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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...

Friday, September 30, 2016

Who... me?!

I've been acquainted with this woman in the home-school community for the past six years.  A mutual home-school friend contacted me earlier this spring and told me I should try this woman's Academy called Zion's Youth.  I looked into it then but decided to stay with what we already have set up for our children's education.

This woman who is the administrator of Zion's Youth has begun a new school, a private school under a different name. She's been trying to grow her number of students so she contacted me last week asking if I'd be willing to take a tour. I went there assuming she'd show me options of a single class my kids could attend once a week. I didn't realize fully what the visit was all about.

Half-way through the tour we stopped near some large wooden office desks on the upper floor.  She pointed to the empty desks and said, "These were just donated to us. We're looking for a Vice Principal.  Alicia, I think you would be a good fit. Do you think that's something that might interest you? We would allow your children free tuition in exchange." 

My jaw dropped to the floor, I couldn't speak.  I just stared back at her dumbly like a stunned deer in headlights.   She began explaining the various responsibilities and I felt even more dumb.  I was lost after her third sentence.

I tried to show gratitude. I wanted to accept but I needed more time to really consider. I couldn't help feel that if the woman knew me more than an acquaintance, she never would have offered a position like that to me,  "Wow, me...a Vice Principal?.... Did someone suggest me?....  Who told you I could do work like that?"

"No one... I've just heard you share comments at American Mothers before."

I was surprised. "You remember me from that?? Those meetings I attended were over a year ago and I only went to a few."

"Yes." She smiled. "I don't remember exactly what you said but it struck me. Anyway, this position came up and your name came to my mind."

It sounded like such an irresistible offer but I couldn't accept right away.  I finished the tour and brought my husband back the next day to allow him a tour as well.

I attended a faculty meeting this morning.  To tell the truth, I felt terribly out of place. Everything there feels so completely opposite of my personality: the tight and regimented schedule,  the formal dress code for the kids and for me, the knowledge and organizational skills required, etc. etc.  I keep shaking my head, "You've got the wrong person!!"

I'm going to continue to be prayerful about things.  She's allowing me a one-week trial-run to help me decide.  The trial-run will begin after we've moved into our new home.

I've got a lot on my mind, a lot I'm trying to sort through.  I keep asking myself, "Is this something the Lord wants me to do??... or did it just happen by chance??"  If it's just by chance, I probably won't go with it.

-Alicia  

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Outside Ourselves

In the first part of the Book of Mormon we meet Nephi and his family.  We witness them go through some pretty dramatic changes under some rather intense circumstances.  Tensions are high, moral is low, and at one time or another someone in the family is found complaining or murmuring.

Now, when I imagine myself in the kinds of situations Nephi had to struggle through, I can see how easily it would have been to rattle off in frustration or shake my fist at heaven.  Thankfully, my life has no where near the complications he faced and by comparison, things for me are quite cushy. Even still, I sometimes lose sight of the good things around me and the blessings I have.

Because of what I've been reading in my personal scripture study, I've been thinking more about this human nature default we have to complain or become self-centered. It's also on my mind because in my writing class I'm in the middle of a rhetorical analysis on a commencement speech that focuses on this same topic.

I remember hearing something about this speech last year in my Anthropology class and was fascinated with it then.

The speaker, David Wallace, describes a type of freedom that comes from choosing to be aware of our surroundings, to step outside of our "tiny skull-sized kingdom" and assume the best in others, and realize that everything doesn't revolve around us. He refers to the old cliche', "The mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master".

The monologues we choose to entertain inside our head each day will either corner us with thick prison walls of isolation, bitterness, and depression or free our souls from the dark cells of self into a beautiful world of conciseness: a deliberate awareness of others. As we choose to entertain thoughts that inspire compassion, understanding, and love we can make almost every situation bearable and even sacred.

I'd recommend listening to the full 20min speech here. But if you want a short summarized version, there's also this.  I think it's brilliant!!

What will we choose today?
-Alicia

Monday, September 26, 2016

Hope, Love of God, and Love of Others - Ponderize - Week 52

We watched the Presidential Debate tonight as a family.  I don't favor either side and to be honest, I don't really like the two party system--I really don't think our founding fathers meant for us to have only two parties.

Anyway, something about watching this tonight gave me the same sinking feeling as I did watching the live coverage of the attacks on 9/11--It left my spirit feeling exhausted and sore. Name-calling, speaking over each other, and interrupting, are such terrible and useless ways of communication--it's not only ugly and immature but it spreads anger and hatred like a blazing wild fire.

The moderator asks both candidates what the biggest issue is facing America.  If you were to ask me what it is, I would NOT say it's economic, international relationships, equal rights, or any of the main things we hear.  I would say that our biggest threat to our nation is the incivility, increased meanness, and unrepentant contention being displayed on the internet, social media, in our schools, and in our streets.

Elder Oaks said the following at a convention last year, " We all lose when an atmosphere of anger or hostility or contention prevails,” he said.  “We all lose when we cannot debate public policies without resorting to boycotts, firings, and intimidation of our adversaries.”

I keep thinking of Avenger's Civil War and how the enemy's plan was to destroy the Avengers by tearing them apart from the inside-out, to turn good people on each other, and just let them destroy themselves. I feel like that's what is going to happen to us as Americans if we do not watch ourselves.

Right after the presidential arguing was over, we had a short Family Home Evening lesson in preparation for this weekend where we'll get to listen to Prophets and Apostles of God speak.  It was such a nice contrast to turn off the debate and redirect our conversation towards the things we loved from last General Conference and what we are looking forward to with this one.  There was an immediate difference in the atmosphere as we focused on true doctrine.

I'm grateful for the message Elder Oaks gave at BYU a few weeks ago entitled, Elections, Hope and Freedom.  I've listened to his talk several times now.  This next portion is what I feel like focusing on for my scripture to ponder this week.

