Posted in Blog, Encouragement/Motivation, Faith & Religion

Locked Doors

The fact that I suddenly had an unexpected, very tearful breakdown, was evidence that there was still much work to be done.  It was clear that the pains from my past were still much bigger than I thought.

I had truly believed that I’d put my past behind me, and I was much better for it.  I was growing in my faith and in my relationship with God, and I was learning about my true identity.  It’s been a very long road, and I knew it wasn’t over yet, but as I embarked on a 21-day Daniel Fast with the start of the new year, God was revealing to me that I was going to have to unlock some doors that have since grown covered in cobwebs due to lack of use.

As I began the 21-day journey, my prayer was to simply grow closer to God.  I wanted to hear from Him as clearly as my Pastor had on the day God told him to take a tuna sandwich to a stranger around the corner.  I wanted to hear from Him as clearly as my Pastor’s wife had on the day she ended up in the ER with a broken finger because God wanted her to stop, not one, but two people there from ending their lives.  God knew the horrible thing they had each been contemplating, and He sent His faithful servant to tell them that their lives mattered.

Of course, God knew the long-time desire of my heart was to be freed from this issue I’ve always had with food, but I purposely did not want to make that the sole focus of my fast this time. 

It was evident that God was with me on each of those 21 days in those quiet moments, because He had been revealing His presence to me time and again, day after day.  He was speaking to me in ways that were so clear, there was no room for doubt!  I spent some time every day journaling about my journey and about the things God had been revealing to me, and I have decided to share this journey with you in a very transparent way.  I would like to share bits and pieces of my journal entries with you, because it’s much easier than trying to explain the way God was making His presence known to me.

About a week into the 21 days, I had already begun looking for the next bible study I would do after the completion of my fast.  I knew it would take me a good week or two to decide, because I would agonize over my choice- wanting to be sure I was making the right one.  I would pour over book descriptions and customer reviews for days on end, praying that God would reveal His choice for me.  It was odd this time, though, as I came across a study called “The Missing Commandment: Love Yourself.”  Without even reading the back cover, I placed the title into my shopping cart and made the purchase.  I never really gave it another thought after that, and then continued to peruse other titles that might pertain to me.

When my package arrived several days later, I placed the study guide on my shelf, intending to “get to it later” because I had still been searching for the title that God wanted me to do next.  Then Day 18 happened.

I was journaling about a conversation I had with my Daniel Fast accountability partner.  I told her about the three new bible study titles I had been kicking around; one was about living to your fullest potential, one was about personal growth, and one was about the power of daily affirmations.  I was excited to hear her response and thought that if one of them sounded interesting to her, we might be able to do it together.  I was a bit taken aback when her reply was, “Hmm, why do you always feel like you can be better?  You are already an amazing wife, mother, and friend.”

Wow.  It had never occurred to me how obsessed I was with “being better.”  I began to jot down my thoughts in a written prayer.  “Am I trying too hard, Lord?  Is it that old lie of never being enough that keeps me striving for perfection and then berating myself when I miss the mark?  I thought I was past all that.  Why can’t I get free from it?  Will I ever be satisfied with just being me?”  Cue the unexpected, tearful breakdown.

Friends, when I started this blog, I made it no secret that I did not have all the answers, and that we would be “learning together.”  This is a perfect example of that truth.  I really did believe I had overcome my past hurts.  I really did believe I had moved on.  And I have; I have made strides in my healing over the years.  I have forgiven and forgotten, and I have risen above my past hurts by doing a lot of learning about my true identity in Christ.  Unfortunately, some of the pain and negative behaviors are still there, and it’s going to take a little more work before they are no longer an issue.

I continued my journaling after I dried my tears and regained my composure: “I see now that the Love Yourself bible study I impulsively bought over a week ago was no accident.  While I was still browsing other titles, Lord, You kept bringing this to my mind, and now I know why.”  I finished writing out my heartfelt prayer with a renewed sense of hope.    

I made a new commitment to depend even more on Jesus as I prepared to delve deeper.  My bookshelves are covered in bible study materials about health, addiction, a desire for God, battles of the mind, bondage and freedom, and so on and so on.  Never once have I ever entertained the thought of doing a bible study about loving myself.  I had finally gotten the memo, and it was settled!  I had made my decision about what bible study was “on deck” after my Daniel Fast was over.  Then Day 21 happened.

As I was journaling in response to Day Twenty-One’s reading, I reflected on that past Sunday’s church service.  I had an incredible moment at the alter that day, and I had been wanting to share with Greg everything that God had been speaking to me over the last three weeks during my fast.

Although my husband loves the Lord and is ever grateful for the many blessings He has bestowed upon us, his relationship with the Lord has a different dynamic than my relationship with the Lord.  Although Greg spends his own personal time with God on a regular basis, he rarely has time to “go deep” with God like I desire to do for my own walk with Him.  I wanted to share this part of myself with Greg, but “spiritual” conversations with my husband never really come easy for me; I often feel like he wouldn’t understand.  Greg’s faith and trust aren’t quite, for lack of better terms, on the same “level” as mine, and if I’m being completely honest, I sometimes wondered if it was possible for a husband and wife to grow apart in that area while they are thriving everywhere else.

I decided I needed to talk to Greg about how I was feeling, and while this blog post isn’t about dissecting my husband’s relationship with God, I share this very personal conversation with you because it’s very relevant to what happened next.

When I told Greg that God was supposed to be first in his life, then his spouse, then his children, he said something I never expected.  He looked me dead in the eye and confessed, “Well if that’s true, then I’m in the wrong, because the idea of making you ‘number two’ behind anyone or anything is a foreign concept to me.”

