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The Purest Love

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

Saturday, July 30, 2016

No Matter Where We Go

Chandler hasn't said a lot about this move.  He spends most of his time with headphones on listening to his music.  I catch a glimpse of myself as I've observed over the years how he takes such a deep interest in finding the right song for every occasion.  I can't help but think it's a "love language" for him too.

Recently, he's been playing this one by Andy Grammer.  The lyrics sing, "No matter where we go, we'll always find our way back home."  It's caught on with all the kids and has become the most requested since Chandler discovered it two weeks ago.  That line from the song is stuck in our heads now and it's absolutely perfect for the occasion!

Chandler doesn't express it but he's aching with the thought of having to leave this neighborhood, I know he is.  We all are. But we find comfort in knowing that nothing needs to stop us from our  desire to stay.  We can find ways... and make ways to return.  We have family here, brothers and sisters we love so very much!!

Thank you, Chandler, for the music! It speaks right to my heart.

"We won't forget where we came from
The city won't change us
We beat to the same drum...
No matter where we go, we always find our way back home."


Thursday, July 28, 2016

In the Lord's Timing

We've been seriously looking at at a home to buy.  And we had one that we made an offer on but not an official offer.  We just texted the seller the other night and asked if he would consider our price and he agreed.  He sent us the paperwork for the official offer tonight with a promise that we would love the home and that he's excited to have us move there.

But we couldn't sign it.

This morning and all day we have felt frustration and confusion about buying this home even though it seems to fit just fine for what we need.  We could even move into it in a couple of weeks if we wanted.  Everything is ready... but something isn't settling with us.  We keep feeling like we need to wait. It's been hard because we don't want to look back with regret and realize we passed up a great home.  It has also been hard to discern between "a stupor of thought" or just our own desires to stall and hang on to what we have here.

Last week, when we were considering a different home and things fell through, Joseph picked up the Ensign wondering what direction it might have for us.  He came across an article entitled, "According to the Will and Timing of the Lord"  by, Elder Bednar.  It was so applicable for our situation!  This principle has returned to both our minds several times over this process,  "It's not ready yet.  Not yet."  The question is: Do we have the courage to trust this?  Do we trust that there is something better out there?

We can look more.  We can take our time.  The Lord softened our Landlady's heart to allow us month-to-month.  Maybe it's meant for us to take advantage of that?

We knelt and prayed tonight and presented our decision to the Lord to pass on this home and to wait a little longer.  As we did so, we both felt the tension leave us and peace return.  Joseph emailed the seller to inform him that we won't be signing the offer.  This wasn't easy to make but we feel good with it.

Tomorrow we are going to the Temple together to seek more guidance and inspiration.  We pray with all our hearts that we might be in tune enough to recognize where exactly we need to be.

"Strong faith in the Savior is submissively accepting of His will and timing in our lives—
even if the outcome is not what we hoped for or wanted." 
- Elder David A. Bednar


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A Day in the Life

I spent most of yesterday just boxing and organizing the kids rooms.  It has felt really good to finally go through things and sort out what we can get rid of.  I've secretly wanted to have a good strong purge of all our stuff before our foster kids were placed with us and this forced-move has been a wish granted in that way.

We looked at a house last night that we made an offer on.  It's not "far away in the west".  It's actually east... about nine blocks east and five blocks south.  But when you're a Mormon living in Utah that means a completely new Ward and Stake.  I actually think it could be in the Ward my dear friend, Lou Crandall, attends.  He said he has been so worried about me since he heard the news and has been praying for me every day, praying that we can stay close.   It's his 87th birthday today.  I wish he were doing well.  His health has been fading this past week and he is very sick.  He's been in and out of the hospital.  I called to send him birthday wishes.  He could barely talk...   I certainly hope he pulls through.

Today has been good so far.  My younger brother called and we talked for a while.  I love it when Kenneth calls.  He's such a good guy.  He and his wife will be having their second child soon, Lily will finally have a little brother.  Kenneth told me all about the housing market in Texas and tried to convince me to move down there.  It would be so nice to be close to him. Chances are that will never happen though... but I'm so glad he and I can spend hours talking on the phone catching up with each other.

My best friend, Suzanne, took me out to lunch this afternoon.  She said when she found out that we were having to move it seemed as if her heart dropped like a lead ball into her stomach.  I said I felt the same way.  We talked for some time about what a great area this is.  The people here are our family, we have made strong bonds and deep attachments with them! Of course talking about how much we both love this place caused the tears to well up in my eyes again and I had to use all my Zupa napkins like Kleenexes.  Maybe the people around me didn't notice or maybe they just thought, "Dang! That must be some spicy peanut sauce!"

Joseph and Micah made me a balloon chandelier today that is quite hilarious to look at. Even when they were making it, I could hear them giggling about how it was turning out. I can't decide which I enjoyed more, eavesdropping on their surprise or the actual surprise.  It adds a nice circus atmosphere to the maze of boxes in our chaotic fun house.