"In the distressing circumstances that surround us, we must trust in God and His promises, and hold fast to the vital gospel teaching of hope.  The prophet, Nephi, taught that we must "press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God, and of all men"(*)... Hope is a characteristic Christian virtue;  I am glad to practice it and to recommend it to counter all current despair.  Hope based on trust in the Lord and His promises has sustained me through all the circumstances of my life." - Elder Dallin H. Oaks


-Alicia

Opinion Editorial - What's On The Label?

Well, I have some good news... My professor loved my opinion editorial! I was not expecting the response that she gave me at all.  I'm just glad I made it over this hurtle...


What’s On the Label?
Several years ago, my second child went through a “creative” stage where she would   rustle through the pantry tearing off labels from cans and replacing them with “her own labels” constructed from crayon-scribbled typing paper. I thought her entertainment was adorably amusing until I found myself in a situation where I actually needed what was in those cans: after opening four various types of beans, I finally found the stewed tomatoes. We use food and manufacture labels every day, and we’ve come to rely very heavily on them, because we anticipate these labels will give us accurate information about the contents and quality of the items we are presented with. We use labels with people, too; some reveal the true content and quality of another person, which can foster charitable actions, connectivity, and good feelings, while other labels can falsely twist our view of people--breeding hurt, anger, bitterness, unnecessary pain, and divisiveness.  In order for the atmosphere of belonging and community to thrive at BYU, it is vital that we seek out and choose labels with integrity rather than distortion, labels that connect instead of labels that divide.  
I never heard the term “Utah Mormon” so much until just over eight years ago when I moved from West Jordan to Provo for my husband and me to attend school. I’ve discovered one of the most common questions living in an international university community is, “Where are you from?” When I respond proudly with, “I grew up in Utah, born and raised,” there is often an uncomfortable silence--though it may be brief--and I can almost hear the unspoken reaction, “Oh, you’re one of those.”
For the longest time, I struggled to understand what “one of those” meant as the term “Utah Mormon” showed up in more conversations, stamping all who were raised here like they had some kind of quarantined disease. It has forced me to ask, “Why, among people of my own faith, does this label cause a person to instantly lose credibility?” I discovered this is a very negative reference created to describe people who have been terribly sheltered, have no sense of diversity, who live in a bubble, and are perfectionists stuck in a rut of weird culture that they self-righteously impose on everyone around them. They insist on perpetuating traditions merely to appease the expectations of their parents, and their parent’s parents--all the way back to their  first pioneers who initially settled here, for surely their family must be Mormons for generations and have no clue what it’s like to be or live anywhere else. (Never mind the fact that my mom is a convert from Wisconsin and my dad’s mom is a convert from North Carolina.)
Even though categorizing those who are born and raised here under these sweeping generalizations proves to be narrow-minded and prejudice, I really don’t believe that the majority of those who use the “Utah Mormon” label do it with malicious intent. Maybe they honestly feel it truthfully fits? Possibly, they’ve witnessed a sad experience where Mormons from Utah purposefully withheld their kindness or neighborliness to another when they didn’t measure up to their valued life-standards: like the young man who returned home early from a mission (or who didn’t serve one at all), the single mother who has been married and divorced three times, the gay couple next-door, the family across the street who likes Obama, Hillary, and all things Democrat, or the guy who smells like cigarettes and has tattoos up and down his arm.
Though I’m sure self-righteousness of this nature exists, I theorize that it’s not fair to label such rejection problems as a Utah thing; I believe it’s a human thing and that in any given community where there is a popular majority or practice of culture, there will be people who ostracize or needlessly fear the ones who are different or who go against the grain. And before I cast a stone at those people, conscience reminds me that, as a mom, I too struggle when my teenagers “go against the grain”: Unconditional love is so much easier in theory than in practice.
Nevertheless, it’s a theory we must practice, and we must never quit! We must try over and over again, day after day, to love and look for the good in everyone, no matter how different they are from us, no matter where they’re from, what they believe or don’t believe, what they’ve done or haven’t done; This is “the good fight” Paul talks about in 1st Timothy1. We shouldn’t war among each other.
            As members of the Church and as students at BYU, one of our most important battles is to push back the conversations that breed contention, discord, and divisiveness.  We do this by fighting with all our might to “implore the better angels of our nature”2 and preserve the love Jesus Christ exemplified; His love endures forever and never throws in the towel on anyone. Just as there came a time when I needed what was in those cans from my pantry, I believe there comes a time in every life that we realize we need each other with all our various “ingredients”. The Book of Genesis teaches, “It is not good for man [or woman] to be alone.”3 We are all “children of the day”4, children of our Father in Heaven, brothers and sisters; we are one big massive family! I believe this means each of us are divinely wired with a desire to belong, to fit in, to feel loved and accepted.
I recall the 1980’s T.V. theme song from Cheers: “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came.”5 This is true no matter where we live; we all need community and connection. Thankfully, all belong with God.  Joseph Smith taught this hopeful message, “…While one portion of the human race is judging and condemning the other without mercy, the Great Parent of the universe looks upon the whole of the human family with a fatherly care and paternal regard; He views them as His offspring, and without any of those contracted feelings that influence the children of men…”6
Unfortunately, living among the influence of this world, we feed and grow these “contracted feelings” especially when we move away from the core truths of who we really are inside: We are a family, first and foremost--eternal brothers and sisters! Most of us have a sibling or two who have chosen a different path than that of our parents or ourselves, but we still find a way to include them in family dinners, birthdays, special occasions, conversations, visits, and phone calls. This is what family is! There is no reason for any members to feel as if they don’t have a home, and we must do everything we can to let them know they are loved, without adopting their way of life or expecting them to adopt ours.
All of my siblings have chosen a different path than I chose. They all left the church around twenty years ago: they all drink, they all smoke, they all have tattoos, one lived an alternative lifestyle with her girlfriend, and two of my three siblings don’t believe in God anymore. Have I rejected them? Heck, no!!! (And yes, I use the good old “Utah Mormon” word “heck” proudly!) I would give everything I own to keep my brothers and sisters in my life! I need them. They are my friends.
I certainly needed my older brother’s knowhow and mechanic expertise when the starter in my car blew out. I’ll never forget how he stayed up late in my driveway tirelessly helping me after he already had a grueling long day at work. In turn, he needed me when he injured his leg doing construction and was stuck in bed for a couple weeks; I brought him his favorite meal, Poppy-seed Chicken Casserole, and a plate of heart-shaped sugar cookies.
I need my sister’s example of gentleness and love to the weak and elderly. She’s been employed as a recreational therapist in a care center for the past two-and-a-half decades. I’ll never forget the first time I witnessed her so intently impart her love to one of the patients. He was paralyzed from the neck down, his hands clenched in tight fists, his body twisted; drool and crusted-food surrounded his mouth, and the smell of urine made him unpleasant to stand next to. Yet, I was in awe as I watched my sister chat with him like a dear friend. When their visit was over, she cradled his head in her hand and kissed him gently on the forehead. He bubbled over with joy because she treated him with so much dignity. My sister needed me when she became terribly depressed after escaping another abusive relationship. I was a shoulder for her to cry on, and I was there to remind her that her life was worth living, that she was valuable beyond measure, and that she was loved.
I needed my younger brother to call me for an hour on my birthday just to remind me that I am dearly loved and that he thinks of me often. And he needed me to call him after he found out his wife was pregnant with her second child and he was dealing with all the doubt, fear, pressure, and anxiety that comes to a father who works 50 to 60 hours a week because he wants so desperately to provide comfortable living for his children.
With my siblings, I strive to remember that we need each other because we are family. I have high standards, yes, and I never intend to compromise my faith that the Church is true and the principles taught in the scriptures and by apostles are also true. I never intend to change my lifestyle or spiritual commitments to the Gospel. Keeping this in mind, one of the sweetest truths I’ve come to know in this church is the worth of the soul. Worth is not the same as worthiness. (There is danger when we confuse these two.) Our worth never changes or fluctuates based off of what we say or do or don’t say or do. My husband and I created a mission statement with several affirmations that we repeat weekly in our home with our children. One of those affirmations states, “We choose to look for the good in others and in ourselves ALWAYS remembering ‘the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.’7” The Book of Mormon teaches that we “shall not forbid any man from coming unto you when ye shall meet together, but suffer them that they may come unto you and forbid them not; But ye shall pray for them, and shall not cast them out.”8
If there’s anything that should be cast out or that shouldn’t “fit in”, it’s the hurtful labels, the beam in our own eye. Stop the nitpicking and judging on both sides of the spectrum. No one likes to be labeled a failure or lose credibility due to a prejudice or bias. I honestly and deeply believe we find what we look for.... and what we discover reflects more on who we are than who the other person is. President Hinckley wisely taught, “When we look for the worst in anyone, we will find it. But if we will concentrate on the best, that element will grow until it sparkles.”9 All of us have something good to offer if we will just learn to appreciate it and cultivate it. We need what is deep inside each other, the light we ALL were born with.

