Posted in Blog, Encouragement/Motivation, Faith & Religion

‘Tis the Season for Writer’s Block

Due to my brain being preoccupied with decorating, and wrapping, and visions of sugar plums, I am suffering with a temporary case of writer’s block.  I’ll keep this one short and sweet, so all of you can spend more time enjoying your prepping and planning, too!  I’d like to share why Christmastime is so special to me, and to embrace this season of giving, I’d like to share a few thoughts on the giving heart of God.

We all know that God gave us the ultimate gift, when He gave us His One and Only Son as a living sacrifice on Calvary.  That is no little trinket or stocking-stuffer!  However, the “season” of giving began long ago with three kings who also had giving hearts.  There is some confusion about birth dates and about whether or not the Three Wise Men should be a part of our holiday nativity display, but this isn’t that kind of blog post.  Suffice it to say, this is the time of year that most of us celebrate the birth of our Savior, and the three kings who wanted to find baby Jesus to worship Him and lavish Him with gifts of love and adoration are a big part of that story.

I’d like to say that the example the three kings set for us is the reason I like to bestow gifts upon my children at this time of year, but that just isn’t my truth.  Remember, I did not grow up in a Christian home, and although I knew that Christmas was about the birth of Jesus, that’s pretty much all I knew.  I grew up with the magic of Santa, and reindeer, and overflowing stockings of goodness.  Until my mother remarried, we weren’t very well off. I found out later in my adulthood that she would often have toast and hot tea for dinner, so I could have a full meal. But for as long as I can remember, my mom made Christmas the most magical day of the year for me.  Somehow, despite being a woman of very little means, lots of beautiful, wonderful gift boxes covered in bright, festive wrapping paper managed to suddenly appear under our tree every Christmas morning.  It didn’t stop when she remarried, either… it may have gotten even better!

Because of my sketchy memory, I obviously don’t remember specifics.  I would assume that very few people do remember specifics from that age, save for the really special Christmases when a shiny new bike would appear or perhaps that beautiful new baby doll.  But it isn’t the specifics that really matter to me.  It was the feeling I got.  That feeling of joy and excitement that made its way from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet.  It wasn’t just on Christmas day that I began to feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but it was ongoing throughout the entire season itself.  Everyone seemed a little more joyful, there were festive lights everywhere, and it was a pretty big deal back then to see cartoon specials on TV at nighttime!  Even the songs on the radio were jolly, and to this day, I’m ready for Christmas music as early as the first day of Autumn! 

It wasn’t so much the gifts under the tree that I wanted to pass down to my children, though that was a big part of the magic for me, but it was the spirit of Christmas.  It was that build of excitement and the feeling that all was right with the world.

I followed in my mother’s footsteps, and every Christmas morning, brightly wrapped packages were strewn from under the tree to the tops of the living room furniture.  (I had three children, after all.)  It was so exciting for me that I started our own tradition of letting the girls open up one little gift on Christmas Eve simply because I couldn’t wait for morning any more than they could. 

Although their Mom and Dad surely contributed to the piles of wishes-come-true every Christmas, the really “good” stuff always came from Santa Claus.  The one or two really big, exciting things that were the desires of my girls’ hearts were always from Santa, and that’s not to say that they didn’t know the true meaning of Christmas.  We were always sure to tell them the story of Jesus’ birth, and our oldest, who was about five or six at the time, went as far as to leave a note for Santa making sure that even he knew that Christmas was really all about Baby Jesus, and Mary, and “Jofess.”

One of my favorite images that floats around this time of year is of Santa Claus, hat in hand, kneeling down beside the manger where Baby Jesus lay.  Even Santa was giving honor where honor was due!

But in my mind, what kind of mother would I be if I didn’t let my kiddos feel the magic that I cherished so dearly growing up?  I know there is a debate among Christians about whether or not letting your children believe in Santa is just like lying to them.  I suppose it is, for all intents and purposes, but this isn’t that kind of blog post, either.  Suffice it to say, there really was a Saint Nicholas long ago, so I didn’t really see any harm in keeping his spirit alive.

