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

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Fight the Good Fight


Kaylee has a favorite song that she loves to listen to.  Often I'll catch her lip-syncing to it in front of the full-length mirror.  She's the only one of my children who loves singing and dancing... go figure.  Any hint of me starting to bust-a-move or break out in song, my older kids will shut me down in seconds.  I still do it behind their backs anyway.  Secretly, I know they want to join in.

Kaylee and I had a nice mother-daughter bonding moment belting this song out together.  I know it's probably not written with any kind of Christian meaning but I really like to think of it in the context of 2 Timothy 4:7.

"Fight Song"
by, Rachel Platten

Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Into motion
Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion

And all those things I didn't say
Wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight
Can you hear my voice this time?

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I'm alright song
My power's turned on
Starting right now I'll be strong
I'll play my fight song
And I don't really care if nobody else believes
'Cause I've still got a lot of fight left in me

Losing friends and I'm chasing sleep
Everybody's worried about me
In too deep
Say I'm in too deep 
And it's been two years
I miss my home
But there's a fire burning in my bones
Still believe
Yeah, I still believe

Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Into motion
Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion

This is my fight song 
Take back my life song 
Prove I'm alright song 
My power's turned on
Starting right now I'll be strong 
I'll play my fight song
And I don't really care if nobody else believes
'Cause I've still got a lot of fight left in me

No I've still got a lot of fight left in me

-Alicia
P.S.  Whenever I sing or dance with Kaylee, I'm reminded of this video four years ago when she was obsessed with Imagine Dragons.  Her passion is adorable!  She especially loved this group because, at the time, two of the band players were her Primary Teachers.  So cool!  :)


Monday, August 29, 2016

"I Am In Your Midst" - Ponderize - Week 48

Like the rushing of a furious wind, rapid changes have been happening all around these past couple of months and I feel as if I'm being swept in a current beyond my control.  When I try to stop, it seems the wrenching force increases and I surrender again, facing the fact that I am bound to a destination I cannot see.

Fall Semester starts for me today.  I contemplated dropping my class because of all the dramatic changes we are going through at this time but I couldn't do it.  I feel very strongly that I need to take at least one class every fall and winter and that by the grace of God I'll make it through no matter the difficulty of my schedule or circumstances.

Here I am again at the crossroads... A distinct and noticeable ache presses on my heart.  All of my belongings are packed and I'm heading out into an unknown future.  In just a few short weeks I'll be living in a new home and a new ward.  Leaving the watchcare of our current bishop is undeniably difficult.  I'm forever grateful for his faith, his prayers, his testimony, his priesthood blessings, his leadership, and for the activities and events he has inspired in this area.  What a vision has taken place!  Our experiences here have been absolutely magical.  They've created a sublime level of unity I've never realized possible in a ward family.  Words cannot adequately express my gratitude for our bishop. One can't leave a place like this without a void being made, a recognizable hole.  The scar tissue will serve as a reminder of how much I miss what was once there.

Something is happening within this  newly-formed Freedom Stake, something miraculous.  There are many who feel it.  We are witnessing Zion being built, a very real and literal Zion.  It may be hard to believe but if one could experience a fraction of what I've tried to describe, they would know without a doubt for themselves that the hand of God is on this people.  As this heavenly gathering takes place, there will also be great dissensions.  I pray our roots will be strong and deep in fertile soil.

These changes taking place are Divinely appointed, of that I'm sure.  We cannot see the future, we are not meant to see it... for our faith must be strengthened, our faith must be fortified, and our faith must be exercised if we are to have it become unshaken. Time will move swiftly and it is essential that our priorities stay in order: Faith and family first.

I am confident that once we move into our new home, we will receive the permanent placements of foster children.  Excitement and fear both prod my mind as I contemplate this prospect.
Excitement: To care for these children who desperately need a family, these refugees who need someone to love them unconditionally and to know that they belong somewhere.
And Fear: For all the dynamics involved in becoming the mother of someone else's children seemingly overnight, to be committed to loving them and caring for them as if they are my own. While at the same time, I must remain ever mindful of my own children and monitor carefully the anxieties and stresses they will inevitably be under living with new siblings complete with habits and mannerisms absolutely foreign to them.

I searched through my scriptures this morning, seeking to find one that I could ponder for the week -from the Psalms of David, to the Acts of the Apostles, to verses in the Book of Mormon, and so on.
I finally settled with this one in Doctrine and Covenants:

"Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you that mine eyes are upon you. I am in your midst and ye cannot see me;  But the day soon cometh that ye shall see me, and know that I am; for the veil of darkness shall soon be rent, and he that is not purified shall not abide the day. Wherefore, gird up your loins and be prepared. Behold, the kingdom is yours, and the enemy shall not overcome." 
- D&C 38:7-9

I don't know what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future.  He is in our midst and I trust this.
-Alicia


Friday, August 26, 2016

A Little Piece of Heaven

Last week, early Friday morning, we discovered a cute little house in excellent condition within our price-range.  It seemed to have everything we were looking for... only I wasn't extremely fond of the location.  Nevertheless, we immediately scheduled with our realtor to take a look at it.   Throughout the day, we told our friends about it too. It seemed so promising.  After numerous attempts, our realtor informed us late that evening that she just couldn't get the selling agent to respond.  It seemed that within less than 12 hours of our inquiry about it, the listing was taken down because another buyer made an offer and it went under contract.  We were both disappointed, everything else about the place would have been great.

