Tuesday, July 21, 2015

My Identity Isn't Found In What Others Say About Me

by Alycia W Morales
@AlyciaMorales

Life Lesson #10

Where do you get your identity from?

Is it the things others say about you? Your career? Your relationships?

I am many things: Wife, Mother, Step-mother, Daughter, Sister, Friend, Writer, Editor, Reader,  Crafter, Perfectionist, Multi-tasker, and so much more.

If I found my identity in what others said of me when I was young, I would be a loser, ugly, an outcast, unworthy of love or affection or attention. (Peers)

Or, I would be the teacher's pet, a great student, going places, smart, intelligent. (Teachers)

Honestly, I can't remember what my parents said about me at that time of life. But I can remember that they were hard-working, poured themselves into their careers. They loved me, for sure. But I was rebellious at that age, so I wasn't focused on them so much as I was focused on myself.

Which didn't get me very far.

The voices that followed me to college said I was depressed, lonely, striving, a seeker of affection/attention, a chameleon who could fit in anywhere out of desperation to fit in anywhere, yet still a good friend and student.

As long as I kept seeking to find my identity in relationships and what I did, I didn't succeed at any of it. I continued in unhealthy relationships with college-aged men and was depressed and alone for two years.

It wasn't until I met Jesus for the first time in forever that I was able to truly find myself. It wasn't until I gave my heart to Him that I truly knew who I was created to be.

It wasn't until I read my Bible and prayed and sought out God's heart that I discovered just how much I am loved. How to have a healthy relationship with anyone else - my parents, my mentors, my husband, my children, my friends. It wasn't until I met God that I discovered what I was created to do with my life on earth. Which, surprisingly, is what I wanted to do all along - write. That and other things.

And it wasn't until I got to know Jesus that I realized that my identity comes from God, not what others say of me. Sure, some do really know me and know what lives within me - and what they say still matters to me. But the enemy, unfortunately, will also try to use those same people to pull me down and rip my heart apart. Thankfully, I know who I am in Christ and can discern that it's not my husband or my child who is coming against me in that moment. So I can let those fiery darts bounce right off the helmet of my salvation, keeping my thoughts focused on who God says I am. And I can let those fiery darts bounce right off my breastplate of righteousness, because I am covered in the blood of Jesus, who holds my heart strong. And in those moments I can bring a word from the Gospel of Peace, which is sharper than any two-edged sword and can cut straight down into the matter and right the heart of the person the enemy has chosen to use to attempt to bring me harm.

So where do you choose to get your identity from? Is it time to find a new you?

Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness ... So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." 
Genesis 1:26-27

Tweetables:



Tuesday, June 30, 2015

True Love Isn't Afraid to Speak the Truth

 by Alycia W. Morales
@AlyciaMorales

Life Lesson #9

The women's leadership team sat in our pastor's living room, and his wife asked us to go around the room and let each other know what we loved about one another.

When she got to me, she said, "You know what I love about you? I love that I can take a baseball bat to you and you keep coming back for more."

In other words, I'm teachable. I have a desire to learn. I'm correctable, even if I make the same mistake 50 times before I get it right.

See, I know that I don't know it all. I know that my knowledge is limited. I know that I am not always right. But I refuse to remain stuck in my lack of knowledge.

I refuse to deny that I need to be corrected when someone else sees me erring.

Because I recognize that I can always learn something new. I can always change my way of thinking, so long as it lines up with the word of God. Learning is a lifetime adventure.

And I'm not afraid of the truth. I desire it. Long for it. Seek it out.

I also recognize that LOVE corrects wrong. God's Holy Spirit brings conviction, alerting us to our sinful ways. Revealing our wrong thinking.

Friends sharpen me when they come against my fault. Iron sharpens iron. And for that I am thankful - not angry.

So the next time someone takes the time to point out in love (I'm not talking jealous condemnation here...) that you are in error, rather than lashing out at them in defense, consider what they are saying and take it to the One who desires to change you into His image and likeness.

My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
Nor detest His correction;
For whom the Lord loves He corrects,
Just as a father the son in whom he delights.
Proverbs 3:10-12

Tweetable:

True Love Isn't Afraid to Speak the Truth (and why you shouldn't ignore it) {Click to Tweet}

Only fools despise correction. #LifeLessons via @AlyciaMorales {Click to Tweet}

Friday, June 26, 2015

Friday in Focus ~ The Gift Within

By Alycia W. Morales
@AlyciaMorales 
 
Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you ... 
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
2 Timothy 1:6-7

What's that thing deep inside of you that you've put on a shelf because you don't have the time, money, or ability to pursue it? Or maybe you know you've got a talent, but you've shelved it because you don't believe you're good enough for it to matter.

Don't let your gifts lay dormant. God has given them to you for a purpose. Stir them up.

