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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, May 30, 2016

Storybook - Ponderize Week 35

"Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out not knowing whither he went." - Hebrews 11:8

It can be so hard to step out and move forward "not knowing" ...
and yet, I feel like it's the story of my life!

I take comfort in the scriptures though. Just this morning I read Moroni 7 and Hebrews 11. Both speak of miracles that are brought about by faith.  In Paul's letter to the Hebrews, he lists several prophets who were given great promises.  They lived faithful and true to every commandment of the Lord believing that those promises would one day be fulfilled.  Yet, verse 13 of Hebrew's says that, "these all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them..." And then verse 29 states again, "these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise."

"In a sense all of us are in the middle of our own novels, our own life stories. Sometimes our stories feel very intense, and we would like to read ahead to know our own end, to make sure that everything is going to turn out all right. While we don’t know the particular details of our life’s experiences, fortunately we do know something about our futures, if we live worthily.

We are given this insight in Doctrine and Covenants 90:24 [D&C 90:24]: 'Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good, if ye walk uprightly.'... Sometimes we see immediate fulfillment of the promise. Other times we plead for years before we see the desired promises fulfilled. Sometimes, as with faithful Abraham, we may embrace the promises but die “in faith, not having received the promises” (Heb. 11:13) while on earth. While it may be true in some instances that our promised blessings will be fulfilled only in the eternities, it is also true that as we search, pray, and believe, we will often recognize things working together for our good in this life.... " - Susan W. Tanner

Sometimes, I desperately want to read ahead in my own story to see if the promises that have been revealed to me will ever occur on this earth or if they are only to be given somehow in heaven. I understand that it is better for me not to know.  I get that if it were shown to me, I would no longer have the struggles that are necessary to deepen and strengthen my faith. Just gotta keep moving one step in front of the other "not knowing" the details of my own story but knowing full well and trusting that God does... and I'd say He's a pretty dang good author.

-Alicia

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Happy Sabbath!

"We strive to build an environment in our home and in our hearts 
where the Spirit of God may dwell."
- Rawlins Family Mission Statement


I look forward to Sundays!  I especially love the atmosphere of our home when we have hymns or conference talks playing.  My husband and I have playlists we've created to enrich our Sundays... and every day for that matter.  Last night my husband shared with me a song from his compilation,  "Nearer My God to Thee"  I love a-capella groups and men's choirs... Plus, this is one of my favorite hymns; so, a combination of these things was a real treat to listen to.  


What do you do to draw nearer to God on the Sabbath?
What sort of things invite the Spirit and help you desire greater commitment to the covenants you've made?


Moroni has some great verses that help us to keep our Sundays conducted after the manner of the Spirit:


  • The Sacrament was administered "according to the commandments of Christ" "They [the elder or priest] did kneel down with the church, and pray to the Father in the name of Christ." (Moroni 4:1,2)


  • "They came forth with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and witnessed unto the church that they truly repented of all their sins." (Moroni 6:2)


  • "They took upon them the name of Christ, having a determination to serve Him to the end." (Moroni 6:3)


  • "They were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way..." (Moroni 6:4)


  • "The church did meet together oft, to fast and to pray and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls.  And they did meet together oft to partake of [the sacrament], in remembrance of the Lord Jesus." (Moroni 6:5,6)


  • "They were strict to observe... As oft as they repented and sought forgiveness, with real intent, they were forgiven... And their meetings were conducted by the church after the manner of the workings of the Spirit, and by the power of the Holy Ghost." (Moroni 6:8)


  • "The power of the Holy Ghost led them whether to preach, or to exhort, or to pray, or to supplicate, or to sing" (Moroni 6:9)


The Sabbath is a day of rest and I’ve discovered that I find rest when  I am centered on the Savior (which can actually mean hard work, very hard work)  But the rest is real: it is comforting,  It is spiritual, it is encouraging, it is hopeful always hopeful because it is found in truth, it is refreshing and rejuvenating.

Like Moroni, I find rest when I am with others whose focus is the same as we “meet together often to fast and to pray” and conduct our lives “after the manner of the Spirit”.  It makes my day and my week so much brighter and it nourishes my soul. 
Maybe that’s why it’s called “Sun”day?   







