried to walk on the water and became afraid but... did you know that God can do anything!"
His heart began to burst. "Yes baby, you are absolutely right," Kenneth responded with tears streaming down his face. The timing couldn't have been more perfect for her to come in and say what she did.

As my brother related this story, he had to pause for a moment to compose himself because even the memory of it made him emotional.  "Alicia," he said, "It's a complete miracle.... she hasn't just done this once but several mornings when I have laid there with my mind and heart overwhelmed. And each time she has come into my room, stood by my bed and said the very same thing. It is as if God sent her as an angel in those moments to comfort me."
I agreed with him and we had a wonderful time bearing testimony of how aware the Lord is of us. This is why I love talking with my brother so much. I'm so glad he called in the middle of all my chaos.

What a powerful lesson from the pure heart of a child!  "Did you know... God can do anything!"
 Faith as a Child
-Alicia

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

"Zion Shall Not Be Moved" -Ponderize - Week 19

These last couple of days I haven't been able to decide on a scripture to ponderize for the week.  After this evening, I have finally chosen one.

I attended a cottage meeting tonight that Big Ocean hosted where two of my friends presented.  Mother and author, Nicholeen Peck, spoke and so did JaKell Sullivan, who has been a strong voice against Common Core for many years now.  My friend Kim Ells, assistant for Family Watch International, showed an informative and extremely disturbing video on what is entailed in the Comprehensive Sex Education Curriculum that the Federal Gov. is trying to push in every State. (They've already succeeded in some.)

It wasn't really new information to me since I heard a great deal about these teachings when I went to the United Nations and World Congress last year.  I knew these disgusting  publications were being distributed to youth through the International Planned Parenthood Federation and our own Planned Parenthood. It's just now their teachings are getting published into our education system and encapsulated in words like "sexual health" so it's "easier" for schools to choke it down their throats.

It grieves my soul and inflicts great sorrow upon my heart to see something so wonderful, so beautiful, so sacred, this very real sacrament with God, cheapened, trampled, exploited, and dragged through the mire.  It's a clear shot bullet to the heads of our innocent children.

This is a very real war and the firing squad is mowing down our babies.  People  just don't understand how very serious this is. I would encourage every parent I know to get informed.  http://www.comprehensivesexualityeducation.org/

Sometime tomorrow I should be able to get access to the 20 min. video my friend Kim showed tonight.  When I do, I'll be certain to share it.

I have no doubt that we will witness in the next few years a massive division take place all across the globe.  It's happening now.  But we must not lose heart... with that division also means there will be a great unification.  People of all faiths, all nations, all races and backgrounds are coming together to combat these attacks.  I've seen it.

I really need a verse that is hopeful to ponderize this week to help me remember this:

 "Therefore, let your hearts be comforted concerning Zion; for all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God. Zion shall not be moved out of her place, notwithstanding her children are scattered.  They that remain, and are pure in heart, shall return, and come to their inheritances, they and their children, with songs of everlasting joy, to build up the waste places of Zion."— D&C 101:16 - 18

-Alicia


Monday, February 8, 2016

The Unmaking

Yesterday, I spent some time again listening to "God is the Gardner." Whenever I struggle to understand the moments in life that "cut me back" or cause my heart to ache, I appreciate the truths  found in these words:

"God is aware of you individually. He knows who you are and what you are, and, furthermore, He knows what you are capable of becoming. Be not discouraged, then, if you do not get all the things you want just when you want them. Have the courage to go on and face your life and, if necessary, reverse it to bring it into harmony with His law...  someday, when you are ripened in life, you are going to shout back across the time and say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for cutting me down, for loving me enough to hurt me.’" 
- Hugh B. Brown "God is the Gardener"

As I walked up to campus this afternoon, I scrolled through my Spotify songs to select a new favorite called, "The Unmaking". Listening to the lyrics, I couldn't help reflect on Hugh B. Brown's talk.  I felt the words to this song fit the principle of trusting in God's bigger picture.