I recently read an interesting post by Seth Godin. Basically, he states it isn't the why or the how that trips us up from doing something we know we're supposed to do. It's the what. It's the fear that we don't know enough, aren't trained enough, don't have the perfect audience yet, don't have the finances yet, and any other fear-based excuse we can come up with that keeps us from stepping out in faith and allowing God to work in our weakness.

There's a gift inside of you that's meant to be given to others as the Holy Spirit prompts you to use it. What would happen if you didn't do so? Who would be missing out on the goodness of God because you are too afraid to open your mouth, write that novel, or serve at that homeless shelter?

Don't let fear stop you from doing what God has called you to do. Let God's power, love, and a sound mind (right-thinking) lead you as you step out in faith in your gifts.

Tweetable:

What is holding you back from using the gift God has given you? {Click to Tweet}

Is your talent laying on a shelf? Pick it up and use it! #NoFear {Click to Tweet}

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

I'm Not Perfect and Neither Are You

by Alycia W. Morales
@AlyciaMorales

Life Lesson #8

This one's all about grace.

Being a perfectionist, I tend to expect more of myself, which also makes me expect more of others. Which, unfortunately, can lead to judging others. Which I really try hard not to do.

Because if there's one thing I've learned in life, it's this:

Monday, June 22, 2015

Are You Really a Christian? Or Is It Just a Label?

by Alycia W. Morales
@AlyciaMorales

Identity - Part II

My husband sat down with our boys one evening while I was out with our daughter. He handed each of them a sheet of paper and asked them to write down five things they considered to be part of their identity.

Before you read the rest of this post, I encourage you to do the same. Then, click on "read more" and finish reading this post.

Monday, June 15, 2015

If You Think You're Ugly, You Probably Are

by Alycia W. Morales
@AlyciaMorales

Identity: Part I

You are what you think and what you speak. Why? Because from the abundance of your heart, the mouth speaks. And when you open your mouth and say you're ugly, worthless, unlovable, and all those other degrading things, you believe it in your heart.

Sure, others say bad things about us, and we tend to believe them after hearing it for so long, but we don't have to. It's a choice we make. Every time.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Friday in Focus ~ The Narrow Path

by Alycia W. Morales
@AlyciaMorales

Let your eyes look straight ahead,
And your eyelids look right before you.
Ponder the path of your feet,
And let all your ways be established.
Do not turn to the right or the left;
Remove your foot from evil.
Proverbs 4:25-27

My husband and I love to hike. We will travel an hour or two to hit some of the "local" trails, we love it so much. Thankfully God has placed us in the vicinity of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, where trails, rivers, and waterfalls are plenty.

As I considered this verse this morning, I thought about how narrow the hiking trails we love tend to be. It's the narrow ones that are surrounded by

Monday, June 8, 2015

Don't Be Another Statistic. Be a Success.

by Alycia W. Morales
@Alycia Morales

Life Lesson #7

Here's a real simple concept: If you're not willing to work hard to make a marriage work, don't get married in the first place.

Marriage is something that takes work. I've been married 17 years this October. The first 5 years of my marriage were hell. The next 5 were a little better but still involved a lot of disagreement and many arguments. While it's gotten better every year, it's only been in the past few that it's really started to feel like we're walking in unity and understanding.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

It's Okay to Want to Escape

by Alycia W. Morales
@AlyciaMorales

Life Lesson #6

I think my kids were still knee-height when a close sister-friend of mine mentioned that she couldn't wait for her kids to grow up and move on in their lives. I think my jaw dropped and I stared stunned.

I feel that way too.

It was nice to know I am not the only one. I'm not alone. I'm not crazy. Others think the same things I do.

But let me clarify: we're not wishing our children's lives away. No. We value and treasure the time we are blessed with their presence in our homes.

But we also have hopes and dreams for what life will be like when we have an empty nest.

Because sometimes life is overwhelming and we really need sight of the future in order to make it through today.

And sometimes, we just need an immediate escape route ... for a short time. Like locking ourselves in the bathroom and counting to ten or whispering a quick prayer for patience and the ability to push on. Or taking our chosen summer reading and heading to the back porch. Or putting on headphones and tuning out the noise.

Because if we don't take time for ourselves every once in awhile, we'll eventually crash. Melt down. Fall apart. Ugly cry.

And that doesn't do well for our children, our husbands, our friends, mothers, sisters, or us.

So hear me today: It's okay to want to escape. You're not alone. Breathe deep. Take a time out. And find some semblance of peace so that you can move forward. No one will hold it against you. At least not me. Or any other woman out there who knows exactly what you're going through.

Tweetables:

It's Okay to Want to Escape - Life Lessons via @AlyciaMorales {Click to Tweet}

Sometimes life is overwhelming. What do you do to escape? {Click to Tweet}

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

One Simple Way to Gain Favor

by Alycia W. Morales
@AlyciaMorales

Life Lessons #5
I recently returned from teaching at a Christian Writers Conference. One thing I love to do is to encourage other writers. Other people who are chasing their God-given dreams. I was blessed with the opportunity to share my writing journey with the small group of women who were taking my class this year.

