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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...

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

What is my intent?

Two of my favorite quotes by Martin Luther King are these:

 "Let no man pull you low enough to hate him."
and
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. 
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

One of my assignments these past two days has been to read Martin Luther King's Letter from Birmingham Jail.  He was imprisoned on Good Friday, April 12, 1963.  The letter was written over the next four days and speaks volumes about this incredible man's character in the face of so much persecution and opposition.  I'm deeply impressed to see how civilly and charitably he chose his words to his oppressors.  This was a man who truly understood christian courage.  In my mind, he ranks among the "noble and great ones".

Because my scripture studies this past week focused on the final days of Christ's life and the things He taught before He was crucified, it has caused me to pay particular attention to what was happening in 1963.

The parallel is this:  The segregation laws in Birmingham were unjust for they claimed to be what was best for the community as a whole "to keep the peace" but were really enforced to justify sin.  In his letter Martin Luther King makes the distinction, "How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law." Wasn't that why the Sadducees and Pharisees hated Christ?  The Savior's teachings were an open threat to their immoral way of life and exposed their hypocritical laws.  These were men who liked to boast of their great knowledge of scripture, they stood on the street corners teaching in a form of righteousness to "appear holy" with the intent to obtain monetary, religious, or social acceptance yet inside, they were "full of dead men's bones".

Martin Luther King wrote, "I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends.  But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so to use moral means [obedience to law] to preserve immoral ends... As T.S. Eliot has said: 'The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason.'"

This is a penetrating statement, a compelling thought, that causes me to evaluate my own deeds.  I have to ask as myself in every action or re-action, "What is my intent?"  One of the steps in Dr. King's campaign was "self-purification."  This is the same call our Savior gives us, to first "cleanse the inner vessel."

There is so much to think about.  All that I give, all that I share, all that I say, and all that I do will be fruitless, meaningless, and hollow if my intentions are not in the right place and if I don't maintain a spirit of love for my enemies.

I'm grateful for inspired writings of truth wherever they are found, writings that cause me to reflect, to have a change of perspective, and invite me to evaluate my own choices... for I have so much to learn. :)

-Alicia



Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Q&A - Ponderize - Week 26

I'm incredibly grateful that I can bring all my questions before the Lord, that He encourages me to do so even if they might seem foolish.  I think the key principles for me to learn are patience and faith... and that all of my life's little mysteries will be revealed in His perfect timing.

 "If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.Thou shalt ask, and it shall be revealed unto you in mine own due time...." - D&C 42:61,62

-Alicia

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Traditions and Truth

Our three neighbor children, Kaia, Carter, and Emma. came up to celebrate Easter with our family in the morning and again in the evening. We had scones with honey for breakfast because Christ ate honeycomb after he was resurrected.  For dinner, we had fish as our main course because the Savior taught us to be "fisher's of men".  We had grape juice with our meal too because Jesus "troddened the wine press alone".  For dessert, we made our traditional empty tombs.

As a gift, the kids got a new youth speaker CD, (they get one every Easter).  This one is called Press Forward by, John Bytheway.  It was great to have it play in the background while the children played chess and checkers.  

I'd say overall, the day went pretty well.  It was a little bumpy right after church between Miriam and Micah as they tried to dye Easter eggs.  The ones Micah tried to paint kept slipping out of his hands and cracking.  

We had a lot of mess with everything to say the least... but it all worked out.  I was really glad to have our three visitors.

As the kids listened to their John Bytheway CD - I heard this quote and had to quickly jot it down:

"God lives, and his eyes are over us, and his angels are round and about us, and they are more interested in us than we are in ourselves, ten thousand times, but we do not know it" (Journal of Discourses, 23: 222).

I love that!  "They are more interested in us than we are in ourselves, ten thousand times".  This is true! I know this!!  I mean, life can be hard and I think it's so wonderful to know that we can call down heaven to assist us.

Also, I've listened to this talk by Elder Holland a few times today.  I love his testimony!  

 "Brothers and sisters, one of the great consolations of this Easter season is that because Jesus walked such a long, lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to do so. His solitary journey brought great company for our little version of that path—the merciful care of our Father in Heaven, the unfailing companionship of this Beloved Son, the consummate gift of the Holy Ghost, angels in heaven, family members on both sides of the veil, prophets and apostles, teachers, leaders, friends. All of these and more have been given as companions for our mortal journey because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the Restoration of His gospel. Trumpeted from the summit of Calvary is the truth that we will never be left alone nor unaided, even if sometimes we may feel that we are. Truly the Redeemer of us all said: “I will not leave you comfortless: [My Father and] I will come to you [and abide with you].”

I like that we have this promise in life as Elder Holland says:  In the Gospel we have the "unfailing companionship" of Christ, of the Spirit, of angels (on earth and in heaven), prophets, teachers, leaders, and friends.  We are not alone!  I'm so thankful for this consolation and this wonderful Easter season!

-Alicia

Because He Lives!

What a wonderful week this has been!  I have truly loved focusing my scripture studies on the life of Christ from Palm Sunday up through until Easter Sunday.   Reading bits and pieces from James E. Talmage's "Jesus the Christ" has helped to fill my heart with great reverence throughout this week too.

I don't know how to describe it, but throughout this week, I have felt this incredible sense of awe wash over me for the lives of each of my children and my sweet husband.  I have felt so grateful for each of their personalities, for little things they do, for how fun and good and easy it is to be around every one of them.

My husband and I went to the Easter conference up on campus Friday night.  The talks inspired me to open my mouth more about the good news of our Savior.  As we left the auditorium and started back down the hill, I reflected in my mind, "That same room I meet in every week for my college lectures, is also a place of testimony, a place of worship through scripture and song, a place where prophets and apostles sometimes speak... it is a dedicated building.  How many colleges have that?" And again, this incredible sense of awe washed over me for BYU.  I squeezed Joseph's hand, turned to him and said, "It's such an amazing privilege and honor to be here. Seriously honey, I feel it every time I set foot on this ground.  Thank you so much for supporting me in my education. It truly means the world to me!"

