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Posted in Blog, Encouragement/Motivation, Faith & Religion

Attitude of Gratitude

With this being the week of Thanksgiving, it is only natural for us to think about the things for which we are thankful.  Of course, we will always be thankful for our family, friends, etc.  I love when our family sits around the table and takes turns announcing what we are thankful for- trying not to repeat everyone else’s answer!  But in addition to those awesome blessings, I like to think about the things that make me grateful unto God that are a little less obvious.  If there were nothing else, the sacrifice on Calvary would be enough for me.  If there weren’t one other thing I could think of, God sending His only Son to die on my behalf would be more than enough.  Oh, but there is so much more…

Sadly, many people focus on the negative.  For some, they only turn to God when they need something, instead of thanking Him every day for the “little things.”  For others, they might wonder why God allows so much suffering in the world.  Some people don’t even believe that God exists!  But let me assure you… there not only is a God, but He is alive, and He cares about His children- big and small.  The fact remains that there is evil in this world; it’s just that simple.  We have a real enemy who will stop at nothing to steal, kill, and destroy.  God doesn’t “make” bad things happen.  The truth is that God gives us free will to make decisions- good or bad, and the devil will use that free will to lead people into making bad choices.  Unfortunately, those bad choices, more often than not, affect others.

Why such negativity at a time of year when we should be filled with happiness, peace, and gratitude?  Because thinking of how God spared me from far worse fates during those times when evil was wreaking havoc in my life makes me want to jump for joy!  My story is a little different from others who have suffered such great trauma and tragedy in their lives.  For me, it was never about how God “let me down” or “wasn’t there for me.”  I was never, not once, angry with God because of the things that happened to me in my childhood.  In fact, I thought there was something wrong with me because I wasn’t angry with God!  I didn’t realize it then, but God had my fragile heart in the palm of His hand from Day One, and He knew I was going to need Him.

For starters, there is the fact that I suffered with Dissociative Amnesia for a number of years- I still do.  I just could not remember any sexual abuse or trauma, and when I started to realize I “fit the bill” for such events, I was obsessed with trying to remember every sordid detail.  I didn’t want to remember the details in order to dwell in the abuse, but I realized that remembering details was more like my way of feeling validated.  Like, somehow if I remembered the actual events themselves, I wouldn’t be “crazy.”  I was one of those who thought, “something like that could never have happened to me.”  It absolutely tormented me.

I was not a survivor who remembered mental pictures, but rather, I remembered sounds, smells, circumstances.  My therapist made me realize that maybe I didn’t have “visual” memories because I could have had my eyes closed the whole time.  I had never given that a thought.  I had been in and out of therapy for over ten years putting all the pieces together, and when I finally found out what had happened to me, I was shocked and horrified, but all of a sudden, things about me and my life finally started to make sense.

I was attending an intense spiritual retreat in 2009 when the Lord finally delivered me from the heavy oppression I had been living with every day.  If you can imagine a fifteen-year-old boy having full-blown sexual relations with an 8-year-old little girl, that was me.  After much calculating and deducing, I learned that it started around the time I was just five years old, and he was twelve.  I was going through this assault and violation repeatedly for at least three years; no wonder I couldn’t remember anything!  And why would I want to?

I no longer needed those visual memories to feel validated.  God knew the truth, and that’s all that mattered.  I finally gave that part of myself up to God at that retreat, and I felt lighter than air!  I couldn’t even walk back to my room that night without help, and it is an experience I will cherish as long as I live.  God protected me from those visual memories because He didn’t want me to have to relive it all, and for that, I will be eternally grateful.

There are more instances like this than I can count.  Instances of God’s protection have been evident in my life all along, and although I didn’t recognize it at the time, I can look back over my life and see where He was in every moment.  Not only did God protect my heart and mind while I was the target of someone else’s bad choices, but He gave me a supernatural ability to forgive.  In my Psychology studies, I learned that it was my perpetrator’s way of feeling in control.  God gave me the supernatural understanding that he was only doing to me what others were doing to him.  God also freed me from the burden of unforgiveness, so He could protect me from living a life filled with anger and bitterness.

When Greg and I first got together, I went to a hypnotist because I so desperately wanted to remember what exactly had happened to me to make me the way I was- neurotic, insecure, and depressed.  Back then, I was overwhelmed with the need to have some kind of proof that there was a reason behind my emotions and negative behaviors.  We weren’t Christians then, and I didn’t know that being hypnotized was a big no-no!  But God was with me even then- years after the trauma- in more than one way. 

I was having a great deal of trouble going “under,” and I wasn’t sure what was hindering the process.  I wanted it so badly, but I just couldn’t relax.  I know now that God protected me from being subjected to, not only that kind of vulnerability, but also from letting Satan have his way with me.  No matter how long or how hard he tried, the hypnotherapist just couldn’t succeed in getting me to “sleep.”

The icing on the cake?  This was at this man’s personal home, and he had sent Greg to pick up our take-out that we’d ordered.  I was alone with this stranger on his own stomping ground, not even in an office, but on his couch.  Greg didn’t want to leave me there, but I insisted.  I believed that I couldn’t relax enough for the hypnosis to work, because I was embarrassed that this was happening in front of my future husband.  I convinced myself that I was just afraid Greg would learn something about me that I didn’t want him to know.  The bottom line is that the hypnosis failed, and I never tried it again.  Was God with me in that moment or what?

As a teenager, God protected me from being assaulted more times than I can count.  When I was younger, I was often called nasty names because I would let the boys believe one thing about me, but then I wouldn’t live up to their expectations when they wanted to take things too far.  As an older, more promiscuous teen, God protected me from sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies.  Even more spectacular is that He went as far as to let me find my one true love early in life.  Greg and I were married by the time I was nineteen, and we are still like newlyweds over twenty-five years later!  I was headed down a slippery slope, and God redirected my path.

God not only redirected my path, but He has blessed me in ways I never could have imagined.  In Jeremiah chapter 30, verse 17, the Lord says, “For I will restore health to you and heal you of your wounds.” (NKJV)  In Deuteronomy chapter 30, verse 3, we learn that, “God, your God, will restore everything you lost; he’ll have compassion on you; he’ll come back and pick up the pieces from all the places where you were scattered.” (MSG)  Isaiah, in chapter 61, verse 7, proclaims, “Instead of your shame, you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace, you will rejoice in your inheritance.  And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.” (NIV)

There are so many more verses than just these that tell us of the restitution God promises.  I grew up fatherless (at least without a good example of fatherhood) and learning about intimate love in all the wrong places, with all the wrong people.  When God brought Greg into my life all those years ago, little did I know how God was going to pick up all my scattered pieces and restore what I had lost.  Greg is such a loving husband and wonderful father that he ended up being so much more than a double portion!

I don’t want to be misleading here.  I am not trying to pretend there were no repercussions from the trauma; that is far from the truth.  As a young adult, I spent what felt like an eternity dealing with distrust, insecurity issues, paranoia, claustrophobia, and of course, depression and anxiety to name a few.  I exhibited negative behaviors and thought patterns, too, but with God’s help, I was able to be freed from those damaging emotions after a lot of time and hard work.  He was with me every step of the way- before, during, and after.  And He is with me still.  I know that He will never leave me nor forsake me.

After all I’ve mentioned in this post, I must let it be known that these are just a few examples of why I am grateful unto God.  He has done so much more for me than I could ever tell.  From giving me a supernatural understanding that He was not to blame for my past trauma, to giving me daily blessings today, God has continually shown me His faithfulness, provision, and unconditional love.  That is a lot for which to be thankful!

One story I hold near and dear to my heart is of a particularly bad day when I had been struggling, yet again, with poor self-esteem and body image.  Greg has always been faithful in telling me I was beautiful and that he loved me so much, and on this particular day, I had a break down in the bathroom and asked God to show me what people were seeing in me that I didn’t see in myself.

As I was staring intently into the mirror, my reflection suddenly went out of focus.  Right before my eyes, I watched as long, dark wavy hair began to frame my face.  My nose somehow grew slightly pointier, and my eyes became a bright, piercing color I couldn’t quite identify.  Even my skin seemed to darken a bit, and I thought the light had somehow shifted in the room.  It seemed to happen in slow motion, but yet so quickly, too.  I blinked in shock, and everything had gone back to normal just as suddenly as it had changed.  Oh my goodness… Jesus was showing me Himself!  He was telling me that people saw Him when they looked at me!  It was similar to the experiences that, until then, I had only read about.

On another day, I was on my way to a job that I had grown to dread.  It had gotten to the point where my work ethic and willingness to help others was taken for granted, and I had begun to feel taken advantage of more often than not.  I had been praying for God’s direction in making a decision about whether or not to seek employment elsewhere, and I found myself stopped at a red light.  Right in front of me, hovering above my car, was an eagle in flight.  I had rarely even seen an eagle in passing let alone hovering over my vehicle for the duration of the red traffic light!  God was reminding me, “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31 NKJV)

Even in moments that aren’t quite as intense, there are evidences of God’s presence and faithfulness all around if you know where to look for them.  Even if you aren’t consciously looking for them, just being aware of your surroundings will help you see them.  One crisp Autumn morning when I left the house, the car windows were all frosted over- save for one little spot right in my line of sight when I got into my vehicle to start it up and put on the defroster.  There was one little clear spot- in the shape of a perfect heart- singled out amidst a whole windshield of thick frost.  God was sending me a little love note, and I didn’t even have to ask Him for it!