At its core, my message to those who dream of being something bigger is this:

Thursday, May 14, 2015

No Place To Hide by Lynette Eason ~ A Book Review

by Alycia W. Morales

Summer is just around the corner and for some, this means compiling a summer reading list. One of the books I would pick to be at the top of my pile is Lynette Eason's new release, No Place To Hide.

There are two reasons I love the latest from Lynette.

1. The chapters are short (just a few pages each), so the reading is quick. And the story's easy to follow, despite ...

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Haters Will Hate, So Shake It Off

by Alycia W. Morales
@AlyciaMorales

Life Lesson #4

For nearly five years, my oldest son, Ezra, would come home from school upset. Every time I asked him what was wrong, his response was the same. "So-and-so doesn't like me."

Sometimes, it was a variation of that. Someone was mean to him. Someone called him names. Someone he'd befriended didn't want to be his friend that particular day.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Friday in Focus ~ The Fallow Ground

by, Alycia Morales
@AlyciaMorales
 
Much food is in the fallow ground of the poor;
And for lack of justice there is waste.
Proverbs 13:23

For years, this verse has caused me to stop and think. Selah.

Much food is in the fallow ground of the poor, but we tend to look at outward appearances and pass by. In our hurry or out of our fear, we neglect to take the time to stop and consider what lies beneath the surface. The filthy skin. The greasy or knotted hair. The torn clothing. The stench from lack of bathing. The things we don't want to touch. Don't want to deal with.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

No One Else is Responsible for Your Unhappiness

by Alycia W. Morales
@AlyciaMorales

Life Lessons #3

Nobody likes the Debbie Downers in life. It's no fun when your kid wakes up on the wrong side of the bed and whines until you drop them off at school. Or you call your friend and all they do is complain about this or that, never letting you in on the conversation other than to ask for your pity.

Don't these people ever have a happy day?

Do they enjoy being down all the time?

Do they know there's a solution?

Monday, May 4, 2015

Do You Have It In You?

by Alycia W. Morales
@AlyciaMorales

This past week, my husband and I started our P90X3 workout. Before we began, we were required to set goals. My goal is to get healthy. I want to drop weight, tone up, and have the energy to hike uphill without losing my breath.

We also had to set smaller goals with a few of the workouts we did. Pull-ups. Push-ups. Sit-ups. And of course, there's always the goal of getting through the entire workout without quitting. Knowing how out of shape I am, I set lower goals that I knew I could achieve. Right now, I don't want to push myself over the wall. I just want to keep up with the race.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Friday in Focus ~ Life is Like a Box of Puzzle Pieces

by, Alycia W. Morales
@AlyciaMorales

Every year, as Christmas and the New Year roll around, I find myself longing to put together a puzzle. Or two. Or three. It was no different this year, and my husband was kind enough to bless me with two puzzles for Christmas.

I love 1,000-piece puzzles. I love the challenge of more pieces. Smaller pieces. And I love the amount of time it takes me to complete one. It's as if the gratification of finishing is greater.

Isn't that the way it is when God decides it's time to work on us again? When little by little, piece by piece, His master hand puts us together... When we're going through an assembling or reassembling and we're anticipating the final product... If we're patient enough to endure the process, what we experience in the completion is so very much worth the wait.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Which Is More Important - How or Why?

by, Alycia W. Morales
@AlyciaMorales

I'm 50 pounds overweight. And unfit. My core suffers as I enjoy chocolate and sweet tea and sit at a desk all day. My husband isn't in much better shape than I am, and we've decided to eliminate our "extra." But that's not the only "why" we're doing this. At least not for me.

So, this past week we began an all-natural, daily supplement dose that is increasing our energy, blocking an enzyme that turns sugars and starches into fat (so we shed our fat intake rather than retaining it), suppressing our appetites, increasing our metabolisms, and cleaning our systems. We'll take these for a month or two and then give our bodies the appropriate break they will need.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Like It or Not, Your Kids Are Just Like You

by Alycia W. Morales
@AlyciaMorales

Life Lessons #2

I used to stare at people in disbelief when they'd tell me my kids would be just like me ... only twice as bad. And when I became a Christian and heard about this thing called generational curses, I wondered ...

Could it possibly be true?

So I started praying. Lord, please make them twice as good, not twice as bad. Please give them a double portion of honesty, loyalty, and the desire to love deeply. Please skip the perfectionist tendencies, the moodiness, and the desire to be left alone most of the time. Don't give them those, Lord. Especially not in a double portion.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Life Isn't Fair. Get Used To It.

by Alycia W. Morales 
@AlyciaMorales 

Life Lessons #1

I used to hate it when my parents would say, "Life isn't always fair." Now, my kids make angry faces when I tell them the same thing. Just like I did.