I can't deny the hurt associated with being "cut down" or held back especially when it feels as if it goes against everything in my nature.  Denying such pain would be lying to myself.  Maybe I held my dreams too tightly? (or at least my interpretation of them...) Maybe as I stand back and lift my hands in surrender, my Father in Heaven will show me things I couldn't see before... At the ending is also a new beginning... and I'm learning that true beauty is found in the breaking. 

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing" - Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4-5

God has His purposes and His seasons... and I trust Him, so I won't complain.  I praise Him for His infinite wisdom, even when it hurts.

by, Nichole Nordeman

"This is the unmaking
The beauty and the breaking
Had to lose myself to find out who You are
Before each beginning
There must be an ending
Sitting in the rubble
I can see the stars
This is the unmaking
This is the unmaking

The longer and the tighter that we hold
Only makes it harder to let go
Love will not stay locked inside
A steeple or a tower high
Only when we're broken are we whole"

"I had to lose myself
To find out who You are"

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” - C.S. Lewis

-Alicia
Trying to be Good

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Aunt Sylvia - Part 5

I felt a connection with Aunt Sylvia as she shared in this section some scriptures and principles that are very dear to my own heart.  I look forward to the day I will meet my grandmother's sister.  I feel confident that she smiles from heaven as I read her story and learn from her what real faith looks like.  She inspires me and I'm so thankful she preserved these stories.

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 4
Aunt Sylvia - Part 3
Aunt Sylvia - Part 2
Aunt Sylvia - Part 1

Walk With Me

"Precious Lessons in the School of Suffering"

We had not yet reached rock bottom.  As time went on, food came worse.  Three times a day we lined up at the kitchen to get our portion of soup, rice, or "starch" (for such it was).  A tiny piece of meat in soup or half an egg were rare exceptions.  So scarce did food become that snails were a delicacy and had to be obtained by doctor's order.  The waiting list was so long that we must wait our turn for weeks.  At first, we were all reluctant to eat such things, but at last we waited our turn for anything edible.  Symptoms of Beriberi were general throughout the camp.

A few pigs were kept in camp for which food was sent in separately.  Since much of this food was what was being used in our kitchen, we were envious to see the pigs well fed while we were hungry.  We begged for a share of the pig's food but were forbidden.  Like the prodigal son, we would fain have eaten what was brought for the pigs to eat, but no man gave to us.  Many waited by the garbage to get what was left of the pig's food.  We washed it, ate it praying that we be strengthened and not get a disease.  For a long time even after returning to the USA I could not keep the boys from looking in the garbage.  Paul said, "Mama they are throwing away better than we had to eat."  Even clothes and shoes they wanted to rescue for they used to gather old socks and scraps of cloth to keep me supplied with thread.  Old matting or corn husks were final endeavors for shoes.  I told them they need not search garbage, for God had supplied the need.

How many Christians are content to live from the world's garbage cans, rather than coming to the feast at the Lord's bountiful table.  He invites, "come and dine," you may feast at Jesus's table all the time.  How little we appreciate all He has done for us at Calvary!  How far below His bountiful provision we live!  We take from Satan that which he offers as though we were yet is prisoners.  We are ignorant of his defeat at Calvary.  I praise the Lord that through these trials He began to open my eyes to the springs of water, yea the rivers of living water freely offered.  Why do we spend time and effort for "that which satisfies not, (Isaiah 55:2) forsaking the fountain of Living water?"  My cry now is, "let me feast at Jesus's table continually, I shall never thirst again."  Come, drink, be satisfied.

Even in the dire need of food, the boys in a wonderful way learned to take all from the Lord; and in every circumstance to give thanks.  He was dealing with us in love and tenderness.  They took hunger or punishment from the Lord's hand without murmuring.  "Do all things without murmuring: (Phil. 2:15).  When we received food we would pray it would sustain us till we received more, asking that He would multiply it as the loaves and fishes.  Hearing the other children cry for food, the boys said, "the Lord does take care of us, even though we get hungry, He never lets us get too hungry."  What a lesson!  "Not that I speak in respect of want, for I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.  I know both now to be abased, and I know how to abound; everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need." (Phil. 4: 10-12)  What could we do but to keep looking to the Lord knowing He would make a way?

