Posted in Blog, Encouragement/Motivation, Faith & Religion

Princess and the P

“P?  What is P?  Like, pea?  What does she mean by that? Did she spell it wrong?”  Well, readers, for all intents and purposes, this particular “P” stands for the Prince of Peace- the Promise Keeper- the Great Physician- the Good ShePherd!  The truth is, there are more names for Jesus than I could possibly count!  And He lives up to every single one of them.  Redeemer is another one of my personal favorites.  Deliverer.  Mighty Counselor.  The list goes on and on.  So now that we know the “P” is a Who and not a what, who is the Princess in this scenario?  (We’ll get to that part.)

As time is constantly marching on, and life is constantly changing, and people are constantly evolving, so, in fact, must my blog.  As near and dear to my heart as my “Blooming Onion Theory” post is, because it was the first I had ever written, I finally had to archive it.  It was time for a new post to take center stage, because as I’ve honed in on what bloggers like to refer to as “their niche,” I have come to realize that my blog now has more of a central theme than when I first started out.  I want my new “sticky” post to be about this blog’s purpose.

First of all, some of you might be asking, “What is a niche?”  According to Dictionary.com, the definition that best suits the type of niche I’m talking about is “a distinct segment of a market.”  Simply put, a niche for a blogger is sort of their main topic, or their specialty, if you will.  It’s something specific that they write about.  Now when I first started researching the things I needed to know about writing a blog, I distinctly remember that most of the books I read on the subject inevitably stated at one time or another, “Everyone is an expert at something.”  Ha!  Me, an expert?  I’m not an expert at anything!  It was enough to make me break out into a cold sweat.

I wanted to make sure that anyone who visited my blog was well aware that I was no expert.  I didn’t have the answers to all of life’s questions, so I didn’t want to profess that I did.  I came up with the original blog name, Learning Life Together, because I wanted my readers to understand that we were in this together.  Did I have lots of life experiences to share?  I sure did!  But did that make me an expert?  It surely did not.  The one thing I knew, though, is that I wanted to encourage, educate, and edify other women like me who shared the same struggles.  I may not be an expert in anything, but I sure have a lot of experiences under my belt that taught me a life lesson or two.

If you check out my More About Me page, you’ll get the synopsis of my life story, but honestly, my story isn’t nearly as important as what I’ve learned from it- and what I’m still learning!  To put it mildly, a traumatic childhood and a lifelong addiction to food caused chronic self-loathing, self-condemnation, depression, guilt, and shame.  I felt I was too unworthy to receive love and respect, and frankly, I didn’t believe anyone would ever truly fall in love with me anyway.

But someone did!  Not only do I have an awesome husband and three incredible kids who love me unconditionally, but there is Someone who has loved me since before time began!  Jeremiah 1:5 says, “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb.  Before you were born, I set you apart…” (NLT) Wait, what was that?  I was set apart?  Could I really be that special?  The answer to that, my friend, is YES!  And the good news is that so are you!  And I have made it my mission to prove it to you.

For more years than I could count, my Aunt and I tried to start a ministry at our home church.  We had a passion for women who struggled with “identity crisis” just like me, and although we weren’t sure how to go about it, we knew we wanted to share God’s truth and hope with those women.  Believing God put the name on my heart, I called it the Sparrow Ministry- the Savior’s Promises and Advocacy for the Redemption and Restoration Of Women.

Our theme verse came from Luke 12:7, “…Do not fear, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”  Our mission statement was this: “Our purpose is to bring God’s truth to His daughters and His hope to their situations by helping women feel worthy, loved, confident, and encouraged.”  We had several meetings with our Pastoral leadership, and we had their full support.  But for all of our efforts, we just could never get the ministry off the ground for one reason or another.  I have since made it my mission to bring the ministry to you, my readers.

Do you have any idea how valuable you are?  I’d like to refer you to a previous blog post of mine called “His Princess.”  Please check it out when you have a chance, because it is definitely full of some gospel truth that you might need!  Here is some more truth for you: “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ…”  (Romans 8:16-17a NIV) I ask you, if you are a daughter of a King, what does that make you?  A princess of course! 

And because we are all princesses just trying our best each day to live up to our title, I have decided to change the name of my blog from Learning Life Together to Princess and the P—because none of us are doing this alone.  My Prince of Peace is your Prince of Peace.  My Promise Keeper is your Promise Keeper.  The Great Physician and the Good Shepherd Who heals my heart, protects, teaches, and guides me, does the same for you.

