Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What Will You Be Doing with Your New Year?

by, Alycia Morales

If there's one thing I can be, it's consistently inconsistent. Every New Year, I choose my #oneword and wait to see what God will do with it, in me. And every year I make some kind of resolution – to lose the rolls that have now replaced the post-baby-birthing fat I never dropped; to reorganize my office and, in effect, myself; to be a better wife to my husband and pay more attention to my children than I do to my work; to write, write, write until I have three book contracts. And every year, I'm consistently inconsistent and my follow-through is severely lacking. I have no resolve to keep my resolutions.

So this year, I've determined to make a solid change. Instead of making unresolved resolutions, I will set solid goals for the various areas of my life and proceed to map them out.

First, I'm setting priorities. In 2014, I spent more time editing than I did writing. By August, I was spent and frustrated. I hadn't chased my writing dream. Instead, I'd helped others chase theirs. Don't get me wrong, I love encouraging others. What I need to find is a balance between the two. Because once again, I've entirely put others before myself when God has things for me to do. And those things haven't been done.

Second, I'm rearranging my schedule. One thing I noticed in 2014 is that when my kids are home for vacation, I don't accomplish much. So instead of scheduling work to fill the summer months and the holidays, I'm going to set a goal of spending more quality time with my kids and enjoy this season of life with them … before it slips by and I no longer have it. I'll get the major work done during the school year and save smaller projects for the summer months.

Third, I'm going to plan to arrive at my goals. I'm going to take a realistic look at what I want to do and what it will take to get it done. I'm an overachiever who has a difficult time saying no or delegating. So I tend to shoot for the moon and fall ridiculously short. In 2015 I will be plotting out a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual schedule of events to reach those goals.

Confession: I can't even remember what my one word for 2014 was, and I feel like I strayed way off the path God had for me last January.

Although I feel unaccomplished in several areas, there are some I found even a little measure of success in.
- My kids aren't afraid to come to me with their deepest desires and needs. There is a new level of trust that has developed in the last year.
- I did learn how to crochet in 2014, something I'd promised myself I'd do at the end of 2013.
- Several of the books I edited have gone on to win amazing awards or had a great first month on the market.
- A flash fiction story I wrote in 2012 was published in Splickety Love magazine.

Share the Beauty: As I find a new energy in setting my goals for the New Year and forgoing making resolutions, what will you be doing with your New Year? Will you join me in pursuing all that God has in store for you? What is one thing you'd like to accomplish in 2015?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Best Thing a Mother Can Do: Thankful Posts

What's the best thing a mother can do for her child?

Reflecting on my past and all that my mother did for me and the future, my children, and all I do for them, I'd have to say my answer would be:


I know for a fact that the prayers of my mother and my honorary mamas met God's ears and turned His favor toward me in my darkest hours. When I rebelled as a teen. When I continued in my rebellion as a young adult. And when I've needed God to come through in my adulthood. They've never stopped praying, and I knew it then and I know it now. He has been faithful to answer and to save me from my mistakes.

As a mother, I know that prayer directly affects my children's lives as well. Twice in the past two years I've felt an urgency in my spirit to fast and pray. And twice, as I've finished my fast, my children have come to me with serious confessions. God has prepared me to deal with these with grace, which has afforded me my children's trust. He has answered my prayers, as well.

I am left in awe of what a prayer can do when the God who sees all and knows what is hidden deep within our hearts is on the receiving end.

And I am eternally grateful for my mother and all of my mamas who have never stopped crying in God's ear for me, as I will continue doing for my own children and other kids God has provided for me to love.

If I've learned anything, it's that I may not be able to change my children (just as my parents could never change me), and I may not be able to make their decisions for them (just as my parents could never make mine, either). But I can affect change through my prayers and my obedience to the Lord.

Which is why I will never stop praying for my children. No matter what they choose to do.