Thursday, May 26, 2016

Throwback Thursday "A Queen for the Day"


Gazing up into the boughs above me, unveiled to my view a beautiful spiral pine stairway 
beckoning me to ascend it as high as I could.
It was almost as if God had crafted that tower just for me, 
a little place where I ruled my own world and was a queen for the day.
I found my niche at the very top where everything was in my sight; 
a panorama of my home, my life, my surroundings, everything familiar within my scope... 
Close enough to observe yet sufficiently distant to reflect. 
From my wooden throne, I was invisible but I could see for miles and miles.
Absorbed in the sounds of my solitude, quietly I'd listen to the wind as it spoke to the trees; 
their conversation like peaceful waves crashing repeatedly on an ocean shore.
I felt safe there in my castle tower, high above the earth.
Somehow, I felt a little closer to heaven.
I loved that place: my tree, my sanctuary, my home away from home.
Moving Day - June 1990- Leaving behind the old tree I climbed as a child.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

"Oh, The Places We'll Go"

“You won't lag behind,
because you'll have the speed.
You'll pass the whole gang
and you'll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly,
you'll be best of the best.
Wherever you go,
you will top all the rest.

Except when you don't.
Because, sometimes, you won't.”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You'll Go!

Through all of our foster training we've been able to get more of an idea of what we're up against and what will be required of us as individuals and as a family. This is not a small task and it will require all our diligence, all our patience, all our strength, all our energy, and all our love.   I admit that it's kind of frightening.  We don't feel cut out for it and it seems that's exactly what the Adversary wants us to keep feeling: doubt, discouragement, fear, insecurity.

On top of this... It seems that in these last few days all hell has combined to stir up contention among our children.  They have been at each other's throats and my husband and I have been beside ourselves in knowing how to calm them.  It's been discouraging because circumstances like these cause us both to question our ability to handle the additional stresses that will come with foster parenting.  Maybe our children are feeling nervous about the adjustments that will come with this brand new life too and they've just had trouble identifying and expressing such fears?  I don't blame them.  This is huge!!

“And when you're alone there's a very good chance
you'll meet things that scare you right out of your pants
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won't want to go on.” 
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You'll Go!

The specific trials that lie ahead are unknown to us and it doesn't do any good speculating how we will handle them.  The truth is, we are sure in our decision and we're not backing down, no matter how much the adversary tries to thwart our resolve.  After our family prayer this morning, we discussed how clearly our mission to foster children unfolded before us and we both bore testimony without any doubt that it's what we need to do despite all the opposition.

In my personal scripture study, I just finished reading about the story of the Jaredites.  They embarked on an unknown journey to a place they'd never been before, launching into the vast and open sea, "commending themselves unto the Lord their God" (Ether 6:4) They faced opposing forces on every hand and it took an immense amount of faith... but look at where it led them... to the promised land!

I like how Moroni inserts his testimony in this record, "Faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith." (Ether 12:6)

Our faith will certainly be on trial... It will be tried and tested in ways we can't comprehend but it will bring about great things! We are confident of that even though "We don't feel ready, We don't feel steady, [and we] Question all we really have to give..."

The truth still remains the same...

"A little somethin' Might feel like nothin' But in His hands it's all we'll ever need
To speak life to the broken Watch the blind eyes open
It's who He's calling you and me To be
It's time to get our hands dirty
Be love... there's a whole lot of hurting
Calling all hearts Calling all hands Calling all feet to take a stand
Why sit around and wait for a miracle to come
when we can be one"
- Natalie Grant - Be One - 

It will all work out.  We're going to give it our very best.  The Lord is guiding our journey... and... Oh, the places we'll go!!

"[We]'re off to Great Places!
Today is [our] day!
Our mountain is waiting.
So...[we're] on [our] way!” 
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You'll Go!

-Alicia :)
The Future is as Bright as Your Faith - President Thomas S. Monson
To The Rescue
I Was a Stranger

Monday, May 23, 2016

"They Shall Be Granted" - Ponderize- Week 34

Searching for a scripture to ponder through the week, I found several... but this is the one my heart is really gravitating to at this time.

"My friends, fear not, let your hearts be comforted; yea, rejoice evermore, and in everything give thanks;  Waiting patiently on the Lord, for your prayers have entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, and are recorded with this seal and testament - the Lord hath sworn and decreed that they shall be granted.  Therefore, He giveth this promise unto you, with an immutable covenant that they shall be fulfilled; and all things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good, and to my name's glory saith the Lord." - D&C 98:1-3

I looked back through old posts and realized I've shared parts of this scripture a couple of times on my blogs already.  (I had forgotten that.)  I suppose a little repetition doesn't hurt me though.

I can't think of any greater comfort than knowing that my prayers are heard and that every pure and righteous desire will be granted... no matter how much further down the road that may be.  I also appreciate the part about giving thanks all along the way.