In this blog, I will share candid stories and life experiences with you, because I want you to fully understand and believe that we truly are in this together.  In fact, you will still be able to find me on Twitter @LearnLife2gethr and on Instagram @LearningLife2gethr, because I am still learning every day, just like you. That much has not changed; I am still no expert, and even when I think I’ve got it all down pat, that pesky enemy will do everything in his power to make me doubt or forget.

I will also share some of God’s truth with you in every post, because the Sword of the Spirit is our greatest weapon against attacks from the enemy.  Know that, although I won’t know your specific struggles, I am making a commitment to pray for all of my readers.  I pray that God will sustain you, heal you, restore you, and empower you, and if my blog can play even one small part in that, then I will be the one that is blessed!

My beloved Sister, know at this very moment that you are not just a daughter of a king.  You are a daughter of THE KING!  As you explore my website, and particularly my blog posts, my prayer is that you will feel worthy, loved, confident, and encouraged.  Not one little sparrow is forgotten before God, and you, my friend, are more valuable than a whole flock of sparrows!

Be blessed, my Sister, and happy reading!

Posted in Blog, Encouragement/Motivation, Faith & Religion

2020 Vision

We interrupt this regularly scheduled program for…

Covid-19 is much more than a special news report, and if you’re anything like me, it has interrupted much more than a television program or two. It has interrupted our work schedules, our family gatherings, our shopping trips, our activities, our school system…. it has pretty much interrupted our entire lives.

While these are unprecedented times for all of us, we are all handling the unknown in different ways. During the stay at home mandates, some were staying cooped up in their homes because they were living in fear. Others were staying home and making the most of a bad situation. Still, there are some that continued to go to work every day, my husband and 22-year-old daughter included, but they had to do so following a whole new set of rules and procedures, such as wearing protective masks. As we all proceed with the re-entry process, those of us who are just now starting back to work are following suit.

I admire those who are making the most of a bad situation. I know those who, while spending the last two or three months cooped up at home, were doing their long-avoided spring cleaning, remodeling projects, and even starting new health and wellness routines. Me- not so much. Unfortunately, I was more in the former category. Not that I was living in fear, because we weren’t given a spirit of fear according to 2 Timothy 1:7, however, I will admit that depression had reared its ugly head since all of this began.

Because of my asthma (which, if my Pastor heard me say that, would tell me not to claim it), my husband and children put me under house arrest. Although I am more susceptible to bronchitis and upper respiratory infections, I can’t say for sure that automatically makes me more susceptible to contracting the Coronavirus. However, I do know that if I were to contract the virus, it would be harder for me to fight it off due to my compromised lungs. That being said, I had been holed up for over two months, and it did not serve me well.

Being out of my routine has certainly had its effects on my overall well-being. My sleep schedule had been off, I’d been consistently living off of carbs and sugar for some reason, and regretfully, I wasn’t even writing consistently. (As I’m sure you all have noticed!)  I found it impossible to write something positive for my blog, when I was feeling anything but positive.  In fact, I was beginning to feel lethargic, unmotivated, and irritable, and because I had bitten all of my fingernails to the quick, I felt ugly and less feminine, too.  My clothes were getting tighter, and all my aches and pains were back with a vengeance.

Being away from my family took an even bigger toll on my emotional health, though.  We were taking the advice of our Pastoral leadership and obeying the mandate put out by the authorities, so I was unable to go see my parents, and I definitely couldn’t go see my elderly grandparents because of their compromised health.  With my grandmother in the early stages of dementia, she was having trouble understanding the severity of the situation. She was agitated and emotional, because her family couldn’t come to see her.

I was also missing my oldest daughter terribly.  I had gotten used to seeing Brittany every day when I became a receptionist at the daycare where she works, and now I hadn’t seen her for weeks.  Married for going on four years, Brittany now has her own home in which she was cooped up.  The constant news coverage had caused her to have three anxiety attacks in just as many weeks, and I was growing increasingly worried about her.

By the time Easter Sunday arrived, it had been almost four weeks since I’d seen her, and the day was a difficult one for all of us.  It would be the first year our whole family wouldn’t be able to spend the holiday together, which was a hard pill to swallow for my Italian grandmother who believes her life’s purpose is to cook for and serve her family.  As we saw people posting pictures of their holiday festivities on social media, Brittany was at home crying because, in all her 25 years, it was the first Easter she wasn’t able to spend with her parents and siblings.