My friend, Vanessa, sent me a text today.  I called her back and caught her during her lunch break. It's been about a year since we talked over the phone.   I discovered that everything she holds dear in her life is completely falling apart. She cried and cried and my heart broke for her.  She apologized for speaking so much about herself.  I reassured her that she needed to.  She needed to confide in someone and I was glad to be a sounding board.  It made me appreciate how easy my life is.  At that moment, I wished I could move to Leeds, Utah just to wrap my arms around her.  We decided that as soon as I am able, I'm going to take her for a nice beach vacation in Monterrey .

Tonight, Joseph and I rode the motorcycle and went out to eat, just the two of us.  Does anyone else get bugged by restaurants that have 20 T.V. screens going at once?  What does that say about our society's screen addiction?  I feel like people don't know how to talk face-to-face anymore.  Still, we were able to tune out the media madness for the most part and have some great conversation.

Speaking of media though... there is a time and a place for it.  I must admit that we both really love a good show.  When we returned home from our dinner date, Joseph asked if I had any movie requests.  "Well, I can think of one that never grows old to me. Plus, it's perfect as we get ready for the next adventure of our lives and step out into the unknown."
He agreed.

Watching Mitty, for me, was the perfect ending for the day. I'm forever grateful for the lives that have touched mine.  Especially those whose influence inspires me so much more than they know.

"To see the world, things dangerous to come, 
to see behind walls, draw closer, 
to find each other, and to feel. 
That is the purpose of life.” 

-Alicia ;)

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Beyond the Veil

My dad was named after his father.  Dad was the oldest of 10 children.  His mother died of breast cancer when he was still a kid, long before I was ever born. But I always felt like I knew his mother because my dad always talked about her.  He loved her so much!

His mother was a convert to the church.  She was a petite little brunette, 5ft 2 and never weighed more than 100 pounds. Even though she was very small, she had a giant soul.  She served in the army, that's where she and my grandpa met.  He instantly fell in love with her small figure and feisty southern personality.  One day he saw her passing by the army barracks and whistled at her.  She turned around with a wink in her eye and flirted, "Well, if you can't howl, don't even bother to whistle!" My grandpa was instantly smitten.  He loved to tell that story.

When my dad was one year old, he was sealed to his parents in the Temple. He actually has some memory of that special day as crazy as that might seem for a one-yr-old to remember, but he does.  Anyway, I loved the stories my dad would tell me about his mom.  It was my way of "getting to know her."  

One day, the day before Memorial Day, when my daughter was two years old, I was doing my hair getting ready for church.  I could hear Miriam's cute little voice chattering to herself as she playfully took toothbrushes and pretended they were people.  I stopped for a moment to peak around the corner to observe her playing.  I stood there for a while just soaking in how adorable she was and how much I loved her.  Then I went back to getting ready for church and tuned into KSL radio to a listen to a Church broadcast in honor of the Memorial Day weekend.  

I started to think about Memorial Day and remembered how dad always used to take us to his mother's grave every single year as a family.  I thought of how long it had been since I had returned.  I must have stopped going after I got married.  "I should go visit her grave tomorrow", the thought popped into my head... but then I started to rationalize
"I'm too busy tomorrow."
"It's just a grave site, her spirit's not there anyway."
"Besides, why would she care if I visit, she doesn't even know me."
Then I heard a voice speak to my mind and heart, "Oh, I know you!  I know you more than you know your little girl in the other room.  I know you very, very well."  It was then that I caught a vision of a mother's love that extends through generations.  I looked again at Miriam who was playing and thought, "That's right.  It wouldn't matter if it was her child or her children's children.  She's my girl... I'm fully invested in her and all her posterity forever and ever and nothing would or could change that... not even death."  

The radio continued to play in the background and then I heard the man giving the sermon quote from Malachi and the verse about the Spirit of Elijah, "He shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers."  And I was reminded of my patriarchal blessing where it said, "Their hearts are already turned to you, Alicia.  And when yours is sufficiently turned to them, you will have this glorious experience and be a Savior on Mt. Zion."  Tears began streaming down my face and I felt the presence of my grandmother so strong as if she were there wrapping her arms around me.  

I went to her grave the next day and knelt down as I placed the flowers.  I said a prayer and asked for forgiveness for not realizing before how very aware she was of me and for not turning my heart to her sooner.  Since then, I have slowly picked away at family search and discovered that out of all my family lines, her's seemed to have the most work waiting to be done.  Most of the names I have taken to the Temple have been through her tree.  It has been a wonderful experience.

I believe in angels.  I believe heaven is closer than we realize.

Joseph F. Smith Taught,
“I believe we move and have our being in the presence of heavenly messengers and of heavenly beings. We are not separate from them. … We are closely related to our kindred, to our ancestors … who have preceded us into the spirit world. We can not forget them; we do not cease to love them; we always hold them in our hearts, in memory, and thus we are associated and united to them by ties that we can not break. … If this is the case with us in our finite condition, surrounded by our mortal weaknesses, … how much more certain it is … to believe that those who have been faithful, who have gone beyond … can see us better than we can see them; that they know us better than we know them. … We live in their presence, they see us, they are solicitous for our welfare, they love us now more than ever. For now they see the dangers that beset us; … their love for us and their desire for our well being must be greater than that which we feel for ourselves."