That night, as I laid in bed reflecting on the events of the day, I remembered that morning when I was up on campus waiting for my friend, Jennifer, to give her forth-day lecture for Education Week.  I made it to class a few minutes early. The hum of friendly chatter filled the room as people found their seats and greeted one another.  I met a sweet woman in her late 70's and we talked as we waited for the lecture to begin.  Jennifer came around the back of the room and turned up the isle I was sitting on.  She patted me on the shoulder as she passed and asked how our house hunting was going.
With a sigh, I replied, "We backed out of the house in the 11th ward.  There were way too many issues with it."
"Oh no.  I'm so sorry to hear that." she said sincerely. In the same breath she asked, "Have you re-considered my friend Sherry's house in the 6th ward? She hasn't had any bites on her place at all."  Jennifer looked at the clock.  Class was starting soon. "Think about it," she said as she waved and hurried to the front of the room. Sherry works with Jennifer in the Stake Young Women's Presidency.  Sherry received notice that her family had to move out of their home the exact same day we discovered we had to leave ours..., only her situation was that her husband was being offered a job in Idaho.

Flashback One Month Ago:
Jennifer called me after one of her presidency meetings to tell us about her friend's house and encouraged us to arrange a time to walk through it.  We set up an appointment the next day.  Sherry's place was one of the very first homes we looked at.  It's was a charming little house built in 1895 with a front porch like I've always wanted, a rod-iron fence, a large fireplace,  an attic for the children to play in, and a swing hanging from a gorgeous tree in the front yard.  But the cost was a little higher than our target price.  Plus, it only had three rooms and one was just barely large enough to fit two children. State law requires that the foster kids must have  at least  40 sq ft of bedroom space for each child. 

I really hadn't considered that house again until Jennifer reminded me about it over a month later that morning in her Education Week class.  "Have you re-considered my friend Sherry's house?...Think about it,"
Well, I did think about it... in fact, it was all I could think about during Jennifer's lecture.
I imagined to myself how I could make that 3-bedroom place work and how we could afford to pay slightly more per month.

The foster kids have bedroom-living-space regulations but I can let my biological kids have a room anywhere we want.  Maybe it could work?  That's when I recalled that there was sort-of a forth room there even though they couldn't include it as such in the listing.  It was a small little space right off the entry way  that was not much larger than a good-sized walk-in closet.  It could fit a twin mattress and still have a couple square feet left over.  Chandler would take that room without any objection... he has always expressed how badly he wants a room of his own.  Well, he could have it here..  It would be tight but I really don't think he'd mind so much as long as it made him feel more independent.

I discussed with Joseph my ideas of how we could make the 1895 house work.  He agreed and definitely felt more comfortable with the move-in conditions of the place compared to other homes we had looked at.  We still couldn't believe that no one had made an offer on it yet.

We put our bid in Saturday morning and then right on our heels came another bid Monday.  But the owner had not only heard my name from her friend, Jennifer... It turns out that the Stake Primary President, whom I'll be serving with, had a conversation with the seller about me Sunday.  I don't know what the other bid was but the seller ended up accepting ours Monday night.  We offered just barely below asking price and we're so glad we moved on this place when we did.

There are lots of things I really love about this new home of ours but my favorite is that it's still very close to the place I love so much and to our beautiful  City Center Temple.  Even within its walls there are reminders of that Temple, complete with stain-glass windows and the same circle and square or "heaven and earth" motif in the door frames.  :)

I think I'm gonna like it here.
-Alicia





Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Watch Over Them

For the next few days, we are watching the same two foster kids we had back in the middle of July.  When I had them last, I understood that their foster mom was planning on adopting them.  I guess it didn't work out.

I got a phone call from DCFS Monday morning informing me of the situation: After having the children for six months, the foster family decided that they couldn't take care of them anymore and requested to have them removed and placed with someone else.  Their new foster parents are unable to receive them until this weekend so the State called me to see if my husband and I could watch them between the gap.  The social worker explained with solemnity, "They know you and feel comfortable with your family.  We'd rather have them stay with people they've been with before during this transition than have them adjust to strangers all over again."

I was more than happy to take them in.  They squealed with delight this morning when Micah opened the front door.  He stepped back to catch his balance from the force of the children running into him and hugging him tightly.  He grinned proudly and was glad to see them again.

The foster mom was quiet and stepped back out onto the porch to retrieve two large garbage bags that contained everything the kids owned.  She set their belongings on the couch, returned outside again, and came back in with two car seats.  She paused for a minute and watched the children playing on the floor with my kids.  She called their names to say goodbye but they were already engrossed in imagination and hardly noticed her speaking.  I knew it was the last goodbye and that they would never see her again... but the foster kids didn't realize it.  This was very painful for the foster mom.  In an effort to help, I tapped the kids on the shoulder, "Hey, she wants to say goodbye.  Can you give her a hug?" I nudged the older one and he complied.  The younger one glanced over at his foster mom, gave a half-wave but found the toys more interesting and took off down the hall.  Tears welled up in the foster mom's eyes and I could tell she had a bunch more she was trying desperately to hold back. Embarrassed, she said to me shyly, "They don't understand."  Six months was a long time to grow attached. "I'm so sorry." I said to her.  I didn't know what else to say.  I wrapped my arms around her and hugged her as tight as I could.  "I'm sure this is excruciatingly difficult for you."  She nodded affirmatively.  My heart went out to her.  "I'm so very sorry," I said again.  "Thank you." She whispered sincerely and then turned in silence to make her way out the door.