-Alicia

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Vastly Different World


We've finished all of our foster care training (36 hours of classes, 2 hours of online, a total of 76 hours combined).  It has been eye-opening, terrifying, and heart-wrenching to say the least.

Yesterday, we met two women who came as guest speakers to our training, the biological mother and the foster mother (who are now best friends).  Eighteen years ago this single mother had three children and was a severe meth addict.  The night the police came and removed her children from her, she was so devastated that she immediately made attempts to take her own life.

You see before, If she had drugs taken from her she could always find a way to get them again.  If she had money or anything stolen, she could find a way to fraudulently get more.  But she realized when her children were taken that no amount of finagling or criminal masterminding could restore them. It was a done-deal.  It was over.  Her parental rights were completely terminated.

Though the mother could not get her children back, the foster mother understood that we are all biologically tied to our children and them to us. There is no way around the need we all have to stay connected to what flows within our own veins.  She understood that a major part of the grief her foster kids would suffer from was being separated from their mother.  To help them through their sorrow, she hung a picture of their mom in their bedroom and took them to visit her at the county jail twice a month.

These attempts the foster mom made to keep that connection touched the biological mother's heart so deeply that she started to gain hope.  She realized that her life wasn't over.  She discovered she still had something to live for and she was being given a second chance.  Over the course of several more years the bio-mom was able to turn her life around.  She got out of jail, sobered up, finished school, and got a job.  She now works as a counselor in a correctional facility for women and helps them recover from substance abuse.  It was worth every sacrifice and every effort of the foster mom to not only care for the children but to see that their mother needed rescuing too. 

We have a few loose ends that need to be tied and then we can have our home-study come to evaluate us.  We should have our licence to foster in a little over a month.  Once we start having children placed, their stories will be kept confidential with us.  Our entire family will be thrust into a vastly different world from the one we've known.  As the one who is primarily home, I will be attending regular court hearings and arranging visits with the biological parents on a weekly basis as the caseworkers and judges sort out what is in the best interest for the children.  We've never been to court for anything and we've never had to deal with visitation arrangements.

Ultimately with every foster child we care for, our goal will be to do everything we can to help them stay connected to their biological family on the safest terms.  We want their parents to get better, to get treatment, to get counseling, and to turn their lives around.  The ideal is to give the children a safe place to live until that happens and they can return home. When that doesn't happen, we will adopt.

-Alicia

Thursday, May 19, 2016

"Great and Terrible"

Last week, I took a walk around the neighborhood with my dear friend, Lou.  He was born in 1929 and over his lifetime, he has witnessed a lot of change in our world for good and bad.  As we walked, he expressed to me his fears of the future.  It's rare for me to hear Lou express anything that isn't positively upbeat and optimistic.... besides, I was surprised someone of his age worrying like he was because he won't have to live through much more.  But even though his years ahead are few, his children will still be here, and his children's children.  He asked, "Oh Alicia, what kind of world will they live in?"

I told Lou that the night before I had a similar conversation with my sisters-in-law.  Eight of us had gotten together for a girls night and the topic of the presidential election came up:  We all wondered and marveled together how America got to the place that it's in.  We discussed the possible changes we would face; the economy, religious freedom, parental rights, the persecutions that might come, the struggles and the hardships.  But the tone of the conversation shifted from the "terrible" and turned to the "great".  Soon, we began testifying of the miracles we would witness and have already witnessed, we began talking about the amazing youth who make daily deliberate choices to be true to the faith in the face of so much opposition.  We shared examples in the scriptures and personal testimony.

I put my arm around my friend and said, "Lou, your children will experience great things!  Joel said that it will be a 'great and terrible day'.  Sometimes, I think we forget the part that it will be great."  First Nephi 22:17 says that "the righteous need not fear".  I then shared with Lou the story from 2Kings chapter 16 about Elisha and the young servant completely encompassed by the Syrian army.  Lou had forgotten that story in the scriptures and he listened intently.  (It's not that he's never read it but that his memory is not well and sometimes he forgets me too.) I told him about the servant who was with Elisha when the Syrian army sought their lives... the young man opened the tent door and saw that they were surrounded on every side by their enemies and it filled him with terror. I told him how Elisha prayed that the young servant's eyes would be open.   When he looked out again, the veil was lifted from him and he saw hosts of angels (much more numerous than their enemy) standing in readiness to defend and protect Elisha and the young man.

