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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...

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

I'm really not any different.


In my scripture study this morning, I noticed Mosiah 2:11 as King Benjamin prepares to address his people. He says,
 "I am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind; yet I have been chosen … and consecrated by my father, … and have been kept and preserved by his matchless power, to serve you with all the might, mind and strength which the Lord hath granted unto me"

I'm so glad that King Benjamin was real in this declaration, that he didn't pretend to be any better, or less human than those he served. Yet, still he was chosen and consecrated to administer in his particular calling.

We all have weaknesses, every one of us... but that's why we have the Savior and His Gospel covenants. Remembering and allowing Christ's grace, His mercy, and atonement to work within our lives and extending that same mercy to others must be central!!

Yes, we really are "less than the dust of the earth" but it is through "the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified" - Mosiah 4:2

President Uchtorf said the following in a conference address from October 2013
"I suppose the Church would be perfect only if it were run by perfect beings. God is perfect, and His doctrine is pure. But He works through us—His imperfect children—and imperfect people make mistakes.

In the title page of the Book of Mormon we read, “And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ.”

This is the way it has always been and will be until the perfect day when Christ Himself reigns personally upon the earth."

Monday, June 26, 2017

Notwithstanding My Weakness

I listened to this talk by Neal A. Maxwell today. I found it by searching for sermons that addressed feeling weak or inadequate in our callings in the church. Let's just say...  I really needed this!!

.......................

What can we do to manage these vexing feelings of inadequacy? Here are but a few suggestions:

1.  We can distinguish more clearly between divine discontent and the devil’s dissonance, between dissatisfaction with self and disdain for self. We need the first and must shun the second, remembering that when conscience calls to us from the next ridge, it is not solely to scold but also to beckon.

2.  We can contemplate how far we have already come in the climb along the pathway to perfection; it is usually much farther than we acknowledge. True, we are “unprofitable servants,” but partly because when “we have done that which was our duty to do” (Luke 17:10), with every ounce of such obedience comes a bushel of blessings.

3.  We can accept help as well as gladly give it. Happily, General Naaman received honest but helpful feedback, not from fellow generals, but from his orderlies. (See 2 Kgs. 5:1–14.) In the economy of heaven, God does not send thunder if a still, small voice is enough, or a prophet if a priest can do the job.

4.  We can allow for the agency of others (including our children) before we assess our adequacy. Often our deliberate best is less effectual because of someone else’s worst.

5.  We can write down, and act upon, more of those accumulating resolutions for self-improvement that we so often leave, unrecovered, at the edge of sleep.

6.  We can admit that if we were to die today, we would be genuinely and deeply missed. Perhaps parliaments would not praise us, but no human circle is so small that it does not touch another, and another.

7.   We can put our hand to the plow, looking neither back nor around, comparatively. Our gifts and opportunities differ; some are more visible and impactful. The historian Moroni felt inadequate as a writer beside the mighty Mahonri Moriancumer, who wrote overpoweringly. We all have at least one gift and an open invitation to seek “earnestly the best gifts.” (D&C 46:8.)

8.   We can make quiet but more honest inventories of our strengths, since, in this connection, most of us are dishonest bookkeepers and need confirming “outside auditors.” He who was thrust down in the first estate delights to have us put ourselves down. Self-contempt is of Satan; there is none of it in heaven. We should, of course, learn from our mistakes, but without forever studying the instant replays as if these were the game of life itself.

9.   We can add to each other’s storehouse of self-esteem by giving deserved, specific commendation more often, remembering, too, that those who are breathless from going the second mile need deserved praise just as the fallen need to be lifted up.

10.   We can also keep moving. Only the Lord can compare crosses, but all crosses are easier to carry when we keep moving. Men finally climbed Mount Everest, not by standing at its base in consuming awe, but by shouldering their packs and by placing one foot in front of another. Feet are made to move forward—not backward!

11.   We can know that when we have truly given what we have, it is like paying a full tithe; it is, in that respect, all that was asked. The widow who cast in her two mites was neither self-conscious nor searching for mortal approval.

12.   We can allow for the reality that God is more concerned with growth than with geography. Thus, those who marched in Zion’s Camp were not exploring the Missouri countryside but their own possibilities.

13.   We can learn that at the center of our agency is our freedom to form a healthy attitude toward whatever circumstances we are placed in! Those, for instance, who stretch themselves in service—though laced with limiting diseases—are often the healthiest among us! The Spirit can drive the flesh beyond where the body first agrees to go!

14.   Finally, we can accept this stunning, irrevocable truth: Our Lord can lift us from deep despair and cradle us midst any care. We cannot tell Him anything about aloneness or nearness!