I am grateful unto God for always taking a moment to remind me of His love and of His presence in my life.  Although the earth is His footstool, He is El Roi, the God who sees me.  He sees little old Alicia from a map dot in Pennsylvania, and He cares about me in the big things and in the little things.  He has never let me down, and He never will.  He feels the same way about you, and He wants you to know that He is everywhere, in every moment.  He promises, “If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.” (Jeremiah 29:13)  How thankful I am that God makes Himself so readily available to us!

Have an attitude of gratitude this Thanksgiving, and take time to remember who God is and what He means to you.  Look back over your life, and challenge yourself to point out those moments when you doubted His presence but now realize He was there all along.  And if you can’t think of one other thing He has ever done for you… remember to lift up a thanksgiving for His sacrifice on Calvary that made you free! 

 

 

Posted in Blog, Faith & Religion, Health & Wellness

Toxic

As someone who has ridden the “Diet Roller Coaster” since she was fourteen years old, I’ve been through a plethora of fad diets.  You know the story… you’re motivated and on fire when you first start a new diet, and you even do really well for a week or two.  But when something gets in the way of that initial motivation, or when you’re faced with all kinds of sugary temptations at a family function or birthday party, you throw in the towel.  Ultimately, you end up gaining back the weight you lost and then some.  I assure you, friends, if I had a dime for every time I said “I’ll start fresh on Monday,” I would be rich by now.

Believe it or not, even with that track record, I have been known to call myself a Health and Wellness Coach.  I use that term lightly, though; I don’t have that title as a certified professional in the industry, but with what I do for my side hustle these days, that is exactly what I am.  For all intents and purposes, let’s just say I’m a Wellness Coach- total wellness that is.  I may share some interesting facts about physical health and clean eating once in a while, but my real passion is to help other women like me find spiritual and emotional health, too.  Even more-so!

If you would have told me five years ago that I would one day be a Wellness Coach, health or otherwise, I would have died laughing.  But isn’t that just how God works?  I know someone who was mercilessly teased when he was a boy for a speech impediment, and today he is a well-known motivational speaker and preacher.  In one of her books, Joyce Meyer tells us that she was lucky to pass English classes with D’s year after year, and now she teaches, preaches, studies the Word of God like nobody’s business, and has written more books than I can count.  Of course, let’s not forget about how God used Paul!  (Read Acts for the miraculous story about how Saul went from one of the worst prosecutors to Paul, a fierce Christ-follower who went on to write two-thirds of the New Testament!)

It’s taken me five years, but I finally embraced the reality that God turned this food addict into a health and wellness coach!  I not only help people stay motivated when they’ve decided to make healthy changes, but I educate them about what they put into their bodies and how it affects their health.  For example, I teach people that it can be toxic for your body if you drink too many acidic beverages and not enough water.  It also does not do a body good when we eat too many processed foods and refined sugars and not enough fresh produce, whole grains, and lean meats that are filled with the nutrients we need to fuel our bodies.  There are also the “fun facts” I share such as, your body needs fat to burn fat, and, anything light or fat free is filled with chemicals and sugars.  There are many other golden nuggets like these that I share with my clients, and I love doing it.

What I do is not about taking miracle pills that offer a quick fix, and it’s not about slapping on band-aids that offer a temporary fix.  To truly be healthy- body, mind, and soul- I try to encourage people to change the mindset that got them unhealthy in the first place.  I do teach my clients about eating as clean as possible, but I never try to make them feel bad for just staying true to themselves.  I want people to honor their bodies, not hate them.  

Since I jumped off of the diet roller coaster five years ago and instead boarded the new healthy lifestyle train, I’ve learned a lot about why fad diets don’t work.  I’ve changed my reading habits from romantic suspense fiction to non-fiction health and wellness books or spiritual growth books.  In Eat & Stay Thin by Joyce Meyer, she states, “When they [people who struggle with weight loss] are afraid that anything they put in their mouths carries the potential for ‘making them fat,’ they would much rather follow the list of rules and regulations in a diet than have liberty.”  That struck a chord with me, because that is my true heart’s desire- liberty!

Ever since I tried (and failed) the program that made the most sense to me years and years ago, The Weigh Down Diet by Gwen Shamblin, I have felt like a complete and utter failure.  What I loved about Gwen’s program was that it wasn’t based on what you were eating as much as it was based on listening to God and our body’s God-given cues.  Basically, you were taught to eat whatever you’re truly craving, but to only eat when you’re truly hungry.  You’re also supposed to… and this is where I struggled the most… stop when you’re pleasantly satisfied, not stuffed.  In today’s terms, you may hear it referred to as “intuitive eating.”  Honesty, I’ve been chasing that dream since it was first introduced to me over twenty years ago!

Like Joyce Meyer, Gwen talked about how society tries to “make the food behave” instead of making ourselves behave.  We think that if something is fat free, we can have double portions of it.  The truth is, when you take a look at the real reasons behind overeating, and there could be many, no amount of diet rules can help us overcome the surface problem.

I constantly tell people that my battle with food is more spiritual for me than it is physical.  And that’s because I’ve always looked at overeating as sinful.  I wasn’t taking care of my temple, and I felt I loved food more than I loved God.  I was ashamed, and I was definitely stuck in bondage.  When I wasn’t a slave to the food itself because I was on a diet, I was a slave to the diet’s rules, meal plans, and limitations.  Even to this day, I often feel like I’m a slave to the scale, because I let its numbers dictate my mood, my motivation, my self-worth, and even my sanity.  Dare I say… my relationship with the scale is toxic!  I have to remind myself every single day that this is about me and God, not about me and that scale.

For me, this journey is truly about finding the freedom that Christ died to give me.  There are days I honestly feel like I could burn out from stressing so much about food, and toxicity, and meal plans, and carbs, and sugar, and right and wrong.

In Mark 7, verses 18 and 19, we read, “Can’t you see that the food you put into your body cannot defile you?  Food doesn’t go into the heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer.’ By saying this, He declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.” (NLT) Jesus has plainly told us that there IS NO right and wrong!

Let’s dig a little deeper, though.  We also learn in the New Testament where the real problem lies.  Consider this: “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful.  All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” (1 Corinthians 6:12, NKJV)  Ahhh, there it is.  Most people today take the first part of this verse and run with it.  Jesus said you could have a 16-ounce steak, loaded baked potato, and a hot fudge sundae, true… but is that really helping you?

Now, I would never tell anyone that they can’t enjoy these things, so please don’t misunderstand me.  The key to good physical health and taking care of your temple is to adopt a healthy lifestyle where you make healthy choices 80% percent of the time, and treat yourself 20% of the time- not the other way around.  And instead of over-indulging like in my scenario above, try having an 8-ounce steak, a baked sweet potato with butter and cinnamon, and if that satisfies you, skip the hot fudge sundae.  You could always go out for some ice cream later that night or sometime the next day.

Let’s examine the second part of this verse.  “I will not be brought under the power of any.”  Now this is where I’ve truly had my struggle.  I can remember many, many times crying out to the Lord asking, “Why does food have such power over me?”  The pull of food in my life was always so prevalent that I wondered what was wrong with me.  It wasn’t until much later that I realized I am not alone in this fight.

The reason I believed this problem to be a sin in my life is because, as an emotional eater, I should be turning to God and His Word for comfort, not a pan of brownies.  When I’m angry about something, I should be turning to God and His Word to calm me down, not taking my frustrations out on a bag of Doritos.  When I’m stressed out about various circumstances in my life, I should ask the Prince of Peace to help me trust in Him, not visit the nearest drive-through.  Above all, I wasn’t honoring God with my body and with what I was eating and drinking.

It’s actually strange to think about how something as simple as food can have such control over your actions.  When you get up in the middle of the night to use the restroom and then take an unplanned detour to the kitchen before returning to bed, you’re under the power of food.  When you stop for gas but just have to run into the convenience store for a candy bar, you’re under the power of food.  When you’ve had a wonderful dinner out and still order the chocolate lava cake despite being full, you’re under the power of food.  Do you see a pattern here?

I know what I’m talking about, because I’ve lived through every one of these scenarios more than once, and hated myself for it every time I did it.  I truly had a love-hate relationship with food.  But here’s a newsflash for you: food is not the enemy!  Believe me, treating yourself to a candy bar when you are craving some chocolate is not a sin!  But be aware that there is a true, blue enemy who “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8 NIV) He will not only take advantage of your weaknesses, but he will surely kick you while you’re down.  After you down that unplanned candy bar or drive-thru burger, you will, if you’re anything like me, proceed to beat yourself up for hours afterwards because you “did it again.”

The devil likes to tell us we are failures.  He loves to remind us how weak we are.  He takes absolute delight in making us feel miserable about ourselves by illuminating our flaws.  He knows us well, and he will gladly use the information to keep us as far from God and His truth as possible.  

But, here is one truth from Romans 3:23-24, NKJV, that you should keep in your heart every moment of every day… “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”  Woo-hoo!  Doesn’t that make you want to shout and dance?!  Listen, not one of us is worthy of receiving God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness, and there is nothing we can ever do to earn or deserve those good gifts, that’s all true.  But when the enemy takes that truth and twists it into something that makes you feel bad about yourself, that’s taking it way too far.  Christ came to reconcile us unto God, and through His sacrifice, we are holy, righteous, and redeemed!  Amen!