I stopped and turned to Lou, placing my hand reassuringly on his shoulder, "I know that the darker the night gets, the brighter the stars shine.  We are going to see amazing things.  We are constantly, everyday, surrounded by angels.  We don't see them but they go before us and they have our back.  I know this!"  He was quiet and I could see tears well up in my friend's eyes, "Oh, thank you... I needed that.  Thank you for sharing that with me."  I hugged my friend and wished him a good night as he walked inside his home still thanking me, "Really, that makes me feel so much better.  Oh, how I needed that. Thank you again."

This morning in my scripture studies I was reminded of my walk with Lou and his concern for our country when I read, "We can behold the decrees of God concerning this land, that it is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity." (Ether 2:9)

I recalled Mormon chapter 9 just a few pages earlier.  I love that chapter... because out of all the books of scriptures, out of all the numerous chapters written by ancient prophets, Mormon 9 is the one that mentions the word, "miracle" more than any other.  (14 times to be exact)

I love to hear Moroni's testimony.  If anyone knew what it was like to watch a nation fall apart, it was him.  But Moroni kept the faith and held fast in his testimony...  even when he stood alone.  Really, we have everything to hope for and look forward to.

"Behold, I will show unto you a God of miracles" - Moroni

-Alicia :)
Terror, Triumph, and a Wedding Feast



Monday, May 16, 2016

"Perform With Soberness" - Ponderize - Week 33

In my scripture study this morning, I'm at the place where the very young Prophet Mormon is called to lead the Nephite army and also called to care for the sacred records of the people.  Ammaron gave charge to Mormon over the records because he could "perceive that [he was] a sober child, and [he was] quick to observe." (Mormon 1:2)

I searched the topical guide under soberness and came to this verse in D&C 6:35,36

"Perform with soberness the work which I have commanded you.  Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not."

The 1828 dictionary describes sober as temperate, serious, and calm.  My thesaurus describes sober as self-disciplined, discreet, vigilant, and wise.

And so... Our family ponderize board for the week will read as follows:

"Perform with soberness (temperance, seriousness, calmness, discipline, discretion, vigilance, and wisdom) the work which I have commanded you.  Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not." - D&C 6:35, 36

-Alicia

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Same Window With a New View

This weekend, we will complete our foster care training.  I spent nearly every day and every hour this past week organizing the bedrooms & closets, throwing out what can be thrown out, and simplifying how many toys the children really need... just doing everything possible to make space for one more boy and one more girl in our home.  Joseph has already ordered the beds.  (We are hoping for a set of siblings.) We've figured out a system of storage where both the girl and boy rooms can each fit three beds, three dressers, their laundry baskets and still feel comfortable.

Friday, I was putting together the second dresser while listening to my "Musical's Playlist" on Spotify.  A song from Annie came on... "It's a Hard-Knock Life"  played loudly and my feet tapped along. I found myself singing the words...  This time though, I paid closer attention to the lyrics as I hammered and drilled away.  Then, I heard something in the 2014 version that was different than other versions... it went like this,  
"No one cares for you a bit,
When you're a foster kid."  
Tears welled up in my eyes.  I've never teared up listening to that song before...ever!  
(I know,  I know.  What doesn't make me cry? Right?) 
Even I was surprised to be getting emotional.
Then "Carrying the Banner" came on from Newsies.  You know the part where the Nuns sing, 
"Blessed children
Though you wander lost and depraved
Jesus loves you,
You shall be safe"  

Awe man!  Strike two!
I think with everything I've been learning, with all the training lectures, just thinking of everything these kids go through, just thinking of the book about trauma I'm half-way finished with... it all just becomes much more real to me.  I will never hear these songs about orphans quite the same again. 

We honestly don't know how many placements we will go through until we receive the ones available for adoption.  We don't know how soon the placements will even happen.  That's really up to the committee.   

When we were given the address of where we would be coordinating all our placements and where the children would be coming from, I was shocked.  How many children have looked out that 5th floor and stared right at our apartment?  We see this building a million times a day.  Little did we realize just how close to home it would be and how much it would play a part in our life.   I pray for these children with all my heart.  We hope they will find some comfort here. And for two of them, we hope our place will become their home to stay.

-Alicia





Saturday, May 14, 2016

Clothed, Clothes, and Clothing

What is it about clothing that is so significant with God... and also with the Adversary?  
How is it used to teach us? 
What are some examples of the Lord's way and Satan's way?


It's as old as man on the earth.  When Adam and Eve discovered they were naked in the Garden of Eden,"they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons" (Genesis 3:7)  But interestingly, fig leaves irritate the skin with rashes and blisters (not exactly the kind of clothing I would prefer).
Contrast this with God's approach.  He was merciful to Adam and Eve and unto them "did... make coats of skins, and clothed them." (Genesis 3:21)...What kind of skin? Sheep skin.