I didn’t know how to react to that statement in the moment, though my gut instinct was to crumble into his arms.  I sat in silence for a minute, because I could tell there was something else he wanted to say.  He was fighting the urge but finally gave in when he realized this conversation wasn’t over.  “When you talk about this stuff,” he began, “it makes me…”  he paused there.  I patiently waited for him to voice what he was apparently afraid to put out into the universe.  Then these words came out of his mouth, “Whenever you start talking like this, I’m afraid you’re going to leave me because you think we’re incompatible or something.”

Oh my.  For a split second, I was speechless, then logic kicked in and made me respond with, “Well that will never happen.  I can’t even imagine my life without you.”  When my own words went out into the universe, my floodgates opened.  Something deep inside of him made him worry I might leave him?  I didn’t even know how to process that.  I was always the one who was afraid of people leaving me.  I had never been ‘number one’ in anyone’s life until now.

I wrapped my arms around Greg and curled up into his chest as I reflected on how blessed I truly was to have him as my life partner.  God knew exactly what He was doing, and suddenly I was overflowing with gratitude….

And chastising myself for being so picky.  God brought me a true, blue knight in shining armor, but leave it to me to focus on the flaws.  Wait, back up, there I go again.  Chastising.  “Rebuking or severely reprimanding.”  Well that negative behavior of beating myself up had reared its ugly head once again.

Perhaps the real question, though, is, “Why did I reprimand myself for bringing up a legitimate concern?”  Was I truly being picky, or was I just trying to have an adult conversation about something that was troubling me?  And why did I feel that doing so was not okay?  Did I feel I didn’t deserve to have my concerns addressed because Greg is so good to me?  Of course I did!  And I felt that way because a part of me still believes I’m not worthy.

I’ve spent several years- more than I can count- learning how to reverse these negative behaviors and learning how to dispel the lies of the enemy, but here I am, still learning.  Evidence of my spiritual growth, though, is that I’m starting to recognize it now.  I am learning to hold those thoughts captive as soon as they come, and I’m learning how to make a conscious effort to combat Satan’s lies with God’s truths.

I returned to my journal a little later, recounting the conversation and documenting my feelings and revelations.  I realized that God must think I’m ready to go back “there” again.  He is ready to use His master key on some of those old, locked doors.

I often talk about baby steps when I’m writing for my blog, and I want to take a moment here to remind you that God is constantly working in and through us now, and He will continue to do so until Christ’s return.  During the many years I’ve been working on my Christian research about facing and overcoming past trauma, trials and tribulations, I learned that if God were to give us everything all at once, we would never be able to handle it.  I believe it is by God’s design that He works on us in baby steps.  In John 15:2, we are told, “He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.” (NLT)

According to Harmony Gardens Landscaping, “Pruning is the cutting away of unwanted parts of a plant for more fruitful growth and shaping.  You should prune a plant or shrub to remove crossed, damaged or diseased branches which will stress the plant. Pruning also improves air flow through the plant and can encourage better branch distribution which results in a healthier, more vigorous plant that is more disease tolerant.”  Is that relevant to how Christ cares for us, or what?

For us to be able to bear good fruit, we need to cut off the “diseased branches” that produce anything opposite of what Galatians 5 teaches us about the Fruits of the Spirit.  And just like a growing tree, it takes times to grow into what God has designed us to be.  Sometimes it will take some pruning and cutting to get there, and that means there will likely be seasons of pain or difficulty.  But consider this truth: “…we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character, and character, hope.” Romans 5:3-4 (NKJV)

That being said, I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage, “God will never give you more than you can handle.”  While this may be comforting in times of suffering, it’s not entirely true.  (Don’t shoot the messenger!)  If you reference 1 Corinthians 10:13, you will see that Paul was specifically referring to temptation when he said that, not trials and tribulations. 

Here is what God does promise us through His pruning process, however:

  • Strength– “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)
  • Courage– “And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”  Deuteronomy 31:8-9 (NKJV)
  • Comfort– “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”  Psalms 23:4 (NKJV)
  • Wisdom- “For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.”  Proverbs 2:6 (NKJV)
  • Peace- “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33 (NIV)
  • Freedom- “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36 (NIV)
  • Hope- “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

Sharing my journey with you is not meant to make you feel like you’ll never get to the light at the end of the tunnel.  My purpose is to encourage and inspire you.  I can tell you with absolute certainty that, although it might not seem like it right now, something good can, and will, come from whatever it is that the devil used to harm you.  God promises to use our pain for good.  In Genesis 50:20, Joseph says, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” (NLT) What a great example of faith and servanthood!

In a nutshell, God helps us to help others.  When we share our stories with the people who need to hear them, we are doing our part to further God’s kingdom by offering hope.  Christ is hope, and that is what my blog is all about.  Letting you know that God is about to do some more “pruning” within me is not meant to discourage you.  My intention is not to diminish your hope, but to ignite it!

We were never promised that our lives would be easy once we’ve turned them over to Jesus, but we are encouraged to stay the course and walk in faith.  Just like a business owner can’t open shop until he gets the loan, and the doctor can’t perform surgery until she gets the education, we can’t bless others until we get an understanding that this isn’t about us.  And don’t think that you have to have it all figured out before you can help others, because that’s just another lie from the pit.  Although we learn our life lessons in baby steps, we can still use what we learned to make a difference in the life of another.

I want to take a moment to thank you for walking through this journey with me, and I want to encourage you to “stay the course!”  God isn’t finished with us yet, so when you feel like you can no longer walk by sight, walk by faith!  He promises that He has a plan for each one of us.  That is the truth I hold onto whenever I begin to feel anxious or discouraged.

*What about you?  What are some of your favorite truths that get you through times of pain, doubt, or fear?  Share them below, because they just might help me out, too!

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!