Sometimes I buy one child a gift and not the other three.

Or I take one child with me and leave the other three home.

Or someone gets the last piece of chocolate when there isn't enough left to go around.

I try to make things fair more often than not. But sometimes a parent just wants to bless a child out of the blue. Just to let them know they're special ... not because they want to play favorites.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

An Invitation to the Party ~ A Happy Birthday Post

by Alycia W. Morales
@AlyciaMorales

Happy Birthday to Me! Happy Birthday to Me! If you couldn't tell, today is my birthday. And I'd like to welcome you to my party!

I'm turning 21 again. Well, maybe not really ... I wouldn't want to be 21 again. But I am turning something. Like maybe a new leaf. I find myself looking for a new beginning this year. I don't really know why, but I feel impregnated with a new hope. A fresh outlook on life. Something exciting about to be birthed. The next BIG thing with God, because even the littlest things are BIG with Him.

And I'd like to invite you to celebrate with me.

As my birthday approached, I found myself pondering the past 41 years. I kept asking myself what I'd learned that would be valuable to someone else. What is my legacy? What am I leaving behind if God decided 41 years was long enough for me to be? Would I have anything to pass on to my children, both in the natural and the spiritual? Is there an ounce of wisdom in my graying hair?

I've discovered that I think there is.

For the next 41 Tuesdays (since my birthday fell on a Tuesday), I want to share a flower from the bouquet I have picked from the garden of my life. These are things the Lord has taught me. These are things I've discovered along my journey. These are things I've learned by watching others' examples. These are things I've heard spoken by others wiser than me. And now I want to share them with you...

I hope they bless you as much as they've blessed me!

Welcome to the party!

Watch for the first post next week. :) Until then ... may your life be inspired!


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Double Cross by DiAnn Mills - A Book Review

by, Alycia W. Morales  @AlyciaMorales

I'm all snuggled in with my coffee, Double Cross, and ... Hey! Who's that lurking in the background?
One of the things I love about DiAnn Mills' recent release, Double Cross, is that she talks about the value of life even when someone has aged and developed dementia. This topic hit home for me due to the recent loss of my father-in-law, who had dementia but wanted nothing to do with medical assistance or outside help. As his children, my husband, sister-in-law, and I didn't necessarily understand why he wouldn't let us help him, but we did understand his desire to pass in his own environment on his own terms. And we respected that.

In Double Cross, FBI agent Laurel Evertson has to work with a man who she put in jail years before. Morton Wilmington claims to have found faith in Jesus while incarcerated and says he has forgiven Laurel for sending him to prison. The question throughout the novel is whether or not Wilmington's faith is legit and whether or not he can be trusted. I won't give away the ending, but I will tell you it was one of the best I've ever read and extremely satisfying.
Meanwhile, Houston Police Officer Daniel Hilton is working hard to protect his grandparents from the enemy, who is scamming the elderly. Two of his grandparents' friends are already dead, and no one seems to think there has been foul play. Daniel works alongside Laurel and Wilmington to uncover who is behind the murders and the false policies.

The pace of this novel was a little slower than Firewall, but it was fitting considering the focus on the elderly and various characters' hesitancy to trust other characters. Don't quit reading. I promise you won't be disappointed.

Especially since every time you think you know something, DiAnn throws in a plot twist that takes you down another path and leaves you wondering whether or not you'll ever figure out who did it. Double Cross is a masterfully woven tale that will keep you turning pages until a very rewarding end.

Disclosure: I was given a copy of Double Cross to review. However, I never let that fact sway my review. And I would let you know if I didn't recommend reading it. In this case, I highly recommend you read it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

How to Shake Off Shame

by Alycia W. Morales

Warning: I'm going to be very open in this post and talk about things younger women/teens may not need to read. I will not be vulgar, but I will be straightforward. You've been warned.

Today I opened my inbox to discover a post from Jeff Goins entitled "Shame Is Something We Learn." It caught my attention, because just a year ago or so, I had an intense Twitter convo with a woman over the definition of shame. It all started when I began tweeting against Planned Parenthood as part of a campaign. At the time, Planned Parenthood was teaching teenagers to experiment with BDSM. And now, we have 50 Shades of Grey to continue the promotion that these things are normal and acceptable... I think of that conversation often. And I think of how she felt it was normal for victims of sexual abuse or rape to feel shame. As if they should cling to it.

In my humble opinion, shame isn't something we should own or wear when it is inflicted by someone else. Date rape came up in that conversation. And I argued that the victim of date rape should not feel ashamed of what has happened to her. Here's why I feel that way:

The definition of shame is this: a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, short-coming, or impropriety. It's a condition of humiliating disgrace or disrepute. It's something that brings censure or reproach, also something to be regretted.