In my scripture study this morning, I took note of scriptures that made reference to clothing, clothes or being clothed.  I find it very interesting, especially in these last days, to see  how it is used in these varying contexts.


In the Life of Christ


  • Wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger. (Luke 2:7)
  • When Jesus entered Jerusalem on the colt, the people rejoiced at His coming and "spread their clothes in the way." (Luke 19:36)
  • The Roman soldiers mocked Jesus and "They clothed Him with purple, and plaited a crown of thorns, and put it about His head." (Mark 15:17)
  • After the death of Christ on the cross, the Savior's body was "wrapped in clean linen." (Matt 27:59)
  • When the Savior comes again, those same twelve apostles who were with Him in his ministry will stand on His right hand "being clothed with robes of righteousness". (D&C 29:12)


Identity Crisis


  • "The silks and the scarlets, and the fine-twined linen, and the precious clothing, and the harlots, are the desires of this great and abominable church." (1 Nephi 13:8)
  • "They rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up." (2 Nephi 28:13)
  • Alma rebukes the people and asks, "can ye be puffed up in the pride of your hearts; yea, will ye still persist in the wearing of costly apparel and setting your hearts upon the vain things of the world, upon your riches?" (Alma 5:53)
  • Mormon laments many of the members of the church in the last days "save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel". (Mormon 8:36)


True Beauty as Taught by Prophets


  • To the meek, broken and heavy-hearted, the Lord has promised to clothe with "the garment of praise". (Isaiah 61:3)
  • Peter testifies, "I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel". (Acts 20:33)
  • Peter taught us to "be clothed with humility". (1 Peter 5:5)
  • Paul taught that women are to "adorn themselves in modest apparel, with reverence, sobriety; not with broidered hair, or gold, or peals, or costly array". (1 Timothy 2:9)
  • Paul also taught us to "be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God" (Ephesians 6:10,11)
  • The revelation in D&C 88:125 teaches "Above all things, clothe yourselves with the bond of charity".
  • When Moses stood upon the mount and God showed him great visions, he "beheld the heavens open, and [he] was clothed upon with glory".
  • Joseph F. Smith had a vision of missionary work in the Spirit world where the Lord "organized His forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority". (D&C 138:30)

After studying these things, I asked myself the following questions:

What is there to be learned from these scriptures, especially in today's fad culture? 
How do we apply this in our individual lives?  
What does Godly clothing look like, is it seen with spiritual or physical eyes, or both?  
How much worth do we place on either kind of clothing?  
How do we identify ourselves? 

Is it really truth we are dressed with... or is it actually "wolves in sheep's clothing"?

... Just some things I've been thinking about...

Thursday, May 12, 2016

"To Bless and Sanctify"

Yesterday in my personal studies, I read where the Savior administers the Sacrament to the Nephite people saying, "He that eateth this bread eateth of my body to his soul; and he that drinketh of this wine drinketh of my blood to his soul; and his soul shall never hunger nor thirst, but shall be filled."- (3 Nephi 20:8)

I find it interesting that the Savior's administering of the Sacrament (or sanctifying moment) happened after a purifying moment.  When several disciples expressed through prayer their deep desire for the Spirit, the Savior then offered a prayer in response, "Father, I thank thee that thou hast purified those whom I have, chosen because of their faith..." (3 Nephi 19:28)

To purify and to sanctify something sound almost the same but they are different.

To PURIFY means to remove the contaminants from, to make clean.
To SANCTIFY goes a step beyond that, beyond just being clean... it means to make it holy, acceptable before God.

In the sacrament prayer we hear these words, "We ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread [and this water]." (Moroni 4:3 & 5:2)

Do you ever think of how awesome it is that we can take an earthly element and ask the Lord to make it heavenly (holy and acceptable before Him)?  We ask Him to "bless and sanctify" it.  The brother of Jared took molten rocks before the Lord and prayed for Him to touch them and make them shine, to be acceptable light in their journey across the sea. (Ether 3:1-5)

Thinking of the sacrament... or (sanctifying moment)... what other things have you laid before the Lord and prayed for Him to "bless and sanctify":  Yourself, your mind & heart, your marriage, your family, your efforts in your calling, your friendships, your relationships... what else?

I believe when we do this, He will faithfully honor the request, for the Savior explained, "What man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?  If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?" (Matthew 7:9-11)

Whatever we lay before our Father in Heaven, when we ask Him to "bless and sanctify" it, we might ask these questions:

What will this sanctification look like in our lives?
What changes may occur because of it?
How long will the process be?
Will it be joyful or painful... or a mixture of both?
How will it stretch us?
What perspective will we keep as the Lord answers this request?