After she left, I looked across the room at Miriam who had just observed the whole scene.  Tears then began to flow from my eyes too as I pondered on what just happened.  Those children didn't understand that she was not coming back.  What will go through their minds when they finally do realize?  They are so young now.  At what point do they grow weary of attaching and detaching that they begin to numb themselves to the pain?  Will they learn to keep relationships at a distance so they don't have to get hurt again?  Will they begin to feel as if something is fundamentally wrong with them?  Will they blame themselves as the reason certain homes didn't keep them?

I wish our home was ready so I could be their new foster mom.  I hope they don't have to go through a removal again.  I hope this next place can be a permanent one for them.  Tonight before bed, I read stories in an effort to help them wind down.  (I miss the age that my children used to cuddle next to my side as I read them picture books. So this was a treat for me.)  The youngest boy fell asleep in my lap.  I turned him around so he could wrap himself around me and rest his head on my shoulder.  I wondered how often he had been held or cradled in his life.  I didn't want to let go of him so I took him outside and carried him back and forth on the porch in the cool summer night air under the glitter of the stars.  He sunk deep in my arms and relaxed completely in peaceful sleep.  I prayed silently for him.  "Bless this perfectly innocent child.  Bless him to know that he is loved.  Bless him to learn of his worth.  Dear Father, please watch over this sweet, sweet boy."  I took him back into the house, carefully placed him in his bed and wondered about his future.

These experiences with fostering will tug and tear at my heart in ways I can't imagine.  I pray I will be strong through it all.
-Alicia


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Dawn is Breaking

It's just not usual for me to toss and turn but I was so worried about Joseph.  These somewhat forced and unforeseen new expenses in our life (buying a car and buying a house) have hit him hard and understandably, he's been completely overwhelmed with anxiety with how he's going to provide for it all.  Last night, he came into bed extremely late because he was up looking for a second job. He absolutely hates the thought of a second job.  

It didn't take much for me to discern his discouragement when his head hit the pillow.  In frustration he blurted,"What if we have all these expenses suddenly come up under this new and extremely tight budget and we find ourselves in a situation where we can't make our mortgage or we have to file bankruptcy??"  I tried to reassure him that it would never happen and things would be alright.  He rolled to his side and faced the wall and didn't say anything.  He was exhausted and I knew that continuing to try and talk would only frustrate him more so I scratched his back until I fell asleep... well sort-of... I kept waking every 20 minutes.  
At 5 a.m. my restlessness conquered sleep completely and I decided that it was entirely useless for me to try anymore.  I climbed out of bed, got dressed, grabbed my backpack, my headphones, my scriptures...  and I headed up to the Y.  

There's something about the early morning air before the break of dawn that is extremely invigorating for me. I love the feeling of hiking alone too so I can reflect or commune with God silently along the way.  The silhouette of Rock Canyon under the light of a half-moon greeted me like a watchful guardian as my feet hit the trail.  I breathed in deep the mountain air and soaked in the beauty of my surroundings while Chandler's "Epic/ Triumphant" playlist ignited my imagination through the headphones;  Such a combination of things always makes me feel so free.  Instantly, I was feeling better! 

When I reached the top, I found a bench and enjoyed the glittery scene of the waking city I love so much.  I prayed and poured my heart out to the Lord.  I knew I had plenty of time before the children would be getting up so I just relaxed and stayed there praying and reading.  I opened to where we've been studying as a ward family in the Book of Mormon.  I read about how the Jaredites were guided on their journey to their promised land.  I read the promise from the Lord that if they did everything in the name of Christ and served God, they would not be cast out.  I felt this applied to our situation.  I know we won't end up in a bankruptcy situation.  I think we are going to see blessings unfold in ways we didn't imagine.  The more I prayed and read the more sure I felt of this promise.   

As dawn approached, I thought of the awesome power of the sun and how its radiance causes all other light to pale in its wake.  God's power is like this, nothing really can compare.  I trust Him.

Just as the morning rays began to hit the horizon, this gorgeous song called, Sunshine by John Murphy, began to play.  It was perfect!  I felt so much reassurance, so much peace. I felt grateful. 

When I returned home, I greeted Joseph with a fresh excitement.  "I have to tell you that you don't need to look for a second job,  Everything is going to be alright. And if all else fails, I have some ideas of how I'll earn some money at home.  I think we are going to witness some amazing things. Trust me on this." 
He took a deep breath and looked at me hoping I was right.  I hugged him tightly.  "Hang in there," I said, "We got this.  God is in charge and He won't let us fail in this endeavor because our hearts are in the right place, because we are doing all of this in the name of Christ and for the right reasons.  He's got our back."  

I never did regain any of my lost sleep throughout the day.  But the experience of this morning was worth losing sleep over.  I know just as sure as the sun rises every morning, my Father in Heaven is always there.  Nothing compares to His power.  
  