According to the definition, it's an emotion we feel when we are conscious of guilt, short-coming, or impropriety. When I read this, it tells me that I should feel shame when I do something I know goes against my moral values. On purpose. Or maybe on accident. It's something I feel when I sin. When I wrong God or someone else or even myself.

But certainly not something I should feel if someone else wrongs me. I'd be saying, "Shame on you!"

As I mentioned in my previous post, I felt shame when I had many relationships with men and ended up having an abortion.

What I didn't mention was that I've also felt ashamed of something else for many years. Something I haven't whispered to my mother, my sister, or my Pastor's wife. I've only told one friend. One. And my husband. No one else. But in the transparency of uncovering the lie that we should feel shame over things that have happened to us, been forced upon us, been done against our right-minded consent, I will share it with you.

Let me begin by saying this: It's only been recently that God has brought the truth of this matter into His light for me. It's another step in my healing process. And healing is a process, so I wouldn't expect someone else (you) to be completely healed and set free the instant you read my testimony. Although that would be wonderful, and I would applaud God for it. And He could do it. What I would like for you is to consider allowing God to remove the brand of shame from your heart and allow you to walk in the freedom of knowing that what has happened to you does not make you who you are or taint you.

One afternoon when I was a freshman in college, the guy I was dating showed up at my dorm-room door. With three of his friends. Because he threatened to make a scene if I didn't let them in, and I hate to draw negative attention to myself, I let him in. You can imagine what happened next. He and his friends would say I consented to it, but I never said I wanted to do anything with these guys. This is a guy who had "just kidding"-ly held a knife to my throat at one time before that afternoon. Knowing he carried that with him, I wasn't about to try to fight anyone off. I'd rather been "shamed" than dead. Needless to say, that relationship ended quickly.

Do I have anything to be ashamed of? Opening the door because I didn't want to cause a scene? Being gang raped because I feared for my life if I should try to turn them out? I didn't ask for what I got that day. It wasn't "my fault." And I refuse to take ownership of their actions or the shame Satan would try to brand me with.

I have repented for agreeing to date the guy in the first place. I have repented for having a sexual relationship with him prior to that day. Those are my sins. Those are to my shame.

But his choice to bring his buddies by and have their way with me? That I take no responsibility for. He and his friends will have to answer to God for that one day. Shame on them...

See, shame isn't something someone else should be able to pin on us, forcing us to wear it like a name tag. Someone else's sin isn't our burden to wear. It isn't something we should adopt as our identity. It should never define who we are.

Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed;
Neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame;
For you will forget the shame of your youth,
And will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore.
For your Maker is your husband,
The Lord of hosts is His name;
And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel;
He is called the God of the whole earth.
Isaiah 54:4-5

Instead, we need to put on our identity in God, the Father. Our maker. The One who calls us by name, who knew us before He fearfully and wonderfully created us in our mother's womb. We need to label ourselves Redeemed by the Holy One of Israel. Covered in the blood of Jesus. Once scarlet, now white as snow. Once captive, now free. Saved by grace. Beloved. These are the words that define us when we accept Jesus as our Savior and enter into a relationship with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

And as the years go by, we remember what happened to us, but we learn that we don't have to let it define who we are. And we let Jesus heal that wound inflicted against us. And we gain the courage and the strength to stand up and say, "I will not be ashamed." And we are enabled to forgive, even if we don't forget. Because forgiving someone doesn't mean we condone what they did to us. But it frees them from the prison of our hearts and makes room for God to come in and fill us with His love.

Tweetables:
Are you allowing shame to keep you from living? You don't have to. {Click to Tweet}

Why We Shouldn't Feel Ashamed Because We Were Abused {Click to Tweet}

The following are a few of the books I've read that have been a huge help in my healing process:
Not Marked by Mary DeMuth
The Day I Met Jesus by Mary DeMuth and Frank Viola
Captivating by Stasi and John Eldredge

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Day I Met Jesus - A Post with a Book Review

by Alycia W. Morales

http://www.christianbook.com/jesus-revealing-diaries-women-from-gospels/frank-viola/9780801016851/pd/016850?product_redirect=1&Ntt=016850&item_code=&Ntk=keywords&event=ESRCP
A month or so ago, I opened my e-mail to find an invitation that I couldn't pass up. Mary DeMuth invited me to be a member of her launch team for her upcoming release, co-authored by Frank Viola, The Day I Met Jesus: The Revealing Diaries of Five Women from the Gospels. Since I'd always been fascinated with these women, I said yes to Mary's invitation.

I read five stories of Jesus's invitation to women who'd been outcast, abused, forgotten, betrayed, and lonely.

And I found that I could relate really well to one of them.

Frank affectionately calls her Photine. You and I would know her as the Woman at the Well or the Samaritan Woman Who Encountered Jesus.