What's the best thing a mother can do for her child? #parenting #thankful via@AlyciaMorales {Click to Tweet}

Share the Beauty:
Do you agree with me? Or is there something else you feel is the best thing a mother can do for her child? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments! 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Is Happily Ever After Worth the Struggle? Thankful Posts

Fairytales provide little girls with a false perception of love and marriage. I hate to say it, but there isn't really such a thing as "happily ever after" here on earth. That's only found in the pages of a book.

The truth is that every relationship takes work. Show me one couple - or one family - who has been blessed with "happy" every day of their existence. You can't.

Because despite our best intentions, every one of us has a sinful nature. No one is perfect. Every one of us has a flaw somewhere in our makeup. Even after we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior and are covered in the blood of His loving sacrifice, we don't see perfection until we die a physical death. We still make mistakes. We still say stupid things. And we still, against our best intentions, hurt others.

So is marriage worth the effort? Is it worth struggling for the happily ever after?

I would say a resounding yes. Just like every other day of my life, I am thankful today for my husband, Victor. And I am thankful for our marriage.

Over the past 16 years, I have watched our love:
  • Struggle to exist as we've battled through the issues being a step-family brings.
  • Struggle to exist as we developed intimacy with one another.
  • Grow as we endured our struggles.
  • Blossom into a love that covers all sin.
  • Endure despite the enemy's sneaky attempts to destroy it.
I can say right now that I haven't liked my husband every day of our lives together. But I have loved him, no matter what he's said or done.

And he's done the same for me. Recently, I find myself amazed at his patience with me as I've struggled to maintain my composure, wanting to lash out against all that is chaos in my life.

I love organization. I love people who consider one another when they make decisions, since all of our decisions affect someone else. I love stability and consistency. And as life does, it feels as if it's spun into chaos in recent months. Which leaves me stressed, burdened, and exhausted. And even as I go to Jesus and lay it all at His feet, the little things irritate and bubble into eruptions that are difficult to push back and hold down until they fizzle.

Yet love.

Love trusts that this too shall pass. Love understands what lays underneath the irritations and frustrations. Love sees the truth deep within. Love knows and recognizes where the grumpies come from. Love patiently listens, waiting for the divine moment to respond in love. To reveal what the heart searches for. To convict with a gentle touch that brings out the new man. The revelation of who I am and Who is in control.

My husband walks in this love, and I am grateful that God has given me the blessing of him. He isn't afraid to put in the time and do the work that is necessary to hold our three-stranded chord together and keep it from unraveling at the first hint of difficulties ahead. And for that I am eternally grateful. God gave me the man He knew I needed. And Vic isn't afraid to be that man.

I can look forward to my happily ever after with Jesus. And I can experience abundant life here on earth. Every day may not be happy, but every day is filled with the joy of my salvation and the love of Christ. Which my husband exudes.


 Is "happily-ever-after" worth the struggle? @AlyciaMorales shares her thoughts. #marriage #thankful {Click to Tweet}

Share the Beauty:
What quality does your fiance/husband or the Lord hold that you are thankful for?

Monday, November 10, 2014

When Children Bring God's Conviction: Thankful Posts

Over the weekend, I dropped my blogging plate. In one way, this bothers me, since I'm in the midst of a series of posts about being thankful. Missing three days kind of put a snag in the "series."

But did it?

I spent those three days cleaning house and taking care of my family. Spending time with the kiddos and my husband. Resting.

If I consider eternity, missing three blog posts isn't really going to matter much. But missing the opportunity to pour into my children, snuggle with my husband, and to let each of them know how much I love them - enough to drop "work" for a few days and focus on them - will certainly make a difference.

Too often I get sucked into work mode. I'm a doer. A go-getter. It's very easy to sit my butt in a chair at my desk in the corner of my dining room (in the middle of the house) and find something to do online. Check e-mail. Check Facebook. Pin a few items to my Pinterest boards. Recheck Facebook. Retweet a few things.

Before I know it, I've spent the morning staring at a screen and ignoring my son's request to play Life. Or watch him skateboard. Or ...

And my son's quick to point out how much more I care about work than him.

Throughout the past 15 years, my kids have been quick to point out my presumptuous sins. Although their words prick my heart, I am thankful for them. Because they're true.