This new reality was becoming a great source of stress and heartache for me, and I wasn’t handling it well.  I have a good friend who is constantly sending me uplifting messages, and she was trying her hardest to not only keep me encouraged and motivated, but to also hold me accountable for taking care of my health. But for all of her efforts, it just wasn’t working. I knew it all came down to my state of mind, and frankly, it was a good thing she knew that, too, or she might’ve thought I was avoiding her.

I also felt very far away from the Lord, because I had even stopped spending time with Him every morning like I had grown so accustomed to when my normal routine was in full swing.  Now God?  Him I was definitely avoiding!  I was headed down a slippery slope.  I was already mad at myself for undoing all of the hard work I’d invested in my health, and I was getting worse as time marched on with no end of Covid-19 in sight.  I knew if I kept going the way I was going, I would be much worse off than I already was, and that wasn’t a pretty picture.  Yet for all my logical reasoning for why I should make a change, I remained unable to do so.

Not seeing Brittany for four weeks had soon turned into five weeks, and then six; it was the most time we’d ever spent apart from each other.  We tried to FaceTime regularly, but that was nowhere near the same as seeing her in person.  Depression engulfed me in waves, and the more depressed I felt about what was happening and what I had done to myself, the worse it got.

I stopped listening to Christian music, and I withdrew from God instead of running to Him.  I began to waste more time than I care to admit on mindless computer games and Netflix binges, because it took me away from my current reality.  Because I was feeling so unattractive and so disgusted with myself, I withdrew from my husband, too.  When it came to intimacy, I could take it or leave it, so I hadn’t been there for Greg in the way a wife would want to be there for her husband under normal circumstances.

Mondays were coming and going, and with each passing Sunday evening, I would resolve to make the new week better than the last, but to no avail.  It seems that the overall theme for 2020 is “Vision,” and most of us started the new year off with hopes, dreams, and aspirations.  But in the blink of an eye, all of that changed for me.  We were heading into June, and the way I saw it, half of the year was gone already.  Although I’m not trying to be the glass-half-empty type, I do bend towards being a realist.

A few days before the next “Fresh Start” Monday began looming over my head for the umpteenth time, the Lord was once again beginning to pierce my thoughts.  I had put Him on the back burner long enough, and with God’s gentle prodding, my heart and spirit were beginning to fight back.  I tried to avoid the impending battle instead of trying to embrace it.

But when Monday morning came, and I had to try on three different outfits for work before I found something that actually fit comfortably, I found myself at the proverbial rock bottom.  I looked at myself in the full-length mirror behind my door, but being all cried out from the years of repetitively being in this same predicament, all I could do was stare.

The usual feelings of regret and disgust ushered in, followed by defeat.  After I was finished getting ready for work, I collapsed in my kitchen chair and uttered, “Okay, God, You win.”  Instead of turning on my computer, I opened up my Bible app.  I would normally turn right to Psalms when I needed to be encouraged, but I couldn’t quite identify which emotion was weighing the most heavily on me.  I checked out my saved reading plans and clicked on one about God’s grace.  Although I wasn’t necessarily feeling it in my heart, I knew in my head that God’s grace was unconditional and unending.

About halfway through the devotion, a familiar sting in my nose signaled the sudden onslaught of tears.  There, right in the middle of my devotion, was the word that identified which emotion I had been feeling… guilt.  I realized I had withdrawn from God, not because I was angry with Him or living in fear, but because I felt like I had let Him down by not taking care of myself during this trial.  I felt that I had disappointed God yet again, because I allowed my circumstances and emotions to dictate my behaviors.  I was depressed, and so I became uncaring.

I didn’t care about what I ate, how I spent my time, or when I slept, and knowing I had “done it again” made me feel as though I had no right talking to God or spending time with Him.  I felt like the black sheep of God’s family, and rather than run into God’s arms, I chose to hide from Him instead.  I felt, dare I say, unworthy of His unconditional love.  The words of Matthew 17:17 must have been distorting what I know as truth.  In this verse, Jesus said, “You faithless and corrupt people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you?” (NLT) The silent cries of my own heart were, “Oh, Lord!  How long will You put up with me?!”