I assure you, I’ve been fighting this giant for as long as I can remember, and I’ve been beating myself up for “being a failure” for even longer than that.  Can I be brutally honest with you about something?  You are a child of God!  That means that when you make nasty faces at your reflection, talk down to yourself, call yourself names, or any other thing you do to beat yourself up, you are BULLYING one of God’s daughters!  (How’s that for perspective?)  Wow!  A daughter of The King is the last person I would ever want to bully!

The bible frequently tells us how much power we have in the tongue.  We can use it to tear down or to build up.  Which one do you think glorifies God?  Proverbs 15:4 states, “The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.” (NIV) Be soothing, my friends!  Your spiritual and emotional health & well-being are key to achieving physical health and well-being.  You can’t have one without the others.  

Do you know that when we are in Christ, we have a supernatural power within us to accomplish things we can’t do in our own strength?  Acts 1:8b reads, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” (NKJV) 2 Timothy 1:7 reads, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (NKJV) There are many more where they came from, too.  The Bible is chock full of wonderful truths that we should be telling ourselves (and telling the enemy!) every single day!

To this day, I have a stack of index cards that each contain powerful truths I’ve used at one time or another during this battle.  They are attached to a book ring and kept in a little filing box so I can review them often!  The Bible says the Word of God is the sword of the Spirit. (See Ephesians 6:17 and Hebrews 4:12) The Word is our weapon against the attacks from the enemy, and we should be able to use it at any given moment.  But I use them to not only fight the enemy, but also to embrace the freedom that was promised to me when I gave my heart to the Lord.

I would like to share these Scripture verses with you, so if you would like your own printable copy of these flash cards, visit my Freebies page!  I color-coded them for easy sorting, too!  I have included 36 life-giving verses to start with, but I encourage you to begin adding your own as you study more of God’s Word and find the truths that specifically speak to you.  You can carry these little “flash cards” with you so you have them readily available, or you can use them as study guides to practice memorization.

I began this post by talking about body toxicity, and then I mentioned that my relationship with the scale is toxic.  For a very, very long time, my relationship with myself was toxic, too.  I can’t even begin to tell you how often God “hit me over the head” with His truth about my true identity, and that is why I am so passionate about sharing what I learned with other women like me.

What is your relationship like with you?  Do you have a toxic relationship with yourself like I did?  How do you treat your body?  Are you taking care of God’s temple by using food for fuel instead of for comfort?  What kinds of things are you telling yourself?  Are you using your tongue to crush or to soothe?  To hurt or to heal?

If you are a mother, you know how terribly painful it is when your children have trouble with bullying in school.  It is a very sad and helpless feeling to watch your child suffer with such torment.  Imagine how much more painful it is for God to see one of His children suffer with that torment.  YOU are one of those children.  Don’t be a bully.

To find out more about Joyce Meyer’s book Eat & Stay Thin, or to learn more about Gwen Shamblin-Lara’s Weigh Down Diet, visit my Resources page.  If you have any Scripture verses that have encouraged you along the way, reminded you of who you are in Christ, or helped you ward off attacks from the enemy, I’d love for you to share them with us.  In fact, if this post related to you in any way, I would love for you to share your comments below.  Thanks, and God bless!   

 

Posted in Blog, Faith & Religion

Birthday Blues

Balloons    We are now just over a month away from my next birthday.  As the day draws closer, I can feel myself start to fill with sorrow.  Not because I’ll be another year older, which, let’s be honest, is a problem for a lot more people than we realize, but because it is now, and forever, the anniversary of my dad’s passing.  Actually, I could feel the sorrow start to creep in as soon as the weather changed.  I felt it come on full blast when football season started, because it’s now just a blaring reminder that my dad didn’t get to see the Eagles win the Super Bowl.

Honestly, I am well aware that there are several people who will never understand my sadness at such a loss, for he was never really a big part of my life anyway.  If you read my blog post entitled His Princess, it gives a short synopsis of why my dad abandoned me when I was a baby.  To make a long story very short, he had suffered with a debilitating addiction to drugs and alcohol.  However, there is so much more to the story- his story, and mine.

I moved to the mountains of Pennsylvania when I was twelve years old, and as I met new people and made new friends, I began to realize that I didn’t really know a lot about my past.  As my friends and I continued to nurture our growing relationships and learn more about each other, I noticed that the memories I had of my “real dad” were few and far between.

I spent most of my childhood days at my maternal grandmother’s house, and one memory I have of my dad, that is still so prevalent today for some reason, is of the day he showed up to see me while eating a dog bone.  Yes, my dad was eating a big, crunchy Milkbone.  I remember worrying that he wasn’t getting enough food to eat.  There was another time he showed up eating an apple, and I was shocked to see him down the whole thing in a matter of seconds- core and all!

I was always so excited to see him, because it didn’t happen often.  My mother would tell me of times I would be playing in my grandmother’s yard and he would walk right by me.  I would yell for him like a banshee, but he kept on walking as if he never even heard me.  Once in a blue moon he would call me to tell me he was coming to see me.  I would plant myself on the front steps of my grandmother’s porch and never move a muscle.  I wouldn’t go in to use the bathroom, and I certainly wouldn’t go in for dinner.  I wouldn’t budge for fear of missing him.  Needless to say, just because he said he was coming, didn’t necessarily mean he was going to show up.

That’s how my relationship was back then with my dad… a long string of broken promises and missed birthdays.  I never got angry with him, though.  I was always so happy to see him on the rare occasions that he did come around; there was no way I was going to waste precious moments with him by being angry.  I do remember that each time he showed up, he professed his undying love to me and promised that things would be different from there on out.  Although, they never were.

What makes this story even more interesting is that when he wasn’t living on the streets, he was staying with his mom.  My grandmothers’ houses were just around the corner from each other, so when I was old enough to realize that, I spent my afternoons wondering if he was there.  One time I even escaped on my bicycle, hoping I would remember the way to Grandmom’s house and praying that my daddy would be there.  They were both so elated when I knocked on the door that day!  (But when he returned me later that afternoon, my mother and grandparents were NOT so elated that I had done that!)

Truth be told, I didn’t care that I scared the daylights out of them when I disappeared.  I loved my dad; I had him on a pedestal, actually, and I wanted to see him every single chance I could.  I eventually learned the truth about his addiction, but I accepted that things were the way they were back then because he was very sick.

When he got clean later in life, he even found a way to come see me up in the mountains when he could.  He had lost his driver’s license long ago, and he had no car, anyway, so in my eyes, it was no small feat that he found his way to me.  He was so remorseful and admitted there was no excuse for what he had done.  He asked for my forgiveness, but I honestly didn’t think there was anything to forgive.  His actions were dictated by his drug and alcohol abuse, not by a lack of love for me.

From that point forward, we were working hard to rebuild our relationship- to make up for the time we had lost.  So, when I became an adult, Greg and I would hop in the car and take the three-hour drive to go see him in Philly.  He had fought to get clean and stay that way, and he had been living with my grandmother again, helping to take care of her.  She never gave up on him, and neither did I.  And I wanted him to have a different relationship with my children than he had with me.  I wanted him in their lives, so we did what we could to make that happen.  As they grew older, we started to have my dad come and stay with us for a week over Christmas.

Things were finally going so well- too well.  It wasn’t long before my dad’s poor life choices caught up with him.  He had been diagnosed with Hepatitis C first, and later, with Cancer.  I would spend the rest of my time with him just watching him wither away.

As he was nearing the end, I prayed and prayed that he would not pass away on my birthday.  My birthday was on a Saturday that year.  I remember it, because we would have gone down to see him at the nursing home that day had we not already had a college visit with our daughter previously scheduled.  We planned to drive down on Sunday instead… but that Sunday drive never happened.

I clearly remember being in the car on our way to Slippery Rock when I got the call.  My husband got the call, actually.  We both thought it was odd that my aunt would call Greg’s phone instead of mine, but I’m the one that picked up anyway since Greg was driving.  In hindsight, I guess I should have known right away why she would call my husband instead of me.  When I answered Greg’s phone, she sounded shocked at first, like she had dialed the wrong number by mistake.  She clearly said she was trying to reach Greg, but after I explained that he was driving, she said the four words that I will hear every November 21st until I’m gone from this earth.  “Daddy died this morning.”

Um, come again?  That can’t be right.  We were going to go down to see him the very next day.  I had been discussing this moment with God on a daily basis, and He knew full well that I did NOT want Him to take my dad on my birthday.

I spent the rest of the drive in shock, I think.  I don’t really remember much after the phone call.  I tried my best to pay attention to what we were being told at the various sessions we attended during the college visit, but the thing I remember the most is when my aunt called back later to ask me if I wanted my dad cremated or if I wanted to have a viewing.

Everything after that is like a blur.  When I think about that time in my life, I am plagued with the memories of things that happened right before his passing.  When we had gone down to see him the previous week at the nursing home, he wanted to walk us to the door when we left, but I said no.  I could clearly see he was already so tired from the visit, and I didn’t want to wear him out any more than he already was.

That was the last time I saw him.  I am now consumed with the thought of, “If I had said yes, I would’ve had just a few more minutes with him.”  I try to replay the last words I ever spoke to him, and I wonder if there was anything I left out.  Is there anything more I could have said to give him, and well, myself, more peace?