Sometimes I do neglect to spend quality time with my kids in order to check one more thing off my to-do list. Sometimes I wish for a solid week alone so I can work uninterrupted. But that wouldn't really make a difference, would it? My to-do list will keep growing as my time with my kids diminishes.

So for three days this weekend, I turned away from the computer screen and spent time with my children. Because I am thankful for the time that I have with them before they grow up and move out of my house and into their own adulthood.

So, today I am thankful for four wonderful beings who bring great joy into my life: Ezra. Caleb. Hannah. And Gideon. God has blessed me tremendously! My quiver is full.


When Children Bring God's Conviction via @AlyciaMorales  #parenting #thanksgiving {Click to Tweet}

Do your kids point out your sins? Mine do... @AlyciaMorales #parenting #thankful {Click to Tweet}

If you are a parent, what is one aspect of parenting you're thankful for? If you aren't a parent, what's one thing you're thankful your parents taught you?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Confession of a Control Freak with a Savior Complex: Thankful Posts

Do you wish people would do what you ask when you ask? Does it get under your skin when someone you love doesn't seem to want to be healed of their brokenness? Do you love correction, no matter the pain of internal change?

I do.

This past week, I struggled to grasp why someone I love would refuse to do what everyone around him has asked. For his safety. For his health. For his endurance.

When my husband lovingly pointed out that I cannot make someone else do what they don't want to, reminded me that I want to control things I can't, and told me to let go of the situation before it hurt me (I had to take Pepto Bismol at one point), I went to God.

And here's what I discovered...

I hate to see brokenness or chaos, especially in those I love. I want to fix things. I want to make them better. I don't enjoy watching them suffer ... in their sickness, in their sin, in their self-destruction. I can't stand a messy room. If I had the time, I'd clean and organize everyone's house.

I'm not unlike the God whose image and likeness I am created in. He can't stand to see humanity self-destruct either. He can't ignore mankind's brokenness. And He detests sin. So much that He sent His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life. Because He loves us more. He didn't send Jesus to condemn us. He sent Him to save us.

And yet we make our own choices. We have the freedom of will. We can decide to accept His love and redemption or to reject it.

And for someone whose love language is acts of service, saying "no" to their simple request (and possibly complicated ones) is perceived as rejection. Just like Jesus was rejected and hung on a cross. Just like many continue to reject Him today.

I take comfort in knowing that God knows exactly how I feel in this messy moment of life. That He understands the pain of rejection. That He created me like Him in this way, even if I'm a control freak with a Savior complex.

At least I know the only One who can save. And how to let go and let Him work it out.

Or not, depending on someone else's decisions. Which I am not responsible for.

So today I find myself thankful for my Savior, who doesn't condemn me for being a control freak with a Savior complex. Instead, He understands. And He loves. And He corrects. And He forgives.

PS ~ I don't profess to be perfect. No, I'm far from it. But I am willing to accept correction when it is due and strive to better myself, since I'm the only one I have the power to change. Please don't think I'm implying I'm better than anyone else. I know I'm not.

What quirk do you own that reflects God's heart for mankind? Are you thankful for it?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Do You Know My Heart's Intent? Thankful Posts

If there's one thing I really dislike, it's people's preconceived notions. Their before-I-know-you ideas of who I am. Their before-I-ask-you ideas of what I've done. Gossip. Judgment. Ignorance.

Thankfully, we have a just judge who sees us. Who knows our heart's true intent. Who knows our motives.

So when that person or the world comes against us with their uninformed thoughts, we can lean back on God and rest assured that He knows exactly who we are and what our intentions are. I am thankful today for His ability to examine me, to prove me, to try my mind and heart. His judgment is the only judgment that truly matters.

What aspect of God are you thankful for today?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Everlasting Love: Thankful Posts

Sometimes those who say they love me don't act as though they do. They say things that send fiery darts into my heart. They do things they know annoy me, as though they can't help themselves. They shut me out, rather than work that disagreement out. They refuse my love offering.