My husband has come so far.  He's been happier, more encouraging, more grateful, more supportive, and more joyful than I have ever seen him in all our years together combined. There's no way he would have let me go to school three years ago.  Something has changed in him and the dark chains of depression that have bound him since he was a teenager, have been loosed.  I think that he is coming to understand the power of the atonement more.  We all need to strive for that, myself included.  I certainly hope that he has seen some good changes in me too this past year.

This quote by President Hunter was one of the many that hung in my little sanctuary/bedroom as a teenager and it has been playing over and over in my mind all week:
“Whatever Jesus lays His hands upon, lives. If He lays is hands upon a marriage, it lives. If He is allowed to lay His hands on the family, it lives.”

I know this! It makes me want to shout, "My husband is alive! My children are alive! My marriage is alive! My hopes and dreams are alive!  I am alive!  All because of Him, because the Savior has laid His hands on us."  Hallelujah!  

"I am, among [women], most richly blessed!!"
Happy Easter!

-Alicia





Saturday, March 26, 2016

Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep

"On the day following the preparation,' that is to say on Saturday, the [Jewish] Sabbath and 'high-day,' the chief priests and Pharisees came in a body to Pilate, saying: 'Sir, we remember that the deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again.  command therefore that the sepulcher be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first.'" - Jesus the Christ p.665

So Pilate ordered a large stone to be rolled in front of the tomb and guards to secure the opening.  But nothing could hold back the Spirit of the Lord. The Savior had already gone to spirit paradise to visit and teach those who had died before him.

" Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection—Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life.

  And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow." - Alma 40:11-12

There's a lot to think about today as we ponder upon the life of our spirit and physical death. One thing I do know, is that light is eternal.  Today, I am reminded of this gorgeous poem sung by Libera.

Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there; I did not die

- Mary Elizabeth Frye



Friday, March 25, 2016

Keep Hope Alive

Because it's Good Friday, I've been thinking a lot about Christ in Gethsemane and on the cross.  Ever since Elder Wirthlin gave this talk back in 2006, this particular Friday always reminds me of these promises:

"Each of us will have our own Fridays—those days when the universe itself seems shattered and the shards of our world lie littered about us in pieces. We all will experience those broken times when it seems we can never be put together again. We will all have our Fridays.

But I testify to you in the name of the One who conquered death—Sunday will come. In the darkness of our sorrow, Sunday will come.

No matter our desperation, no matter our grief, Sunday will come. In this life or the next, Sunday will come.

...Because of our beloved Redeemer, we can lift up our voices, even in the midst of our darkest Fridays, and proclaim, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55)

When President Hinckley spoke of the terrible loneliness that comes to those who lose the ones they love, he also promised that in the quiet of the night a still, unheard voice whispers peace to our soul: “All is well.”

I am grateful beyond measure for the sublime true doctrines of the gospel and for the gift of the Holy Ghost, which has whispered to my soul the comforting and peaceful words promised by our beloved prophet.

From the depths of my sorrow, I have rejoiced in the glory of the gospel."

Through our faith in Christ, we have hope.  We may have a limited view of what will come and great sorrow may pull us under during those times where we can see no end to suffering, but we keep believing and we keep hope alive.  Whatever the hunger, whatever the pain, or whatever the anguish - we can always trust that "God is in His heaven" and whether things feel right in our lives at such moments or not, we can trust that someday they will be made right.  I know this!  How grateful I am for my beloved Savior!

-Alicia

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Let the Children Come

He lives with his grandparents half of the week and spends the other half with his daddy.  His mother is rarely in a position to give him the kind of attention that he needs. (Damage from drugs and a blunt head injury keep her swirling in an aimless cycle.)  My heart breaks for all the trauma this innocent 8-year-old boy has had to deal with over his short span of life.

Softly, he knocks on my door and asks to play with Micah.  I invite the boy in and call for my son. Micah is hiding because he doesn't feel like playing today.  I look back at the cute little visitor who frequents our place. There's something about this kid I can't resist.  I smile as I watch him adjust the small pair of glasses magnifying his big brown puppy-dog eyes.  I call for Micah again but he still refuses.  Apologizing to the boy for the situation, I start to open the door to send him back outside but I can't seem to let him go.

Gently, I put my hand on his shoulder, "You know what though... you're welcome to hang out with me.  I'm making kale chips.  Is that something you want to help with?"
His eyes light up, happy for anything to do, "Sure!"

I pull out a chair at the table and show him how to pluck the leaves from the stems.  Dutifully, he gets to work. We take turns filling each layer of the dehydrator and talk about school, Pokemon, and his favorite video games. He tears off the last leaf of kale and looks around for more to keep him busy.

"I have carrots you can help me peel."
"Okay!" He says with excitement.  He pulls his chair over to the trash can, awkwardly holds the peeler in his hands, and slides it down the sides of each carrot.  Shreds of orange fly every direction. It's obvious this is new to him but I'm so proud of his effort.
"What's the secret?" I ask .
"To what?" he looks up.
"How do I get my own kids to help me like this?"
He smiles proudly.
"... I just like to."
"Well, you're doing a great job. Remind me to get you a treat when we're done."

After a few more chores and small talks, we finish and I walk him outside.  "I got a new scooter" he says pointing to it propped against the stairs.  He lets me take it for a spin.  "This is pretty sweet!"  I exclaim as I hand it back over.  Sheepishly, he grins and turns around to head back home.  "Thanks for coming!" I wave.  "Thank you," he says.

