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!*

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!*

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!*

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!