These insights are helpful to me.  I have prayed with all my heart for certain things to be "blessed and sanctified"... yet, I haven't always been ready for exactly "how" the Lord would do that.
Ultimately, I believe we have to keep the faith, that whatever we lay before before Him, it will be handled with the greatest care...  and He will work wonders with it!

-Alicia

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

A Preparatory Temple

I had the opportunity of attending both the 9:00 and the 3:00 dedication services of the Provo City Center Temple in March.  I took a notebook with me to write down my thoughts and impressions from all who spoke.

The talk that struck me the most during the 9:00 session was Elder Oaks.  He began his address referring to another Temple in our church history that had risen from the ashes, the Nauvoo Temple.  He spoke of it as being a preparatory temple for those pioneer saints to face the difficult journey ahead of them.  It had just been completed when the persecution against the Church grew so intense that they were forced to leave their beautiful Nauvoo.

In his talk Elder Oaks likened the Provo City Center to the Nauvoo Temple saying that it would also be a preparatory temple for the struggles we would face in these last days.  In order to press through the hardships and trials of our day, he encouraged us to re-dedicate our lives to the building of Zion.  He testified of the ability to access heavenly power by doing temple work for our ancestors and also learning their stories.

Along this principle of building up the kingdom of God and establishing Zion in such a contentious day and age, Elder Oaks quoted from Abraham Lincoln's first inaugural address, "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." (I especially loved that Elder Oaks quoted this because it was something I had just written about 2-and-a-half weeks prior to the dedication.)

He emphasized that this "union" would be bound by the "mystic chords of memory" the stories of our loved ones, our ancestors, those in our family who have passed away.  He promised that as we learn and share their stories of faith, their personal testimonies, their struggles, and their triumphs, we will be "touched... by the better angels of our nature."  This very simple act of turning and connecting to the faith our forefathers and foremothers will not only soften our hearts and help us connect, instill unity, and increase our affection for one another in our family... but also in our community.

This past year, I have studied the life and stories of my 3rd great grandfather, William Wall (on my dad's side) and my great aunt Sylvia (on my mom's side).  Their stories of faith have astonished me.  I had no idea the kinds of things they had to persevere and press through.  They were every bit as brave and valiant as the prophets of old.  A great spirit of reverence and respect has instilled upon my heart for these ancestors of mine.  Even more wonderful, is that through reading their records I have felt their presence very clearly in my life...
I have felt the presence of angels... Something I think we are ALL going to need... for what lies ahead. (2 Kings 6:16)

-Alicia

Monday, May 9, 2016

"Understand and Prepare" - Ponderize - Week 32

I've had some unbelievable experiences these past two years that are too sacred to share and too hard to explain, so I won't even attempt to.  Everything has felt so condensed, so concentrated, so rapid.... So much has happened in such a short period of time...
I have felt like the "windows of heaven" have been opened as a flood, pulling me in like a riptide that's washing me out to sea...
It has been so overwhelming that I just haven't had "room enough to receive it".

Being overwhelmed like this, from experiencing things of a spiritual nature, so powerfully, so consistently, so frequent, in such a short amount of time, sounds like a pleasant and comfortable thing right?  I mean, saying  you've had the "windows of heaven" opened to you, one would think that all of this has been a joyful experience... it has... but...
Let me tell you, some of it has been excruciatingly painful and terribly, terribly lonely...
The only ones who have known my whole complete story through it all, who know me so well, has been the Lord and my husband.
Yesterday, I was weighed down with this loneliness.  And I wondered if that's what Paul meant by "weight of glory"... to have miraculous things happen and not be able to really share them because of the sacredness of it... or the unbelief of others...
It is very, very heavy.

My husband gave me a beautiful priesthood blessing late last night and then held me tightly in his arms.  I just wept and wept.

This morning in my scripture studies, I was searching for a verse to "ponderize" for the week.  I've just finished reading about the Savior's visit to the Nephites where He pretty much teaches them the same thing He taught the people of Jerusalem in Matthew 5 - 7.  Can you imagine what a spiritual experience that must have been to have Christ, Himself, teach and bless you face to face??  I'm sure it was beautiful, miraculous, powerful, and very, very overwhelming.  Would that have been like "the windows of heaven" being opened without "room enough to receive it"?