She's the woman who had many relationships with men. Five, to be exact. And she was in her sixth. And he didn't want to marry her. She was an outcast. She was lonely. All she wanted was to find someone who would truly love her, who would find her valuable, who would cherish her.

It was only 21years ago that I was in the same situation. I'd known my fair share of men. Only I wouldn't call them men. None of them wanted to accept responsibility for their actions. Some were abusive verbally. Some were abusive physically. And when I ended up pregnant, the father decided he didn't want to be a father at that time, so I shut off my emotions and buried my deepest values and walked through the doors of Planned Parenthood to plan not to be a parent. And that's where I met Jesus as my Lord and Savior. On a sterile, cold, metal table while a nurse held my hand, stroked my hair, and cheered me on for being so brave. "Most girls are screaming by now," she told me. It was a lonely, lonely place. But in the midst of my darkest hour, Jesus was there, offering me living water and true love. This was the day I met Jesus.

When I visited home the next week, I attended church with my family. I said a prayer of salvation, asking Jesus into my heart and my life. Only I struggled with leaving earthly relationships behind. So I quit school in an attempt to avoid temptation, only to fall back into its slimy hands a few months later. I left home, moved in with my boyfriend, and discovered he wasn't any better than the others. A couple of days after he threw me up against a wall and pinned me by my neck, I wrestled with sleep. Despite coming home from the graveyard shift at the local diner and being dog tired, I could not drift off. Something had me tossing in the bed.

And then I heard Him. Clear as day. He stood in the room, I know it. His Fatherly voice gently reprimanded, "If you don't go home now, you'll never see your eternal home."

Which is why I wrestle when I hear people say, "Once saved, always saved."
"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" (Matthew 7:21-23)
If God told me that if I didn't obey His word, leave my sinful ways behind, and follow Him I wouldn't see my eternal home, why should I expect that if you remain in your sinful ways but claim to know and love Him, He wouldn't say the same to you? Just because we say a prayer doesn't mean that we are transformed in that exact moment. I said the prayer that year before. I meant it when I said it. But my desire for a relationship with God wasn't there. Not until He called me out of my pit. Not until He spoke those words to me. I had to really want that relationship. I had to act on it. I had to put feet to my faith. I had to decide I'd much rather hear, "Well done, My good and faithful servant" than "I knew you not."

I decided in that moment that I would do whatever it took to get home. I wanted an eternity with Jesus. Not an eternity in hell.

What I've discovered in the past 21 years is that life with Jesus on earth is like heaven. Sure, I still have my ups and downs. I still face trials and tribulations, loss and heartache. But I also know that I am secure in His love. I have joy in the midst of everything that happens, good or bad. I have more than I could ever hope or think or ask for. Even when I have nothing. Because I still have Jesus.

Trust me when I say that life without Him is hell. Darkness lurks around every corner. Death waits like a cat ready to pounce on its pray. The enemy of our souls comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I know. I've been in his grip before. But I refused to stay there ... and that has made all the difference.


Here's what I think of Mary and Frank's book:

I have always loved the stories of the women in the Bible. Particularly the Woman at the Well (John 4:1-42). She and I share similar stories. Multiple men. And then Jesus came in to our lives. And we’ve never been the same since. It’s a story of redemption and a second chance at purity and true love. It’s the story of an outcast who accepted an invitation to become a bride, a daughter, a princess in the kingdom of God. Who wouldn’t say yes to that?

“After six failed relationships, Photine encountered her true husband. A man who would love her like no other man ever had. A man who would never use or abuse her, but who would cherish her with the purest love in the universe. And she, a woman of ill repute, became the first evangelist to the Samaritans.” – Frank Viola

What I love about this book is that Mary DeMuth brings 5 women from the New Testament to life. We get a glimpse into their daily lives and the things they’ve encountered and endured at the hands of men. And we get to be with them in the moments they meet their Savior, the Man who will love them as they deserve to be loved. The One who won’t see them for what they’ve done but will see them for who they are. The Lover of their souls who will transform them and their lives with six simple words: Your faith has made you well.

To top that off, Frank Viola offers insight into the time and culture in which these women lived. We see the why behind the what. His information further brings these women, their communities, and Jesus’s encounters with them to life. If you’ve ever wondered what life truly was like in their day, this book will fill you in.

I highly recommend this book for any woman who has related to the women who encounter Jesus in the New Testament, to women surviving in abusive relationships, to the outcast, to the lonely. I also recommend it to anyone who has a desire to better understand God’s love for us and how far He would go to meet us. You won’t be disappointed.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review. This does not affect my review. I would give it 5 stars even if I bought it for myself, which I will do again.