- Neal A. Maxwell - Notwithstanding My Weakness - October 1976

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Creative Mind

Micah has always been extremely imaginative. He had mastered scissors and tape before he mastered toilet training. He can cut, build, mold, sculpt things to scale and proportion, without using any kind of calculation or measuring device.

There's something magical about watching him create things because the space around him looks like an absolute disaster! An explosion of scraps, glue sticks, markers, clay, and paint spewed around the room... and in the center of  it all, is Micah. What emerges out of the seeming chaos is always stunning, sure to inspire any audience, as they become struck with amazement, oohing and ahhing.  Micah just modestly shrugs his shoulders and smiles proudly.  It's just who he is, how he's always been. It's his gift.

The other day, he had been on the computer playing video games for over an hour. And I get antsy if my kids are in front of screens for an extended period of time. They can do so much more than veg their life away!
So, I called to him from the kitchen, "Micah, I haven't seen you create something in a while. I'd love to find out what your mind comes up with this time. Why don't you shut that off and take the cardboard scraps I have in the mudroom and make something from them."
One hour later... no joke... one hour... and this is what he made! A pose-able Star Wars battle droid with a power pack and a gun it can either hold or clip to its side.

No measuring. No template. No tracing. Nothing to aide him. It's amazing!!!





Thursday, June 22, 2017

So Scary!

It's been one week since it happened...

We called everyone down to the breakfast table for our usual family scripture study. And also like usual, Kaylee trailed in groggily to her seat. Before we could begin with prayer, this time Kaylee began to complain that she didn't feel well. I asked if she felt like throwing up and she nodded yes. Joseph encouraged her to run to the bathroom so she wouldn't make a mess at the table.

She stood up and then screamed before falling face-down down on the floor. I just thought she was being dramatic. Maybe she had fake fainted?  I fake fainted when I was her age. [My mom wouldn't let me take a bag of Cheerios to church, so I threw a big tantrum which ended abruptly with a very hard smack on my bottom. I fell to the floor pretending to faint... or pretending to be dead. As I lay there completely motionless, trying hard not to breathe for the effect, I could see through my squinted eyes, my mom's angry silhouette: She stood there with her hands on her hips scolding me to get up. I thought for sure my drama show would instill compassion in her, convincing her to finally give me the Cheerios and to never smack me that hard again. But it didn't.]

Anyway, I assumed for a brief moment that maybe Kaylee liked to put on little drama shows like I did as a kid. "Come on honey, it can't be that bad. Let's get to the bathroom."

When she wouldn't get up or answer, I knew something was wrong. I scooped her up off the floor. Her entire body was completely limp.  Her head rolled back as Joseph and I tried to set her up against the toilet. Her face had turn to ash. Now, I was scared!! Something wasn't right. After a minute she opened her eyes and shuttered.
I asked, "Are you okay? Kaylee, can you talk to me?"
She stared off into space with a glazed look and tried to speak but couldn't form any words, just garble.
Joseph and I looked at each other not knowing what to do. This had never happened before. She gained consciousness, enough to stabilize herself at the toilet. We expected her to vomit and then she'd feel better.

She didn't have a temperature. We thought maybe she just had some bad food the night before. But she wouldn't throw up. A minute or two passed with her seeming more alert. Joseph began to help her out of the bathroom when she went limp again, repeating the same glazed look and mumbled speech as we tried to revive her. This time, we called the paramedics.

When the EMT's arrived they found all her vitals normal and no sign of illness but advised us to still make an appointment with her doctor. An hour later, we were waiting in the doctor's office for her to get some blood tests, when it happened again. The nurse was startled and quickly began calling for back-up. We spent the next several days trying to rule out the causes of Kaylee's frightening behavior, making sure it wasn't anything life-threatening.

After all the tests, the doctors have concluded that what happened with Kaylee were very real seizures. They don't know for certain what triggered the seizures but said from studying her electroencephalogram they could see she is prone to them. They said she could have more in her life and they could get worse as she got older... or she could possibly never have them again. Only time will tell. At least overall she's not in any real threat. We just can't let her take baths or go swimming by herself anymore.

What a scare we had! And even though I'd prefer Kaylee didn't have this risk factor of seizures in her life, I'm very grateful the doctors don't see anything more serious.  I still want to get some further opinions. One good thing from everything this past week is that I got to spend a tons of one-on-one time with my little Kaylee . I'm so proud of her bravery and courage through it all.


I love my girl so much!