When we went down to see him the weekend before that, I had found that he’d been hiding pain medication in his socks.  I took them away from him because of his past drug history.  I was so afraid he would become addicted again, but who did I think I was?  I had no right to do that to him.  I had no idea what kind of pain with which he had been suffering every day.  I made his fight against cancer that much worse.  Could I have contributed to his death by not only increasing his pain, but also agitating him when I took his pain medication away?

I started writing this blog six days ago.   Usually I can get something written in an hour or so, but this one… this one was giving me trouble.  You see, the purpose of my blog is to educate, edify, and encourage.  I was trying so desperately to figure out how I was going to be encouraging, when I was in such a bad place myself.  Originally, I had planned on simply reminding you all that we’re doing this together- learning life together- and I don’t have all the answers.  But then something happened.

Until now, I had tried comfort myself by believing that it wasn’t God “taking” my dad away on my birthday, but rather, it was my dad hanging on with every ounce of strength he had left, so he could make it to see one more of my birthdays.  Until now, I was plagued with the sorrow that came with the thought of him dying alone in an unfamiliar place.  I hated that he died alone in that nursing home, and I’d been trying to picture what it was like for him to Jesus coming toward him with open arms.  But still… that imagery left me feeling like God took him away from me forever.

I know for a fact that Jesus came and took my dad to paradise, because my father gave his heart to Christ years prior.  I know it was a tremendous struggle for a very long time, though.  Whenever my grandmother or I would try to talk to him about salvation, he would just hang his head and say, “Jesus doesn’t want me.”  I couldn’t imagine anyone feeling so badly about themselves or about their past mistakes that they would believe Jesus wouldn’t want them.  How tragic to know there are still people in the world today who truly believe that.  People who don’t understand God’s nature and His unconditional love and faithfulness.  People who don’t understand the whole reason behind God’s plan to send us Jesus!

I realized later that it wasn’t a matter of God not being able to forgive my dad, but it was a matter of my dad not being able to forgive himself.  He had asked the Lord to forgive him, but he just wasn’t able to accept the forgiveness that God so freely gives.

Finally, FINALLY, after years of prayer and prodding, he was able to forgive himself and accept God’s grace and mercy and sacrifice!  As if that weren’t enough to cause us all to rejoice, my dad was later baptized.  He was baptized at my home church, in fact, just one short month before his death.  He had been up to stay with us for a week, because we had been trying to extend his visits to more than just once yearly at Christmastime.  I was glad he was here, too, because he wasn’t doing well at all, and I truthfully didn’t think he’d be able to make it back up for Christmas that year, anyway.  I was right.

I had finally gotten my dad back, and then, in the blink of an eye, I had to let him go again.  I had spent my childhood crying after his sporadic visits because I never knew when I would see him again.  After his death, I cried because I knew I never would.

I mentioned above that “something happened.”  Something happened to change my perspective about this whole situation.  That something was my daughter and son-in-law who came over one night to watch the 2018 film I Can Only Imagine.  My daughters and I saw it in the theaters when it first came out, and I bought the DVD as soon as it was released.  It was still in its packaging when Brittany and Will came over that night.

If you haven’t heard of it, it’s the film adaptation of the story behind Bart Millard, of the band MercyMe, and how he came to write the most-played song in the history of Christian radio.  According to, not only Wikipedia, but also the information given to us in writing at the end of the film, the song I Can Only Imagine has been certified quadruple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, and as of April, 2018, has sold over 2.5 million copies.

Bart wrote that song for his father, Arthur, who had physically and mentally abused him all his life, but who later found redemption in Christ and became a new man.  Arthur was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and according to the storyline in the movie, had refused treatment.  The film depicts the journey that Bart and Arthur took together as they worked to repair their relationship.  In one of Bart’s journal entries, he wrote, “I finally have the dad I always wanted, and now he’s being taken away.  How is that fair?”  Oh my, how I could relate to that!  And I was tortured by the reality that my dad had overcome a horrific drug addiction just to later be taken by cancer.

When Bart’s Memaw, referring to her son, asked Bart, “Can you imagine what he’s seeing right now,” the seed was planted, and I Can Only Imagine was born.  Until now, whenever I listened to that powerful worship song, I would try to envision what it would be like for me to see Jesus.  What would my heart feel?  Would I dance for Jesus, or would I be still in awe of Him?  Would I sing hallelujah?  Would I be able to speak at all?

Since re-watching the film and reflecting on how closely Bart’s story resembled my own, I began to think of the song differently.  I began to think of my dad’s final moments differently.  Instead of dwelling on the belief that my dad died alone, I started to wonder… what was it like for my dad to see Jesus?  After such a hard life and even harder death, what did his heart feel when Jesus came for him?

I can only imagine… what was it like when Jesus walked by my dad’s side?  What did his eyes see when the face of Jesus was before him?  My dad wasn’t alone; he was surrounded by God’s glory.  Did my dad stand in the presence of Jesus, or did he fall to his knees?  Either way, I can now envision Jesus picking my dad up and wrapping him in His loving arms, taking away his pain, once and for all.  I can envision my dad’s body being whole again- a smile on his face.  I can envision his soul being whole- a smile in his heart.  For the first time since my dad’s passing almost four years ago, I can imagine him, arm in arm with Jesus, smiling at me as if to say, “I’m okay.  I made it, and I’m OK.  It’s time for you to be okay, too.”

It’s time for YOU to be OK, too.  Whether you’re someone who mostly resembles Arthur Millard or my own father- bound by guilt and shame, or you’re someone who mostly resembles Bart and me- suffering with pain and loss, Jesus wants to set you free.  There is no greater joy than the joy that comes when you give your heart to Christ.

When you let Jesus come into those broken places that only He can soothe, a divine healing takes place.  Even writing this blog post was cathartic for me, and it was no accident that the unwrapping of that DVD was carefully planned and calculated by our Father in Heaven.

He knows me better than I know myself, and He knew what I needed when I began to write this post as an outlet for my pain.  The earth is God’s footstool, yet He is El Roi, the God who sees me.  He also sees you.  He loves you, and as the Author of your own redemption story, He wants to take you into His arms and heal those broken places like only He can.  Let Him in, won’t you?  And if you have already given Him your heart, give Him your pain, too.  Just imagine being surrounded by His glory.

To hear the life-changing chart topper, I Can Only Imagine, click here.  To purchase your own copy of this movie that I believe everyone should own, click here.  To learn more about how to give your life to Jesus and let Him heal your heart, please visit my Jesus and You page.  For the first time since my Dad died four years ago, I can truly and wholeheartedly smile with joy and gratitude when I think of my dad’s final moments, and I thank you for taking this journey with me.  God bless.

 

 

Posted in Blog, Faith & Religion

He Sighed

When I do my scripture reading and devotions, I like to journal a little bit about what I read.  A tip I received from my mother based on the method her Sunday School uses, is to use the acronym SOAP.  S is for the Scripture verse(s) that spoke to me from that day’s reading.  I always write down the passage and the reference.  O is for Observation.  I write out my reflection on the passage.  I briefly journal about why it spoke to me and what I think God is trying to tell me with the passage.  A is for Application.  After I think about what the verse(s) meant to me, I write out how I’m going to apply it to my life.  What did I learn from it?  What can I do differently based on what I learned?  P, of course, is for Prayer.  I always follow up my morning reading with a short prayer regarding everything I wrote.  If it’s something I need to improve on in my own life, I ask God for help.  If it’s something that newly occurred to me, I thank God for the revelation.  You get the idea. 

I may not be the quickest reader when it comes to Scripture, but my goal is not to get through the Bible as quickly as possible.  I like to take it in “chunks” and really digest what I’m taking in as I read.

As I was reading my daily scriptures the other day, I was thinking about what I was going to write about the passage, because it was a rather odd portion that happened to stand out to me on that day.  I wondered how I would “reflect” on this particular part of the passage, because this time it was only two simple words that really struck me.  The more I wondered how I was going to reflect on them, however, the more I actually began doing it.

The specific verse was Mark 7:34, where Jesus was healing a deaf man with a speech impediment.  The verse reads, “Looking up to Heaven, He sighed and said, ‘Ephphatha,’ which means, ‘Be opened.” (NLT)

The two words that caught me here were He sighed.  Every word that comes from God is important, so the fact that He wanted us to know that Jesus sighed in this moment is not irrelevant, and I was trying to decipher what was going on in Jesus’ mind at the time.  Why do people usually sigh?  Was Jesus bored?  Frustrated?  Feeling defeated?  Tired, perhaps? 

I tried to picture it in my head, and I read the verse again.  “Then, looking up to Heaven, He sighed and said…`Be opened.”