To purchase a copy today, please visit your favorite online retailer:
Parable: Mary has a special offer for you if you buy it from Parable. Read about it here.
CBD
Barnes and Noble
Amazon

Inspire Us
To win a copy, please leave a comment below and tell us a little about the day you met Jesus. If you haven't met Him yet, ask the question that burns deep in your heart. If you have no questions, tell us what you're looking for. I will choose a winner on Friday.

Tweetables:
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Friday, January 16, 2015

5 Suggestions to Help You Awaken to Your Purpose

Every one of us was created with and for a purpose. You know the old saying ... God doesn't make junk. You are not worthless. You are not a screw up. You are not a glitch in God's grand design. You, beautiful one, are worthy.

As The Doctor says, "You are brilliant." I was watching an episode of Dr. Who last night when this line came up. It's something he tells every girl who travels with him. At first, these women question whether or not they are special. Whether or not they have a purpose in life. It takes them spending time traveling the universe with The Doctor, saving planets from alien races, before they realize that he is, indeed, correct and that they are special - or brilliant - and that they do have a purpose in life.

We need to spend time with the One who created us and gave us purpose. We need to get to know Him, because in knowing Him, we discover His will. Throughout the Word of God, we hear that He created us in His image and likeness. We hear that we are created to worship Him. We hear that we are sinners in need of a Savior. We hear that He loves us so much that He decided to send His only Son to earth. He hear that He desires us so much that Jesus died on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven and we could be pure and holy in God's eyes. When we read the Bible, we understand God and His intent for us. Our purpose awakens.

I wish I'd known when I was thirteen that God loved me this much. I wish I'd known Him then. I wish I hadn't struggled for ten years to figure out who I was in this world, trying on different images in a sad attempt to find myself. Trying to be someone I wasn't. Trying to fit in. Trying to impress people enough to win their attentions and their affections. Because if I'd known Jesus and His word, I would have known that I am first and foremost a child of the King of Kings. A princess. An heiress to His kingdom. A beloved daughter. A young woman who deserves the respect of a man. Holy. Honorable. And unique. I would have known that I didn't need to worry about what others said or thought of me. I could be who I was without regret, embarrassment, or doubt. And I would have waited for so much ... and I would have done so much more by now.

Thankfully, it isn't too late. It's never too late. Not until the day we draw our last breath. Then, it's too late.

It isn't too late to discover who you are. How you represent His image and likeness here on earth. Who He's created you to be and what He's created you to do. Your purpose.

Jeff Goins has a new book coming out in March of 2015. It's called The Art of Work. In it, he says that you need to come to an understanding that purpose will not find you. It's something you have to go in search of. Sure, some of us know that we want to be a teacher by the time we're out of Kindergarten, but these people are few and far between. And even then, these people still have work to do in order to fulfill that purpose.

So how do we search it out? Practically?

1. Read the Bible. As I previously said, God speaks to us through His word. Listen for those verses that jump out at you, that call to you. Write them down. Memorize them. Study them. Pick up your tools and dig for the treasure buried in them.

2. Pray. Ask God to reveal your purpose as you pursue each day and take each step along the journey of your life.

3. Take an inventory of your past. What do you see in your list of the things you've done, your successes, failures that have led to successes, accomplishments? What have people said that you are good at or what do they say of your character? What do they praise?

4. If you're still not sure what your purpose is, talk with someone who is going to tell you positive truths about yourself. Someone you trust. Someone who will be honest, but if they provide a critique, it's a constructive one, not one that is going to tear you down. Take note of what they point out, then add that to your list.

5. Look at the Scriptures you've written down, the list you've made, the things God has pointed out, and find the common thread. Chances are, you've discovered your purpose.

Your purpose is going to be something that gives your life meaning. Every good and perfect gift comes from God, and it brings no sorrow with it. Your purpose should fill you with joy, this knowing. Maybe it will come with some degree of intimidation, but there should be an underlying excitement. Some understanding that your purpose is HUGE, that it is going to take some work, but that with God, you are brilliant and will be able to pursue it with all of your being.

Share the Beauty:
What is one thing you've discovered about your purpose? Please share it in the comments. We love to hear from you!

Tweetables:
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Do You Know What Your Purpose Is? 5 Suggestions to Help You Find It via @AlyciaMorales {Click to Tweet}

Monday, January 5, 2015

3 Questions to Help You Discover Your God-Given Dreams

by, Alycia W. Morales

In December of 2009, I stood in my bedroom folding clothes, tears streaming down my face. I was having what you could call a mid-life crisis. At the age of 35. (I hope that isn't my mid-life - I'd like to live to be 100.) I wasn't enjoying life at that time. As the author of Proverbs puts it, "All was vanity." There wasn't any holy in my common. I rose, I saw my husband off to work, the kids off to school, and I went through the daily routine of cleaning and cooking and doing whatever needed to be done that day. I read the Word of God, and I prayed. But my spirit was empty.