There is also the ongoing debate that some parents who go crazy trying to find that hot , hard-to-find holiday toy item should get the credit for all their efforts- not some old guy in a red suit who gets flown around by magical reindeer.  But I must tell you, no matter what time I had to get up in the morning on “Black Friday,” and no matter how many stores I had to travel to in order to get my hands on that one special thing, it was always Santa who had come to the rescue.

For me, it wasn’t about taking credit for making sure I nabbed the freckle-faced Cabbage Patch doll with the purple dress, green eyes, and red corn silk hair.  For me, it was about the magic that I got to feel every time I saw that look on those precious faces.  The smiles that went all the way up to their eyes.  Sometimes, a gift was so special that it brought tears of joy along with the wide, toothy grin.  Doing that for my children is what kept the magic alive for me well into my adulthood.

Why do I tell you all this?  Because God honors those with giving hearts.  I’m not just talking about the people who give to charities or put extra offerings in the collection bags at church, either. Although, yes-of course, God honors those givers abundantly! But the bible straight out tells us that we love to give good gifts to our children.  (See Matthew 7:11) God knows we love to bestow gifts upon our children, because He made us that way! He knew how much it meant to me to give my children magical Christmases, and that means it was important to Him, too. And He provided those for us more times than I can count.

One year, we were one of the chosen families to receive a large trash bag full of brand new, unwrapped toys from our church.  Then in 2009, we were going through financial hardship due to traveling back and forth to Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland with a sick child.  Someone shared our story with a local Lion’s Club Association, and we were chosen to receive over $400 in checks and gift cards that were donated by club members.  Still another time, we were visiting an uncle, and without even having to ask him, he loaned us $1000 cash so we could give our children a great Christmas that year.  We didn’t have to pay him back until we got our income tax return a couple months later.

Years ago, we were purchasing a van from a different family member who no longer needed it.  The van was in like-new condition at the time, and we needed a larger vehicle for our growing family.  He was selling it to us for a fraction of what he had paid, but it was still a significant amount on which we had to make payments.   We had been paying on it for a while- at least a year or so, and it was going to be paid off soon.  One day in late November, out of the blue, he decided to not only wipe out the rest of the debt, but he paid us back, in full, for all the payments we had made up until that point!  He ended up giving us, not only the van, but God used him to give us a great Christmas, too!

There are dozens of stories just like these that I could share, and it’s not just at Christmastime, either.  When my husband lost his job this past May, he attended a men’s fellowship breakfast, which he hadn’t ever been able to do before because of having to be at work so early.  Our Pastor handed Greg an envelope, and in it was a gift from an anonymous donor who had asked Pastor not to reveal his identity.

Greg waited until we were together to open it, and when we did, we found $700 in cash!  It may sound like an odd number, but to us, it was very significant.  Greg had always remembered that the number seven meant completion, and he took it as a sign from God that he no longer had to worry about finding employment.  We knew that God had a plan, and it was a “done-deal” no matter how many other applicants there were!  Besides that, $700 was the exact amount of money we needed to pay an important bill that was coming up due before we had a chance to defer the payment because of the job loss.

God is good all of the time!  And He has so many different ways of blessing us!  God works in mysterious ways, and He often uses other people as His vessels of blessing.  Wouldn’t you love to be one of those people?  I heard in an old movie once, “If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours.”  Even a smile to someone who isn’t expecting it can be a big blessing in their day.  Think of our poor department store workers who are dealing every day with grumpy shoppers, layaway pickups, sticky carts, and swarms of children who are begging their parents for toys as they walk through the store.   

In this season of magic and joy and giving, challenge yourself to think of a way to be a blessing in someone’s life.  Maybe even think twice about walking by the bell ringer’s bucket without dropping in a few coins.  If you can’t give monetarily, maybe you can offer your time to someone in need.  If nothing else, you can always pray for those who are less fortunate. 🙂

Give a little bit more of yourself this holiday season, and keep your eyes open for blessings that might come back your way, too!  God loves a joyful giver, and He loves to lavish gifts upon His children.  Besides this being the season for writer’s block, it is also the season of giving!  So, keep your heart and mind open to receive, because you just might be surprised to see where your next blessing might come from!  

If you have any miraculous stories of God’s giving heart, we would love to have you share them! Please comment below if God has ever provided for you in an unexpected way!

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

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!