Works Cited


(1) The Apostle Paul - 1 Timothy 6:12 (2) Abraham Lincoln – His First Inaugural Address (3) The Lord God - Genesis 2:18 (4) The Apostle Paul - 1 Thessalonians 5:5 (5) Theme song from 1980’s television sitcom Cheers - written by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo (6) Joseph Smith - Times and Seasons, Apr. 15, 1842, p. 759 (7) Revelation to Joseph Smith - D&C 18:10 (8) Jesus – 3 Nephi 18:22 (9) President Gordon B. Hinkley – Loyalty -April 2003 General Conference Talk 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

God Can Even Use Me

These are some highlights I've selected from a fantastic BYU devotional by, Dean M. Davies, I discovered about a week ago.  I love this!!

"...You might say, “I’m no one special... I’m not a celebrity. I’m nobody. I’m average in every way. I’m not particularly smart, eloquent, coordinated, well dressed, or even well behaved. How could God use me?”

Don’t you know that since the beginning of time our Heavenly Father has reached out to those who were average and used them for His purposes?


Gideon was a farmer, but God saw him as the man who would deliver Israel from bondage.


When Samuel stood before the people to present to them their new young King Saul, the Bible tells us that Saul was so terrified that he “hid himself among the stuff.”(1 Samuel 10:22)


Even though Esther was an orphan and a captive in a strange land, she saved her people from execution. Even today the Jews celebrate the Feast of Purim to commemorate her courage.


When it came time for our Savior to restore His Church to the earth, whom did He choose? There were many refined, educated, well-dressed, well-spoken people on the earth at that time. But our Savior chose a rough, humble boy—a farmer, a youth with very little formal schooling.


Why does the Lord choose the weak things of the world for His purposes? Why does God choose the “base things of the world, and things which are despised”? Paul answered his own question: “That no flesh should glory in his presence.”(1 Cor. 1:28–29)


Why do you suppose God told Gideon to keep sending his troops home until he only had three hundred men to face more than one hundred thousand of the enemy?


Why do you think our Savior chose a fisherman to be His chief apostle who would lead the Church after He was gone?


Why do you suppose God chose an ­untutored farm boy to translate the Book of Mormon?


First, because God doesn’t look on our ­countenance or the height of our stature...


...Second, because God is able to take the most humble clay and create of it a masterpiece.


...Third, God chooses the average and the weak so that no man can boast and say, “I have done this out of my own ability.” He uses ordinary “earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.”


...Our Heavenly Father doesn’t need you to be mighty, intelligent, well dressed, well-spoken, or well inherited. He needs you to incline your hearts to Him and seek to honor Him by serving Him and reaching out in compassion to those around you."


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

More Mindful

So far this semester, I've really enjoyed my class, Writing and Rhetoric.  Each chapter I've studied, essay I've written, and lecture I've listened too has shown me how much more mindful, thoughtful, and informed I need to be with the opinions I hold and the words I say.