The answer is, as long as it takes!  The answer is, forever and ever, Amen!  I understand that Jesus found Himself feeling frustrated sometimes; after all, we were created in His image, so I have no doubt that Jesus, at one time or another, felt every emotion that we humans ever feel.  But the good news is that, above all, our Lord is kind, loving, and forgiving!  And not just today, but every day, forever and always.

The words in my devotion that struck my heart were this: “Guilt is not part of God’s plan.  It drains the life out of us and separates us from reality.  Yet, we keep guilt around never looking to see how much it steals or controls.  God wants more for us!  He wants us to be free.”

The author, Markey Motsinger, goes on to say, “Guilt is a mental and emotional experience that occurs when a person thinks or realizes they have compromised their standards of conduct and accept responsibility.  When we don’t give these experiences over to God, they can quickly turn into shame.  Shame, in return, attacks our identity, causing us to feel unworthy or not good enough.  Guilt and shame take us away from the heart of God.”

Have truer words ever been spoken?  For someone who devotes an entire website to our identity in Christ, I sure do forget God’s truths much more often than I should!  How easy it is for me to allow self-condemnation to breed guilt, shame, and feelings of unworthiness!  Oh, Lord!  I am so weary from this ongoing battle! Can any of you relate to this hamster wheel experience?  Yet, in those moments when I was reading my devotion, I felt anything but condemnation.  I felt warmth, peace, and love.

As I allowed God’s grace and forgiveness to wash over me, I made the conscious decision to lick my self-inflicted wounds and get my act together.  I began planning out some healthy lunches for the work week.  Greg was stopping at the grocery store after work anyway, so I asked him to pick me up some no-sugar-added strawberry preserves.  Apparently, our local grocery store no longer carries the brand I wanted, and Greg arrived home that evening feeling frustrated and disappointed because he was unable to find what I desired.  I know his comment wasn’t meant to sound harsh, but I was hurt nonetheless when he said, “You didn’t care about sugar last week when you were eating ice cream!”

In the moment, I wanted to retaliate.  But before I spoke, I took time to reflect on the variables.  For one thing, I know the underlying issue was really that my dear hubby felt bad for not being able to deliver.  For another, I was fresh off the Self-Destruct Express, so I immediately took offense to his words.  My first instinct was to take it personally, as if Greg were insulting my inability to stop the vicious cycle.  But the Holy Spirit instantly made me realize it was my own frustrations that caused me to feel angry with Greg.  I’m the one who felt self-conscious about not being able to stop the cycle.

I calmly told him that if I were going to eat refined sugar, I would choose to have it in my ice cream, not in my fruit preserves!  And really, that’s all life really is, after all.  A series of daily choices.  Instead of choosing to be strong during a difficult time, I chose to succumb to my weaknesses, which started a domino effect of repercussions.  Given what’s happened, I have a new choice to make.  I can choose to not forgive myself and sink deeper into the pit of despair that I’ve created for myself, or I can choose to accept God’s grace and forgiveness, pull myself up by my bootstraps, and start again.

I talked to Greg later that evening and told him that I can understand why he gets frustrated with me sometimes.  I admitted that I have times of weakness, and people that don’t struggle with food addiction will probably never understand how difficult it is to not give into certain impulses.  Enjoying chips and soda while watching a favorite television program is something about which Greg will never have to give a second thought.  I explained that that’s not the case for me, and I tend to slip up now and again- especially on the weekends when things are much more relaxed at home.  But I also told him that one thing I know for sure is that I never give up!

Hebrews 12:1b-2a states, “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith….” (NIV) This is the race that is marked out for me.  This is my cross to bear.  Although I get frustrated more times than I can count, I am grateful, too, because it could always be worse.  I have a great job, a great purpose in life, and a great family who faithfully gives me their unconditional love and support.  Although this race makes me weary, God gives me the strength and endurance I need to keep going.

What is the race marked out for you?  What choices will you make when the going gets tough?  Will you give into guilt and shame the next time you take two steps back instead of one step forward?  Or will you pull yourself and remember God’s promises?  I know I’ve shared this verse in other posts, but it is one of my favorite promises, and it is worth repeating: “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 1:6 (NIV) Don’t throw in the towel, my friend.  2020 still has a long way to go, so bring that vision into focus and carry on, because God is not done with you yet!

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 working in the Missions Field is more your style. Did you ever aspire to travel to far away places so you can help those less fortunate than yourself? Maybe the thought of doing Missions makes you break out into a cold sweat, but you know you love children. Maybe volunteering in a children’s ministry at your home church is 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. 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

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!