My heart is full.  Any emptiness, loneliness, or anxiety I might have felt is gone.  Nothing but pure and gentle peace abide in my heart.  I wonder how it is possible to have such a simple interaction do so much for my soul.  Then a scripture comes into my mind, "For such is the kingdom of Heaven."  I smile, grateful for this little child I let in my life today.

-Alicia

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

What I Learned at the United Nations...

This is the video I have been wanting to post about CSE (Comprehensive Sex Ed). Family Watch International just sent me it today.

This is the one I have seen in the various cottage meetings. My eyes were first opened to this agenda when I went to the United Nations last year in March with Big Ocean.  Please take a moment to watch: https://vimeo.com/152728936  And please share with others.

-Alicia
Zion Shall Not Be Moved - Ponderize - Week 19
Oh Lord, my heart!

"As Thou Wilt" - Ponderize - Week 25

I had the opportunity to take my son and four other youth to the brand new City Center Temple this morning.  Chandler wanted to get there super early so he left with his friend at 4:30 am.  I met him later at 5.  We weren't the first ones in the font but we were pretty close.

It was great to see some familiar faces with Brother and Sister Oliver & Brother and Sister Rowley  (Workers from the old Provo Temple on the hill.)  In this new Temple, I love the stain glass windows on the wooden doors in the baptistry there because you can see clearly through them into the next room. The whole Temple is absolutely beautiful.

Since Easter is this coming Sunday, I took my scripture study focus to the later chapters in Matthew and the week of events leading up to the Savior's atonement.  It caused me to reflect on the wonderful lesson Miriam and Micah gave last night for FHE.   I've been pondering on the verse where it describes Jesus praying in Gethsemane, "He went a little further, and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt." -  Matt 26:39

Those words, "As Thou wilt" stood out to me more than usual and I read them in modern language, "As you wish."  This may seem kind-of cheesy, but reading it like that immediately made me think of The Princess Bride and the code-word Westley uses for "I love you."  As cheesy of a parallel it may seem, I think it really fits!!

"As Thou Wilt = As You Wish = I Love You." 

 It makes so much sense!  The only thing is now every time I watch that movie and every time I read this verse, both will come to my mind. ....I guess that's okay as long as I don't have thoughts of Westley rolling down a hill during the sacrament.  :P

-Alicia

Sunday, March 20, 2016

"Happy Day!!!"

Today is the big day! It's Palm Sunday and the First Day of Spring; a day of letting the Savior in, a day to start a new life, and begin new beginnings.  It's also the day we shout "Hosanna!" and dedicate the new Provo City Center Temple. This is the only one with such a unique "back-story."  It's inspiring to me on so many levels.  

After the tabernacle was gutted by fire and it stood a hollowed burned-out shell for months, I remember when President Monson announced it would be made into a temple, I was so thrilled that I cried and laughed at the same time.  I drove down the street and around the corner either that same day or the next, I remember it was raining.  I looked up at the east wall and saw a big banner with balloons that proclaimed, "Happy Day!"  This written declaration made my heart burst and the joyful tears I cried when it was announced returned.  I parked alone at that corner for just a moment to catch my breath and said out-loud responding to the banner, "It IS a happy day isn't it, it truly is a happy day!" 

Photo by, Sammy Jo Hester - Daily Herald
The kids had the cultural celebration last night.  They had been preparing for months.  We've never had an opportunity like it before and will likely never have one again.  All of the performances were beautiful.  Our kids danced to the song Reaching by, Audiomachine. They were awesome and I couldn't stop smiling, I felt so proud!   

I also really loved the one with umbrellas.  They danced to a song called, "Sometimes He Let's it Rain."  I've heard that song before and some of the lines are these:
"Sometimes He lets it rain, He lets the fierce winds blow.
Sometimes it takes a storm to lead a heart where it can grow.
He can move mountains of grief and oceans of pain, but sometimes He lets it rain.
There is no joy without the pain. Sometimes, He has to let it rain." 

It made me think of the talk by President Eyring a while back called "Where is the Pavilion?"  But after the storm, the sun is sure to shine, and shine it did!  For the final song, all 6,000 youth created a sun with girls dressed in white at the circle's center and beautiful rays of fire and light reaching up into the stands.  It was perfect!  Just perfect!

I pray my heart will be open today during the dedication.  I pray I will be receptive to the Lord and His way of transforming me, to purify me into who I need to be;  a better wife, a better mother, a better servant, and friend. I thank my Father in Heaven for this beautiful, beautiful house with it's inscription "Holiness to the Lord" and I pray dear Father, more holiness give me.

-Alicia

Friday, March 18, 2016

Something Out of Nothing

After experiencing the presence of God and then being left to himself, Moses realized that "man is nothing." - Moses 1:9-10
Other great prophets recognized this truth;
Mormon said, "O how great is the nothingness of the children of men." - Helaman 12:7
King Benjamin counseled, " I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness" - Mosiah 4:11

So when I say that I am nothing, I'm not trying to put myself down... I'm just stating a simple fact.  Paul taught that the only thing that can transform me into something is charity, the pure love of Christ.  In 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 He says that even if I can speak a ton of languages including the language of angels, even if I had so many gifts and talents or had the faith to move mountains, even if I gave myself as a martyr, I'd still be nothing if I didn't have God's love.

Just a little over seven years ago, when our little family was facing a great financial deficit, I went to the temple in the spirit of fasting and prayer.  There I saw myself on a hillside among the 5,000 people whom Christ fed with just a couple fish and a few loaves of bread.  When the basket got to me, I began to argue, "There isn't enough here for us.... if I do the math, there just isn't enough!  It's so obvious."  Then I imagined the One holding the basket out to me was the Savior, Himself.  I looked in His eyes and was silent as He spoke, "How much do you trust Me, Alicia?  Stop doing the math.  Where is your faith?"  I couldn't argue with that.  I knew that financially, we would be fine and to plan for miracles.