I like to think that I'm open-minded to people who believe different than me but now and then I catch a very unflattering glimpse of myself unwilling to explore the position or reasoning of an opposing view. I'm terribly uncomfortable with debate and I suppose part of that stems from my lack of several tools: vocabulary, wit, and knowledge... just to name a few.

Still though, I want to learn. I desperately want to learn! I need things to push me out of my comfort zone and I need to get over my fear of rejection or acceptance.  I have talents and gifts unique to me that I know can be a strength and benefit to others.  I know that if I just had more skill and know-how with some of these gifts, I could go so much further and do so much more good than I have in my life.

I feel grateful for the opportunity to go to school, especially BYU.  I'm glad I've decided to stick with enrollment this semester because it's working out, even with my upside-down life right now.  Being on campus (not in online courses but real face-to-face classes) is so thrilling. I recognize every time the incredible blessing it is to further my education. Stepping into the classrooms and being a part of the academic and spiritual atmosphere is absolutely energizing!  I know this is right where I want to be in my life.  I'm so glad I'm here... even if I have a long, long road ahead of me.

-Alicia

Monday, September 19, 2016

Meekness, the Subtraction of Self - Ponderize - Week 51

Yesterday in Sunday School, the lesson focused on the beatitudes.  The attribute or virtue that seemed to take up most of the class discussion was meekness:  This is something I am trying to learn more in my life.  The talk "Meekly Drenched In Destiny" was referred to through several points - It's one of my favorite Neal A. Maxwell sermons - I don't think I could ever listen to it enough because I'm in constant need of these reminders.  I reviewed it again this morning and zeroed in on this section:

"Those of us who are too concerned about status or being last in line or losing our place need to reread those words about how the “last shall be first” and the “first shall be last” (Matthew 19:30). Assertiveness is not automatically bad, of course, but if we fully understood the motives which underlie some of our acts of assertion, we would be embarrassed. Frankly, when others perceive such motivations, they are sometimes embarrassed for us.

Granted, the meek go on fewer ego trips, but they have far greater adventures. Ego trips, those “travel now and pay later” indulgences, are always detours. The straight and narrow path is the only path which takes us to new and breathtaking places.

Meekness means less concern over being taken for granted and more concern over being taken by the hand. Less concern over revising our own plans for us and more concern about adopting His plans for us are other sure signs of meekness....
...Meekness is not a display of humility; it is the real thing. True meekness is never proud of itself, never conscious of itself."

These are the things that have been stirring in my heart and I want so much to be more humble. I want to learn these vital attributes, to be truly and sincerely meek.  The scripture that comes to my mind as a good one to ponder for the week is Mosiah 4:11

" I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel."

-Alicia

Sunday, September 18, 2016

"None Shall Slumber Nor Sleep"

Yesterday and the day before we did respite foster care.  So far, we've done respite  for eleven children total and this past weekend was our very first experience with a girl.  We watched her half-brother about a week ago and this past Friday and Saturday we watched both children.

These half siblings are several years apart. The girl is right between the ages of my two daughters and it was fun to see them both get along so well with her. Micah was thrilled to take care of the baby boy because he's always wanted a younger brother and these moments through foster care are his closest opportunity.  I was surprised by Chandler yesterday because he usually resists touching or interacting with small kids. I wish there was a way I could've captured the good solid half hour he spent gently holding the foster baby on his lap, feeding him Cheerios during the funeral we attended.

The foster girl was removed a couple years ago and her brother was removed only a couple months ago.  When they found the baby, the cops took a hair sample and discovered he tested positive for cocaine, meth, and marijuana.  He couldn't say any words and was terribly malnourished. During the first week his foster parents had him, he went through serious drug withdrawals and was extremely difficult to console.  It's amazing how much he has recovered in such a short amount of time.  Despite a few minor issues, he really seems like a normal happy baby.

Friday night at 1:00 A.M., I heard a timid little knock on our bedroom door.  I opened the door slowly to the foster girl standing there clenching a framed picture in her arms. "I can't sleep" she announced.
"Oh, honey, is there something bothering you?" I asked.
"I miss my mom." She sighed.
"I'm sure you do.  Is this her?" I asked, pointing to the small framed picture she was holding,
"Yeah, that's me and her before I was taken and put into foster care."
"Have you seen her recently?"
"No, not recently... the social workers keep trying to arrange a visit but they say my mom is too sick."
I didn't say anything.

(I haven't been a foster mom for long but I do know enough to understand what the social worker means when they say to a child, "Your mom is very sick right now."  It means that their mom is too high on drugs to be cognitively aware of her child even if they did arrange a visit.)

I walked the foster girl to the bathroom sink and asked if she wanted a cup of water. She gratefully accepted the offer.  I asked if there was any kind of toy or stuffed animal she brought that could help her sleep better.  She nodded and began sorting through her backpack. "I have this," she said pulling out a mouse-like stuffed animal.  "My mom gave it to me.  This and the picture is all I have to remind me of her. I sleep with them every night, even if the picture frame digs into my skin."
"Those two things must be so important to you," I said. "No wonder you want to hold on to them."

We sat down in the middle of the hallway and I listened to her tell me more sad stories; she told me about the time her beaded necklace broke at school - it was the necklace her mom had given her. She hid in the girl's bathroom and cried all day and no one could get her to come come out, not even her teacher.  "It was my only necklace from from my mom.  No one understood why I was crying so much about a bunch of beads.  I miss her so much."
My heart broke for this poor little girl. After time, I could see she was starting to get tired again and suggested she continue to talk to me while she was laying in bed.  She agreed and climbed back under the covers into the lower bunk with her arms still clinging tightly to her memories. She gazed at the mattress above  in a wishful state, "If I could... I would make my mom better so she wasn't sick anymore.  I'd give her all the medicine she needed to help her be well again."
"You are a very sweet girl," I assured her. "I bet you would do anything for your mother.... And you know what?"
"What?" she asked.
"I know there are many people who want to see your mom get better too."
She sighed deeply, "The judge is going to tell me soon if I can go back home with her.  If he says 'no' I'm going to be so upset.  I'm going to scream and scream and be very, very mad....
If he says 'yes' I'm going to give the judge  the biggest hug.  I'll be so happy."
She sighed again.
"This has got to be very difficult for you.  I can't imagine how hard it is."
"Yeah... it's hard." She confirmed.
She lay their a little longer, lost in her imagination, then quietly asked, "What time is it?"
I answered,"It was 1:00 when you knocked on my door."
"What time is it now?"
I peaked around the corner to the clock on the wall, "It's just after 1:30."
She folded her arms over the blankets and nestled her head deeper in the pillows, "I think I'm okay now."
"Are you sure? Do you need me to listen anymore?"
She thought for a moment, "No, I'm okay now.  You can go back to bed."
"Alright, sweetheart.  Do you want me to leave the bathroom light on so it's not so dark?"
"Yes, thank you," she replied and drifted back to sleep.