-Alicia

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Strength, Song, and Salvation

There's so much going on right now you'd think I wouldn't have any trouble coming up with something to write but I am. We're waiting still to have a couple more tests done on Kaylee to find out if she's going to be okay. We had a big scare with her earlier this week where the doctors think she may have had a few small seizures. Whether they were seizures or not, her white blood cell count is really high and they're trying to make sure that's not anything too serious. She's scheduled for a neuroscan on Monday. I'm hopeful that she'll be just fine but I'm still a little scared that I could be wrong.

In the Book of Mormon reading today, I read one of my most favorite verses from the Isaiah chapters: "God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid; for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; He also has become my salvation." - 2 Nephi 22:2 and Isaiah 12:2

I'm grateful for the scriptures.
-Alicia

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

God Speaks

I was reading through some old notes I jotted down by Henry Drummond from a book of his I read close to three years ago. I came across this quote that I liked and wanted to share it,

 "God often speaks to men's souls through music; 
He also speaks to us through art." 
- Henry Drummond

I smiled as I read this.
Maybe that's why I like the language so much - music and art.
God often speaks to my soul this way.

-Alicia :)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

To the Rescue

All Micah wanted for his 12th birthday was a hamster. He was bursting with excitement the day he finally got his long anticipated furry companion.  He named her Muffin and went to great lengths making sure she had the best home ever staying up until midnight rearranging the tubes in her cage.

Saturday night, Micah accidentally left a section of the cage open and Muffin escaped. My heart broke for Micah, he was completely devastated. The entire family pulled together and knelt in prayer that we would find her safe.

Miriam and Kaylee searched every corner of their bedroom and we searched ours. We looked in every possible place in Micah's room and all around upstairs. It didn't seem like she could have gone far.

I glanced at the old heater vent in the girls room that was missing a few slats just big enough for a rodent to fit through. "Dang it!" I thought. "I bet you anything that's exactly where she went." I was right.

We figured that since the house is so old, with all the gaps, lathe and plaster, she could have wiggled her way easily through the upstairs walls and floorboards. I used a flashlight and a mirror trying to see down the shaft but I couldn't see a thing! I tried to lure Muffin out with peanut butter and was prepared to camp out on the floor by the heater vent all night long and wait for her return. I felt so bad for Micah.

Moments later, Kaylee had the impression to search the furnace room downstairs. Sure enough, we heard scratching in the main shaft. My husband examined where we might open a panel and found a strip that had a few screws above the area where muffin was trapped.
Joseph asked for Chandler to bring his Stanley drill from the mud room.
We all waited anxiously.
Chandler came back with the drill and handed it to Joseph, "By the way dad, Dewalt is offended."
"What?" Joseph asked.
Chandler repeated himself as he pointed to the drill, "Dewalt is offended.  His name's not Stanley."
We both busted up laughing, grateful for Chandler's help and sense of humor.

Joseph undid all the screws but the panel wouldn't budge.  We ended up having to cut up the edge of the furnace shaft and bend it out of shape so we could fit our arms down. Any damage done to our furnace was well worth it though!  You should have seen the look on Micah's face when we placed the frightened (but safe) hamster back into his hands.


It may seem like such a small thing but I was so grateful for this little adventure, grateful for prayer, and how it brought our family together.

-Alicia

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Pathway to Peace

These past twelve months have been some of the hardest months of my entire life. Our family has gone through some dramatic and painful changes. In reflection of all that has happened, I keep asking myself what there is to learn from it all. What is the Lord trying to teach me? What is He trying to teach us?

I keep thinking of the Serenity Prayer:

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, 
the courage to change the things I can, 
and the wisdom to know the difference." 

Oh, how I pray through all the struggle, "Please help me to learn wisdom!!"

It's funny, but I almost forgot.

As I typed this serenity prayer, a memory flashed into my mind.
When Joseph and I were engaged, a week or two before our wedding date, he became terribly paralyzed with fear, almost to the point of calling the wedding off. I remember him saying, "I promise, It's not you, it's me. I'm afraid I will fail as a husband and father. I'm afraid I won't be able to endure when things get tough." 

I think we all face similar fears throughout our lives. Turn on the news or take a walk down the street, and you'll see some of the best marriages and families falling apart right before your eyes.  No one wants to become another statistic.

As a response to my husband's engagement jitters, I bought him this serenity prayer etched in glass. It looked a little something like the one I've posted here -- the only difference is the one I gave him was rectangle and also had a rose at the bottom. 

He warned me before we married that he suffered greatly with depression. I told him not to worry because four of my six family members had severe depression and not much could phase me: My mom was hospitalized for at least a month or so more than three times for her bipolar. And my dad, brother, and sister had all attempted suicide and had been hospitalized for that. I assured Joseph then from my family experiences that I was quite familiar with depression.

