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The Purest Love

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

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

This Mission

I'm at a loss of words with what to post these days.  I feel like we've all been through the war with foster care.  You know a soldier can prepare and train for battle, they can go through all the drills, but there is nothing like actually being on the front lines. It's a real eye-opener to say the least. Foster care and adoption are extremely romanticized: There is so much more underneath and behind every story.

I met a woman named Hannah in church whose mother-in-law was a foster mom for many years.  Last Sunday, Hannah asked me how things were going.  I told her, "we're just taking it one day at a time.  That's really all we can do." She listened sincerely.  Hannah was so thoughtful and quickly sought for some advice from her mother-in-law.  Later that afternoon, I received a very long email as a response.  I really needed the support.

I know that things could be so much more difficult than they are.  I just read a post by another foster mom seeking advice. She explained that her foster son has these outbursts where he starts throwing the heaviest thing in the room and punches her other kids in her family until they bleed. "until they bleed?" Sheesh! Reading that made me very grateful we haven't had any situations that extreme.

Every time we come close to throwing in the towel, both Joseph and I get some kind of impression or some sort of heavenly nod that encourages us to keep going.  Last weekend, I went to Time Out for Women.  Nathan Pacheco sang the main theme from The Mission (a song that has played a huge role in my life's mission). Later,  Micheal Wilcox and Hillary Weeks both gave analogies to trials as climbing a mountain (another parallel in my own life). The part that I least expected was when  Emily Freeman spoke briefly about her experience as a foster mom while raising her four biological children. So much of the event felt like a direct message to me... to us, in all we are facing.

This mission wasn't given to us because we were worthy for it.  Heaven knows there are a billion other parents who would do a far better job than we are doing!  This mission was given to us because we asked for it, we were willing to do it.  If we hadn't relied on God before, we're certainly relying on Him now because we definitely can't do this on our own.

 "Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ." - 2 Timothy 2:3

"And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up." - D&C 84:88

-Alicia


Friday, February 17, 2017

Stronger

Joseph and I have grown so much closer together in the past three-and-a-half months. One of the reasons for this may be because foster care is such a terribly lonely road, there are so few people who understand how it affects the family. It's just one of those things that has to be experienced to grasp the full scale of it all.  Joseph and I have had to rely very heavily on each other for support, we've taken more time to be together, to go on dates, and to confide our hearts. 

When you foster, you invite an immense amount of trauma into your life and the lives of your children--The medical professionals call this secondary trauma. Because foster care is so taxing, so difficult, and so dramatically life-altering, it's important that we have a good team to work with: helpful resource counselors, informed social workers, and accessible support groups. 

Last night, Joseph and I met with the DCFS team for two hours. The meeting was very productive as we addressed every aspect and angle of the difficulties we're facing.  It felt so comforting to have them listen to us, to supply ways and ideas that will make our job a little easier and provide a better environment for the entire household.  We know our DCFS team genuinely cares about us and wants to make this work. 

In less than a month, the parent visits will increase to four hours a week (2 hrs on two different days), court hearings bi-weekly, and therapy two hours a week. Our schedules will definitely be more tight than they've ever been. I have to admit, this makes me a little more nervous to continue my schooling at BYU but I still believe that it's not impossible.

My husband and I are certainly learning to do hard things. We stumble and fall all along the way but we're learning.

I've been so proud to see Joseph increase in his resilience and optimism. He has been a good example to me of humility and faith.  This morning, he announced that he's going to hike Mt. Timponogos this August and he wants to start training with me mid-March. Anyone who knows Joseph would realize that this is absolutely huge for him! He usually hates any kind of exercise but he said he wants this to be a symbol of overcoming difficulty and persevering in the face of great opposition. It's amazing what has come over him!

We're going to make this. With God's grace, we will be strong enough.  We're going to make all of this together and come out on top. I am completely confident!

-Alicia :)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day!

I hope you have great plans to show the most important people in your life that you love them! It doesn't need to be extravagant or outlandish --It really is the small and simple things that make the difference.

Everyone, both men and women, want to know that they are cared for, that they are thought of, that they're important. True and pure love is the most powerful force in the universe. Pure love inspires people to accomplish their dreams, to be more faithful in their relationships, and to become the very best they could become. Pure love stems from selflessness and gratitude.  There is no thought of return, no concern for "what's in it for me?"-- it just simply gives of their time and self freely, verbally, physically, affectionately, thoughtfully.

My challenge today is to first, show this great love to those within the walls of your own home and then second, find someone who lives alone and do something for them today. Make it a ripple effect!

“There are many souls whom I have loved stronger than death. To them I have proved faithful—to them I am determined to prove faithful, until God calls me to resign up my breath.”
- Joseph Smith

Happy Valentine's!
Everybody wants to be loved!
- Alicia

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Sunday Drive


We all had a great evening tonight.  Chandler suggested we load up the family for a Sunday drive.  We didn't have a destination in mind at first but then decided to take a nice scenic ride up West Mountain to BYU's observatory where Joseph used to work when he was studying Astronomy.

We probably made it about 80-90% to the top of the mountain until we ended up getting stuck in the snow and mud.  In order to get ourselves un-stuck, we drove backwards down the slushy dirt road for about a half a mile.  We never made it to the observatory but were still able to enjoy a spectacular view!!  There's something I love about seeing this beautiful valley from a different angle, a fresh perspective.

I think we have the same "fresh perspective" opportunities in our own families, with our spouse and with our children. How often do we take the time to try and see them in a different light, to search for the beauty we've been missing?

