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, 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!