Those precious lives of my little boys were entrusted to me to train for eternity.  I was responsible that they know the way.  My passion was that Christ be formed in them, and manifested in such a manner that if I died they would still meet me again (even if they were left with unbelievers).  But how was I to do it here with a constant hubbub of worldly people?  We were never a minute alone.  We learned the sufficiency of His grace, and to rejoice in trial.  It meant putting the Lord first in everything.  Life was a constant reliance upon God for personal devotions and the children's Bible hour.  Each evening we gathered for our Bible hour, sitting on our mats under the mosquito net, which shut out the consciousness of others.  The Bible became more real to the boys as it was applied to existing trials.

We dare not talk of America or other outside countries.  Nor could we think of horrible conditions around but we could look up and rejoice in our Heavenly Home.  How we scanned the scriptures for all we found about it!  We sang hymns of praise and worship, rejoicing in the Lord Himself.  Heaven became real and eternal things more vital than earthly.  The second coming of the Lord became vivid to the boys.  One time Mark said, "Mother, why doesn't Jesus talk to me like He did to little Samuel?  I listen for Him at night, but He doesn't talk to me."  I responded with a promise, "You keep close to the Lord, and He will talk to you some day too."  Another time he said, "Mother, when is the trumpet to sound, and Jesus come to take us to Heaven:  It is so much better than this place."  Later, when they heard that daddy had gone to heaven they said, "Why can't we go too? "  I tried to tell them that we must stay to tell others how to get there."  The Lord in His mercy helped them to understand these precious truths.

-Aunt Sylvia

Answers to Prayers

 President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, discussed how we can recognize the voice of the Lord:
“Answers to prayers come in a quiet way. The scriptures describe that voice of inspiration as a still, small voice. …

“I have come to know that inspiration comes more as a feeling than as a sound. …

“Put difficult questions in the back of your minds and go about your lives. Ponder and pray quietly and persistently about them.

“The answer may not come as a lightning bolt. It may come as a little inspiration here and a little there, ‘line upon line, precept upon precept’ (D&C 98:12).

“Some answers will come from reading the scriptures, some from hearing speakers. And, occasionally, when it is important, some will come by very direct and powerful inspiration. The promptings will be clear and unmistakable” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1979, 28, 30; or Ensign, Nov. 1979, 19–21).

I know this is true.  I'm so thankful for a personal and loving Father in Heaven who guides and directs our lives through prayer and revelation.

-Alicia

Friday, February 5, 2016

Instrumental Lives

When Alma was reunited with the sons of Mosiah after 14 years of missionary service, he “did rejoice exceedingly to see his brethren; and what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord. (Alma 17:2)

 I love Alma Chapter 17! I love the description of this brotherhood, of these missionaries who were united in heart, mind, and purpose.  It reminds me of the new BYU President, Kevin J. Worthen's, talk that he gave in January this year on friendship. He said, "Heaven is other people. Heaven will be heaven because of the other people who will be there. And experiencing heaven on earth will ultimately depend, to a large degree, on the quality of our relationships with others."

This morning, after my scripture study, I found a great talk by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin entitled, Valued Companions.  It too confirmed these same principles.

Ultimately... "Of course, our best friends are those with whom we live as members of our family. Loving parents, brothers and sisters, children, and the extended family help to shape our destiny. " - Joseph B. Wirthlin


"It's like a symphony
Just keep listening
And pretty soon you'll start
To figure out your part
Everyone plays a piece
And there are melodies
In each one of us
Oh it's glorious"