The next few hours of the night were intervals of  the baby waking and crying.  He seemed to only be soothed if I stood and swayed with him in my arms. Around 4:00 his sister knocked on my door again, she was concerned about her brother.  She suggested he needed a snack and I thanked her for the advice. "Just a tip." she smiled and turned cheerfully back to bed.
"What a good big sister," I thought.
I didn't get him a snack but continued to sway him until he fell asleep in my arms.

It's been a long time since I had a night where my sleep was interrupted that much. I question sometimes what on earth I am doing, throwing myself into this new life of foster care.  I wonder about my capabilities to handle the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual pressure it will be on me and my family. Yet, despite all my self-doubts, despite all my fears... I can't help but feel this intense pull, this deep desire somehow grow increasingly to keep going, to continue on in this rescue effort.

It's amazing to me how important biological parents are to children - no matter how good or bad, involved or absent they are.  The child wants the mom and dad they are genetically tied to more than anyone else in this world.  Sure, other people can become very important parent-figures and do great things in their life but no one will ever mean as much or fill the hole that only a biological parent can fill.

My vision is changing and my eyes are opening to a world that was invisible before.  There are five regions of foster care in the State of Utah and over 600 children in just our foster region alone. That's a ton when you realize that each of these kids have to come from extremely critical and dangerous circumstances in order to "qualify" for removal.  I can't turn them away from my home, I just can't!! Not after what I've experienced so far... and what I've experienced is only a tiny fraction.  This is going to be very hard work. I pray I can measure up to the task. I pray for strength beyond my own.

-Alicia

Thursday, September 15, 2016

"Why is it that ye are so fearful?"

It has been almost a week now since our van has been in the repair shop.  Finally, they think they have diagnosed the problem; another circuit module issue that transmits the wrong messages and causes engine failure. It will cost us over $1,600 to replace this module just to see if they have truly pegged the culprit.  The Chevy dealer informed me their factory records indicate our van was brought into his shop on two other occasions; First, when Via Motors realized they had a failed "science experiment" on their hands and took it in at 3,000 miles due to a messed up computer system... And second, when Dastrup Auto brought it in at 6,000 miles due to a different short-circuit module.
...And here we are bringing it back at 9,000.


...Now when we do the math, it seems if we continue with this vehicle, we will have nothing but nightmares every 3,000 miles. We just can't get over why NONE of this was on the CarFax, not a trace!


My husband has begun to ask some of the same questions I was asking last Saturday: "Why didn't the Spirit warn us?  Why did we feel fine about everything when we made the purchase?"


Last night, Joseph couldn't contain his frustration as he shouted, "I'm not so sure I even understand what the purpose of praying about anything does anymore, especially when we can't even recognize the answers! Why do we keep being led into situations like this?! Maybe we haven't been led at all?"


I understood his feelings but there was nothing I could say to console him.  He continued,
"Alicia, what if we move into this house and find out that we are in way over our heads?! What if we have emergency repairs crop up like these cars but only a hundred times worse?! What do we do then? We can't do anything because we're bound into these contracts!  Do you realize we're stuck!! Absolutely stuck!! And don't tell me to 'keep the faith', I'm tired of hearing that it will all work out because it's not! Nothing is working out!  This is a huge mess and faith hasn't gotten us anywhere!!"


I didn't know what to say to him.  I was completely at a loss of words. I get what he's saying, I totally get where he's coming from. I don't know what to do either. We are expected to close on our house in two weeks. What are we doing?!! This is crazy!!


Somehow, I still really feel like we're going to be okay (aside from the ulcers I think I'm developing.  I can't pretend that these past few months haven't been horribly uncomfortable and terribly strenuous).


I've been reading in the first chapter of Nephi again and I suppose with Lehi's journey, they could've had some similar doubts about the directions they were given:


  • If the brass plates were so important and if Lehi was so inspired, why didn't the Lord command Lehi's family to get them before they left Jerusalem? Why did they have to travel all the way out of the city for miles and then backtrack? Isn't that wasted time and energy?


  • If Nephi was such a spiritual guy, why did he have the idea to give all their family's gold and silver to negotiate the trade with Laban only to have that attempt completely backfire and lose all their money? Doesn't it seems like a completely pointless loss?


I don't know the answers to these questions anymore than I know the answers to our current situation. I just know that the Lord won't let us fail.  And in the words of Nephi, "I know that He shall prepare a way for [us] to accomplish the things He has commanded us", the things that matter most.


And what matters most at this point?
It matters that we keep praying, keep moving, keep believing, keep focusing on and recognizing the blessings and the good that is happening through all of this.  I honestly don't think the Lord is so extremely concerned with what, in life, happens to us - Instead, I believe God is far more interested in how we choose to happen to life.  It's so important that no matter the circumstances, no matter the difficulties, we choose to remain faithful to God, "at all times, in all things, and in all places, even unto death." (Mosiah 18:9)


I read a talk by Elder L. Whitney Clayton from 2001, that corresponded with my scripture study this morning and I greatly appreciated this testimony:


All of us have come face-to-face with difficult, even desperate hours, when with tears we have fallen on our knees and pled as did this father, ‘Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.’