I don't know if that consoled him or not. Ha! It probably frightened him even more thinking about the genes we'd pass on to our children.  I'm just grateful that our kids so far seem to be doing great and despite my husband's depression through all these years, Joseph has never needed to be admitted to a facility like my mom, dad, or siblings. Of course, he's had his rough moments but who doesn't? He's doing far better than the members of my family did. I think he's done quite alright!

It's interesting though, I look back on how our marriage has unfolded together, all that we've been through, and the little gift I bought when he was feeling so low-- I realize that prayer was more for me than it was for him. All these years, through every hardship we have faced, every struggle, this prayer has come into my mind. 

And guess what? Today, after all these years, I discovered that there is more to the prayer. Can you believe it? All this time and I'm only now finding this out. I love this second half. It's absolutely beautiful! This is the prayer in its entirety:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change; 
courage to change the things I can; 
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time; 
enjoying one moment at a time; 
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; 
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it; 
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will; 
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next. 
Amen.
- Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)


I like that line, "accepting hardships as the pathway to peace... trusting that He [God] will make all things right". So many of us often fear tribulation because in the moment it feels like it's going to take us down, like it's going to crush us - but there is another side to it we often don't see. 

Napoleon Hill once said, "Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit." That's the vision we want to capture when we come face to face with life's struggles. Wisdom, character, and beauty are forged in the furnace of affliction. Therefore, "Let me embrace thee, sour adversity, for wise men say it is the wisest course." -William Shakespeare

-Alicia

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

I Need Miracles

I spent yesterday afternoon with my friend, Carolina. She always seems to know when to call me. I'm at another crossroad right now. I have no idea where things are going or what will come of the adversity we are facing.

 The hardships are coming from different angles.

Our van has been broken for three days. It broke down Saturday night and the mechanics are struggling to figure out what's wrong with the circuits and why they keep shutting down. This is the third breakdown since we bought it.  It's like our engine has this computer glitch that no one can get to the bottom of.  The glitch makes it completely undrivable. My family says it's my fault because I named our van Major Tom and it's only living up to the lyrics of the song. It's probably true, I cursed it.

I discovered a couple days ago that the foster family who decided they would care for our two foster children made the announcement a couple Sundays ago that they are leaving the church and finding a new religion. Our foster son is a baptized member of the church and his parents joined a couple years ago. Granted, my foster son never liked going to church (every Sunday he made it very clear to us). But there were moments I could see it was truly helping him and he had a change of countenance. The other members of the ward noticed too.  I hope and pray that maybe the new foster family will let us take the children on Sundays. Joseph doesn't like that idea but I don't know what to do about that.

Speaking of Joseph, he's the other concern I have. He has hardly spoken to me since I got my new calling on Sunday. He won't touch me and he hardly looks at me.  He says it's not me though, it's him. It breaks my heart when he gets like this!! Yesterday, he wrote an apology email to me and to the bishop about his behavior Sunday in his office but made it very clear he didn't want me or the bishop to respond to his letter and if we did it would only make him far more angry. He said he's in a very dark place right now. I'm at a loss of what to do.

I have no doubt it was a miracle that Carolina called me yesterday to see if we could spend the afternoon together. Her timing couldn't have been more perfect. She has an amazing testimony, she's so inspired and she always knows how to lift my spirit.

Sunday evening my father-in-law took me aside and hugged me so tight. He gave me words of encouragement and told me he loved me. I'm so grateful for my father-in-law!!
It's little things like this from family and friends: gestures of thoughtfulness, compassion, and love that give me hope.

-Alicia





Sunday, June 4, 2017

All Things Through Christ

I just got a new calling in Church today. I honestly don't know what to expect. I've never had a calling this heavy before. This neighborhood we live in has a lot of need... it's intimidating, to say the least. I accepted the call but I wasn't expecting my husband's response to our bishop.

When bishop asked him if he could support me, Joseph went completely silent--he didn't say a word. Then expressionless, he answered through gritted teeth, "Well, I guess I have to support her. I have no choice!" Our poor new bishop was taken back by his response. So was I. Joseph then admitted that he was upset, extremely mad. He didn't raise his voice or anything but he was straightforward and made it very clear to both of us that he was angry about the call, angry at the time away it would require of me.

I don't think it was just the call that upset him though.  I think Joseph is still recovering from all the time away it required for me to care for our foster children. He resented that and I feel bad it was so hard on him.  The bishop was very understanding of this and promised he would be mindful of Joseph when it came to my assignments.