Often times, I re-visit that hillside in prayer and envision myself face-to-face with the Lord again.  Only this time, not in a financial deficit but in a very real spiritual, physical, emotional, and intellectual one; So many areas I'm missing, so many qualities I'm lacking.  And I ask Him about my life's mission, "Why me?  I just don't add up!  It's so painfully obvious I'm not qualified for this... I'm not ready for that.  To think I could make any kind of difference is almost laughable.  I am nothing."  Lovingly and sternly, He gives me the same answer, "How much do you trust me, Alicia?  Stop doing the math. Where is your faith?"

I heard this song for the first time just a couple of days ago and the lyrics were perfect for the encouragement I needed.  "You take all kinds of nothing, turn it right into something... You take every doubt and you make something out of me."  If man is nothing and God's work and His glory is to bring to pass their immortality and eternal life of man. (Moses 1:39)... Then it must mean that not only can He make something out of nothing... this is His specialty!!  He does it all the time!  What He is able to do through and with me is far more miraculous that what He can do with bread and fish.  How much do I trust Him?

Because of a merciful, loving and all-knowing Father in Heaven, I echo Ammon's testimony, "I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things." - Alma 26:12

-Alicia

by, Nichole Nordeman

Just You and me on a hillside
And 4,999
If You could see on the inside
What I brought, what I need, how I’m caught in between....

...You take all kinds of nothing
Turn it right in to something
I see impossible, but You see a basket full of
A little bit of this sounds crazy
A little bit of just maybe
You take every doubt and
You make something out of me"

Thursday, March 17, 2016

At the End of the Rainbow Cupcake

I started off the morning yesterday reading from Alma 47 about Lehonti and how "Amalickiah did stir up the Lamanites to anger against the people of Nephi." I visited scriptures.byu.edu to find some good conference talks to assist me in my study and listened to them as I got ready for the day.


 I was off to a great start and felt pretty good. I resolved to make my home a little haven from the world, a place free of contention.  
After my history class and a lovely walk back to my house, I began tackling the various chores that needed attention.  As the kids finished their assignments, friends began to visit and our living room became nice and full.  I began making dinner preparations.  Kids made huts, colored pictures, and watched Bad Lip Reading episodes about StarWars.  (Quite hilarious, if I do say so.... especially the Yoda song stuck in my head.

Miriam reminded me that we hadn't made our traditional rainbow cupcakes for St. Patrick's Day.  I showed her where the cake-mix was and she and her friend went to work.  Soon all the children wanted to contribute in the rainbow cupcake making. Everything was going smoothly until I realized how late things were getting and remembered an essay due for my class.  
I looked around at the mess of markers and paper scraps, blankets draped over chairs, play-dough in the corner, dinner preparations on the counter, and cupcake making spread across the table.  The children were on a roll, their creative juices were flowing.... and once they get started - their's no stopping.
I sighed because I knew I had painted myself into a corner and would never get to my history paper.  I could feel myself becoming irritated with my situation... But then I began to feel more irritated at myself for being irritated.  :P Which was really lame because I just spent the morning studying all about avoiding contention. 
Children have this sixth-sense and can detect tone or a shift in atmosphere with almost canine abilities.  They could tell the moment my mood had changed.  Disappointed in myself, I felt like a blew a perfectly good day.

It was 10 pm by the time I was able to get started on my paper for my class.  I was tired though and knew I wouldn't be able to focus so I decided to just go to bed and have a fresh mind in the morning.  There on my pillow was this cute little note from Micah.  "Dear Mom, I'm sorry you had such a rough night.  But St. P day is coming! Smile"  
Of course, I smiled.  I walked into his room, holding the card in my hand, "Bud, you're so awesome!" He threw his arms around me, hugging me tightly.  Kaylee heard us talking and climbed out of her bed to join in the hugfest.  I'm glad children are so forgiving.  I thanked them for their patience with me.  
I'm grateful today is a brand new day.... and it's St. P day.  :)
-Alicia

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Hosanna!

This coming Sunday we will have the opportunity to participate in the dedication of the Provo City Center Temple.  How fitting that this sacred and glorious dedication has been appointed to be on Palm Sunday.  For FHE last night, we discussed the symbolism of Christ's entry into the ancient city and how He is entering our city today.

  • The Palm Branch = symbol of victory, triumph, peace and eternal life
  • Riding on a donkey = a symbol of peace and meekness.  The horse was a symbol of war but donkeys were often used in peace treaties. 
  • He came from the east and up into Jerusalem = The names of the cities listed in the Gospels  are of such an order to show this direction.  He also ascended upward into the city since Jerusalem is on a hill.  (The rising sun also comes from the east.)
  • Hosanna - is a Greek form of the Hebrew expression for "Save us now," or "Save, we pray."... Note the rendering of the :Hosanna Shout: in the restored Church of Christ in the current dispensation on occasions of particular rejoicing before the Lord. (p. 523 Jesus the Christ)
  • The first thing Christ did after entering the city was cleanse the Temple.
"The people were jubilant over the spectacle of Jesus riding toward the holy city... For the time being He was their king, and they His adoring subjects.  The voices of the mulititude sounded in reverberating harmony: ;Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the hightest'; and again: 'Hosanna to the son of David: blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.'" - James E. Talmage (Jesus the Christ p. 514)

We too feel blessed and are thrilled with the opportunity to rejoice and shout "Hosanna!" at this Temple dedication.  To offer Him this Holy House and welcome Him to our city.