John Taylor also testified,
"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"  

I pray we will have eyes to see beyond the veil of this life, I know it will happen when we turn our hearts to those who have gone before us, who love us so deeply.  As we do all we can to make the blessings of the Temple available to them, we will feel their presence more closely in our lives and have their protection.


Monday, July 25, 2016

"Which God for us prepared..." Ponderize - Week 43

We sang "Come Come, Ye Saints" yesterday for our closing hymn in Sacrament meeting.  I couldn't hold back the tears as I sung the words, especially this part.  It felt so personal to our family situation.

We'll find the place which God for us prepared,
Far away in the West,
Where none shall come to hurt or make afraid;
There [your children] will be blessed.

This verse really struck Joseph too and we talked about it later.  We have both felt that the Lord is preparing a very specific place for our family, a place where our children and our foster children can thrive and feel free to be who they are.... And a place that will open our options to what children we are able to take in.  Currently in this apartment, we could only take in one boy and or one girl.  But if we found a home with four large enough rooms, it would open the options for us to take in two boys, or maybe two girls, or one of each.  It even opens the option of a possible third foster kid. We're expanding our search to Springville and Orem.

Could the place which He has prepared for us also be "far away in the west"? Today, I found a lovely little four bedroom home on the far west side of Provo that seems to have everything we are looking for.  It's not in the "beautiful place" I love so much... Oh, how I wish it was.  But just the same, the early saints had to leave their Nauvoo which means "Beautiful Place." 

Wherever we end up, I know it will be exactly where we need to be. Yet, I will never forget all I have come to love so much here. This place will always feel like home to me.  It's forever in my mind and memory, never to be forgotten - It is far too important.

I will come back to my little skating place too on occasion, maybe some late evening when I need a moment to myself to unwind.  And just like I've done since I was a kid, I'll have my wheels, my skates, my board, and my headphones; everything I need to bring back my mojo.

We really don't know where we are going yet but we know Who is taking us there.  I've got a feeling that the biggest part of the adventure is yet to be!

"And if I [the Lord] go and prepare a place for you,
 I will come again, and receive you unto myself; 
that where I am, there ye may be also.
And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know."
- John 14:3

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Persecution, Deliverance, Faith, and LOVE

 My friend, who is also our Realtor, texted me Friday morning and asked for our Landlady's phone number. Her text read, "Alicia, I was thinking... what if I called your Landlady and tried to convince her to allow you month-to-month rent so you have more time to search for a home."
I texted her back both of our Landlady's numbers and gratefully replied, "This should be fabulously interesting.  I'm not sure how it's going to work but it's worth a shot. Thank you!"
"Ok, I'll call her right now and I let you know how it goes." she replied.
 My Realtor called me back about 20 minutes later and it was just as I feared.  She sounded very disappointed and explained, "Oh Alicia, I'm so sorry.  I really thought I could persuade her.  Instead, she was extremely offended by my phone call.  She cut me off, became very agitated, and wouldn't let me talk.  I'm so sorry.  It didn't go well at all."
It wasn't much of a surprise to me though. Either way , I was so grateful for her valiant effort.

Later that day, we packed up our van to drive up the canyon and spend the evening at our ward family camp out.  It was so good to get away from all the boxes in my home that serve as constant reminders of our exodus.

The campsite was beautiful and the atmosphere invigorating.  We visited with our dear friends and had conversations while roasting marshmallows around the campfire.  We gazed at the stars, ate great food, listened to stories of courage and faith, and enjoyed a super corny skit... and I mean SUPER corny! Everything was so much fun.

But of course... my two most favorite things of the night was the dancing and singing:

The Dancing:
Our counselor to our bishop hooked up some music and taught all of us the Virginia Reel.  It was a riot!  I think the reason I loved it so much was because everyone was involved, it felt wonderfully unifying dancing as a whole team.

And Singing:
A couple of guys brought their guitars and I was so glad they did because sitting around a campfire while singing to the strum of a guitar is one of those things in life that absolutely sets my spirit soaring!!  (And after all that my family's been going through, I really needed something to lift my soul.) Shout out to Space Oddity, it was perfect, absolutely perfect!

That night, after all was silent through the camp and everyone was asleep, I laid awake for what felt like hours reflecting on the wonderful evening we all had and the beautiful memory we just made with the dear friends who I've come to love so very much.  Every time I thought of our forced move, a sting of pain would shoot my heart.  My whole soul, spirit, mind, and body wants to stay with this ward!  I quickly attempted to push the thoughts about leaving aside. I didn't want to travel back down the mountain in the morning, back to the boxes and the packing.

I remembered how my Realtor tried to plead our cause and how nothing she said to our Landlady seemed to penetrate her heart.  As I wondered about our situation and how we were going to manage living out of a trailer for a while I had the thought, "Alicia, have hope. You can't see and you don't know what is working on your Landlady's heart at this very moment.  Maybe what your Realtor said to her really did settle in."  I prayed that it did.  I prayed that she was being softened and that when we arrived back home the next day, there would be some form of deliverance or good news waiting for us.

The next morning, I woke early and helped get the fire started.  We had a wonderful breakfast, visited a little longer, and played a few games before everyone started taking down their tents and hauling off.  I didn't want to leave.  Oh, how I wished it could have been for two nights... or three... or four.