I had a few principles stand out to me during some of the church meetings I attended today:
#1 -gratitude-- Be an optimist. Look for the good at home, focus on the qualities you love and admire in your children and your spouse. Exercise drawing your attention to all the great qualities you see in them.
#2 -Make time to connect with each member of your family.  Be there for them. Get to know them, their likes and dislikes, their hopes and dreams.  Check in with them regularly. Don't be in the habit of checking out.

Our little family drive this evening was fun.  I'm so glad we did it.  And of course, Chandler found the perfect instrumental music to make the ride a little more magical.
I love that guy!

-Alicia



Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. 
It turns what we have into enough, and more. 
It turns denial into acceptance, 
chaos to order, confusion to clarity. 
It can turn a meal into a feast, 
a house into a home, 
a stranger into a friend. 

-Melody Beattie

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Screwtape Letters

Eighteen eye-opening letters that reveal the adversary's tactics we are often blind to--The Screwtape Letters. It's been a while since I've read this book and I'm so excited to revisit it again!! 
 
I found the audio book on Youtube and made a playlist of it.  The audio is great because I can listen to it as I tackle chores and jobs around the house.  

Here's the link to the entire book.  Enjoy! 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Ladies Lunch and Life-Hacks



Life is so incredibly busy right now that I hardly have an extra minute to write these days. Being a foster mom takes up more time than most people realize. When I do get a free moment, it's usually spent doing homework for my class this semester.  I know the things that consume my hours are good... Even though I don't sleep anymore. ;)

Despite my crammed schedule, I was able to break away just for a couple hours this afternoon and enjoy a nice visit with my sisters-in-law (well, at least 5 of the 7). We gathered at Merrit's house, made a fancy lunch, and shared life-hacks with each other.  A few of the life-hacks were practical and revolved around awesome cleaning or cooking tips.  The other life-hacks were spiritual, like Lee's and Megan's.  

Lee shared that she has noticed a big difference in her life and in her relationships as she's taken the time to kneel and pray more throughout the day.  Megan shared a few verses from the scriptures and her personal testimony of them.  

The life-hack I gave was about perspective: As mothers, sometimes we see a mess and instantly assume that it is a result of our children being lazy or goofing off. But I shared the idea that sometimes the so-called "disasters" around our homes are evidence that our children are actually listening, that they're working hard, that they're doing great and wonderful things... and I gave some examples.

From the practical temporal life-hacks to the spiritual and inspiring ones: we laughed, we cried, and felt so much appreciation and love for one another.  It was a very refreshing afternoon.  I'm so grateful I married into this beautiful family.  I'm glad I have these seven sisters who get together and include me as one of them. I love that we're close and have regular, meaningful, and memorable visits.  I look forward to spending next weekend with these same wonderful ladies. 

-Alicia


Thursday, February 2, 2017

Seven "Take-Aways" From Groundhog Day

Every February 2nd we watch the movie Groundhog Day.  My husband and I love the messages from it.  These are seven things we've learned:


1. The worst kind of ruts to be stuck in are the deep repugnant trenches of self-centeredness and ego.

2. Nobody misses a jerk.
     "The wretch, concentred all in self,
       Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
      And, doubly dying, shall go down
      To the vile dust, from whence he sprung,
      Unwept, unhonored, and unsung.
                                -Sir Walter Scott

3. It's important to have consequences, both good and bad. That's how we learn. That's how we grow.

4. When you do good, do it for the right reasons. You can't fake your way into lasting relationships. If motives are not genuine, the masquerade may work for a while but the insincerity will eventually be sniffed out.

5. You can rise above the cold, dark, and bleak. Phil turned his life around when he was still in the middle of winter's bitter chill. He even discovered aspects of the season that prepared his mind to love it, even if it meant the rest of his life.  Gratitude!

6. To learn a new talent or master a new skill takes time and lots of practice, day after day, after day.

7. Make a conscious effort to look around each day and see who you can help in small and simple ways. Only when Phil genuinely began to care for others, the mundane didn't matter so much.  In fact, he found beauty and fulfillment in the day-in day-out routine.

Escaping the Vacuum Cycle of Self
-Alicia

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Hang In There

It's that dazed feeling, the numbing sensation a boxer gets after one too many punches in the face as he sways and stumbles, struggling to keep himself upright. Thoughts of "What am I doing here?" and "I hope I make it out alive." race through his brain as he squints through the sweat and tears of his swollen eyes.

Life can feel like that sometimes... like one big nasty fight.

He's scared. He's tired of being in the ring. Sometimes he cries. Sometimes he punches back... but most of the time, he doesn't even feel like he belongs in his own body.

He has learned to trust me...  and though I can't save him from the fight of his life, he keeps looking to me as someone who has the power to do something.

He likes to come up to me and give me a hug at least seven or eight times a day. I guess that's good (even though it can be a little excessive).  I'm just happy he feels comfortable with me now.  It's a huge leap forward compared to when he first moved in with us three months ago,  Then, he would hardly ever make eye contact.

Tonight, he told me he loved me for the very first time. He hugged me tighter and tighter until he was lifting me off the ground.  (He likes the fact that he's ten years old and can pick me up.) Plus, carrying me was his way of trying to be playful in order to cover up the thoughts that worried him.

Today was a rough day and I knew it.  No matter how he tried, he couldn't hide his emotions. Finally he blurted out, "I miss my mom so bad," as tears streamed down his face and onto my arms. I hugged him back and patted his head, encouraging him to hang in there. Every single week, the few days after he visits his mom are always tough for him. It must be terribly confusing seeing her but not being able to stay with her.

He really is a sweet boy.  I know that when he acts out in anger, he's really just scared. (I need to remind myself of that in the moment.)  He's tired of this fight.  My heart goes out to him. He asked if I would pray for his family to be together again.  I told him I would.  I also said that no matter what happens in the future to always remember he has me as a friend to turn to.

That made him smile.