Just as the Savior stood ready to help this father whose son was “sore vexed,” (Matt. 17:15) so is He ready to help our unbelief today so that with faith we can survive our mortal struggles and “come off conqueror.” (D&C 10:5)


Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the first principle of the gospel and is more than mere belief.  Faith is a “hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” “Faith always moves its possessor to … physical and mental action.”  “To have faith in Jesus Christ means to have such trust in him that we obey whatever he commands. There is no faith where there is no obedience.”


[See  A of F 1:4 Bible Dictionary, “Faith,” 669–70.] ( Alma 32:21 see also  Heb. 11:1  Ether 12:6) [Bible Dictionary, 670.] [Gospel Principles (1997), 118.]


Amidst all these storms and turmoil, we have had miraculous blessings and this past week we’ve started a family ritual to go around taking turns mentioning something about the day that was a tender mercy. These are some that have been mentioned:


  1. Vick's generosity and help at the Laundromat last Saturday
  2. The guy who did our home inspection decided for no apparent reason to charge us $100 LESS than he usually charges.
  3. My friend, Jenn Peterson, helped drive my kids around all day Tues.
  4. My friend, Suzanne, let me borrow her car yesterday afternoon so I could get some groceries and get my kids to their music lessons and orthodontist appointments.
  5. Right when I was returning Suzanne’s car, my friend, Doyle, called to tell me that he and his wife were leaving on a two-week trip and said we could use their Mitsubishi while they were away.


None of these tender mercies were things we asked for but were freely offered. THIS is what faith is doing for us!!  THIS is what prayers are doing for us!  This is WHY I believe things are going to be alright. The Lord has said so clear, “Alicia, if I want bread, I can get bread. If I want fish, I can get fish.” I believe Him. As hard as all of this is and as hard as it may be, I know we are going to be okay

... and for the times when I'm not so strong and fear pulls me down beneath the tumultuous waves, I pray, 'Lord, help thou my unbelief!'


-Alicia


My husband sent me this really great message while he was at work this afternoon. It made me cry. (good tears of course, very good tears)

Hey,

I had a g+ notification this morning from a post by Pres. Uchtdorf.  I think I felt the power of what he was saying and I am choosing to believe this words and trust in them.  I just wanted to share it as we move forward.  I still don't know where the end of this road is, but I believe choosing faith in this situation will get us much further than choosing fear and doubt.  Here is what he said:

"The Lord knows you. He knows your heart and is pleased with your sacrifice. He smiles upon you each day. He will uphold you and prepare the way for you. He will send His angels before you. You will feel their presence. And with the help of heaven, your talents will be multiplied.

I promise you that as you lift those around you, the Lord God, the Creator of the universe, will lift you up. If you will only believe and incline your heart to our Beloved Father, He will place within you a peace that surpasses understanding. He will give you joy. May each of you always remember this."

"Nearer my God to Thee, nearer to Thee!  E'en though it be a cross that raiseth me."  

If we draw nearer to God in this, no cost will be too much.  We get to choose faith and it is a privilege that we can choose faith in a situation like this.  My hope and prayer in all of this is that this cross will raise us up to Him.  

Be patient with me as I work through my pride as it manifests itself in anger, frustration and doubts and fears.

I love you... but I love the Lord more ;)  But I know my love of the Lord will only increase my love for you.  I hope to be able to grow in that more.  I know it doesn't always show up that way.


Just some thoughts.
Joseph

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Qualities That Qualified

I'm reading the Book of Mormon slowly from the beginning so I can, go into greater depth, lay things out, and find more patterns.  This morning, I noticed qualities that qualified Nephi to receive from God the answers to the questions he was seeking:

  1. Nephi did NOT think his father's visions were foolish imaginations.
  2. Nephi did NOT murmur or complain about leaving everything behind, he trusted that God was leading them.
  3. Nephi believed that even the strongest cities can fall and their hometown was no exception. (1 Nephi 2:11-13 & 16)
  4. He had "great desires to know the mysteries of God" so he took these desires to the Lord in prayer.
  5. He received a witness through the power of "the Holy Spirit" that his father's visions weren't crazy, that he indeed was inspired by the Lord, and bore testimony immediately of this to his brothers.
  6. Nephi had incredible faith.
  7. He relied on God for spiritual answers to his spiritual problems NOT the intellect or "wisdom of the world". Instead he "sought [the Lord] diligently with lowliness of heart."  (I looked up the word lowliness in the 1828 dictionary and I love the description: "Freedom from pride"as if to illustrate the chains of bondage, the slavery that pride really is!)(1 Nephi 2:17)
  8. He obeyed every command of God without whining or complaining because he knew and trusted in the character, the faithfulness, love, wisdom, and power of his Father in Heaven.
  9. He didn't let fear of man or things that seemed impossible stop him. He knew God was stronger.(1 Nephi 3:7, 14 &15)
  10. Unlike the popular majority, Nephi took the prophet's counsel seriously. (1 Nephi 3:18)
  11. His priorities were straight and he clearly understood what truly mattered most. He knew the scriptures and records of those who had gone before were far more precious than any amount of money could ever buy. Even when he was mocked and beaten for this belief. (1 Nephi 3:19,20 & 28,29)

Some things I'll be thinking about today...
More thoughts to come in my journey to study this awesome book again.
-Alicia
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Monday, September 12, 2016

Be Not Weary - Ponderize - Week 50

I read this scripture differently this morning.  It spoke more to me in the context of a wife and mother rather than missionary work or church service.

I almost read it as, "Alicia, don't let twists and turns, bumps and bruises in life wear you so thin that you're too tired to give meaningful focus to your family, create joyful experiences, and make time for listening, really listening."

Synonyms to the word "weary" are: "bored, impatient, indifferent, fed-up, or sick of" (Any of these could be inserted below to add a little more depth to counsel.)

"Be not weary in well-doing" sounds like a strong command to make a conscious effort, a very deliberate effort to say and do those things that increase the spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical health or "wellness" of my family no matter how much stress and strain I might feel pulling on me.