We drove home.  I had such a great time with our ward family that I had almost forgotten about my prayer for deliverance until...  there it was when we pulled into the complex, it was taped to our door: a notice from our Landlady granting us ability to rent month-to-month until we are under contract with a home to buy.  It was a miracle, a tender mercy!  Now we don't need to feel so rushed.  We can take our time and really search.  It gives me more confidence that we will find the right place for us and our growing family.  I am blessed.


Friday, July 22, 2016

In Our Wilderness

23 more days until our last one living here and we have to be out.  We still don't know where we're moving to.  We looked at a home that is very close in our neighborhood and were excited for all the possibilities.  It had 5 bedrooms + a two bedroom mother-in-law apartment we could rent out to help with our mortgage payments.

Joseph and I went to the temple early morning yesterday before we made an offer and both felt very strongly that we needed to contact a couple of people.  We called our two friends and they both spent over a couple hours with us at the house.  My friend, Shelley, is going to be our agent and she made a lot of phone calls to the city while we were touring the place for the second and third time.  She discovered that the mother-in-law apartment the people had there is totally illegal and that the whole thing has been in open investigation for some time... Instead of it being an asset it would have been a huge liability.  Our friend, Ben, who is very experienced with home building, was able to show us other warning signs our untrained eyes couldn't see before.  It really was a blessing and we know the Lord was looking out for us by giving us inspiration to call these two.

It looks like we might have to live out of a storage unit for a while.  My friend, Shelley, graciously offered her RV and we may just take her up on that.  Who knows... turn this into a little "vacation".  It will be an adventure for sure!!

 I'm so thankful for the comforting words of the scriptures as we journey into "our wilderness". My husband's best friend keeps telling our family that he really feels God will "part the Red Sea" for us. Even though, we don't know where "our promised land" will be. The Israelites wandered for 40 years. I can be grateful in knowing it won't take us that long to "find the place which God for us prepared". Like Moses and Lehi in the wilderness; I truly believe in miracles and marvelous manifestations of God. I know without a shadow of doubt that His hand is in the very details of our lives and as we seek Him, He will lead us right. I know it!

"Never be weary of good works... be meek and lowly in heart; for such shall find rest to their souls... Learn wisdom... Keep the Commandments... Cry unto God for all thy support; yea, let all thy doings be unto the Lord, and withersoever thou goest let it be in the Lord... Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and He will direct thee for good... Let thy heart be full of thanks unto God. And behold, [the Liahona] was prepared to show unto our fathers the course which they should travel in the wilderness. And it did work for them according to their faith in God; therefore, if they had faith to believe that God could cause that those spindles should point the way they should go behold, it was done; therefore they had this miracle, and many other miracles wrought by the power of God, day by day." - Alma 37:34-40

"We were moving mountains long before we knew we could... 
There can be miracles when you believe."

Monday, July 18, 2016

"In the Hands of God" - Ponderize - Week 42

 "He is before all things, 
and in him all things hold together." 
- Colossians 1:17

Hold Me Together
by, Royal Tailor

Hello Mercy,
I have been searching for you lately
I've been wounded and from what I hear
You have remedy

They told me You would be for me
So now I need to know
Is this a love that can save me
Or say You will then don't
Will You stay with me when nobody is around
If this is real, then tell now

Can you hold me together
Can your love reach down this far
Can you hold me together
Cause without You holding my heart
I'm falling apart
Falling apart

Saying so long, been lost, been gone
Not sure what to pray
It's not easy but I know You see me
When I lose my way

I keep on floating not knowing
If there is more for me
Don't want to sink beneath waves of negativity

I'm going under,
I'm afraid that I might drown
If this is real,
I need you now

I'm feeling stronger
With you by my side
And I realize You are my hope
I need to know

Can you hold me together
Can your love reach down this far
Can you hold me together
'Cause without You holding my heart
I'm falling apart, 

Not letting go!

I can't sleep. Normally, sleep is never an issue for me.  I must be having such a hard time with this move.  I so desperately do not want to leave this place that I love so very, very much!

We've decided that we don't want to rent anymore, we just want our own home.  If we do rent again, it could only be for a very short time, a month-to-month, because we are anxious to have a permanent place for our foster children.  Any kind of move would mean they would be absorbed back into the hands of others in the foster community until we had a home that has been officially evaluated and meets State regulations for being foster ready. (A process which can take several weeks maybe months.) We've decided that foster care will have to be on hold until we find a permanent place to avoid any additional disruption in these children's lives.  But foster kids or not, it's just a massive hassle to move from here to a temporary location, only to move again.

My husband and I have lived five other places since we were first married... it's been so nice to stay here as long as we have.  If it weren't for the struggles we've had with our landlady, we could live here forever.

Saturday evening we spent a lot of time searching online for homes, condos, or town-homes (anything a little larger than what we have here).  We won't give up the search but it seems that nothing large enough for our family is under $200K in our ward. We had a special fast as a family yesterday, even our friends, the Wilsons, fasted together for us. My friend, Carol, called me and advised me to stay close to the Spirit and to not narrow my options to just this ward or Stake but to seek first where the Lord would have us be.  She is a wise woman and I'm so glad for the day I miraculously met her.  We will have no problems staying in close touch.