Then I pictured myself doing the same thing.  I physically- literally- tried out different types of sighs until I found one that felt right.  I don’t think Jesus was getting tired or frustrated.  Or maybe He was; He was human, too, after all.  But if you read the passages around that particular verse, you’ll see that He had been healing people all over the place.  He didn’t mind, of course.  Jesus came to bring healing.  However, down in verse 36, we see that “Jesus told the crowd not to tell anyone, but the more He told them not to, the more they spread the news.” (Mark 7:36)

Now isn’t that just like us humans to do the exact opposite of what God tells us to do?  But did Jesus get angry?  Nope.  Did He stop healing people because they didn’t listen?  Nope.  Now… isn’t that just like our God to keep on giving even though we didn’t do what He asked of us?  I believe that Jesus sighed because He already knew that everyone was going to keep spreading the news.  I wonder if He sighed as if to say, “Come on, Dad.  We’re on.  Let’s do it again.”  It was inevitable that He was going to heal this deaf man from Galilee, and it’s a given that He was going to keep on healing the masses, because that is Who… He… Is.  He is our loving healer, who is still healing people to this very day.

I think this little story gives us insight into God’s character.  As a parent myself, I often like to look at God from the perspective of His child.  I know that God is also my friend, my brother, and many other wonderful things.  But when I think of God as my heavenly Father, it helps me to remember His patience, love, mercy, kindness, and faithfulness.

When I think about my own children, I know that even when they disappoint me- or even outright disobey me- there is nothing I wouldn’t do for them.  I would never get tired of helping them, and I would kiss every single boo-boo away if I could!  (I’ve often said I wish I could put them in a bubble!)  If we feel that way in our humanness, how much more does our Heavenly Father feel that way about us?

I have this nasty habit of beating myself up when I think I’ve disappointed God, and I often refrain from asking for things in prayer because I feel I don’t deserve it, or I didn’t earn it.  If you know anything about God’s character at all, you would know that it is just absurd to think that way!  There is absolutely nothing anyone can do to earn or deserve His love and good gifts.

I mostly get this way when I know I haven’t read His Word faithfully every day.  I feel that if I don’t give Him the time He deserves, how dare I even think about asking Him for anything.  But you know what?  I have a teenage daughter who spends just about every moment of every day in her bedroom.  It’s even difficult for me to get a hug out of her, because physical touch is not her love language.  But would I ever think she had no right coming to me for her wishes and desires?  Absolutely not!  It is my heart’s desire to lavish her with the things that make her happy!

Why is it so difficult for us to believe that God feels the same way about us?  And even more so?  He created us in His image, and He is the one that put those feelings of love, tenderness, and devotion in our hearts.  If that is all true, then He must have love, tenderness, and devotion in His heart- even more than we can imagine.

I am not saying I’m an expert at this.  I still have to work at it every day.  Self-image was never one of my strong suits, and I have a bad habit of thinking I’m unworthy.  God has had words with me more times than I count when it came to how I viewed myself.  To put it plainly, He has beaten me over the head with His truth!

If you read my story and learn more about my history and upbringing, you would understand why I tend to feel unworthy.  But I’m here to tell you to not be like me!  Sometimes I wonder if God gets frustrated with me because I just don’t “get it.”  Does He sigh when He has to tell me, yet again, how special I am to Him and how beautiful I am, because I am made in His image?  Does He sigh when he has to remind me all the time that He has a plan for me?

Sometimes I sigh when I have to repeat words of affirmation to my daughters.  I sigh when I have to tell them for the one hundred twelfth time that each one of them is beautiful and special and created for a purpose.  I don’t sigh because I’m frustrated with them, and I don’t sigh because I’m tired of saying it.  I think I sigh because I’m a little sad that they don’t believe it themselves sometimes.  They don’t see what I see when I look at them.

And we don’t see what God sees when He looks at us.  Maybe Jesus sighed that day because He was sad, too.  Maybe He was sad that there were so many people with so many different ailments.  The truth is, I don’t have the answer to why Jesus sighed; I can only speculate.  The “why” is not written, just that He did it.  And maybe that’s the way God wanted it.  He wants us to take that time to reflect on His words, because each one is important.

Maybe He wants us to know that He gets sad, too, sometimes.  Maybe He wants us to realize it is His will that all should be healed, and He didn’t pick and choose who was going to have what ailment.

My “ailment” has always been my eating disorder.  Compulsive overeating- it most definitely affects my health and well-being.  I don’t blame God for the food addiction; finding comfort in food was my choice.  Furthermore, God didn’t make my abusers mess with my body, mind, and heart, and yes, I know what they did to me made Him sad.  But they did those things because God gives us free will, and not everyone is always going to do the right thing, or for lack of better terms, not do the wrong thing. 

But, how I respond to what happened is what really matters.  I can’t undo it, so I can only move forward.  More importantly, what happened to me does not define who I am.  I am created in God’s image.  I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  I am God’s precious child, and that makes me a princess.  I believe it makes God sad when I forget that or even doubt it, so I made it my mission to make sure no one else ever does.

I write this blog so everyone who reads it knows that they are loved, and they have a purpose.  Today’s blog was written so that whoever reads it is inspired to take a closer look at the seemingly insignificant words that are found in their bible passages.  God is always speaking to us; sometimes we just need to be still and listen.

What is He telling you today?  Is He trying to get your attention?  Is He gently “calling you out” because you are not accepting of His unconditional love?  Do you have trouble seeing yourself the way that He sees you?  What is the ailment that holds you back from living up to your potential and purpose?  I would love to hear about it, so please comment below!

 

Posted in Blog, Encouragement/Motivation

Time Management

Well, I haven’t blogged as routinely as I originally intended when I birthed this project.  Part of me is afraid that if I’m blessed enough to gain lots of new followers, they will miss the little nuggets that I’ve shared thus far, because they won’t take the time to scroll down.  But if I’m being completely honest here, the other half of me has allowed too many distractions to get in the way of my consistence and determination.

When my husband lost his job of 26 years back in May, it felt like our whole life had come crashing down.  No income, no medical insurance, and no back-up plan.  It was all gone within 24 hours, when my husband’s plant abruptly closed its doors after 77 years of operation.  It threw us for a loop, to say the least.

We still had my meager income, which is a tiny fraction of what he contributed to the household, but I had been looking for other employment for months prior.  Things were looking very bleak as both of us were now looking for new employment.

I mentioned distractions in my opening paragraph, and while this major life change was certainly a distraction that sent us both into an anxious and depression-ridden rut, I can’t blame my lack of discipline solely on the new tragedy that took place in our lives.  The truth is, I’ve been trying to adopt better time management skills since I went back to college in 2011.  It is now the middle of 2019, I’ve completed my Associate’s program and obtained my degree in Psychology, but I have not yet, however, mastered the art of time management. Furthermore, what seemed like a tragedy at the time was actually a blessing in disguise. (You know how God works!) But that’s a story for another time.

So here it is, three months after I launched Learning Life Together, and what am I blogging about?  The fact that I haven’t blogged regularly!

Since getting married in 1993, I bore three little “distractions,” so for most of my life, they were my top priority.  But our youngest baby is now fifteen years old.  What is my excuse now?  Truth be told, my distractions have become the “little things” now.  Dishes in the sink, wanting to hit the snooze button, the most recent episode of Master Chef, and, wait for it…. my pathetic addiction to Match Three games.

What is my point?  The point is that when God puts a dream on our hearts, why do we let these mindless things control our lives?  Why do we let them manipulate our time, when time is such a precious commodity these days?  I’m all for chilling out or winding down, maybe even for a few minutes every day, but when these useless time suckers get more of our attention than the productive things that give our dreams and plans their wings, it’s time to step back and reevaluate our priorities.  

I’m currently listening to the audio book Born Gifted, by Nisan Trotter, which I highly recommend and have added to my Shop page with all of my other suggested resources.  I am on the chapter that talks about this very thing, and Nisan graciously admits that he allowed sports programs to be a distraction in his life.  As he was asking his listeners to think about their own distractions, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Well at least his distraction makes sense!  My distractions are lame!”  This isn’t the first time that God has beat me over the head with this, either.

I have a dream to retire my husband early and make family vacations a regular occurrence instead of a rare treat.  Playing games on my phone is not going to make that happen by any stretch of the imagination.  I’ll even watch those thirty second advertisements just to gain three extra lives.  And you know what?  The devil wouldn’t have it any other way.  Yep, I said it.  The devil makes me do it.

In a constant effort to try to be a good steward of the hours I’ve been given in a day, I have attempted to implement many useful morning routines. I’ve read books on the subject, and I’ve even gone as far as to purchase several “1-Minute Devotions” books that I can read while I’m using the restroom.  (Hey, it puts a new spin on multi-tasking!)

In all of my research and failed attempts to adopt a good strategy for a productive morning, I’ve come up with my own morning ritual.  I’ve combined all the things I’ve learned over the years and rolled them all up into one. I’ve created an acrostic using the word “VICTORIES” to help keep myself on track, and to remember that implementing these strategies will give me a much more victorious day!

I’m going to share this acrostic with you to help you gain some of your own direction.  Don’t be overwhelmed; it’s a lot!  To be honest, I still don’t do all of these things every single day, so feel free to pick and choose your favorites, and just start there.  Baby steps is the best way to achieve any goal, so just take this exercise in little chunks based on what’s most important to you, and then you can slowly add more.  Some of these activities only take a few minutes, so with the right level of commitment to this process, you’ll be able to get through this list in about an hour.  An hour a day is all it takes to get yourself in the right frame of mind to attack your day with motivation and positivity!