Doesn't it amaze you how it's the ones you love the most who can damage you the most?

Thankfully, I serve a God who loves me with an everlasting love. One that knows no bounds. One that never fails. One that is there despite my disappointments. And today, I am thankful for Him. Jesus. One who loved me so much that He bore my filthy sinful nature on a cross. One who loved me so much He forgave me and continues to forgive me 70 times 7 times a day. One who deeply desires a relationship with me ... no matter my stuff.

How has Jesus shown you His everlasting love?

Monday, November 3, 2014

Put Your Foot Here and Walk: Thankful Posts

In 2010, I Googled "Christian Writing." God had called me to write for Him, but I really had no clue where to start. So I searched for knowledge. I ordered books about writing. I discovered The Christian Writer's Market Guide. And I stumbled across the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference online.

Not knowing what to expect. Leaping out in faith, hoping God would catch me if I'd made a mistake. I registered for the conference.

And God let me fly.

I met the right people. I took the right classes for what I needed to begin doing. I found favor with God and man. And my career took off faster than I could have ever hoped for.

My heart planned my way, but God directed my steps. Thankfully I listened as He provided those directions. I've found abundance in my career as a result.

Today I am thankful that although I plan my way, God always directs my steps. Sure, sometimes I step too far to the left or to the right. And sometimes I stub my toe as a result. But no sooner than I put my foot back on the path He's called me to, things shift back on track. All I need to do is be obedient to His directive prompts.

Are you walking where He's called you to step? Or have you taken a step or two in another direction? What can you do to get back on track?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Second Chances: Thankful Posts

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23

Oh how many times I have failed! Failed as a child of God. Failed as a wife. Failed as a mother. Failed as a friend.

I take failure hard. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I want to run far away, not have to face my mistakes. Because I'd have to admit my shortcomings. My lack. My inability. Despite how hard I tried. How much effort I put in. I don't like to make mistakes. To disappoint God or others.

So I find myself incredibly thankful that God's mercies are new every day. That I have a second chance. That I am not consumed by these mistakes, these faults, these shortcomings. Instead, I am overwhelmed by God's compassion for me and His faithfulness. He never fails.

Where do you find that courage to say you will try again tomorrow? To lay down your failures and recognize your second chance?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Considering the Path of Life: Thankful Posts

As I look back on this year, I can see God's goodness in it, even when I strayed from the path He had chosen for me.

In July, I took a look at my blog, The Thoughtful Spot, and realized I hadn't written a post since January. Not really great for a person who had been consistent with my posts the previous year. My readership had begun to grow a little, and I found myself enjoying the writing process. Now, almost a year later, I'm grasping for inspiration, which is very uncomfortable for me.

So I started this new blog. I focused it on encouraging others to be who God created them to be, quirks and all. To give people permission to find God's goodness and life's abundance every day. Just the way you are. (Not excusing your sinful nature, of course. That needs to be dealt with, which I know God will do. He did with me. Still does.)

See, this year I took on more than I should have. I strayed a little from the path that God had for me: writing. Instead I edited. Which was okay. I was successful at doing so. But some part of me lost its spark, its passion, its life. When God called me to use my talents, He said to write. So I'm getting back to writing. And life, joy, excitement.

I may still edit, but it will be secondary to writing. Because God's paths drip with abundance. And who doesn't like abundance? I do. I admit it willingly. And I want God's abundance in my life.

So, as I am thankful today for God's goodness and abundance of life, I encourage you to consider the path you're on. Is it the path God called you to? Is it dripping with abundant life? Do you find joy and goodness around every bend? If not, consider that deep desire within your heart. God most likely put it there to give you a hint what He has in store for you. Find and follow that path for a time. You may be surprised what you find.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Love and Confrontation

Fair warning: this post is really raw right now. But as writers, sometimes we process best on paper. And that's okay. I am doing what I would like you to do. Giving myself permission to be real. To let your heart process that bit of life that isn't a cupcake right now. The bit of life that hurts. That disappoints. That frustrates. That you can't quite wrap your mind around, because it just isn't normal.