This will be a great verse to ponder for the week.  As I think of it each day, I have a goal to visualize and apply what tirelessly nourishing the health of my family looks and sounds like:
Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great. - D&C 64:33

-Alicia

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Major Tom, your circuits dead, there's something wrong.

Our "new" van broke down Friday night due to the transmission jolting and revving.  It caught us totally off guard. I tested it again in the morning and sure enough, the same problem. I had to call and have it towed.  The factory warranty we were led to believe it was under is actually null and void because of an undisclosed original owner/company, Via Motors, that removed the engine and replaced it with their own parts. It's like some kind of eerie mad Scientist experiment where the Dr. takes out the brain of a patient and puts in a different one just to see how they function. When we bought it, we knew nothing about Via Motors and it was never disclosed on the car facts. We understood the engine had all brand-new parts but we were told they were GM and the power train was covered for one more year. Learning otherwise yesterday made me sick to my stomach.  This is the last thing we needed!

Since I am out a vehicle for a while, I had to have my friend, Suzanne, give me a lift to the laundromat so I could take care of the wash. She could only drop me off yesterday because all her kids had soccer games they had to be to.  I told her not to worry about picking me up and that somehow I'd find a ride home.  I brought some food and my homework with me.  In between my reading assignments I made phone calls back and forth to the company that we bought our van through and the Chevy dealer's repair shop.  The place who sold it to us was horrified with the information I gave them and denied having any knowledge about Via Motors.

All the detective work between the dealer and the factory was very frustrating.  I needed a breather.  After changing the clothes from the washers to the dryers, I walked around to the side of the building and slumped down in the shade of a tree.  I began listening to Richard G. Scott's talk from 1995 "Trust in the Lord." My 80-yr-old friend, Vick, came outside and discovered me sitting there.  (Vick is the owner of The Wash Hut Laundromat I've been going to for these past eight years.  He's a very nice man, is always asking how I'm doing and bringing the children treats.)

I tried to put a smile on my face but couldn't suppress feeling so stupid and completely humiliated for buying another lemon, especially at this time where we're going to have to scrape and save all we can to make our mortgage each month.  I was overwhelmed with doubts of my ability to be inspired and questioned myself:  "Was there a prompting I missed somehow that tried to warn me about this van?  How many other times have I felt as if I was going in the right direction only to discover a dead end? What's wrong with me? Why is this happening?"

"How ya doin' kid?" Vick's voice interrupted my self-defeating thoughts. I looked up and answered with a tired, "Hey there."
 Sensing something wasn't right he asked, "What brings you over to this side of the building?"
"I'm just trying to gather my thoughts," I replied.
"Oh??" Vick said with an imploring tone and crossed his arms to comfortably listen.
"You won't believe it... but remember how our two cars broke down a couple months ago and we got that new van?? Well, now this new one is having some serious issues... right at the time we're getting ready to move into a house and take on a mortgage too.  Even this dang phone, our only phone is literally falling to pieces (I held it up with its shattered screen in the air)... and so is our computer at home.  It's like everything is deciding to break right now -  right when everything is being removed from under us."
I took in a deep breath and heaved a heavy sigh.
"Aw, kid, I'm so sorry!" Vick replied with deep sympathy.
Despite my effort to hold back my tears, they began to stream down my face. I tried to wipe them quickly away and be strong. Vick rushed inside, grabbed me some Kleenex and a drink, and handed them to me as I continued:
"I just wish I knew what was going on.  Is the Lord trying to tell me something?  Is there something I need to change? I don't even have time to deal with all of this. I have a five-page paper due on Monday and I can't think, I can't focus at all.  I'm trying to be optimistic.  I'm trying to hear the Lord's voice in all of this.  I don't know what to do."
Vick placed his hand lovingly on my head, "Oh, this is awful, kid. I'm so very sorry." He stood there searching for more words to say,  "I wish there was something I could do.  I wish I could write your paper for you.  I wish I could fix your van, fix everything that's wrong.  I just wish I could make everything better."
"I know you do, Vick. You are very sweet." I assured him that his kindness to listen was more than enough and I appreciated him expressing so much concern. "I know everything will be alright.  I just need to trust that." I pointed to the talk I had on my phone by Richard G. Scott, "I just need to trust this."
"Well, let me know what you need from me." Vick insisted and returned into the building with a friendly wave.
I thanked him again and put my headphones back in to continue listening to Elder Scott's talk. I had to finish my work, I just couldn't afford to waste any more time.  I gathered my stuff and walked back into the Wash Hut so I could begin folding clothes from the dryers. Elder Scott concluded his talk with this testimony:

"I know the principles that we have discussed are true. They have been tested in the crucible of personal experience. [his own crucible of personal experience] To recognize the hand of the Lord in your life and to accept His will without complaint is a beginning. That decision does not immediately eliminate the struggles that will come for your growth. But I witness that it is the best way there is for you to find strength and understanding. It will free you from the dead ends of your own reasoning. It will allow your life to become a productive, meaningful experience, when otherwise you may not know how to go on (see D&C 24:8)."

The counsel, "recognize the hand of the Lord in your life" hit me as the key to the peace I was needing in that moment.  I began listing to myself all the blessings I had seen in the past several hours:
"I'm grateful my friend, Suzanne, was there for me to drive me to the laundromat.
I'm grateful I have some quiet time to study.
I'm grateful my arms and legs work so that I can stand here and easily fold these clothes.
I'm grateful I my health is good and I can enjoy the beauty of this day.
I'm grateful that I have perfect hearing and that I have this blessing of technology to listen to this talk from an apostle of the Lord as I work."

Focusing on the blessings really helped me and I felt so much better, much more calm.

Vick came over to visit again.
"How are you planning on getting all this stuff home?"
"I was going to call a friend and see if someone might be available to take me back."
"Me! Call me!" Vick offered.
"Okay, thank you," I said graciously.
He hastily brought his car around to the front of the building, backed it up, and opened the trunk. "Here you go. Just let me know when you are ready to leave."