-David Archuleta

-Alicia

Thursday, February 4, 2016

In His Hands

I've just finished the part in the Book of Mormon where Alma and Amulek are miraculously delivered out of prison.  Prior to their own bondage, they were forced to watch the persecution and martyrdom of the believers who had been cast into the flames including many women and children.
Can you imagine the horror?
Amulek was pained so deeply and "said unto Alma: How can we witness this awful scene?  Therefore let us stretch forth our hands, and exercise the power of God which is in us, and save them from the flames.  But Alma said unto him: The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto Himself, in glory."  (Alma 14:10-11)

 He promises Amulek that God is just and that this moment will be noted for the righteous sake and for the wicked.
There may have been some comfort in this but I'm sure they still wondered why they were delivered and others were not.  Then the guards brutally beat, mocked, and humiliated Alma and Amulek - scoffing that their faith was useless in a God they couldn't prove the existence of.

"Alma cried saying: How long shall we suffer these great afflictions, O Lord? Give us strength according to our faith which is in Christ, even unto deliverance." (Alma 14:26)

God answered his prayer and they broke the bands... and the prison walls fell.
Still, how could one erase from memory all the terror and tragedy they had experienced?  It must have weighed them down with crushing pain on more than one occasion.

This wasn't their only sorrow though... poor Amulek had forsaken everything for the ministry, "all his gold, and silver, and his precious things,... rejected by those who were once his friends and also his father and his kindred." ( Alma 15:16) Alma was well aware of the enormous sacrifice his mission companion was dealing with, he "having seen all these things, therefore... took Amulek...to his own house, and did administer unto him in his tribulations, and strengthened him in the Lord." (Alma 15:18)
I have often wondered how exactly Alma administered unto his friend. Did he give him a priesthood blessing?  And if he did...what did he say in that blessing?
I imagine that Alma shared great faith and testimony with him, that this was the Lord's work, that everything would be alright, and that God was keenly aware of their needs at that time.

One thing I've learned is that we can deal with all kinds of pain but it's the uncertainty that will kill us. The troubles were not taken away and they weren't given all the answers as to what? and how? and why?  But there was peace...
Peace that gave them strength to let go of the anxiety and to trust their future with full submission to their Father in Heaven.  Because amidst all the conflict, there was one thing that remained completely certain: They were in the Lord's hands.

Meekness and submissiveness are twin attributes we must learn in this life.  They are the hallmark of true faith and the gateway to finding rest to the weary soul and peace to the troubled mind .

I'm thankful for the scriptures and words of the prophets that remind me of this.  I'll close this post with some great quotes from Elder Neal A. Maxwell

"Submissiveness also checks our tendency to demand advance explanations of the Lord as a perplexed yet trusting Nephi understood: “I know that [God] loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.” (1 Ne. 11:17.)

So did a wondering but submissive Mary: “And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” (Luke 1:38.)

Just as the capacity to defer gratification is a sign of real maturity, likewise the willingness to wait for deferred explanation is a sign of real faith and of trust spread over time.

If faithful, we end up acknowledging that we are in the Lord’s hands and should surrender to the Lord on His terms—not ours. It is total surrender, no negotiating; it is yielding with no preconditions....

The tilt of our souls in first moments is so vital. Will what follows be viewed with disdain or as having some design? Which will we do most, murmur or ponder?...

For the faithful, what finally emerges is an understanding of “things as they really are” (Jacob 4:13), such as the reassuring realization that we are in the Lord’s hands! But, brothers and sisters, we were never really anywhere else!"  - Elder Neal A. Maxwell (Willing to Submit)

-Alicia
All is well. :)

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Love Isn't Blind

It seems to me that the trends of the world often follow the pattern of what I call "shallow love."  So many relationships leave no room for imperfection in one another and therefore leave no room for growth.  When the going gets tough or if anything dissatisfies... they abandon everything.

C.S. Lewis observed this about Gods love and maybe we can apply something of this pattern in our own lives with everyone we come in contact with:
"To see in some measure, like God.  His love and His knowledge are not distinct from one another, nor from Him.  We could almost say He sees because He loves, and therefore loves although He sees." 