We really had a great time with the kids last night in our discussion but it has caused me some deeper reflection - so I want to take a little time to go slightly further into this story. You see, with the temple that Christ entered into in Jerusalem, it was a different event than ours here in Provo:

"Amidst all this jubilation, Jesus was sad as He came in sight of the great city wherin stood the House of the Lord;  and He wept, because of the wickedness of His people, and of their refusal to accept Him as the Son of God; moreover He foresaw the awful scenes of destruction before which both city and temple were soon to fall.  In anguish and tears, He thus apostrophized the doomed city: 'If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.' (Luke 19:42)" - James E. Talmage (Jesus the Christ p. 515)

In other words He lamented, "If you had only realized what would bring you peace, real peace... but you've closed your eyes and refuse to see."

How were their eyes closed?
Is there a clue to this answer by the Savior's first choice of action after he dismounts the donkey? What does He do?  He immediately clears out the temple because they had turned it into a "den of thieves." - Luke 19:46  Perhaps He had some interest in real-estate, after-all, they had no right to do whatever they wanted in the Temple.  This was HIS house.  He was the owner, the possessor of this place.

Speaking of houses...  what about the one we dwell in as a family.... Who is the rightful owner of our home?  Is our home just a residence for ourselves or have we dedicated it to the Lord?  What do we invite in on a daily basis and would He approve?  How do we maintain the kind of atmosphere where His Spirit may dwell?

And what about our mortal tabernacle?  Who possesses it?
Each day the Lord leaves it up to us to choose, but we must always remember Who bought us.

"The purchase price for our fullness of joy--body and spirit eternally united--is the pure and innocent blood of the Savior of this world. We cannot then say in ignorance or defiance, 'Well, it's my life,' or worse yet, 'It's my body.' It is not. 'Ye are not your own,' Paul said. 'Ye are bought with a price.'" - Jeffrey R. Holland 

What kinds of things turn my own home "into a den of thieves"?

The way to peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come is to let the rightful Owner in our hearts, let Him in our home, and into our life!  Let Him claim His rightful place and take ownership.... not partial... this isn't fractional real-estate.... but full and complete ownership.
How do I let Him in?
What does that look like in my daily choices?
What does that look like for me as a mother, a wife, a sister, and a neighbor?

Just some thoughts I've been having....
-Alicia

by, Jeremy Camp

"In this obsession with the things this world says make us happy
Can't see the slaves we are in all the searching all the grasping
Like we deserve much more than all these blessing we're holding
So now I'm running free into an ocean of mercy unending

So come and empty me 
So that it's you I breathe
I want my life to be 
Only Christ in me 
So I will fix my eyes
'Cause you're my source of life 
I need the world to see
That it's Christ in me"

Monday, March 14, 2016

"Prepare" - Ponderize - Week 24

There's so much on my mind at this time.  How I wish I could find words to adequately give my thoughts expression.  Maybe if I could lay them all out, I'd be able to make some sense of them for myself a little better?  For some reason I've really struggled to find the right verse for this week.  I've skipped all through my scriptures almost at random, searching for something to catch my eye but not really with any particular subject to study.  Despite all the time I spent browsing with-out any particular direction, I somehow kept finding the word "prepare."
Maybe that's my message?
Maybe the Lord wants me to just focus on this word?

Am I prepared for what lies ahead?  There is certainly plenty that I need to get my heart and mind in the right place for:  The children have been preparing for the Cultural Celebration of our new Temple.  The dedication is this Sunday.  A week after that, we celebrate Easter and then General Conference. Am I prepared to let the Savior in?  Am I prepared to hear and apply the words of the Living Prophets?  How do I prepare myself each day to receive the Spirit into my heart and my home?  How am I preparing to be ready for my children's future struggles?  Have I prepared them sufficiently for the stage they are currently in?  And what if like Alma asks...what "if [I]were called to die at this time... have [I] been sufficiently humble? [Have my] garments been cleansed and made white through the blood of Christ...?  [Am I] stripped of pride? ...if [I am] not... [I am] not prepared to meet God." - Alma 5:27, 28

My prayer is for Him to meet me here and teach me how to purge my heart without becoming discouraged with all the countless areas in which I lack. I want to be ready for the Lord whenever He needs me.  Am I ready to go where He needs me to go?  Am I where I need to be?
... There's so much on my mind... and maybe I don't have to sort it all out right now.

"Therefore, go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand, and prepare your minds for the morrow, and I come unto you again." - 3 Nephi 17:3

-Alicia

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Government: Of Nations & Families

It's just one of those weeks where everything has somehow piled into just a few short days: I must say that if I have my choice between a jam-packed week and one with nothing to do, I prefer the packed week.  Although, with this one I don't think my physical body is keeping up with me very well.  I've been in the ring fighting this heavy chest cold and I think it's winning. booo!

I really, really love American Heritage - It's my favorite BYU class I've had so far!  I took my 2nd midterm a few nights ago.  I did well and I'm proud to say that my over-all grade is in the highest bracket range of the class.

I've noticed an interesting pattern from studying some of the most prominent founding documents of the most brilliant minds of history and observing how things unfolded in the aftermath. Interpretation of the documents varied, parts needed to be altered and changes had to be made to allow freedom for all men, women, races, and creeds. Changes came at a very high cost: There were battles; bloody brutal battles, economically, politically, religiously, and racially to hammer it all out.  We're still evolving as a people and as a nation and we've accomplished much good.  But the enemies we fight never seem to go away.  It's a constant struggle to not fall prey to the beasts of tyranny or anarchy.  We seek balance.