Okay, here we go:

V VISUALIZE Where do you see yourself six months from now?  One year from now?  Five years from now?  Close your eyes and really try to picture it.
I IMAGINE What do you desire that, until now, was only ever a dream?  This step is great for entrepreneurs and business builders who tend to doubt their ability to succeed.
C CLARITY Clarity journaling- Gain some clarity by jotting down all of your thoughts, feelings, and desires.  Set a five or ten-minute timer, and just “let it all out.”  No one will see your journal but you, so don’t hold back, and don’t worry about mistakes.  Let yourself be free as you fill the pages.
T THANKFULNESS What are you grateful for today?  Think of at least three things you’re thankful for, and jot them down.  It doesn’t have to go too deep here, either; since I only eat carbs and sugars a few times per week, sometimes I’m just grateful for a fruit day! This is a great step in starting your day off right, and it only takes a minute!
O OBJECTIVES Set goals.  Goal-setting is great tool to use in any area of your life, be it health goals, financial goals, family goals, or what have you.  Set some short-term goals and some long-term goals, but make sure they’re truly attainable, so you don’t set yourself up for failure.  One of my short-term goals every day is to drink at least 8-10 glasses of water. Remember, baby steps!
R READ Scripture and Devotion time is essential to anyone trying to cultivate a relationship with Jesus.  No matter what method you use to get the Word into your spirit, make it a priority.  Even if you can only read a chapter a day, or even just a few verses, it’s important.  If you can only choose one or two activities on this list, make this one of them!  And don’t forget, you don’t need to “schedule in” prayer time.  You can pray in the car, in the laundry room, or even in the shower.  The bible tells us to “pray without ceasing,” so remember to pray every day, all day!
I “I AM” STATEMENTS Daily affirmations are a must when trying to reprogram your negative self-talk tapes.  Pick a few of God’s truths that resonate with you, and say them with conviction every single day.  One of my favorites is, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made!”  Get the idea?
E EXERCISE I know, I know.  Bleck.  This is probably my least favorite, but one that’s equally important when trying to be the best version of ourselves that we can be.  Find an exercise that you ENJOY!  I love to dance, so my Zumba and Body Groove DVD’s are usually my go-to’s for fitness.  Choose an activity you look forward to, not dread.
S SELF-DEVELOPMENT I know that in our society today, “self-help” books carry a negative connotation, but they really are very helpful!  Whether you choose a book to read or listen to, or an inspiring podcast to follow, self-development is the key to success when you’re in need of inspiration and motivation.  There are so many great avenues for this one, that I can’t even begin to list them here.  You can check out my Shop page for some personal book recommendations, but don’t forget that if you don’t have time to read, you can always listen to a podcast instead or an audible version of your book. You can easily do this while getting ready for your day or while on your morning commute.  A couple of my favorite podcasts are Rise with Rachel Hollis, and On Air with Ella for some great health and wellness education!

I hope you find this list helpful, and not intimidating.  For you own printable copy of a “Victories Chart,” check out my Freebies page! Remember, even if you take baby steps forward when trying to implement these strategies, you’re still moving forward.  These daily exercises are meant to encourage you and to get your day started off right, so if time management is an issue for you like it’s always been for me, at least try to replace some of those mindless activities with something productive off of this list.

I know what you’re thinking.  “I don’t manage my time wisely enough as it is, and now she wants me to make time for this list?”  Well, the truth is, adopting these habits is actually what is helping me learn how to better manage my time.  I know it sounds crazy, but just the fact that I have this little “to-do” list, that I know is going to help me have a better day, is what keeps me motivated to change those bad habits into good ones.  When it’s beneficial in so many ways, why wouldn’t I choose these activities over the unproductive ones?

I’ve prayed about this very issue on several occasions, and God has always told me the same thing… “Put away childish things.”  (See 1 Corinthians 13:11) If I’m striving to honor God with all that I say and do, why wouldn’t this count, too?  Obedience seems frustrating at first, but when you want your own children to be obedient, isn’t it for their own good?  How much more would that scenario mean between us and our Father?

When it comes to using your time wisely, even listening to a little self-development each day will help you “train your brain” to make better choices.  And don’t forget that once you’ve got your priorities checked off of your to-do list, you won’t feel as guilty when you end your evening with your favorite “down time” activity.  I used to call my cell phone games my “guilty pleasures.”  God doesn’t want to take away our pleasures; He just wants us to put them in their proper place.  Wanting to honor God will naturally make us want to be better, and wanting to be better will ultimately help us to do better- and vice versa.

*As always, I love to hear your feedback!  What are some of your habitual “time suckers,” and what are some of your favorite “positivity routines?”  Share them below!*

Posted in Blog, Encouragement/Motivation, Faith & Religion

His Princess

What is a princess?  Is a princess someone who dresses in fancy gowns and tiaras?  A little girl’s dream persona perhaps? A nickname for a beloved wife or a cherished daughter?  Or is a princess much more than that? 

According to Webster, a princess, by definition, is this:  the consort of a prince and a non-reigning female member of a royal family, especially a daughter of the sovereign.  Aaahh, there it is.  Now, while Webster didn’t capitalize Sovereign, I will always do so.  When I think of Sovereign, I think of The Sovereign- The Lord God Almighty, The King of Kings.

All that said, what is my point?  Simply this:  if God is a King and you are His daughter, what does that make you?  You got it!  You, my sister, are a true, blue princess.  And so am I.  And let me just say here that I didn’t always think of myself as one.  It’s still hard for me to do that sometimes.  I have to remind myself of it everyday, in fact. You may not think of yourself as a princess right now, either, but I intend to help you a little bit with that.

I’m going to try as best as I can to share my story and explain why I thought of myself as anything but a princess.  My memory fails me at times but you’ll get the idea, even if what I share may seem a little choppy.  See, I have what I call a “Swiss Cheese” brain.  I call it that, because it’s full of holes.  Okay, I really got the term from a classic V.C. Andrews book which I never seemed to be able to get rid of when I became a Christian.  I got rid of a lot of my books and VHS tapes after I found salvation, mostly because of bad language or, and I’m not going to sugarcoat it here, pure smut.  But this book was different.  Yes, the story was dark and twisted and tragic- it’s written by V.C. Andrews, after all.  It’s not a Christian piece of literature by a long shot, but there was always something about that book that made it one of my favorites.

It was the girl.  It was the poor girl who had a “Swiss Cheese Memory” full of holes.  I identified with her somehow, and not just because of her sketchy memory.  I related to her.  Because of the horrific violation she’d suffered in the story maybe?  Perhaps that’s part of it, but I won’t get into gory details since this is a Christian blog and I want to remain tasteful.

I suppose my story really began when my father abandoned me.  I was about two years old, according to my mother, and he had been battling a terrible drug and alcohol addiction.  My mother couldn’t help him, and we weren’t enough to keep him.  Truth be told, she kicked him out to keep us safe, but even that was not enough of a wake-up call to scare him clean. 

My mother protected me from the truth for as long as she could, God bless her.  She allowed me to blame her; she allowed me to take my anger out on her; she even allowed me to hate her at times, because she knew I would never hate him.  I loved him so much it hurt, and later in life I discovered that being abandoned by him was one of the main reasons behind my food addiction.  There was no way I could ever believe that what happened was his fault, so that meant it must be mine.  There must have been something wrong with me.  I must have been unlovable.  What made me so unlovable, I never knew, so I started eating- a lot.  The women in my family had always been obsessed with weight and the way they looked, so I suppose I believed that if I was overweight, that would make me unlovable, and then everything that happened would make sense.  Somehow, if I was overweight, I could reconcile in my mind why his leaving was my fault- why I wasn’t enough for him. 

Fast forward to my mother’s second marriage.  I don’t remember how old I was- eight or ten maybe.  The age doesn’t matter; what mattered is I would spend the rest of my impressionable years being told I was never good enough.  (As if I didn’t already know that.)  It was instilled in me that I would never amount to anything, and I had grown to believe it.  I mentioned this in my last blog post, and you can check it out here if you’d like a little more insight about my upbringing.

The point I’m trying to make is that when you’ve spent your whole life believing that you aren’t enough, you tend to have a pretty difficult time believing you are a princess!  Far from it, in fact!  If there were ever such a sad sap with daddy issues, I was it.

I grew up feeling lonely, insecure, and looking for love in all the wrong places.  I wasn’t always a Christian, but God was always with me, even before I knew Him!  He protected me from diseases, unplanned pregnancies, and even from being violated as a teenager, because I sure put myself out there as an easy target!  I had gotten myself into quite a few pickles, but God always had me in the palm of His hand. Why? Why did He have His hand of protection upon me before I even gave Him my heart?  He did it because He loves me, and He has a plan for my life!  I am His.  I am God’s creation, and none of God’s creations are accidents or mistakes.

I want to share a passage of Scripture with you that will change your life if you let it.  It’s found in the Psalms, and it reads, “For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful; I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.”  Psalms, 139:13-16, NIV

Does that sound like you’re a mistake?  I’ve got news for you…God doesn’t make junk!  Not only are you not junk, but you are fearfully and wonderfully made, and there is a plan for your life!

You may not yet know what God’s plan is for your life, but He does, and maybe your first step is to accept yourself for who you are, and then trust in Him to lay out the path before you.  You may not be able to see yourself the way that God sees you, and that’s okay; I don’t either most of the time.  But here is what I know: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”  2 Corinthians 5:17, NKJV 

All things have become new.  You have become new!  It doesn’t matter where you come from, where you’ve been, or what you’ve done.  If you are in Christ, you are a new creation!  And not just any creation, but a royal creation… a princess.