I mentally added one more thing to be grateful for on my list. And started Elder Scott's talk over again for the third time.

"Just when all seems to be going right, challenges often come in multiple doses applied simultaneously. When those trials are not consequences of your disobedience, they are evidence that the Lord feels you are prepared to grow more (see Prov. 3:11–12). He therefore gives you experiences that stimulate growth, understanding, and compassion which polish you for your everlasting benefit. To get you from where you are to where He wants you to be requires a lot of stretching, and that generally entails discomfort and pain.

When you face adversity, you can be led to ask many questions. Some serve a useful purpose; others do not. To ask, Why does this have to happen to me? Why do I have to suffer this, now? What have I done to cause this? will lead you into blind alleys. It really does no good to ask questions that reflect opposition to the will of God. Rather ask, What am I to do? What am I to learn from this experience? What am I to change? Whom am I to help? How can I remember my many blessings in times of trial? Willing sacrifice of deeply held personal desires in favor of the will of God is very hard to do. Yet, when you pray with real conviction, “Please let me know Thy will” and “May Thy will be done,” you are in the strongest position to receive the maximum help from your loving Father.

The laundry was ready and loaded into the trunk of Vicks car.  He came out with a bag full of treats from the vending machine. "For your children." He smiled, stuffing the bag between the folded towels.  He drove me home and helped me carry the baskets up to my apartment.  I thanked him again for all his kindness and generosity.  He hugged me, kissed me on the head, and drove away with a wave, "I love you, kid."

I pulled out the bag of treats Vick had stuffed into the laundry and began to divide the candy among the children.  At the bottom of a bag was an envelope with $100.  "Ah, Vick, you didn't need to do that!" I said out loud as if he were still there.  I rebuked myself for complaining so openly. I didn't want him to give me money! I didn't want anyone to!!  Nevertheless, it was another blessing and I thanked my God for it. I remembered the verse I had been pondering over this past week. "For I know the plans I have for you..."

"When you pass through trials for His purposes, as you trust Him, exercise faith in Him, He will help you. That support will generally come step by step, a portion at a time. While you are passing through each phase, the pain and difficulty that comes from being enlarged will continue. If all matters were immediately resolved at your first petition, you could not grow." - Richard G. Scott

I want to grow.
I trust the Lord.
-Alicia

Thursday, September 8, 2016

May God's Love Be With You!

A week ago, we finished our Book of Mormon reading as a ward family.  For our final activity, we all wrote our testimonies on "gold" plates and buried them in our Bishop's backyard. They will fit nicely there with King Benjamin's tower, the buried weapons of war, and the Jaredite barge [aka: his carriage house]. Words can't express how much I'll miss these adventures we've had in this place.

Leading up to that final event last week, I studied what it meant to "lay hold upon every good thing" (Moroni 7:19).  I searched the definition and discovered "lay hold" means to "seize" as in "seize the day".  Of course, this reminded me of my favorite movie, Mitty, and how Cheryl's influence caused Walter to seize the day.

I've written about it before, the secret to life....  To tell the truth, It's on my mind constantly... so it may come as no surprise that I thought about it again this morning as I studied the New Testament and came across these verses, "Ye are all the children of the light and the children of the day... let us who are of the day, be sober [calm, reasonable, and clear thinking], putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation." (1 Thessalonians 5:5,8)

In this modern age there is warfare of all kinds, not just physical but spiritual and emotional too.  In the midst of  battle, the most vital areas are the chest and head -So, I really like the imagery Paul uses as he instructs us how to protect them.

When I think of Salvation for our helmet, I think of "always remembering Him" [our Savior and His atoning sacrifice for us].  This is vital because we are fallible, we are mortal, we make mistakes, and we're so very far from perfect. The Savior knew we would need hope in life's moments that hit us so painfully with this reality.  Truly, what can bring more hope into our lives than knowing and always remembering that we have a way out of every tangled mess and that He delights to untangle us?!!

The breastplate covers our heart and lungs - the place where cells draw in life-giving air and carry it to our life-giving blood.  The functions of the these organs in our chest give us LIFE, they sustain us. we could not exist without them.  That's why I find it interesting that they are protected by faith and love, the two most powerful forces in the universe!

Henry Drummond put it beautifully when he said, "On the last analysis, then, love is life. Love never faileth and life never faileth so long as there is love."  

Finally, the other words I read that added to this imagery were these, "Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks." (1 Thes. 5:16-18)  

If we could remember these three things today and everyday: Mind, Heart, and Mouth - it will help us "lay hold" and seize the day - to become who we are striving to become. It will preserve us in the heat of battle, always remembering the Savior and His great atoning sacrifice, being motivated and driven by faith and love, constantly praying, constantly communicating with God and striving in all our relationships to speak with more gratitude and offer more thanks when we open our mouth.

I know as we do this we will discover the secret to a very rich, and very abundant life!

We are children of the day!  Aw man, I'm so grateful for all the SUNSHINE that adds a measure of grace to my world!
Keep dancin' ;)
-Alicia

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

All Planned Out - Ponderize - Week 49

I'm delighted to share what I found in my scriptures this morning and what I'll be pondering on for the week!  Now, the verse I'm sharing is from a very modern translation of the Bible and I know that as members of the church we usually stick to the KJV but I really, really like how this verse comes to life with The Message version:

"This is God’s Word on the subject... I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.
When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen.
When you come looking for me, you’ll find me.
Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.
I’ll turn things around for you. I’ll bring you back from all the countries into which I drove you—God’s Decree—bring you home to the place from which I sent you off into exile. You can count on it."
- Jeremiah 29:11-14

I also really like how it sounds in the first couple verses of the NIV version:

 "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you,” declares the Lord,” 
- Jeremiah 29:11-13

I found a little song that seems fitting for the verse too.  I find peace when I remember that God has everything under control.  It will all work out! :)

-Alicia