I've also realized that solutions to problems always look better in writing.  It has caused me to reflect on the government of our home, the way we as parents rule and raise our children.  As my husband and I have tried to write up goals for our family, plan out ways to reach each child, and invent new "rewards programs".... it always, always, looks better in writing!  After our "brilliant brain-storming" we have it in our minds what things we're going to do differently to lead our little troop. And we set out feeling pretty good, but consistent with raising children... battles follow... and some quite brutal to hammer everything out.  What works for one kid would never work for the other.  Where do we lead?  How much do we lead?  What methods do we hang on to?  Where do we stand back? What should we let go?  What's most important?  What doesn't matter, what does?  You get the idea.

It's like whatever stage we've come to as parents, we constantly find ourselves in the realm of being "rookies".  We might find ourselves in the dark after years of practice and say, "That's it! We surrender! We have no clue what to do with this one!" But according to the talk from Sister Wiseman I posted earlier this week, being in the unknown isn't always a bad thing: "I think we need to recognize that we tend to do our best work when we're on the outer edges of what we know, when we're doing something hard and new and we're growing through challenge."

It is certainly a challenge to raise children.  I am often astonished and then quite grateful for how humbling of an undertaking it is.  Even our wonderful nation, "our shining city on a hill" (as John Winthrop called it) is far from perfect.  There was never really a "golden age" because our history is re-pleat with flaws and embarrassments.  With both governments (our nation and our little family) everything looks better in writing... but then we have to enter the real world, deal with real people, and fight real battles.  It is so much easier said than done.  But that's okay, we don't have to have it all down at once,  it will all work out -  "Sometimes in our state of not knowing is actually where we come to know God." - Liz Wiseman

 -Alicia

"I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth- that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?...how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings?... when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection.- Our prayers, Sir, were heard, & they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending providence in our favor." - Benjamin Franklin

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

"The Power of Not Knowing" - Ponderize - Week 23

"Wisdom is the highest spiritual intelligence.  While the natural man, through knowledge, can know nothing of wisdom.  A man may have a great intelligence and yet have nothing of the Christ life within him."
- Jane Lathrop Stanford

Liz Wiseman gave a great forum address at BYU several weeks ago called The Power of Not Knowing. I listened to it today. This is one of those talks I definitely want to repeat several times.  I really feel like I need to be better at asking questions and not act like I have all the answers, especially with my children.  It's a place of humility I know I haven't achieved yet.  

The text from this lecture isn't available but I've jotted down a few things she presents that I really, really love:

"Can we actually get too smart?... Is there actually more power in not knowing? I want to make a case for ignorance, and not ignorance in the case of the lack of education or stupidity, but simply the lack of certainty... As we gain knowledge and as we gain intelligence and we get smart, can we get a little too full of ourselves, a little too smart for our own good and maybe even a little too smart for the good of others?

When we come to depend on acquired knowledge, we can fall easily prey to secularism which offers us a one-eyed view of the world.... it's like we see half of the colors in a spectrum.  But we don't really fully see clearly until we unite our knowledge and our faith.

I think sometimes in our state of not knowing, it's actually where we come to know God.  It's where we discover!

We're so often at our best when we don't know.  The best leaders don't have the answers.  The best leaders have really good questions.  And they use those questions and their own intelligence to bring out the genius in the people around them.

I think it's time we recognize that at the top of the intelligence hierarchy, is not the genius - it's the genius maker.  And I think we need to recognize that we tend to do our best work when we're on the outer edges of what we know, when we're doing something hard and new and we're growing through challenge."

I think my favorite part in everything Sister Wiseman says is this:
"Sometimes in our state of not knowing is actually where we come to know God."

The uncertainty we face and the questions that may arise need not make us fearful of our capabilities or our future... for they humble us and bring us to our knees in prayer, connecting us with our all-knowing Father in Heaven.  The verse I've chosen to ponderize for this week is short but it will serve as a reminder to me that ultimately, there is beauty in not having all the answers and that there is infinite treasure to be discovered in the process of seeking.

"I applied mine heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the reason of things" - Ecclesiastes 7:25

-Alicia

Monday, March 7, 2016

Every Piece of My Heart

It was a wonderful testimony meeting yesterday in Church.  I especially appreciated those who testified of the grace of our Savior and the power of prayer.  I love that my Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ are so approachable.  I can take every piece of my heart and lay it at Their feet knowing that no matter how ridiculous or foolish "my issues" may seem, I am rightfully judged and perfectly loved.  There are things in life that hurt so bad, you eventually start to feel numb to the pain.  I wonder if the numbness is almost an act of mercy - just how the physical body goes into shock, I think the Lord knows when our spirit can't take anymore.

I'm so thankful to know that new days come, new opportunities, new chances to begin again.  That's one thing I love about my Father in Heaven - He lets me start over as if nothing ever happened.  He doesn't hold the past against me or treat me differently because I didn't quite measure up to His expectation, He just keeps loving me.  I'm thankful to know that "my issues" aren't foolish to Him, that He knows exactly what it feels like to be in my current situation.  He knows because He took it all on Himself as if my heart was His own.

You Are Loved
by, Stars Go Dim

We hide pain in the weirdest places
Broken souls with smiling faces
Fighting for surrender
For now and the after
Just look around and you’ll see that people
Are scared to say how they really feel, oh
We all need a little honesty

You are loved
If your heart’s in a thousand pieces
If you’re lost and you’re far from reason
Just look up, know you are loved
Just look up, and know you are loved
When it feels like somethings missing
If it hurts but you can’t find healing
Just look up, know you are loved
Just look up, know you are loved.

We’re not made to be superheroes,
Photoshopped, all size zeroes
We’re a light not expected
But not quite perfected yet.
Look up see the sun is shinning
There’s hope on a new horizon
Calling you, calling…

You don’t have to prove yourself
Don’t try to be someone else

-Alicia (So Grateful for Grace!)