-Alicia

Monday, August 22, 2016

Bullet Proof - Ponderize - Week 47

Tonight, we had a family lesson on the story of Moses when he spoke with God face to face, when he experienced the glory of heaven and witnessed the vast expanse of the Lord's creations.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland expounds, "What happened to Moses next, after his revelatory moment, would be ludicrous if it were not so dangerous and so absolutely true to form. In an effort to continue his opposition, in his unfailing effort to get his licks in later if not sooner, Lucifer appeared and shouted in equal portions of anger and petulance after God had revealed himself to the prophet, saying, 'Moses, worship me.' But Moses was not having it. He had just seen the real thing, and by comparison this sort of performance was pretty dismal.

Moses looked upon Satan and said: 'Who art thou? . . . where is thy glory, that I should worship thee?
For behold, I could not look upon God, except his glory should come upon me. . . . But I can look upon thee in the natural man. . . .
. . . Where is thy glory, for it is darkness unto me? And I can judge between thee and God. . . .
Get thee hence, Satan; deceive me not.' [Moses 1:13–16]" 

After discussing this story with our children, I thought of the power of Truth and reflected on the conversation I had with a friend this morning about the scriptures.  She pointed out the verse in Helaman 5:12 the verse that promises if we are built on the foundation of Christ "that when the devil shall send forth his ... shafts in the whirlwind... it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo."  (My friend admitted she didn't really know the word "shafts"  so she looked it up and discovered it meant weapons.) When she shared this, it made the verse even more significant, especially in connection with these other verses in the scriptures;

"No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper.... This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord." Isaiah 54:17

"For the Lord will go before you; and the God of Israel will [have your back]." - Isaiah 52:12

All I could think of was that with God we have the greatest power of the universe on our side and that we can actually be "bullet proof" to sniper attacks from the Adversary.

I wasn't there with Moses on the mountain to witness his encounters with heaven and hell.  Oh what an experience that would have been!  Just imagine the "casting out" scene when Moses calls upon the power of God to command Satan to leave. If I had been there, I probably would've liked to play a little song for the occasion remembering always Who has my back and Who makes me strong:

You shout it out,
But I can't hear a word you say
I'm talking loud, not saying much
I'm criticized but all your bullets ricochet
Shoot me down, but I get up

I'm bulletproof, nothing to lose
Fire away, fire away
Ricochet, you take your aim
Fire away, fire away
You shoot me down but I won't fall
I am titanium
You shoot me down but I won't fall
I am titanium

Cut me down
But it's you who'll have further to fall
Ghost town and haunted love
Raise your voice, sticks and stones may break my bones
I'm talking loud not saying much

I'm bulletproof, nothing to lose
Fire away, fire away
Ricochet, you take your aim
Fire away, fire away
You shoot me down but I won't fall
I am titanium
- Alicia

Sunday, August 21, 2016

My Girl!

I have the best news ever!!  My niece, Alexa, has decided to be baptized as a member of the Church. Her date is set for this coming Saturday!

Yesterday, she invited me, Joseph and the kids to go on a missionary tour to downtown Temple Square with her boyfriend (Conner), and the Elders who have been teaching her the discussions.  My parents met up with us at the visitor center too.  One of the Elders is from the home town my dad's mom is from in Goldsboro, North Carolina.  He loved that!


In the upstairs of the North Visitor Center they have a really cool presentation that takes you through the Proclamation to the World on the Family.  It was my first time ever seeing it and I thought it was great! I really hope things work out for Conner and Alexa to have their own family someday.  He's always extremely respectful of her.  I love that the two of them can have the time of their life without their hands all over each other.  Their relationship is so much deeper and so much more.  He truly is her best friend and they can talk about anything.  Conner is getting ready to serve a mission.  Alexa has been very supportive of his decision even though it's not easy to send him away.

I found out Conner's dad is just one year older than Joseph and his mom is almost 3 years older than me.  His dad went to Bingham High just like Joseph and His mom went to my high school in West Jordan.  Kinda crazy!  I unofficially adopted Alexa as my own when she was three, when her parents divorced.  She's my girl!  I can't help but take an interest in making sure she dates and ultimately marries a wonderful guy.  Conner definitely has my stamp of approval.

Alexa has aquired a lot of family in the wake of her parent's relationships. Even Joseph's side of the family knows her quite well from me bringing her with us to several of his gatherings. It's going to be a very large crowd showing up to support her for her baptism.  I even think her mom (my sister) might go, which would be amazing because Amy hasn't set foot in a church since her first divorce.  Alexa's dad refuses to be there though, which I think is sad... but Alexa is handling it very well and is choosing not to be offended.  She has maturely accepted his choice to stay away.

Alexa has asked if I would speak at her baptism.  I'm absolutely thrilled at the invitation.  I only hope I can get through the talk without blubbering my whole way.  When we dropped Alexa off after our wonderful afternoon together, I admiringly watched how tightly Chandler hugged his cousin. I don't think I've ever seen him hug anyone that tight before. He has always loved her. I know he looks up to her and values the choices she is making.

As my husband and I knelt in prayer that evening I thanked my Father in Heaven for Alexa's example to my children.  I love this sweet girl.  She is pure and genuine, beautiful and humble, gentle and thoughtful!  What a blessing she has always been and always will be in all of our lives!