I wonder how many people believed them when they went back to tell their friends about their experience... how many thought they were crazy?  Depending on the responses (or lack of response) I imagine those who testified felt joy one moment and extreme pain the next.
But regardless of who believes... you know that there's more... that the story isn't over... there is more yet to be revealed.  You know that someday you'll understand it all.
So you keep moving, you press on in faith, in confidence, and trust that what you've experienced is truly Divine... even if no one believes you... even if people think you're crazy... even if it's a terribly lonely, lonely way to go.
It doesn't matter...  you will be prepared for tomorrow.

"Therefore, go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask 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


Sunday, May 8, 2016

Removed

Yesterday in foster training, we watched this short video that shows what it is often like for a child to be removed from their biological parents and placed in the fostering system.  It was so profound and heart-wrenching for both us.  It only increases our desire to make a steady and loving place for one or two children in our home.

We showed it to our kids tonight for family counsel.  We asked them questions and discussed the possible things that would cause the girl in this film to lash out like she did on occasion.  The children shared some very insightful and compassionate answers.  It was a great discussion.  We plan to pass on as much training as we can for our kids before we become licenced in the next couple months.




"Sometimes someone hurts you so bad, it stops hurting at all... until something makes you feel again.  Then it all comes back, every word, every hurt, every moment.

How could you ever understand where I come from?

Even if you ask, even if you listen, you do not really hear or see or feel... you don't remember my story.  You haven't walked my path.  You haven't seen what I've seen.

My past defines me.  This is who I am. I am unseen, unheard, unwanted... that is what I am... if even I am anything.

It seemed like the same thing that held me up, forced me down.  The world turned upside-down and order disappeared.  Nothing was how it was supposed to be... and a heavy sadness filled my soul.

Deeper and deeper I fell within myself.  And nothing could draw me out.  Trapped in the misery of my life, lost in the sorrow of my soul, unable to see the light, unable to see the dawn... to feel, to hope, to dream.  And I found the darkest days of my life kept coming.  The blackest nights for my soul never stopped.  It seemed like it was always nighttime and nightmares and never morning.

 And maybe you wonder why... but mostly you try not to think about it... and try to get by... and try to survive.

And all the other stuff seems so much like nothing, compared to just wanting the most important things back again;
Like wishing you could see your mama smile again... and hear her sing that one favorite song that always calmed you down when things were all messed up.
Or if you couldn't have her back, at least get to take care of your baby brother, cause you know he needs you... and he's gonna be so scared all alone.  And who's going to hold his hand and whisper it will be alright to him?
And who will whisper it to me?

I know I am helpless, dependent, desperate... but what happens when those you need the most threaten your very existence?
I've heard plenty of promises and they all sound the same... but push hard enough and sooner or later, they all prove to be empty.

The sun comes up every morning... but do you know where?  Each place is somewhere different.
It's hard to find east when you keep moving around, but at least it comes.  It always comes.  I've come to depend on that.

And slowly, slowly seasons changed around me.... and it seemed, this time, that maybe the world would not be pulled out from under me again...
Feet safe, roots starting to grow... little buds of hope forming.... slowly attempting to trust this new life.

I wish someone would tell me it's going to be okay.  That one day, maybe, I'll feel normal... that I won't always be no-one... That I'll have a mommy who will hug me, who will be strong for me... because maybe, I can't do it all by myself...

This my past, my history, my story, is not my fault... it's not because of me and doesn't have to be what defines my future.

I am lovable.
I am worthy of care.
And that glimmer of light... it makes all the difference.  The glimmers of light give me hope... that someday my summer will come."




Saturday, May 7, 2016

Healing From Trauma

We started our 34 hours of in-class training for foster care yesterday.  The instructor shared this video to illustrate how we all become hard-wired in different things.  She showed this to exemplify that what is easy to understand for ourselves is not necessarily easy for others to get.

Have you ever interacted with someone who has driven you absolutely crazy?  Did you walk away asking yourself questions like these?

Why do they communicate that way?
Why do they do it like that?
Why would they ever think that behavior is appropriate?
Why can't they understand?

To us, certain habits, social cues, religious practices, etc. may be as simple as "riding a bike"... but... to someone else who has experienced a different life growing up, especially one who has experienced something traumatic, it's a whole other ball game.

This video about the backwards bike was profound for me.  My mind was totally blown (you could see it on my face as I watched it for the first time).  It was a huge aha moment for me as the instructor related it to trying to understand our different worlds... especially the world of a trauma victim. Also, what it might be like for these children to understand my "simple solutions."

That's what all foster children have in common: Trauma.  She said trauma actually lives in their body even when it seems as if they are calm or conversing normal, their body has become accustomed to living at a heightened stress level and they could snap at any given moment.