Go on. Shake your head. Ask God "What ... the ... heck?" Figure out how to process it with Him.

How do you feel about confrontation? It seems some people love it while others will avoid people just so they don't have to face confrontation. I don't necessarily love confrontation, but I do believe there are instances when it is necessary in life. Instances like when someone you love needs a little glimpse into reality. Like when someone you love is obviously in sin, even when they think no one else can see it. Like when a child is heading down the wrong path and needs to be set straight. Like when someone has decided they're just going to lay down and die. Quit on life and everyone who loves them. (This can be physically or mentally or spiritually.)

Because sometimes love is tough.

People who don't handle correction well will say you're being mean. People who disagree will yell back. People who hate correction will mock. People who don't want to be bothered will stop picking up the phone or walk away.

And how do we handle that? What's the process, Lord?

Do we push on? Do we back off? Do we wipe our hands and walk away, searching for another man of peace? Somehow it just seems wrong to leave someone we love floundering in their foolishness. It feels like murder in my heart to just walk away and let them die.

Knowing we cannot force someone to do what's best for them isn't easy. Not for a parent. Not for a spouse. Not for a child. Not for a sibling. Not for a friend. There's no comfort to be found in "You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink."

Maybe it's a savior complex rising up in me again. That complex I'd thought had been revealed and removed the moment I met the only One who could really ever save anyone. The One who died on a cross for my sins and the sins of the world, should the world allow Him into their hearts.

Don't you see how it hurts your children? Maybe you don't intend it. Maybe you don't want others to worry about you. But that doesn't change anything. Because if you really didn't intend it, and you really don't want us to worry, you'd do everything in your power to get answers to questions and concerns we've all had for well over two years now. Instead, you lay down. Instead, you give up. You isolate and leave us in the cold, wondering day after day if today is the day we lose you forever.

When, Lord? When is a person sick enough to be considered a risk to themselves? Just because they aren't holding a pistol to their head doesn't mean they aren't a risk to themselves. Why is it that when someone refuses medical attention it's okay for them to remain ill enough they really need to be in a doctor's office or the hospital? Yet, if someone puts a gun in their hand or a needle in their arm, it's a risk? What a sick notion. It really sucks when the medical and legal system won't listen to the family members crying out around someone who really needs assistance but refuses it. Sure, it's their life. But it's our lives too. Disrupted. Out of joint. Filled with concern and wondering...

So do we tiptoe? Or do we confront? Do we love a person enough to be tough with them when their situation could be perceived as "delicate?" Maybe now's not the time...

Then when is it? Because we're all running out of time. Every second of every day that passes, we are running out of time.

Personally, I would confront. I would voice my heart. My big, I-Love-You-Too-Much heart. The heart that swells with concern and anger and frustration and ... love for someone who means something to me. I would tell them that their decisions affect those around them. That I'm not okay and am most definitely worried. I would tell them it's time to stop joking; it isn't funny anymore. It's time to grow up and set aside your childish, selfish ways. It's time to do what needs to be done. It's time to let someone help you. It's time to let go of your pride or your laziness or your foolishness or your ... {sin} that keeps you lying down and dying.

If I don't tell them, who will? Most likely, there are only a few of us on this planet that love these parents/spouses/children/siblings/friends as much as we do. Who else will say what needs to be said? Do what needs to be done?

What about you? Is there someone in your life who you would love to confront about their lack of concern for how their decision affect the ones who love them? Let me know if you can relate...

Thursday, October 16, 2014

16 Quotes About You

I can see you rolling your eyes. "Yeah, right. 16 quotes about me. She doesn't even know me."

Ah, but I do understand your desire to be loved unconditionally. So these are for you...