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Blessings

Man, this past week-and-a-half was rough!  Sometimes I really can't stand social media.  It's great for sharing the Gospel but even with that I'd prefer face-to-face.  I just don't think it's a very effective way of communication.  It's lacking tone of voice, facial expression, body language, and intent is so easily misunderstood through words alone.  Some people are out just looking for a fight.  I don't like to debate, I'm lousy at it.  I'd rather avoid contention and I don't have very thick skin.

"By arguments and accusations, some people bait us to leave the high ground. Sometimes others want us to come down off the high ground and join them in a theological scrum in the mud. These few contentious individuals are set on picking religious fights, online or in person. We are always better staying on the higher ground of mutual respect and love." - Robert D. Hales, Christian Courage

As difficult as these past several days have been, I've had some great blessings:

Blessing #1
Thursday, my 14-yr.-old son, Chandler, returned home while the other children were off playing.  I was in the kitchen cleaning and had been anxiously anticipating my husband's return.  I felt emotionally exhausted and couldn't wait to be held for a while.
"Hey bud, it's great to have you home!" I tried to lift my spirit and shrug off the heaviness I felt so that Chandler didn't think my sorrow was in any way tied to him.
"Thanks." He smiled.
"How was your day?" I asked.
He showed me some things he made in his welding class and told me about his plans for his next project.
I attempted to keep my tone cheery as we conversed.
Chandler could see I was struggling.
I finally gave in, "You know what, I'm not doing so well.  I'm feeling kinda sad today.  I think I'd feel better with a hug though."  I laid my head on his shoulder and asked, "Will you just hold me for a moment?"  I expected him to step back or roll his eyes, all the while making some sort of comment about what a dork I am.  But he didn't.  It seemed that he sensed my sincerity and knew it was something I really needed.  Without saying a word, he wrapped his arms around me and just held me, lovingly held me.  I think he would have held me longer than a minute had I not pulled back to thank him.  I was so impressed by his tenderness.  It's not a side I see very often.  He's not my cuddly boy, Micah is.  (Chandler shows his affection most of the time by picking me up, wrestling, or throwing me onto the couch - you know, manly touch - nothing too sugary.)
Having my own son receive me so gently did more to heal my heart in that moment than I could have imagined.  It filled me with pride as a mother and tears of gratitude surface even now as I write about it.

Blessings #2
Another experience that has kept me floating this week was with Micah.  He is my most eager and willing child to come to class with me at BYU.  He loves to bring his notebook and he actually listens to the lectures.  He's adorable with the students and they always look forward to seeing him.  This past week, the instructor asked if there was any good news to share.  Micah held up a 3D printed sculpture of himself and proudly reported, "I have a model of myself I made in my Webelos Den for scouts."
"Webelos ha?" My friend, Darron, asked with interest.  "My wife and I are Webelos leaders in our ward."
It was cute because they spent several more minutes, just the two of them, discussing scouts until class officially started.  It's exciting for Micah to feel important enough that these college students take interest in him.  I especially love it because he has the opportunity to see that the whole age-gap garbage is no where to be found after middle school and high school.
Micah also loves to see that we have prayer in class.  He can see that there's something great about this University, there's a wonderful spirit in the buildings and among all the students.
He's very sensitive to spiritual things.
When we made our way back to the car, Micah asked for my KLOVE playlist.  A song he hadn't heard before began and he sat up leaning toward the stereo.  "Hey, this is new?  Which one is this?  I really like this one mom."
"It's called, God Is On The Move. It's a good one isn't it?"
"Yeah, can I listen to it more when we get home?  I want to add it to my Youtube playlist."
"Absolutely, you can!" (What kind of mother would object to that?)
He has been playing this song all week.  And honestly, it has been one I think I've needed to hear on repeat.  What a blessing!

Blessing #3
My friend, Carol, called me the other day.  She's an incredibly busy person and I know she rarely has time for personal phone calls but she took a moment out of her hectic life to offer her great love and encouragement.  She shared with me words that I really needed to hear.  She is dear to me.  What an inspired woman!

Blessing #4
I had to drive out to Delta (about an hour-and-a-half away) to see an old friend.  I had the opportunity to bring Miriam with me.  It was nice to have that one-on-one time with her in the car.  I don't always get that because she's never at a lack of friends and usually takes off with them.  Miriam isn't much of a talker when it comes to deep feelings.  She loves to make up stories and play pretend but when it comes to the things that are weighing on her mind, she speaks very little... unless it's food that's bothering her.  You'll know if she's hungry because she gets "hAngry."
She was quiet most of the drive and just wanted to listen to her music.  But I was impressed with the songs she selected.  From them, you can tell she cares a great deal about eternal matters and that she is most hungry for the Spirit.

Blessing #5
We had a pajama party/ movie night with my best friend, Suzanne, and her husband.  We sent all the kids away to one house while we hung out at the other.  We watched our show together, comfy with our pillows and blankets, munching on stove-top cooked popcorn and sipping on fruit smoothies.

I am most richly blessed!
-Alicia

This is the song Micah has had on repeat this week: :)

by, 7eventh Time Down

Anytime a heart turns from
Darkness to light
Anytime temptation comes and
Someone stands to fight
Anytime somebody lives to serve and not be served

I know - I know - I know - I know
God is on the move, on the move
Hallelujah
God is on the move
In many mighty ways
God is on the move, on the move
Hallelujah
God is on the move
On the move today

Anytime in weakness someone
Falls upon their knees - or
Dares to stand and speak the
Truth that sets men free
Anytime the choice is made to
Stand upon the Word

I know - I know - I know - I know
God is on the move, on the move
Hallelujah
God is on the move
In many mighty ways
God is on the move, on the move
Hallelujah
God is on the move
On the move today

Anytime the Gospel
Stirs a love for searching souls - and
someone says: “Here I am send me, I will go”
I know - I know - I know - I know
God is on the move, on the move
Hallelujah
God is on the move
In many mighty ways 
God is on the move, on the move
Hallelujah
God is on the move
On the move today

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Good Fight

Yesterday during class, we reviewed Abraham Lincoln's First Inaugural Address. I can't even begin to imagine how frightening it would have been to become the president of the United States when   political tensions and polarized views defining liberty had led the people to the brink of an all-out civil war.  It was supposed to be the "United" States and yet, it was anything but united. Feeling the looming clouds of heated battle, Lincoln desperately tried to ease the anxieties of the South and in the last part of his address as he plead, "I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."  He was trying to remind the people of who they were: brothers, sisters, neighbors, friends, fellow Americans, and that the fight was for unity, for liberty and not against each another.  Unity would come as we implored "The better angels of our nature," I really love that wording because I believe the majority of people on this earth are good, even if we have opposing or conflicting views.