Yesterday in church, we had so many friends offer to help us and I kept feeling this mixture of gratitude, joy, pain, sorrow, and loss.  One moment I'd be smiling and the next I'd have tears streaming down my face.

I want to do all I can to stay connected to this place I call home.  The visits may be fewer and farther between but I could never leave this beautiful place completely: No, not after what I've experienced and not after the dreams I've had.   To disconnect completely would be too much for my soul to bear.  This will be tough no matter what but I can see myself dancing my way through it. ;) I pray there will be lots of dances.  This place I call home has changed my life, my whole world, everything!!  It cannot be forgotten.  It has "awakened me out of a deep sleep".  It helped me remember my mission, my dreams, and all I want to become.  I am forever grateful!

I will continue on with BYU: I will not let go and I'll continue to reach for my dream that I've had for so many years of being an inspiring writer and speaker.  Down the road, I can envision myself taking my words and using them as a tool to be a powerful advocate, a voice for the importance of the family, especially for children, for foster children, and defender of the sanctity of life.  I am confident that my experiences in the future with both formal education and fostering will help to make my voice heard loud and clear in the courthouses, in the schools, and in the communities.  There are many good things to come.
Just watch and see....
I'm gonna Carpe this Diem!!!

-Alicia :)


Saturday, July 16, 2016

At Peace

"Patience is being at peace with the process of life."

In just the past few days, my email has been overloaded with over 20 messages about training sessions, support groups, and family events within the foster care community.  It's exciting for me to see how much these groups rally around each other. I've got a feeling I'm gonna like being in the midst of it all.  It's very humbling to be able to rub shoulders with some extremely incredible people.  I feel like they all have so much to teach me.   One of the directors (who has 2 bio children and 15 adopted)  had this quote attached to his email that I really liked.  It's such a simple yet profound statement: "Patience is being at peace with the process of life."

I think I need this now more than ever.  We just got an eviction notice from our landlady.  She didn't give a reason for wanting us to leave just told us we have 30 days to do so.  She's a very difficult woman to work with.  We're not the first with this complaint... all the tenants who have moved out of here in the last couple of years have had some serious struggles with her.  She was fine with us for all these years because we never complained or asked for anything. In fact, while living here, I took care of most of the repairs and only asked that the cost of the part or fixture be taken from the rent.

But when we started going the way of foster care, there were several things we needed to have fixed up before we had our home study.  With a home study our place has to be approved by the State and meet certain requirements.  So, I called our landlady in and addressed a few issues.  I actually felt like our communication that day went well.  She toured the apartment with me and agreed that there were several neglected areas that fell under her responsibility. But then she said something on the way out the door that was a red flag; She said, "I don't like the idea of you bringing more children into this place one bit.  I'm going to have to think about this."  I explained to her that legally we fit just fine.  It didn't matter.  The truth is, she just doesn't like children in general: toys on the grass, the mud Miriam loves to play in, bikes and skateboards that fill the racks.  The concrete stairs outside had been eroding from weather and corrosion from salt and she told Joseph on the phone that she was certain our children had been chipping away at them.  She wants to rent the whole place out to newly married or college students because she won't have children to deal with.  Her obsession with order and having everything fit perfectly into her plans has made her so extremely uptight that I wonder how she ever survived having 7 children!!  I feel very sorry for her.  I can't imagine what she would have done if she had ever stumbled across one of our skate parties.  I think she would have had a heart-attack right there.

A few years ago, our neighbor tried planting some tomatoes in a weed-covered area.  Our neighbor fixed the soil real nice and made a beautiful patch of garden.  Our landlady came in, ripped it up and poured an ugly slab of concrete over it.  This year when my husband and I found a weedy area and did the same, planting mint leaves and tomatoes, she said to us, "I don't think your garden is going to work out for you because I just put year-round weed and plant killer in that soil so nothing can grow there."  We said we'd take our chances.  Of course, she didn't like that at all.

Speaking of gardens...
What was that word I needed to remember again??  Oh yeah... Patience!
I really do believe this whole thing is a blessing in disguise.  And surprisingly, it kind-of sprung Joseph OUT of his depression that I posted about yesterday.  He's so happy to be done with this landlady.  He's been wanting to move but couldn't really decide.  Now the decision is set for us and made that part easier for him.  For this, I am very grateful.

Off the fly last night, we threw together a skate party with some of the other tenants and a few old friends.  Joseph came out and celebrated with us.  He hopped on the Ripstik and danced to some music.  I was very, very proud of him!!

We're trying to keep our heads up.  I couldn't sleep last night and I've cried a lot.  There are people here that I just can't bear to leave.  I feel like half of my body is being severed from me!! My heart is aching, it's just completely broken.  Nevertheless, I am at peace.  I really believe this will be a good change.  We will need a bigger place to foster.  In fact both of us think we may end up fostering, perhaps adopting more than two children.  Heck!  We might even end up like our director with 15 more! Ha ha!


Friday, July 15, 2016

Just Keep Swimming!

Lately, Joseph has voiced very openly his desire to move to a new place.  Ever since our landlord passed away and his wife took on the responsibility of the apartments, things just haven't been the same.  Her husband was so sweet, so wonderful at communicating, he loved children and was very easy to work with.  She is the complete and total opposite!