 "He loves although He sees."  Think about it for a moment! "He loves although He sees."  I believe that is what endears us to the Savior's heart.  That is the quality that makes us comfortable to fall before Him as our imperfect selves.  There is no piece of us that is hidden, He sees the good, the bad, and the ugly in our souls... and yet He loves us still.  

In this Shakespeare Sonnet, observe how he describes love.  It is unchanging even when it finds reason to change and sees the infinite worth even when the person may not "measure up" to it. 

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
 If this be error and upon me proved,
 I never writ, nor no man ever loved. 

I really like where Shakespeare describes that true love "bears it out even to the edge of doom."  It reminds me of the verse I'm pondering this week on charity.  
After the Apostle Paul describes this wonderful virtue he warns us that we don't see the full picture and even don't understand our own hearts but the Lord does and eventually we will see clearly through Him.
“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as I am known” (1 Cor. 13:12).

Pure and Christlike love always evokes and promotes feelings of unity, appreciation, and gentleness...  never discord, dissension, or hostility.  We are covenant people who have taken upon us the name of Christ and our behavior should reflect that same kind of perfect charity... to "love although [we] see."

Finally, I'll close this post with some thoughts from President Eyring in 1998

The sacramental prayer can remind us every week of how the gift of unity will come through obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ. When we keep our covenants to take His name upon us, to remember Him always, and to keep all His commandments, we will receive the companionship of His Spirit. That will soften our hearts and unite us. But there are two warnings which must come with that promise.

First, the Holy Ghost remains with us only if we stay clean and free from the love of the things of the world. A choice to be unclean will repel the Holy Ghost. The Spirit only dwells with those who choose the Lord over the world. “Be ye clean” (3 Ne. 20:41; D&C 38:42) and love God with all your “heart, … might, mind, and strength” (D&C 59:5) are not suggestions but commandments. And they are necessary to the companionship of the Spirit, without which we cannot be one.

The other warning is to beware of pride. A unity which comes to a family or to a people softened by the Spirit will bring great power. With that power will come recognition from the world. Whether that recognition brings praise or envy, it could lead us to pride. That would offend the Spirit. There is a protection against pride, that sure source of disunity. It is to see the bounties which God pours upon us not only as a mark of His favor but an opportunity to join with those around us in greater service. A man and his wife learn to be one by using their similarities to understand each other and their differences to complement each other in serving one another and those around them. In the same way, we can unite with those who do not accept our doctrine but share our desire to bless the children of our Heavenly Father.


We can become peacemakers, worthy to be called blessed and the children of God (see Matt. 5:9).

...........
- It's a new day. Let's seek for and choose opportunities to "see through the glass" with clarity, with the Spirit, with the eyes of Christ.

-Alicia

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

"Seeketh Not Her Own" - Ponderize - Week 18

So, we watched Groundhog Day tonight and then talked to the kids about what broke the cursed rut of misery for Phil Connors.  It was when he had a "mighty change of heart" and began to live for others instead of for himself. The curse was broken when he sincerely cared and tried to better himself not to impress but to bless.

With this in mind... My verse I've chosen to "ponderize" for the week is this:

"Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;  Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." - 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Life is beautiful! :)
-Alicia


Escaping The Vacuum Cycle of Self

"Okay, campers, rise and shine, and don't forget your booties
'cause it's cooooold out there today. It's coooold out there every day."
- Groundhog Day (1993)

She hated the movie but I loved it!
My cousin Julia, rolled her eyes and groaned as the credits trailed up the screen, "That was THE dumbest show I have ever seen!"
"Come on, Julia, it wasn't that bad." I said encouragingly.  "There are some serious life lessons to be learned from it."
We made our way toward the exit of the theater. My cousin looked at me questioning, "Life lessons? You're so weird Alicia."
"Hey, I feel like that was money well spent," I said defensively. "It made me think about what we do with our choices every day and how we need to learn to live with purpose and not be so wrapped up in ourselves."

Needless to say, my cousin never watched Groundhog Day again but I did... probably about as many times as Phil Connors relived February 2nd.  It's interesting to me how many recycled wasted days Phil went through before he began some real introspection and experienced a mighty change of heart.