Ephesians 1:5 tells us, “God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ.  This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure.”  (NLT)  Wow!  Adopting me gave God great pleasure!  He wanted me!  Scuff marks and all!  And He wants you, too.  The Bible certainly wasn’t written just for little old Alicia from a map dot in Pennsylvania. 

Have you ever dreamed something for yourself that you didn’t believe you were good enough to achieve? Have you ever desired something in your life that you didn’t believe you were worthy enough to have? Did you ever set goals that you didn’t believe you were capable of achieving anyway, so you just shoved them down deep? I have been there, my sister! And I learned that all of those doubts and fears are nothing but lies from the enemy who doesn’t want you to be who God says you are! He doesn’t want you to achieve the dreams that God placed on your heart, because that would help the world. The devil doesn’t want to further God’s kingdom, he wants to further his own kingdom! So, he has made it his mission to keep us feeling knocked down and dragged out. He has made it his mission to keep us in that place of “not enough” because our successes mean that God’s plans for our lives are coming to fruition.

Have you ever heard of the expression “pay it forward?” Well it’s the same concept. If we begin to achieve our goals and dreams, we are going to start helping others achieve their goals and dreams. We are going to share God’s truth like I’m doing right now. Before you know it, we’re going to start making the world a better place… one life at a time. The devil certainly doesn’t want that! And what’s so awesome is that we all have a different job to do. I won’t get into the body of Christ right now, because that’s a message for a different day. Suffice it to say, we all have a part to play, but we all have the same end goal.

Maybe sharing your story in a blog isn’t your cup of tea, but you can see yourself traveling to far away places so you can help those less fortunate. If so, the Missions Field might be more for you. On the other hand, maybe the thought of air travel and harsh climates makes you break out into a cold sweat, but you know you love children and your passion still lies with them. If that sounds like you, volunteering in a children’s ministry at your home church might be more up your alley. Maybe you’re more of the standing-on-the-street-corner type who wants to share the good news with passers-by. Then you are an evangelist! Whatever it may be and whatever your talents and desires are… God put them there. He designed you with a purpose! Try to spend at least ten minutes a day telling yourself all of these wonderful truths. Look in your mirror and see yourself as the child of God that you are.

undefined I saw a saying once with which I completely fell in love. It was a picture of a pineapple with the words, “Be like a pineapple. Stand tall, be sweet, and wear a crown.” As a child of God, I fell in love with this saying, because it was a simple reminder that I am a princess. Now I think of it every time I see a pineapple, and I love anything with pineapples on it. I want you to remind yourself of this truth every time you see one, too. You ARE a princess! Now put on that crown, and hold your head up high, my friend! Allow yourself to dream those dreams. Allow God to give you the hope of achieving them, because He is the one that put them there from the beginning.

What are your dreams and aspirations? I would love to hear all about them so I can encourage you and pray for you! Feel free to comment below if you’d like to share anything about your own self-doubts and how you are trying to overcome them. Be blessed, my sister, and… be a pineapple!

Posted in Blog, Encouragement/Motivation

You Are Enough

In the newest book by Rachel Hollis, Girl, Stop Apologizing, chapter four talks about the fourth excuse women use when they can’t or won’t even try to accomplish their goals. The excuses provided in her book before and after this one are equally important, but this excuse was one that is extremely relative to my story, and therefore, I am sharing it with you here: the excuse that tells you, “I’m not enough to succeed.”

I mentioned in my More About Me page that I had been mentally and verbally abused.  From the age of about eight or ten up until the time I moved out at 18, I was told by my step-father that I was a worthless, lazy glutton that would never amount to anything.  There were many variations of these words, but the message was always the same… and I grew to believe it.  (Before I go any further, I absolutely need to make sure all of my readers know that my dad was a completely different person when I was growing up.  He has since found the Lord, we have repaired our relationship, and we are closer than ever!)

As an adult, I found that I was caught in a never-ending cycle of perfectionism and dissatisfaction.  No matter what I accomplished, it wasn’t enough.  This makes sense because as I was growing up, if I earned a “B” on a test, I was told it should have been an “A” instead.  If I cleaned the bathroom top to bottom, he found the one hair I missed on the sink.  I’m sure I don’t need to give any more details for you to get the idea.

Unfortunately, if that was my dad’s way of “encouraging” me to reach for the stars, it severely backfired.  It turned me into an unfulfilled and unsatisfied perfectionist who couldn’t see the good in anything she did.

I constantly beat myself up for not going to college every time I didn’t get the job I wanted.  When I published my first book, I was convinced it “didn’t count,” because I self-published instead of finding an agent.  And when I did go back to college, I earned my Associate’s Degree with a 3.9 GPA but was devastated that it wasn’t a 4.0. In short, I had let the size of my paycheck (and the size of my body!) determine my value and worth instead of walking in my God-given identity.

Do you see why Excuse #4 in Rachel’s book totally resonated with me? I highly recommend this book, (as well as her first one, Girl, Wash Your Face).  But, until you get your own copy, I want to share with you a life-changing exercise that she encourages us to do when we are in doubt about our ability to achieve our dreams.

She tells us to write a letter to ourselves.  It should be from that part of us that never gave up.  It should be from our “persistence and tenacity,” and we are to focus on all the things we have done instead of all the things we haven’t done.  She even encourages us to update it as often as necessary. In her book, she candidly shares with us the very first letter she wrote to herself when this exercise was suggested to her, and now I am going to candidly share my letter with all of you.

Please know that I am not sharing this to be boastful, but to be transparent.  I want to be relatable to you, and if nothing else, I want to jog your memory about some things you have accomplished that you may not have thought of yourself!  Know that if you choose to do this exercise, your letter will be for your eyes only, unless you want to share it with someone else who needs to be encouraged!

Use your own voice.  This letter is to you, from you.  Be honest.  Tell it like it is, and don’t worry about grammar or spelling.  I intend to make a copy of mine for each of my girls, so I can leave a legacy of confidence, not cowardice. With that, here is my letter:

Dear Alicia,

Hello, woman!  Wake up and pay attention, because this is a very important letter that contains a lot of very important information.  Hi, this is your Persistence & Tenacity, now listen up!

First of all, straighten up that crown of yours and act like the princess you are!  Why?  Because it was no accident that you were adopted into the Royal Family.  Not only did God choose you from the very beginning, but you chose Him, too.  And you did it because you are a good mother!  When you had your first child, you wanted a different life for her than what you had.  You looked at that precious little baby and then made a life-changing decision for both of you.

Not only did you want God to be an important part of your lives, but you did something more… you stopped the cycle!  You stopped the cycle of partying; you stopped the cycle of divorce; and most importantly, you stopped the cycle of abuse.  You have overcome and risen above!  You chose to rise above your circumstances.  You wanted better for your life, so you endured more than ten years of scary and painful therapy.  You learned healthy ways to cope with trauma, stress, and fear.  You made yourself forgive, so you could step forward and step up.  Then….

You spoke to large crowds of people about it!  And here’s a newsflash for you… you are a great public speaker!  You may have been a hot mess on the inside, but you never showed it on the outside.

You pursued further education- twice.  You not only did your two-year Literature Course after graduation, but when you went back to school to get your Psychology degree, you were 38 years old, working part-time, raising three kids, and leading a Girl Scout Troop!  When you got that Associate’s Degree, you got it with a 3.9 GPA.  Let’s not forget… You wrote a novel!  You wrote it, then you learned how to self-publish it, and you were able to self-edit it, too.  Now you have a book on Amazon!  And you think you haven’t accomplished anything yet?  Come on, girl.  Don’t be ridiculous.

Okay, now let’s talk about the elephant in the room… your health and body.  Remember when I reminded you of all the family cycles you stopped?  Well how about the cycle of constant overeating and bad food choices?  When this health & wellness company came into your life, the Holy Spirit gave you the power to overcome, and now you are heading towards Food Freedom!

Last but not least, let’s talk about that dirty little four-letter “F” word…. FEAR!  Listen, girlfriend, if you were to have a check list of all the times you showed Fear who’s boss, it might look something like this…

You hate being the center of attention, but you became a public speaker because you wanted to make a difference in the lives of others.  You were always a shy introvert, but you faked it until you made it, and now you’re a people-person!

When your daughter was going through her medical trauma and had to have two brain surgeries and then a Bilateral Adrenalectomy, they were the scariest times of your entire life.  You not only had to be strong for her, but you learned how to give up control and trust God.

When your other daughter was away at college, which was scary enough by itself, your heart sank every time she called home because you never knew what was waiting for you on the other end of the line.  But, your daughter needed you, so you faced it every single time because you knew that burying your head in the sand would not help her overcome.

Despite being a nervous wreck, you’ve driven in busy cities by yourself, you’ve gracefully made it through over a dozen job interviews in your lifetime, and they don’t even make you nervous anymore, you’ve had three surgeries, you’ve survived losing a parent, you’ve gone through intensive training to do volunteer work at a crisis pregnancy center, you’ve gone through more intensive training to become a certified lay minister, you’ve taken steps to start your own ministry at church, you became an entrepreneur, and you’ve had to kill spiders all by yourself when no one else was around!

The list of ways in which you have conquered fear goes on and on, so why let fear hold you back now?  As your favorite friend, Winnie the Pooh says, “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”  And you…are not…a quitter.