Yesterday, Joseph was on the phone with our landlady trying to iron out our new contract she just put us under.  After an hour of exhausting conversation and nothing being resolved, she finally let him go.  Poor Joseph woke up terribly depressed this morning, the most depressed I've seen in a long time.  My heart goes out to him and I wish so much there was more I could do to ease his burdens.  As a provider, he feels trapped.  He wants to move into a house but he says it could never fit into our budget.  He's already terribly stressed about having to rearrange our budget for our new van and my schooling.  The adversary is working hard on him.  He says he has felt numb toward everything for several weeks now. Each day, after work he's so overwhelmed that all he can do is lay on the bed and sleep for several hours.  I keep thinking of the foster children who will be coming and pray with all my heart that this won't be too much for him.

I really believe we're going to be alright.  The Lord knows we are giving everything we've got. We will be guided to where we need to be and what we need to do.  I'm confident that everything will work out... it always does.  "Just keep swimming!"


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Of Mountains and Molehills - Throwback Thursday

It happened about four summers ago.  I was worn and tired from the whining and complaining I had been hearing all day long from my children.  I made an attempt to turn things around and tried to prepare a nice family dinner that would hopefully put them in a better mood. I did some searching online and made a special trip to the store, going through great lengths to make it the most kid-delicious, kid-friendly, kid-approved meal they had ever had.  Surely this would put a smile on their faces.

Proud of myself, I spread the table and called everyone in.
Three of my children rejoiced at the sight of my culinary creation but Micah stared angrily at his plate and mumbled, "I hate this food!"
"You haven't even tried it!" I sternly responded.
"I don't care.  I hate it!"
"Serious?!" I questioned, after all my efforts. My patience was completely gone and I shouted, "Well, you have to eat at least one bite!"
Stubbornly, Micah refused.
"One bite, Micah, ONE!!" I demanded until he finally complied.
Dramatically, he gagged a fork-full into his mouth, his face still frozen in an angry glare, obviously already decided that it was disgusting and no amount of force would sway him otherwise.  I waited for him to swallow but instead he spit it back on to his plate, spraying smaller pieces across the table.

That was the last straw and I wasn't about to let him win this battle.  The whole family looked on watching to see what I would do.  I raised my fist, pounded it on the table as hard as I could, and yelled, "This is SO STUPID!  It's absolutely ridiculous, Micah!  I can't believe you are making THIS BIG of a deal out of ONE STUUUPID BITE!"
Everyone was stunned and the room was silent, except for Micah who began to cry uncontrollably.
I could see the disapproval on my husband's face which made me even more mad because I wanted someone to justify my immature behavior (you know give me back-up).  Besides, it wasn't like he hadn't ever lost his cool before, I grumbled in rationalization.
I was so angry but also terribly embarrassed.  I knew I behaved poorly.  I grabbed my car keys and left the house in an effort to let off steam.

I drove to a nearby trail-head and began hiking at full force to get every angry feeling out of me, never pausing, never stopping, just stomping my way up the mountain to the painted Y.

I huffed along determining that I would never again lose my temper like that.  The scenario played back in my mind and the look on everyone's faces haunted me.  I scolded myself, "You were the one being stubborn, Alicia....  You were the one making such a big deal out of something so insignificant.... And you want to know what was stupid?? Your behavior was stupid!..."

I arrived at the top of the Y and found a place to sit.  I folded my knees up to my chest and wrapped my arms around my legs.  Taking a large deep breath and then exhaling slowly, I surveyed the beautiful panorama of Provo,  I sat there for quite sometime on that mountain relieved to be away but disappointed in myself for the behavior that led me there.  I searched for the roof of my apartment in the tiny scale of buildings below.  Pinpointing it, I squinted and marveled how small everything looked.  It caused me to recall a quote I had stashed away years ago by Confucius, "Men do not stumble over mountains, but over molehills." I thought to myself, "Boy, did I ever stumble!"  How foolish I had been to make such a big deal out of something so small.   Tears rolled down my face as I prayed for forgiveness.  I pleaded for the kind of patience and humility that would prevent me from ever doing anything like that again.

A calmness covered me, the stillness refreshed my soul, and I felt grateful for such a loving Father in Heaven.  The next step was to make things right and do some serious apologizing.  The sun began to set beyond the horizon and the city lights glittered brighter.  I began my descent back home continuing to ponder on the changes I needed to make as a mother and anxious to tell Micah how terribly sorry I was.

When I walked through the door of the apartment, I discovered that he was already asleep.  Quietly, I stepped into his room and knelt down by his bed.  I could tell by the shutter in his breathing that he had cried himself to sleep.  Such a realization pierced my heart with sorrow.  I whispered another prayer, asking for Micah's forgiveness.