-Alicia


Chandler, Micah, Miriam, and Alexa - 2007



Thursday, August 18, 2016

Searching

Well, we've cancelled the contract for the home we were considering.  My husband has been terribly uneasy about it and I feel like I've been grasping at straws trying to somehow make it work in my own mind.  The seller is refusing to pay for the cost to rewire the house.  It's riddled with exposed live wires and other fire hazards.  I wish that this were the only issue with the home.  There are other concerns not as major but still pretty big deals and the sellers just won't go down anymore in price to make the purchase worth the headaches.

I'm sad.
My kids and I all had our hopes up that we could stay in this area.  I guess there's still a possibility we could find something else or the seller could change their mind.

For now, it's back to searching.  I'm feeling worn from it all and can hardly bring myself to keep looking.  None of us ever wanted to move... especially me.

I listened to my friend, Jennifer, give a presentation at BYU today for Education Week.  She actually spoke about re-wiring... not for a house of course, but a way to re-wire our minds and hearts through the process of daily rituals, through diligent scripture study and sincere heart-felt prayer.  She testified of how good the Lord is, that He hears every petition.  She quoted Joseph Smith in saying, "Come to God weary him until He blesses you."  I reflected on my personal scripture study this morning "Ask, and ye shall receive; knock and it shall be opened unto you"(3 Nephi 27:29) and where the Savior inquires of His servants, "What is it that ye desire of me?" (3 Nephi 28:1)

The Lord knows what I desire!
If I have not wearied Him, I've certainly wearied myself in pleading to stay close by this beautiful place.  Like a tree that thrives and blossoms near a stream, somehow my spirit needs this closeness for my soul.

Maybe it's me who needs the re-wiring?
-Alicia



Monday, August 15, 2016

"Wise Counsel" Ponderize - Week 46

I've been thinking a lot about the beatitudes and how I desire with all my heart to be a better peacemaker: To be careful how I speak to myself and to others, to be stripped of envy, to be a better listener, and to be more thoughtful with my time - especially in my own home.

It's Education Week at BYU and I'm taking a few classes between now and Friday.  I am so excited to be uplifted and enlightened!!  I wish their was a way I could make the things I learn stick better in my brain... especially in those life-moments of testing.  I guess that comes with lots of time, lots of practice, and the grace of God.  I'm looking forward to learning!!

Dear Father, Help me to "hear counsel, and receive instruction, that [I] mayest be wise in [the] end." - Proverbs 19:20

-Alicia

Sunday, August 14, 2016

House On Fire, Leave It All Behind You

Tomorrow would have been the day we were supposed to be out of our apartment.  I'm so grateful that things worked for us to do month-to-month rent so we don't have that pressure anymore.

We had an offer accepted on a house just a couple blocks away from where we live now.  The home was built in 1920 and for the last couple of decades, maybe more, it's been used as a rental.  Needless to say, it hasn't been kept up much at all.  It's because of its condition though that we were able to get the price down $30K less than what is comparable.

We received the inspection report yesterday and it turns out, the house is one big huge fire disaster waiting to happen.  The inspector was very surprised that it hadn't burnt down yet.  This news has been disheartening for me because there's a slight chance we won't be able to get this home.

I know it is in bad shape but its extremely difficult to find something of its size in this neighborhood for under $200K and we are under contract for $194K.  It's a five-bedroom, almost six actually, because the front porch was converted into a small room.  We easily pre-approved for our loan because our credit score is in the 800's but the only trouble is we can't over-borrow to do repairs. The loan will work for the mortgage alone and nothing more.

We know that according to our income, we already qualify for the weatherization program... something we intend to take advantage of to fix all the broken windows and drafty doors.  Tomorrow, I will spend the day trying to get an estimate of how much the repairs will cost and making phone calls to the City seeing if they have any other home-improvement programs like the weatherization for new buyers.  I have a friend who moved into old home here and the City took care of all their electrical and plumbing updating as part of an incentive to draw in long-time residents who would improve the quality of the area.  Both my husband and I have been fasting today that we could be this fortunate.

I just got a new church calling assuming that I will still be in this neighborhood.  I hope it's a foreshadowing that everything will work out here.  I pray it does.

In two weeks, I start at BYU again for Fall Semester.  It will be my first writing class since the community college 20 years ago.  I'm very excited and a little nervous.  I don't know exactly how much our house situation will complicate my studies.  I'll just keep moving forward and hope for the best.

In my scriptures this morning, I must have read and re-read the verses from the Sermon on the Mount twenty times over.  I'm asking to stay in this area.  I'm asking to have a home in our price-range.  I'm asking for it to be large enough to fit a few more children.  Dear Father, I want to stay!

"Ask, and it shall be given unto you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.
Or what man is there of you, who, if his son ask bread, will 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 who is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?" - Matt 7: 7-11

Step Outside
Praying for miracles!
-Alicia




Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Welcome To My House

We did respite foster care again this past weekend for the span of four days.  This is the only foster care we can really do until we get settled in our home and receive our own placements.  It's been a great opportunity to experience different ages and personalities.  This last weekend was the very first I've had to supervise a bio-parent visit.  It was just over the phone so I didn't have to take our "bonus kid" anywhere to meet up.  He has regular phone calls with them every other night, so we got to supervise twice.  It was very touching because every visit concludes with him singing along with his mom and dad two songs, Down in the Valley and You Are My Sunshine.
I cleaned the kitchen as I listened in:

"You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are gray.  You'll never know dear how much I love you.  Please don't take my [sunshine] away!