So I cried some more. "Lord, what do you want me to do for You? I have the talents You've given me. But what do I do with them? Because I certainly don't want to bury them."

Thankfully, God answers me. "Write for Me."

My childhood dream was to write for Bop or Teen Beat.  Or maybe Seventeen. I wanted to write for magazines. Since I loved music and dreamed of being in a movie, I wanted to interview celebrities. (And I won't tell you how many times I entered YM's annual model search contest.) I've journaled since I was eight. I wrote teenage angst poems all through high school and college. Writing has always been therapeutic for me.

And I've been reading since Kindergarten. Avidly. Across genres. Fiction and non-fiction.

So when God said to write for Him, it didn't surprise me one bit. Because writing is something I'm passionate about and love to do. It's something I've dreamed of doing since I was a child.

I have a few questions for you:

What is it that you've always dreamed of doing, but maybe you've put it on a shelf? This isn't the time. I can't afford it. No one thinks I can do it. 

These are all cues that God has put that dream inside of you, because the enemy would love to see you bury your talent and forget about it. Why? Because God designed that talent for a purpose - to multiply His kingdom. And He gave you a specific talent for a specific use. Sure, your friend may be just as good at the same thing, or better, but she isn't you. You have just what God needs.

What is one thing you could do today to take that talent out and begin to multiply it? 

This doesn't have to cost a lot of money. I'm not talking about going back to school or buying a store or anything huge. I'm talking about a small step. A beginning to turn up the soil so that you can plant a seed. Maybe you  need to head over to Hobby Lobby and pick up some art supplies. Maybe you need to buy a book about writing. Maybe you need to pull your cello out of storage. Maybe you need to start praying for your children for fifteen minutes a day. Maybe you need to save ten dollars a week and do a fundraiser so you can go on that mission trip.

Who do you know who can help you reach toward that dream?

This person should be someone who will encourage you, someone you trust. It shouldn't be the negative Nelly who is always shooting down the positive. This shouldn't be the person who is afraid to take a leap of faith. This should be the person you know will stand by your side and hold you accountable to setting and reaching some goals. Contact this person. Tell them what you would like to do. Tell them your dream. And ask them to pray for you, to hold you accountable.

So many people leave their dream on a shelf and go through the daily grind in the name of responsibility. Sure, we all need a paycheck. We all need to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. But that urging inside of you that says you were made for more than this? That's God. And He's given you a big dream. And He can supply all you need to make it come to pass.

But it won't happen if you don't take it off the shelf, dust it off, and put your faith into action.

So I encourage you today to answer the three questions I asked and to do one small thing toward making that dream a reality.

Share the Beauty:
And then come tell us about it. Please leave a comment and let us know what your God-given dream is. And if you've taken a step of faith, let us know about that too.

Tweetable:
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Thursday, January 1, 2015

My One Word ~ FULLNESS

Many years ago, at a women's conference, I heard God whisper a word in my spirit. And then I watched as He brought that word to life in me throughout that year. It was a few years later that I heard about the #OneWord movement and started seeking God's word for me in December instead of May.

This year, my One Word is FULLNESS.

Here are a few verses that have impacted me as I've researched this word:

You show me the path of life;
In Your presence is FULLNESS of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Psalm 16:11

Jesus sits at the right hand of God (Matthew 26:64). He is my pleasure forevermore. It is in my salvation that I find the fullness of joy. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).

How precious is Your lovingkindess, O God!
Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings.
They are abundantly satisfied with the FULLNESS of Your house,
And You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures.
For with You is the fountain of life;
In Your light we see light. Psalm 36:7-9

I love how much is involved in this verse. God's lovingkindess is precious. Because He loves me so much - and I know it - I put my trust in Him. I know I am safe standing in the shadow of my Father.

I love that as a child of God I am able to experience/partake in:
- abundant satisfaction
- the fullness of His house
- the river of His pleasures
- the fountain of life
- His light and the ability to recognize it

My final set of verses was too long to put into a meme. Ephesians 3:17-21 says:
...that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height - to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the FULLNESS of God.
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

I want desperately to know the love of Jesus in the depths of my being. I don't want my relationship with Him to be based on head knowledge. I want it to be a full experience every day - in my failures, in my successes, in my trials, in my delights, when I'm under the weather, when I'm full of energy, when I'm upset, and when I'm content. I want to experience the power that dwells within me through the Holy Spirit. I want to bring glory to God in all I say and do and to see my kids and their kids and their kids worship the Lord with the fullness of their beings in the years to come.

Another word similar to fullness is abundance, and it shows up within the same verses as those with fullness.

I can't wait to experience the fullness of God in 2015!

Tweetable: 
What is your #oneword for 2015? I'd love for you to share it with me & my readers! {Click to Tweet}

Share the Beauty:
How about you? What is your One Word for 2015? What is it you're looking forward to experiencing with God in the year to come?