A new day came and Micah woke up as his bubbly-happy-self.  It was as if nothing ever happened.  He greeted me with a hug and a kiss and grabbed his breakfast.  "Hey, bud..."  I said, as he shoveled cereal into his mouth.  "I'm really sorry for the way I behaved last night.  I was the one who was making a big deal out of something so small.  I was the one who was behaving stupid.  I'm really, really sorry.  I will never lose my temper like that again.  Will you forgive me?"
"It's okay," he said reassuringly as he continued to hum with each spoonful.
I was completely inspired by his ability to so easily let go of what I had done. I felt thankful for a brand-new day...
a new day to put my words into practice,
a new day to get up and try again,
a new day to exercise my faith and call upon the Lord for strength,
a new day to put one foot in front of the other and focus on what really matters.

In my journey, this is the mountain worth climbing.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

This Place

I have two foster children staying with me today and tomorrow as part of respite care.  Also, this afternoon I have a placement officer coming to visit my home in order to get a feel for the environment here and to help her make a decision of who will be placed with us.  We could have our own foster kids by the end of this week or next.  I cannot adequately describe how it feels to be taking on these responsibilities at this place and time ... the only thing that really comes to mind is that this is a very sacred work.  I feel honored and blessed to be a part of this rescue effort even if it requires more sacrifice, more energy, more time, more patience, and more love than I can ever possibly find within me.  It will stretch me and teach me and I'm anxious to learn.  There is nothing too hard for the Lord and with Him, I can do all that He requires of me.  I know this.


Monday, July 11, 2016

"Today and Tomorrow"- Ponderize - Week 41

Kaylee turns eight today.  However old she is marks how long we've lived here.  I had her two weeks after moving into this wonderful little apartment.  Last night, she couldn't fall asleep because she was so excited to celebrate her special day.  I laid in bed with her and scratched her back for a few minutes.  Every time she saw daddy pass by in the hall she'd call out "Good night, I love you."  (She must have said it 10 times and was obviously not tired at all.)  Then she turned to me and asked, "Will you have my birthday sign in the window before I wake up?"
"Of course I will." I responded.
Little did I know how early that would be.
Before my alarm this morning, she crawled into my bed and I wondered how much rest she had gotten through the few hours of the night.  It's cute that she's so excited.  I let her take my place sleeping next to daddy and got up to pray and study.  An hour later she came out asking for pancakes.  I said I'd be happy to make her some and asked if I could just finish up with some of my studies first.  She complied, grabbed a blanket, and sat on the couch to wait... and then zonked out seconds later.   

She loves her birthday for lots of reasons but one is because it's free Slurpee day at 7-11.  For Kaylee, all of the 7-11's everywhere are celebrating the day she was born!  

Tonight, we are having a very special Family Home Evening on baptism to prepare her for another wonderful day in a few weeks when she enters into a covenant with God to love and to be a witness of the Savior all her life.  My parents are coming down for dinner and FHE tonight.  (Joseph's parents came last night to bring birthday wishes.)

There's plenty to do today.... but before everything kicks into full gear, I need to share the scripture I've chosen to ponder for the week:

Make the day beautiful, my friends!

"I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." - Romans 8:38, 39

"To love abundantly is to live abundantly, and to love forever is to live forever.  Hence, eternal life is inextricably bound up with love.  We want to live forever for the same reason that we want to live tomorrow.  Why do we want to live tomorrow?  It is because there is some one who loves you, and who you want to see tomorrow, and be with, and love back?  There is no other reason why we should live on that we love and are beloved." - Henry Drummond


Saturday, July 9, 2016

Handle With Care!

"Respite /ˈrespət,rēˈspīt/ = a short period of rest or relief from something difficult. rest, break, breathing space, interval, intermission, interlude, recess, lull, pause, time out."

Respite Foster Care is basically watching another foster parent's foster kids.  It's done through the foster care community because a you can't just have your good friend across the street watch the children.  They belong to the State so they need to be State-licenced and certified.  Last Saturday we had our first experience providing Respite Foster Care. We watched two small children for most of the day (a one-yr-old and  two-yr-old).

In four weeks, we are scheduled to do respite for another foster family.  This child will be several  years older and we will have him for four days.

My initial thought with Respite is that it wouldn't be much different from the times we've watched nieces or nephews,  After all, it's just for a short period and it seemed to me, in such time, it would feel mostly like babysitting.  But Respite Foster Care is not exactly like that.

I was surprised to discover, last Saturday, that it came with unexpected emotions and feelings.  There
is a sense of sacredness, fragility, vulnerability, and carefulness that hits your heart like a freight train the moment you set eyes on these children.  It's constantly in the back of your mind that behind their smile is a shattered life, one they have no control over.  They've been taken from everything familiar with only a handful of belongings and are expected to adjust again and again as they are passed from one stranger to the next; vagabonds, refugees, never knowing where, if any place, will ever be their permanent "home."

When we had these two babies last Saturday in our care, I wanted to give them the happiest memories I could.  I  wanted their time with us to be a good experience.  I wanted them to feel loved and valued, to help instill in them their Divine worth and their heavenly lineage.  I was in awe as I observed my youngest two biological children instantly filled with these same desires.  It was amazing to watch them bring out their favorite toys and spend hour after hour just entertaining them. I'm sure there was an element of novelty with it... but it was also very apparent that their motive went much deeper than that.  I witnessed a Christ-like compassion overflow within their souls as they reached out with complete self-less and genuine love.