Fast-forward 155 years and observe the current conversations in today's political arena and I can't help but feel like we're on the brink of another civil war.

My daughter, Kaylee, has a favorite song she asks me to play for her quite often.  It's called The Good Fight by, Unspoken.  A couple of weeks ago, we rented a movie called War Room and Kaylee's face lit up with excitement to hear her song played in the movie.  War Room is a reminder of what the war is really about and who the real enemy is. What is the good fight?  It's not against our brothers and sisters, our children or our spouse, our neighbors or friends... for "we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." (Ephesians 6:12)

In my scripture studies this morning I read the verses in Alma where he exhorts the people to pray in every place and over everything. (34:17-27) and I thought of War Room.  I don't have a closet I can kneel in but I do have a place I can always go with my pleadings.  And when I am not in position to be on my knees in prayer, my "heart is full drawn out" to my Father in Heaven "continually for [the] welfare" of my family and my neighbor's families. (Alma 34:27)

I'm not about to give up in this fight, the good fight: praying and pleading, seeking the Spirit, striving to serve where needed, changing my own heart, and seeking understanding, hoping for the best, trusting in the Grace of my Savior, loving when I'm not loved in return, and sharing truth... I will continue even if I wear out all my days doing so and never see the fruit of my labors.

I'll close my post with this portion of Elder Holland's talk, "However Long and Hard the Road."

-Alicia

"Is it not significant that early in his life Joseph Smith was taught this lesson three times in the same night and once again the next morning? Moroni, quoting the Lord verbatim as recorded by the prophet Joel, said: “I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:

“And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit” (Joel 2:28–29).

Dreaming dreams and seeing visions. The Lord’s spirit upon all flesh—sons and daughters, old and young, servants and handmaidens. I may be wrong, but I can’t imagine an Old Testament verse of any kind that could have helped this boy prophet more. He was being called into the battle of his life, for life itself, or at least for its real meaning and purpose. He would be driven and hunted and hounded. His enemies would rail and ridicule. He would see his children die and his land lost and his marriage tremble. He would languish in prison through a Missouri winter, and he would cry out toward the vault of heaven, “O God, where art thou? … How long … O Lord, how long” (D&C 121:1–3). Finally he would walk the streets of his own city uncertain who, except for a precious few, were really friend or actually foe. And all that toil and trouble, pain and perspiration would end so maliciously at Carthage—when there simply were finally more foes than friends. Felled by balls fired from the door of the jail inside and one coming through the window from outside, he fell dead into the hands of his murderers at 38 years of age.

If all of this and so much more was to face the Prophet in such a troubled lifetime, and if he finally knew what fate awaited him in Carthage, as he surely did, why didn’t he just quit somewhere along the way? Who needs it? Who needs the abuse and the persecution and the despair and death? It doesn’t sound fun to me, so why not just zip shut the cover of your scriptures, hand in your Articles of Faith cards, and go home?

Why not? For the simple reason that he had dreamed dreams and seen visions. Through the blood and the toil and the tears and the sweat, he had seen the redemption of Israel. It was out there somewhere—dimly, distantly—but it was there. So he kept his shoulder to the wheel until God said his work was finished.

And what of the other Saints? What were they to do with a martyred prophet, a persecuted past, and a hopeless future? With Joseph and Hyrum gone, shouldn’t they have just quietly slipped away also—somewhere, anywhere? What was the use? They had run and run and run. They had wept and buried their dead. They had started over so many times that their hands were bloodied and their hearts were bruised. In the name of sanity and safety and peace, why didn’t they just quit?

Well, it was those recurring dreams and compelling visions. It was spiritual strength. It was the fulfillment they knew to be ahead, no matter how faint or far away." - Jeffrey R. Holland

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Imperfection


“Every human being must be viewed according to what it is good for. 
For not one of us, no, not one, is perfect. 
And were we to love none who had imperfection, 
this world would be a desert for our love.” 
- Thomas Jefferson

I came across this statement in my studies for American Heritage yesterday.  I've been fascinated with all that I've been learning about Thomas Jefferson.  What an interesting man!  He was very enigmatic, quiet, studious, pensive, and extraordinarily brilliant.  Yet, even men like him recognized that imperfection comes to everyone and no soul is exempt from flaws.

Of course we must always strive to be better and seek improvement... but some expectations can drown us, especially when we expect perfection to flow like an endless stream in our lives, in our schedules, in our homes, in every person, and every relationship... How sorry we will be when we discover that it is nowhere to be found. And the hours and minutes that could have been spent appreciating and enjoying everything is swept away in the dragging undercurrent and isolating trench of carping criticism.

I truly believe that perfectionism suffocates our ability to deeply love and to be loved in return.  I have discovered that as I rid myself of expectations for everything to go as I have planned, as I allow room for myself, my house, my family, my life, and all my associations to be imperfect... something beautiful happens... love grows... and I find freedom!

-Alicia
"Come What May and Love It"