The other night dear, as I lay sleeping, I dreamed I held you in my arms.  When I awakened I was mistaken and I hung my head and cried.  You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.  You make me happy when skies are gray.  You'll never know dear how much I love you.  Please don't take my [sunshine] away!"

Instead of singing please don't take my "sunshine" the father replaced it with the name of his son.  In that context, I could see that even though his parents still struggle with drug addiction, they love their son and they are deeply afraid of losing him.  "Please don't take him away" was their plea.  My heart broke for them and I had to hide my face from the boy so he couldn't see the tears welling up in my eyes. Wow, what a bitter-sweet scene to witness!

We can't really ask many questions about these kids and their backgrounds.  Most of them are uncomfortable talking about it anyway but in our foster training we are also discouraged from digging or prying because we aren't certified therapists. I must be careful with social media too. I cannot post pictures of these children or write their names anywhere in order to keep their location protected.

This boy we watched was very sweet.  You could tell his speech was underdeveloped, possibly from neglect during his most impressionable years.  He was only removed just a few months ago, so everything is still very fresh with him.

He loves skateboarding, dancing, and singing.  One evening, he kept requesting Kidz Bop "Welcome To My House" and would bust out in some awesome break-dance moves. It was adorable!!  I couldn't help but wonder if his interest in music and dancing was therapeutic for him.

He attended my daughter's baptism on Saturday and also joined our family for Sunday services.  I was so proud of him because both times, he behaved like a little gentleman.  Part way through the meeting, he leaned over and asked if I would scratch his back.  I was surprised by his request because in training we learned that most kids his age will avoid affection as a result of attachment issues... nevertheless, he cuddled-up to me like a contented little kitten.

Sunday evening, he shared with me some pictures he painted on his tablet.  We talked about his favorite colors as he swiped quickly through the various images in his folder.  Then he paused at this image of a flower with five pedals and a drifting bud near its side.  Pointing at the small blossom he said, "That's me, removed from my family." I appreciated his expression through his art.
"So let me guess, the big flower is your mom, dad, and three older siblings?"
"Yes" he replied.
The background to the flowers were painted black so no-one could see that the flowers were attached.
I asked him to switch the background to white.  When he did, the stem and how the blossom came together became visible.
"Is this how you want it to be?"  I asked.
"Yes" he responded shyly.
I didn't know what to say.  I didn't want to give him false hope but I said I would pray that one day he could be with his family again.  I assured him that it wasn't his fault that he was separated and praised him for being such a good kid.

The biological bond is not easily broken for a reason.  It seems to be a need innate within every human soul.  My experiences have caused me great reflection on the importance of The Family Proclamation.

To aim for a society that upholds the traditional family, that seeks to strengthen marriage between a man and a woman, that seeks earnestly to provide environments where children can be brought up by their own mother and their own father committed to each other is essential to the mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being of individuals which ripples out into the well-being of society as a whole.  I realize it isn't always possible but it should always be sought for.  Biology is not bigotry.

As these foster children come into my home, I will do all I can to make them feel loved and welcomed.  I want to help them in every possible way... but I won't be able to give them what they  ALL desire more than anything else; a strong stable family with their biological mother and their biological father.

-Alicia




Monday, August 8, 2016

Somebody Needs the Light You Have - Ponderize - Week 45

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, 
and glorify your Father which is in heaven." 
- Matthew 5:16

"Jesus wants every one of us to know him because of the transforming power of that knowledge and because of the indescribable joy it brings into our lives. But the influence of the gospel is to extend beyond each individual. It is to be as a light that dispels the darkness from the lives of those around us. No one of us is saved solely and simply for himself alone, just as no lamp is lighted merely for its own benefit." - Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin





Saturday, August 6, 2016

Dear Kaylee

My youngest child was baptized today.  Of all the hymns she could have picked for the closing song of the services, she chose to sing "Angels We Have Heard On High".  Even though it's the beginning of August and this is a Christmas piece, I thought her selection was perfect!  After all, I have no doubt that angels were rejoicing with songs of gloria at her decision to enter into a covenant with Christ.  Her choice today will affect generations to come in so many wonderful ways!

With each of my kid's baptisms, I've had a tradition of writing what I call "A Mother's Blessing" in the cover of the new set of scriptures they receive.  These are my words to Kaylee on this special day.

....

"Dear Kaylee,
I'm so proud of your decision to be baptized.  Your first name means "pure" and your middle name, Elizabeth, means "My God is an oath."  Today, through our Savior, and every day of your life, always remember that it is Him who makes you pure, it is Christ that makes you whole.

Kaylee, an oath is a promise, a vow... and when you make the promise to testify of Christ, to keep His commandments, and to always remember Him, then He makes a promise that you will always have His spirit to be with you... and this is the covenant you enter at baptism.  This is powerful!