She also showed this scene from "How to Train Your Dragon" (befriending a foe) to illustrate Dr. Bruce Perry's four P's for working with a child who has experienced trauma:

1. Be Present
2. Be Parallel
3. Be Predictable
4. Patient

This was my other aha moment.  I realized (knowing my own personality) that if I had been in Hiccup's situation with this dragon, I would have tried to be instant friends, jump right on the back of the beast, and fly happily away.
But it's not that simple.

It takes being present (let them know you're there but don't push your way in),
Being parallel (stepping into their world or trying to ride their "backwards bike"),
Being predictable (live consistently what you preach),
And be patient (let them come to you, on their own time, in their own way).

My husband and I are excited to learn these principles.  Doing foster care in order to adopt will be one of the best ways to teach us these four P's first hand.  We want to help the children placed with us to heal. to bring hope into their lives. We know it will be extremely difficult.  We will fall down.  We will get hurt.  We will have to make some serious adjustments and it may take us several months, maybe even years to feel like we've found our balance, but we can learn to ride a bike... even if it's backwards.

-Alicia

(Part 1 of 2 - Audio Book )
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

(Part 2 of 2 - Audio Book )
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma



Friday, May 6, 2016

Broken Things

At the time of Christ's crucifixion, the earth was broken in pieces.  "The rocks were rent in twain; they were broken up upon the face of the whole earth, insomuch that they were found in broken fragments, and in seams and in cracks, upon all the face of the land." (3 Nephi 8:18)
Was this a symbol of the Savior's broken body on the cross?
Was it a symbol of how we too must be broken?

The hearts of the people during that period had become so hardened from their wickedness that "Many great destructions [had the Lord] caused to come upon [the] land" (3 Nephi 9:12)
I believe it was an act of mercy.

In the darkness, the voice of Christ spoke to the people of Nephi calling for them to offer a "broken heart and a contrite spirit." (3 Nephi 9:20)

Why must our hearts be broken?
This morning, as I read these passages in 3 Nephi, I asked myself this question.  I remembered the words to a song I heard years ago by, Kenneth Cope:

Broken
(Words by Kenneth Cope; Music by Kenneth & Eliza Cope)
—inspired by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

Broken clouds give rain
Broken soil grows grain
Broken bread feeds man for one more day
Broken storms yield light
The break of day heals night
Broken pride turns blindness into sight
Broken souls that need His mending
Broken hearts for offering
Could it be that God loves broken things
Broken chains set free
Broken swords bring peace
Broken walls make friends of you and me
To break the ranks of sin
To break the news of Him
To put on Christ till His name feels broken in
Broken souls that need His mending
Broken hearts for offering
I believe that God loves broken things
And yet, our broken faith, our broken promises
Sent love to the cross
And still, that broken flesh, that broken heart of His
Offers us such grace and mercy
Covers us with love undeserving
This broken soul that cries for mending
This broken heart for offering
I’m convinced that God loves broken me
Praise His name—my God loves broken things
So, broken cloud—Give rain
And broken soil—Grow grain
And broken bread—Feed man for one more day
© 2004 Merge Right Music (BMI)

It all makes sense... this need we have to be broken.  It's beautiful!
And so, I rejoice that I can find hope in the midst of hurt.  There is purpose in the breaking... it's all part of "the making."

-Alicia

Thursday, May 5, 2016

05-05-05 Throwback Thursday

My son, Micah, turned 11 today!  He was most excited to make his own cake all by himself.  
Isn't it beautiful!  It's very apocalyptic.  
(If you can't tell, that's an A-bomb with bloody soldiers and debris scattered everywhere.) 

 I searched..... and there are no survivors.

It's amazing how fast 11 years go by.  Oh, how I love this boy!

Micah had his best friend, Lex, spend the day with him.


"When you reach for the stars
Don’t forget who you are
And please don’t turn around and grow up way too fast
See the sand in my grasp
From the first to the last
Every grain becomes a memory of the past
Oh, life’s an hourglass"
- Mindy Gledhill


Chandler and Miriam meet Micah for the first time.

Not so long ago...  Freedom Festival 2006

Cutest guilty face ever!

This is probably my ultimate favorite picture of Micah.  
At age two, he always called trains "ho ho's". 
 I love his little hand on his hip as he points to the sound of the train behind him.

My face is red in this photo from trying not to laugh. 
 It's been so long, I don't remember what he said in his prayer, but it was so dang cute.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MICAH!
I love you to the moon and back.
XOXO