1. Beautiful things don't ask for attention. {The Secret Life of Walter Mitty}

2. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.{Romans 8:1, emphasis mine}

3. I always find beauty in things that are odd and imperfect - they are much more interesting. {Marc Jacobs}

4. Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else. {Judy Garland}

5. Why fit in when you were born to stand out! {Dr. Seuss}

 6. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. {Psalm 139:14}

7. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. {C.S. Lewis}

8. To say that I am in the image of God is to say that love is the reason for my existence, for God is love. Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name. {Thomas Merton}

9. Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering. {Nicole Krauss}

10. It just takes one person, believing in you. It just takes one person, loving on you. That's all it takes to change the world. {Emily Wierenga}

11. I want to think again of dangerous and noble things. I want to be light and frolicsome. I want to be improbable, beautiful, and afraid of nothing as though I
had wings. {Mary Oliver}

12. We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. {Thornton Wilder}

13. God didn't give us our gifts to paint over them with someone else's. The unique tendencies in you and me are meant to shine in a hue all their own, and in so doing, bring a little more clarity to the full-color beauty of the God we reveal to the world. {Laurie Wallin}

14. We cannot let the haters of this world define us. Or frighten us into no longer being ourselves. {Mary DeMuth}

15. Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. {Oscar Wilde}

16. If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be. {Maya Angelou}

I hope you've found some inspiration within these quotes. I'd love to know which one touched you the most. Please join the conversation and leave a comment below. And thanks for joining us today!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

If there's one thing I've learned in life, it's that not everyone is going to like me. And even those who love me will be able to point out at least one flaw in me. 
Whether it's the length of my haircut, the extra-long hair on my chin that I missed plucking, or the fact that I like to be alone when others wish I were more snuggly, there will always be something I could improve.

It's so easy to change things these days. Too much cellulite hanging from that tummy? Lipo it. Don't like your hair color? Dye it. Have blue eyes and wish they were green? Tinted contacts.

But what if I don't want to change?

What if I like myself just the way God intended me to be?

What if I like my perfectionist side? I think it's what causes me to strive for excellence in all I do.

Even when I fall short.

What if I like being alone? Need my space? My down time? It allows me the time I need to recharge so I can face tomorrow. And the next day. And the next day.

And the next time the kids fight. And the next time I get a text and have to drop everything to do something for my husband. And the next time the dog pees on the floor and I have to clean it up.

Because God wired me that way. Which is okay, because He said we'd need to rest.

My husband has a short temper. But he's passionate. My oldest son is sensitive. But he's compassionate. My middle son pushes everyone's buttons. But he's a go-getter. My daughter worries too much. But she's protective. My youngest son doesn't like to talk to people much. But he's a deep thinker.

It's easy to find faults in others. It's easy to dislike them because of these faults.

But it's just as easy to find the awesome in them too. If we'll take the time to get to know them for who they truly are. And look at them through God's eyes and not our own.

We are, after all, created in His image and likeness.

And we all know that God doesn't make junk.

But man ... man has a bad habit of making all sorts of junk. Especially in the lives of others. And we love to sit on our couches and watch people and their junk and their worlds collapse. Why?

Do we love to laugh at others in their demise? Do we think ourselves better than them? Do we wish we could do something to help? Or are we simply thankful we aren't dealing with that issue in our own lives?

If we were truly Christian (Christ-like) in our attitudes and thinking, we'd turn off the television and pray for those people we love to watch, asking God to reveal the beauty laying dormant inside of them. Because once the camera's turned off, I'm pretty certain there's deep-rooted shame, bitterness, and a desire to be truly loved for who they are hiding deep in the corners of their hearts.

Because we're all created in the image and likeness of God. Yes. Even them.

Even those people who called us "Muttley" or "Four-eyes" or "not good enough."

Even you.

Even me.

And deep down inside, we long to be loved for who God created us to be.

Short hair. Glasses. Rollie-poly tummy. Overtired. Grumpy. Frumpy. Not-so-perfect perfectionist. Chasing my dreams when others think I should get a job. Me.

These are the people this blog is dedicated to. Those imperfect people who want to be loved for who they are, no matter what.
Because when we look at each other as children of God, created in His image and likeness, we look with love. Not condemnation. Not needing to change each other. Not pushing our idea of who we think someone else should be.