Kaylee, I pray you will always seek the words of Christ in your life because they will always lead you right.  His words are to be found in these scriptures!  In the scriptures, you will also discover that they testify of the great importance and vital need for prophets and apostles.  Always remember that whether it is by [Christ's] own voice or by the voice of [His] servants, it is the same." (D&C 1:38)  Always remember Him by treasuring His word and let it sink deep within the soil of your heart with constant nourishment.

Kaylee, another thing you will notice in the scriptures is a pattern of behavior that destroyed many people even entire civilizations.  This pattern was pride, arrogance, vanity and selfishness.  It is a temptation we all struggle with to some extent in our lives.  We lose sight of what matters most and begin to think that happiness will come when we are popular, when we are beautiful, when we are recognized or praised by others.  Avoid the temptation to be self-centered.  It will only bring grave disappointment and breed envy and hate.

Seek to live as the Savior did with an outside focus to constantly seek for opportunities to lose yourself, to openly praise the good in others, to recognize true beauty found in pure and honest hearts.

Never forget your Divine worth.  You don't need the lime-light, you need the Savior's light!  The world is His stage and you are already the center of it.  There is no other approval that even remotely compares to that which comes from the God of the Universe, " Well done, my good and faithful servant!" (Matt 25:21)

I love you, my sweet compassionate Kaylee!

Love, Mom"

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Give Me a Revelation

We looked for some homes in Springville the other day.  As my husband and I rode out there we both felt, "This is too far."  We took the tour quickly because it seemed so pointless after getting the impression we did.

I spoke with my friend, Jed, yesterday who told me the story of how he and his wife found their first home in our neighborhood.  They prayed about where to move not ever living in Provo before and practically mapped out our current ward boundaries.  They drove around looking for a house up for sale and found nothing.  Then a few days later, Jed had the impression to drive down that same street again and a guy was just walking out with a "For Sale by Owner" sign.  He knew instantly that was where they were to move.
What I wouldn't give to have that kind of clear revelation!
Just put the sign up for us, Lord, right as I'm driving by!

I knelt in earnest prayer this morning begging for my Father in Heaven to give us some direction.  I felt the impression come to me.  "I already have.  You knew this was where you were supposed to be eight years ago, either in the 11th ward or the 3rd ward, it didn't really matter... this was right where you were supposed to be."
I prayed again, "Yes, but is it where we are meant to stay?  Because I'm having a hard time determining Thy will from my own desires.  I cannot seem to pull myself away from this place.  Every fiber of my being wants to stay here but at the same time, I don't want to resist direction otherwise."

Perhaps part of the pull that draws me in are the unanswered questions to all of my "coincidental" experiences here... and that maybe... somehow by sticking around a little longer, I'll discover more pieces to the puzzle.  I've shared so much of my story but have hardly seen the other half and I've just got to know more!  Nevertheless, not my will but "as thou wilt".

I'm praying for my heart to be open to other places.  Tonight, we will go and look at a home in the far south-west part of Provo.  Dear Father, I pray.  Help us to know, please show us.  Is my heart blocking the way or do I follow it?  Because if I follow my heart, it's already here!

-Alicia







Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Sanctify My Heart

I wrote this about a month ago and even shared it in church but I haven't posted it because I have felt so hypocritical.

Just days after speaking these words in testimony meeting, everything seemed to come to a head with our Landlady.  Communication with her has been strenuous for all of us.  She was difficult before her husband died but it seemed to increase 10-fold after his passing to the point my husband and I could hardly see her without feeling our entire bodies tense up.

Then when we received the notice we were being forced to move, I posted on our Relief Society page the situation we were facing with vented frustration.  Former tenants chimed in and gave their piece on her which helped me feel justified.

Not too many days after, my husband and I went to the temple together to pray for guidance where we should move.  But I couldn't seem to get much revelation in that area...instead, as we sat and prayed in the Celestial room, the warning from the Prophet James pressed upon my mind, "Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.”  I felt the Spirit rebuke me.  "Alicia, you just bore testimony of choosing your words to build and to lift others, to testify of Christ and then you allowed this thread you initiated on the Relief Society page to go on in smearing your Landlady.  These things should not be!!"  I felt horrible.  I plead and prayed for forgiveness.  When I returned home, I removed the post from the page and posted an apology.

I'm grateful for the opportunity to repent.  I'll keep trying.  I don't want to be someone who just talks the talk.  Slowly, ever so slowly, I pray that God will help me walk the walk.

-Alicia

..............
Testimony - July 3rd, 2016

I’ve been thinking about the air we breathe and how we are able to speak through our vocal cords by the air we draw into our lungs and breathe out.

In the book of Genesis, it gives an account of the creation of man and it says that God breathed into him “the breath of life”

Isn’t it amazing that we are constantly breathing all of the time without even thinking about it?!!   – It’s this breathing in oxygen that gives the blood cells in our veins life, which in turn, give life to our entire body.  So, not only could we not speak without the air we breathe but we could not even move or live.

 As a ward, this past week, we read the words of King Benjamin where he testifies that God is , “preserving [us] from day to day, by lending [us] breath, that [we] may live and move”

This has caused me to truly ponder on the power of our words, the things we choose to speak and to say.  It is a sacred thing God has given us.  After all, it is by the power of words that worlds without number and galaxies were created!