Later that evening, we took the foster kids to a neighborhood block party.  Micah was adorable as he happily pulled the children in a wagon.  My older daughter had three of her cousins with her and they soon joined in to help watch the fosters.  I was grateful for the assistance.  We all had to be extremely vigilant among the huge crowds because these kids didn't have that internal compass that told them who they were supposed to stay close to.  They were so used to being put into the arms of strangers and not belonging to any particular people that they easily wandered off to anyplace and anywhere without looking back.

When the time came to return the children to the other foster parents, they didn't want to leave and the 2-yr-old clung to me with both arms and legs wrapped tightly around me.  He whimpered as the foster dad explained, prying his body away, "Sorry buddy, this is just how it goes."
How sad, I thought to myself, that "this is how it goes"... this is the only thing that has become consistent for the fosters: A never-ending cycle of: attachment - detachment, bond and break, hope, love and then hurt again. I almost felt guilty for trying to make their visit with us such a wonderful and loving experience because it seemed to add to the child's pain when it was time to leave.

I guess this is the hurt I need to get used to?  I've only tasted it in the smallest portion. All the foster parents talk about it.  They say in foster care, "prepare to have your heart broken over and over and over again."  In the training, I assumed that they meant hurt from stresses, task-overload, increased number of mouths to feed, fighting and just learning to adjust and help a traumatized child... you know, kind-of negative issues.  But I think last weekend I caught a little more of a glimpse of where the heartbreak will really come from.  It comes from laboring with all your soul to give the most love you possibly can give to another human being in a very short amount of time, to feel that love bind you, and then leave... you may never see them again... and it hurts because part of you goes with them.

It causes me to reflect on the importance of all my relationships.  Every human heart is fragile.  To love sincerely, offer empathy, give earnestly, and help genuinely, is to open the heart and mind to a vulnerability that brings intense joy but also deep pain. And so we proceed with every step, every day, every moment... to handle with care.


Thursday, July 7, 2016

Call it what it is...

We have an amazing Father in Heaven and I can't explain how but I know He is real, that He is the Father of each of us, that He hears, He sees, He understands, and He knows all.

Personally, I've experienced answers to prayers more numerous these past couple of years than I can begin to describe; situations, parallels, and connections that are far too many to be coincidental. And even though I may not see the bigger picture and have a full vision of its purpose at this moment in my life, it has strengthened my faith and I am grateful.

I know we can receive Divine assistance and heavenly help.  I know we are not alone even when we feel as if there isn't a single soul who understands.  We can have mysteries unfolded.  Answers will come line upon line... and I'm slowly learning patience, the kind of patience that is okay with not knowing "why" until my life is over.  Every heartache, every struggle only draws me to my knees in deeper, more soulful prayer.

To some who know "my story," it might seem crazy or impossible - but the more that has been revealed... I'm compelled to call it what it really is: A miracle!

Yeah, I'm a believer!

Monday, July 4, 2016

The Best Listener - Ponderize - Week 40

I get after my kids for ignoring me when I've asked them to do something for the tenth time.  It just baffles me how often I have to repeat myself before I get any kind of response and I wonder where on earth they've learned such a frustrating habit!

A week ago in church, I met a friend in the hall and we began talking.  Shortly into the conversation I felt tugging on the entire right side of my body.  I didn't even look down to see what it was but just continued conversing.  Ever so slightly in the background I began to hear a voice that sounded like my youngest daughter.  "Mom! Mom!" She tugged some more.  She must have called me at least ten times before I even acknowledged her.  I looked down and responded with surprise, "Oh, hi Kaylee!"
Disappointingly she stated, "Mom, I've been standing here and talking to you but you wouldn't listen."
"Oh, hun, I'm so sorry.  I was talking to my friend and I honestly didn't hear you. What was it you've been trying to tell me?"
"I just wanted to say 'hi'."
"Hi sweetie!  That was so nice of you to say hello on your way to class.  Thank you!"
She hugged me and then ran off happy.

After she left, I wondered at how I have gotten so incredibly good at tuning out my children.  I think it starts when they are young and grows even more when they become teenagers.

I've spent a lot of time and practice learning to tune out fighting, whining, screaming, and the works (you know "the works").  I'm completely convinced this skill is a necessary virtue parents learn to develop in order to keep their sanity.  But in the process of learning to tune out the negative, I often find myself tuning out positive encounters too (as exemplified in my experience with Kaylee.)

This isn't just with my kids though, I've practiced it so much at home that sometimes I catch myself doing the same thing in conversations with adult friends.  It's like I zone out into auto pilot and my body is present but my consciousness has left the building.  The worst is when I finally come to myself and realize I've just been asked a question.  I feel exactly like Emmet from the Lego Movie when he responds to Wildstyle, "I think I got it.. but just in case, tell me the whole thing again, I wasn't listening."

Yeah... I'll be the first to admit that I'm really not the best listener.  I'm working on it though... slowly but surely.  I've decided that maybe the verse I ponderize this week can help me in the process.

 "Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak...." - James 1:19

It's true I need a lot of improvement in this area.  I'm really not the best at it...  but here's the good news: I know Someone Who IS the Best Listener!! Jeremiah 29:12, Psalms 5:3, Psalms 116:1,2, Psalms 18:6