I'm not really afraid about the calling. I'm much more worried about Joseph. He's slipping into another one of his deep depressions. When he gets this way, he's not himself - he really isn't.... and there's nothing I can say or do that helps him.
Man, depression sucks!

I appreciated the beautiful lesson we had in Relief Society today about the worth of stretching moments and adversity. I cried a lot.



Friday, June 2, 2017

A Little Too Quiet

Everything seems so strange, so quite around here. And these past couple of days have seemed even more strange. It almost feels like the house is abandoned.... and well... it practically is. I had six kids seven days ago and as of Wednesday, I only have two. Chandler and Miriam are gone at a youth camp and my two fosters have moved on. Of course, Chandler and Miriam return Saturday but the fosters will not be returning.

Plans to move our foster daughter to a new home have been in the works for almost a month. It isn't something I ever imagined we would do as foster parents but we knew it would be for the better.  My oldest son couldn't handle her anymore and with each passing day he would act out with more frustration and anger towards her, causing her to have more frequent and more intense violent meltdowns. My husband had also completely shut off to her and my three younger children were showing signs of burn-out too. 

One night, during a regular episode of one of my foster daughter's screaming and thrashing fits, I pulled my foster son aside and explained to him how his sister needed a better place, a fresh start --she needed it... and we needed it. Surprisingly, he understood.

As he contemplated longer about his sister moving, his expression changed to worry and fear. He asked if he would have to move too. I replied that I didn't know. I told him how I didn't want him to go with her and I was checking with the State to see if he could stay at our place even though we had requested her removal. I guess I should have known from training that DCFS rarely ever splits sibling groups but I figured in our case they might make an exception.

Originally, they were going to move both children an hour-and-a-half south of us but I felt absolutely horrible about a move that far. It would have completely ruined my foster son! Several phone calls, texts, and emails later, I convinced DCFS to consider placing them with a family who live in the same ward as us. I explained that they were just a couple of days away from finalizing everything they needed for their foster care license and that this particular family had originally planned on taking the children long before we ever lived in the area. They are really close friends with the former foster parents and even rent their basement to them.

Moving foster children can be terribly traumatic and can create tons more attachment issues down the road. But I knew that these children had the chance of maintaining some sort of familiarity if I could keep them close. Plus, living only a few houses away would make it much easier to support and help the new foster family.  All around it would be better.

When we finally made the move one week ago, It was the craziest sight to see:  The former foster parents came up from their basement apartment to visit with the new foster parents above them -- and there we were too (the foster parents in-between). We all sat in the living room as the children played. How rarely does this ever happen! Three couples, completely unrelated, all with the experience of fostering the same two children in the same neighborhood. What a blessing for these kids!

The Lord is watching over and looking out for these children and has created so many miracles on their behalf.  The following morning I opened my email and found message after message from my foster's son first night in his new home.  He said he missed me terribly and that he couldn't sleep. It broke my heart!! I responded by telling him that since we live close, he could come over any time to visit.

Last night, I stopped by their new place with bags of homemade kale chips for the kids. Both fosters really loved it when I made those. My foster son ran to the door and gave me a big hug but my foster daughter was already in bed. They seem to be very happy where they are.

I keep trying to convince myself that we did the right thing but sometimes I wonder. My heart aches. We plan to receive a new placement soon and hope this time the children will blend together better with our own.

This morning I woke up feeling horribly depressed, like a complete failure. I opened my email and found another message from my foster son that he sent last night. I'm glad that I can still be part of his life.


When my foster son moved in with us, I bought him a stuffed fox. He slept with that fox every night and said he loved it because it smelled like me. Foxes now remind him of me and  he tells me that they're his new favorite animal. He even changed his profile to a fox.  (see, in the upper left corner). So heartbreaking!






Thursday, June 1, 2017

June 1st to August 31st

For three summers in a row we've read the entire Book of Mormon as a ward family from June 1st to August 31st.

This year, I'm not in the same ward but I'm in the same Stake and still love the idea of reading  together. A couple months ago, I purchased a fresh new Book of Mormon solely for this purpose. My plan is to read it in search of a Christlike principle in my life, I want to improve on. I know exactly where I want to start!

The first line in our family mission statement is, "We are a family of sincere listeners." In all honesty, I feel like a terrible listener, which makes our family statement sort of interesting to me. I think wrote that line in there because it's something I can always improve on.

As I search and study the Book of Mormon these next three months, I'm specifically focusing on formulas and patterns describing righteous listening. Today, I started with just the introduction, witness testimonies, and title page of the Book of Mormon -  I found some great patterns! Most of all, I love the peace and clarity of thought that pour into my life from studying this way. What a blessing this Gospel is!

-Alicia