In my recent scripture study I've been reading the teachings of Alma and Amulek.  My "ponderize" verse last week was from Alma 7.  But I keep going back and thinking about a couple of crucial questions that the prophet poses in Alma 5:28, 29, "Are ye stripped of pride?" and "Is there one among you who is not stripped of envy?... if ye are not ye are not prepared to meet God."
It coincides perfectly with the poem that Rita recites to Phil in the diner scene when he's cramming his face full of food trying to absorb all the possible pleasures, an awful image of gluttony.

"The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonour’d, and unsung."
- Sir Walter Scott

In my American Heritage class we are learning about avarice or greed - the driving force behind most of the passions in human nature.  Studying this in two places (at school and in my scriptures) has led me to do some introspection and really examine my own heart.  
I'll be the first to admit how easy it is for me to pass judgment on others and see where they have the mote in their eye.  It's hard to really recognize the beam in my own because when I do that's when the pain of realization hits like a 2X4, "I need to change."

I discovered an Ensign article last week, “Stripped of Envy” by Pam Wilson Vandenaker.  Something about the way she describes things struck me and I can see that I am not stripped of this ugly vice.  We live in such a competitive world.  It's so easy to "see" the achievements of others as we parade them so proudly on our Instagram and Facebook walls. There are some people who I can sincerely compliment and cheer on in their achievements.  But there are others who I feel as if their "boasting" is never ending and nauseating. I struggle to say anything that would enforce their ego and add more hot air to their blimpish head.
It bothers me that this bothers me.... does that make sense?
Withholding praise is a form of pride.  I know this but I withhold from those who I think cannot possibly handle anymore. Maybe it's not their conceit that gets under my skin so much... maybe if I'm honest with myself, it bothers me because I feel inferior?
If I feel inferior because another woman is obviously prettier, more organized, more graceful, more witty, or more fun than I am....
Where does that say my focus is??? "All in self."
I must have more pride and envy in my heart than I dare to admit.

 "Betsy Cohen, in her book The Snow White Syndrome: All about Envy (1986), notes that many of us 'have inner standards of excellence and perfection that are hard or impossible to meet', often causing emotional pain. We may have a hard time admitting mistakes and living with imperfections. If not careful, says the author, we can end up envious of those who seem to achieve more or who seem more comfortable being imperfect."- Pam Wilson Vandenaker

"Brothers and sisters, there are going to be times in our lives when someone else gets an unexpected blessing or receives some special recognition. May I plead with us not to be hurt—and certainly not to feel envious—when good fortune comes to another person? We are not diminished when someone else is added upon. We are not in a race against each other to see who is the wealthiest or the most talented or the most beautiful or even the most blessed. The race we are really in is the race against sin, and surely envy is one of the most universal of those." - Jeffrey R Holland

So how do we overcome this universal sin?.....
.... I believe it can achieved by one simple virtue: GRATITUDE.

Yes, we vary in skill, in beauty, in achievement, but like the laborers in the vineyard, at the end of the day we all receive the same generous heavenly reward... a reward that we really don't deserve but are nevertheless given because God is so graciously good and kind.

I love the words of Francesca Battistelli:

"Spent today in a conversation In the mirror face to face with somebody less than perfect
I wouldn't choose me first if I was looking for a champion
In fact I'd understand if You picked everyone before me
But that's just not my story
True to who You are
You saw my heart and made Something out of nothing

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

When this is my perspective.... The envy, the pride, the competition naturally begin to fall away.  I lose concern for my own image and think more of God's image.  What else matters?  I become filled with a sense of awe and wonder... GRATEFUL for the knowledge that I mean everything to God and so do all the sisters and brothers around me.  I want to strive to share this truth more... to seek to complete the souls of others and not compete.

I find freedom when I accept Christ's grace for me and recognize that it is sufficient, it is enough and I don't need to be better, smarter or prettier than anyone.  In Him, I have my everything, in Him, I am made whole and complete despite all that I so obviously lack from being human.


- Alicia