In our ward scripture reading we also read where Abinidi courageously stood in the king’s court and bore witness of the ten commandments, one of them being, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”

Alma who was awakened and inspired by Abinidi’s bold testimony and martyrdom then risks his own life to speak up and share the truth, to inspire others to covenant that they will “stand as a witness of God at all times, in all things, and in all places, even unto death.”

What do we do with this breath we are given?   

The Prophet James counsels, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.”
Jesus taught that what comes out of our mouths is what defiles us.

Even the prophet Isaiah recognized that he needed to clean up his language when he had a vision of the temple, when he stood within the overwhelming power and presence of God, he repents and cries, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips”

This life isn’t about being perfect.  It’s about practice and learning.  And if the great prophet Isaiah recognized that the words he spoke needed some cleaning up, I’m sure we could all benefit from some purging and refining.

I’m grateful for a loving Father in Heaven who grants me daily breath and gives life to my blood, which gives me the ability to live and breathe and move and speak.

What do I do with the air I breathe?  What are the things I choose to say and how carefully do I choose my actions?

Today, I choose to use the air I breathe to thank my Father in Heaven, to speak and act in defense of the family, of marriage, and religious liberty whatever the cost!  I choose to use it to build the souls around me and never tear them down, demean or belittle another.  I choose to use the air I breath to bear testimony of the Savior and His Atonement and this His true Gospel.  I know He lives and He loves us far greater than we could ever comprehend.  His words have saved me.  Time and time again throughout my life, I have used my words to cry out in prayer and I have sought His words through the scriptures and whisperings of the Spirit.  I have come to know an inner peace and a deep love that is available to me wherever I go, that cannot be removed or taken from me.  What a magnificent gift that by our words and by His, we have the power to call down heaven.  I know this without any doubt.

-Alicia

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Lord, I pray! - Ponderize - Week 44

I have two scriptures I'm ponderizing this week.

The first one, I've chosen to ponder is a version from the New Living Translation:

"Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. 
Keep on seeking, and you will find. 
Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you." 
- Matt 7:7

And the second is David's Psalm:
 "Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.  
Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass." 
-Psalm 37:4-5

-Alicia



Monday, August 1, 2016

Fifteen Years Ago Today

Fifteen years ago, today, my life was changed forever in the most beautiful way! I gave birth to my very first child and it was an experience I'll never forget.  The whole concept of time, the earth and the universe, seemed to stand still in our world as my husband and I held in our arms the wonder of human creation connected with the powers of heaven.  What took us most by surprise was the intense pure love we felt for this tiny human life.  In awe we pondered, "If we as imperfect mortal parents feel the smallest fraction of love for our children... What must it be like compared to our  Father-in-Heaven?  Imagine the love of a perfect immortal and all powerful God must have for us!" Nothing is more Divine, more close to heaven, than that of becoming a mother or a father!

 It's hard to believe that my little guy could ever grow up so fast. Now he's taller than me by almost half a foot and has me beat by 25 lbs! It's crazy!  When we wrestle, we have to be careful.  After a few bruised ribs of mine, he's learned to be a little more gentle as he easily picks me up and throws me on the couch.  My, my how have the tables turned!  I remember when I used to play the "tossing games" with him.  Of course, I never bruised any of his ribs.  His weakness is that he's extremely ticklish... and well... that's my weakness too but if I tag him just right, the wrestling match is over and I still reign!!

My love for Chandler is different for him than what I felt when he was a newborn.  I believe it is more refined.  It has been tested and tried.  He is my first-born and I've made a lot of mistakes. He's incredibly strong-willed.  (Not unlike his mother. ha ha.) I push and he pulls.... I pull and he pushes.  I've stumbled and bumbled along my way as I've approached every new stage of his life. Each stage was a new one for me too.  So many times, sitting at his bedside apologizing for my behavior, explaining my desires and discussing how we are growing up together.  So many humbling moments on my knees praying to God, "How do I do this?"
So many more to come....

He has always had a fun sense of humor and he has become more entertaining through the years. He has this uncanny ability to do impersonations and quote funny lines verbatim which has caused me to roll on the floor laughing so hard that it hurts.

He also has a tender spiritual side that comes out every once in a while.  I most often discover this side of him in the playlists he shares with me.  The other morning I went for my weekly hike up the Y and decided to listen to his music.  The song, Broken Circle by, Second Suspense, started to play as I surveyed the gorgeous scenery of this valley I love so much.  I looked for my home, for the Temple, and gazed down at BYU's campus.  With the music and the view, the feeling in my heart was magical.

Speaking of BYU... that's another thing I absolutely love about Chandler.  I don't think there's a football fan who gets more excited for every season than him.  He has the whole thing predicted in full color on a spreadsheet.  Check this out!  This is serious stuff!
Sorry opposing teams, it looks like it's straight losses for you guys and a winning National Championship for the Cougars!


Happy Birthday to my first born!  When you came into my life, I never wanted you to grow old.  I wanted to keep you young and hold you forever in my arms.  But now I'm seeing how fun it is to watch you grow and become a man.  I'm seeing how great it is to have you hold me in your arms. (Even if it's because I've just been tackled and my body is twistedly stuck as you've pinned me to the floor.)  It's still "in your arms" and I'll take it.  ;)
You are full of passion and excitement for life.  You are awesome!  I love you more than ever!  You're a good, good son and I'm proud to call you mine.

-Alicia (aka - MOM)