Be proud of all those hats you wear!  Wife, mother, author, online content writer, public speaker, entrepreneur, college graduate, spiritual leader, family secretary, prayer warrior, and one heck of a tenacious, goal digging, go-getter!

Before I go, let me remind you of the lyrics from one of your favorite songs…

“Fear, you don’t own me.  There ain’t no room in this story.  And I ain’t got time for you telling me what I’m not like you know me, well guess what?  I know who I am!  I am strong, brave, and I am free.  I’ve got my own identity!  So, Fear, you will never be welcome here!”

Another hat I wear is Encourager. Now I encourage you to grab a journal & a pen and your favorite feel-good beverage, and get writing. Here, I’ll start it for you: Dear (your-name-here), this is your Persistence & Tenacity, and I want to remind you that YOU ARE AWESOME! And do you know why?

Fill in the blanks.

Don’t be scared; it’s easier than you think once you get on a roll! For a little extra encouragement, maybe you first want to take a listen to the song I referenced in my letter. You can do so here. Download it, install it, save it, or whatever you do to get it on your favorite device, and listen to it every day!

*You don’t have to share your letter with me, but if you want to share any part of it, or if you want to share anything about how it made you feel, I would welcome those comments! Kick Fear to the curb, and happy writing!*

Posted in Blog, Faith & Religion

Audacious Expectations

Gift    A few years ago, 2015 to be exact, my Pastor had been preaching about “audacious expectations.”  He said he’d been feeling in his spirit that 2015 was the year for audacious expectations, and we should seriously be coming to God with bold requests and expecting Him to move on our behalf.  (I’m paraphrasing here, of course.)

According to Dictionary.com, audacious means “extremely bold or daring; recklessly brave; fearless; extremely original; without restriction to prior ideas; highly inventive.”  That being said, it was my impression, then, that we were to come boldly to the throne of God, and be fearless, daring, and recklessly brave with our requests, asking without restriction, and expecting that our highly inventive (beyond our natural reach) requests, as long as they were within God’s will and we believed that we had already received them, would be granted.

In my mind, this doesn’t mean, “Lord, help me make all my bill payments this month” or “Lord, please help me get through this cold and flu season without incident.”  These are things that we no doubt pray for regularly anyway.  When I think of audacious, I think of things that are outside the norm.  I think of things that are so far outside our spectrum of thinking that they can only be God’s handiwork.  Miraculous, wonderful things that just don’t happen every day.

God is famous for making a way where there is no way.  He is well known for providing exactly what you need, exactly when you need it- especially when you have no idea how or where you are going to get it.  He is in the Miracle Business!

For one person, an audacious expectation may be a new car because theirs is on its last leg and they have no way of replacing it.  For another, their audacious expectation may be for their rebellious child to find salvation.  For another, it may be a divine healing to rid their body of a life-threatening illness for which there is no man-made cure.

For one person in my home church, her audacious expectation was to be debt free by the end of 2015.  (She was debt free by the end of March.)  And not only did God meet her audacious expectation, but He went above and beyond.  He also blessed her business to overflowing and provided her with a brand new vehicle to meet her business needs, too!  Now THAT is a God who provides!

The best thing about this story is that God is no respecter of persons.  That means, there is nothing we can do to earn His love or His provision.  No one is any more or any less deserving; no one is any more or any less worthy; He doesn’t just wake up and decide who He is going to bless that day.  There is no jumbo-sized computer that He uses to point-and-click on the people whose prayers He wants to answer next Tuesday.

Well I feel like 2019 could be a year for audacious expectations, too.  I’m feeling it in my spirit, if for no other reason than, I could sure use a miracle right about now!  I’m sure we all could!

So I ask you… what is YOUR audacious expectation?  Come on, don’t be shy.  Dream BIG!  We’re not talking small potatoes, here.  For me, I am praying that God will bless MY business to overflowing, just like He did for my friend.  As an entrepreneur, I am no stranger to the ups and downs that come with business ownership.  In fact, I have seen my business fluctuate more than my scale!

That being said, however, I also know the old adage “slow and steady wins the race.”  I can honestly say that when I began my first business two years ago, I did not completely give it to God.  Not 100% anyway, but I didn’t give up, and now I feel differently.  As a Christian, I know that nothing is possible apart from God, anyway, so why would I try to do it without putting Him front and center?  And now that I have finally pursued the dream of reaching others through blogging, I need God more than ever.  I have a story to tell and lives to change.  I pray everyday, “Oh, that you would bless me indeed and enlarge my territory!”  (Inserting plug now:  If you haven’t yet read the Prayer of Jabez, I highly recommend it, and you can find it here.)

So now, I’ve put God at the helm, and I am ready to come boldly before the throne to ask for a miracle!  (Well they have Miracle Grow for plants, why not for businesses and blogs, too?)

Now I’m not after some get-rich-quick scheme; let me just set the record straight on that point.  I’m truthfully not even after getting rich.  Being debt free and living comfortably, yes!  In fact, through the Personal Development I’ve learned to do since becoming an entrepreneur, I’ve learned to envision accomplishing something that, until now, was only a dream.  As we speak, I am picturing the day that I have enough money in my bank account to write out a check for my whole family to go to Disney World!  (Hey, it can happen!  I know someone who received 10 free tickets once, just because that’s how awesome our God is.)

Remember, God is our Heavenly Father.  As a parent myself, I would love to lavish gifts on my children all the time if I could.  Consider Matthew 7:11 for a moment:  “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!”  Now can you take a moment and reflect on this?  Even if you’re not a parent, I know there are times in your life when you enjoy giving good gifts to your loved ones.  It’s natural for us to enjoy it.  We love to show our love to others, and gift-giving is just one way to do that.  So if we, being made in God’s image, enjoy gift-giving so much, imagine how much more our Heavenly Father enjoys it!

When you were a child, did you ever ask for that one special thing for Christmas that you just had to have?  That shiny new bike or that new baby doll?  That new and improved electronic device with all the bells and whistles?  The hottest new video game?  Well this is BIGGER than that!  And your Heavenly Father is just waiting for you to crawl up into His lap (instead of Santa’s) and ask away.  Don’t be shy.  He wants to roll up His big sleeves and show you just what He can do!

*Now I ask you again… what is YOUR audacious expectation?  Comment below!*

Posted in Blog, Faith & Religion

The Blooming Onion Theory

I suppose I’ll start by explaining how I came up with the title of this post, and no, it has nothing to do with the famous appetizer sold at many popular chain restaurants. I had given this title a lot of thought, and as I was trying to think of something witty that would give some kind of insight as to who I am, I thought of the movie, Shrek. (No, I’m not an ogre.)

All of a sudden, for some unknown reason, I heard donkey saying, “Onion Boy!” I thought about that part of the movie where they were talking about layers. I, like Shrek, am like an onion. There are many, many layers that make up the being that is Alicia Leitzel.

Maybe you will discover those layers sometime in the future in one of my best sellers! But, for now, let me jump ahead to the “Blooming” part. Okay, so I have a past. Who doesn’t, right? Unfortunately for me, I had allowed my past to shape the person I had become. Thank God for sending His Son, because through Jesus, I’ve become a new creation!

One of my favorite promises comes from 2 Corinthians 5:17. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

Now I knew this theologically, but it was the emotionally and spiritually that I couldn’t quite grasp. Many people spend a great deal of time and money on the professionals trying to figure out how to rise above the hand they were dealt, and I was no different. But I didn’t truly find victory until I turned to the One who created me and knew me better than I knew myself.

Long story short, I was finally able to completely (and I do mean completely) let go of my past. It was at a retreat of sorts, at the Saturday night anointing service, where I truly surrendered it all to my Savior. I’m not talking about salvation or conversion, here; I had already done that years prior. I’m talking about truly letting go and letting God! I realized I didn’t need my past identity anymore. It was time for me to stop letting my past define me. Freedom no longer evaded me, and another promise became truth to my spirit that night. “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36 NKJV).

Soon after the experience, I followed up with attending a Ladies’ Conference at my home church. It was confirmed that I was officially an overcomer, and in fact, not just an overcomer, but a beautiful rose just waiting to bloom.

How long this blooming process would take, I didn’t know. But, I can tell you that I’ve since learned it’s an ongoing process. As soon as I was able to embrace that fact, I was on a different path. In fact, the following year, I was one of the speakers at the annual Ladies’ Conference!

I have discovered, albeit the hard way, that when I put my trust in the Lord, everything will work out one way or another. Even if it’s not my idea of the perfect plan, I know it is HIS plan, and I’m going to embrace the journey. I proudly profess to be 45 years old and still Learning Life.

Every day brings a new opportunity to do something productive. Every trial brings a new opportunity to grow in faith. And every interaction brings a new opportunity to show God’s love. That retreat changed my life, and my walk with Jesus has been a priority ever since. He continues to shape the person I will become, and I am learning that examining our layers is what helps us to bloom.

So, in closing, can an onion really bloom? Well, when taken in the right context, yes! I absolutely believe that it can! And I hope that you, too, will one day realize that you are just one of many blooming onions.

** Has there ever been a time where God took you out of your comfort zone? It wasn’t your idea of the perfect plan, but it was HIS plan, and you were glad you were obedient. I’d love to hear about it! Comment with your story below, and happy blooming!