Breathing Room

Right now I am in Minnesota for training as the Nanny Placement Manager for College Nannies + Tutors of Cary, NC.  I have used this time away from my regular routines to start engaging the book Breathing Room by Leeana Tankersley.   And, WOW!

I thought that I would be able to push thru this book in order to make my deadline for reading the entire book by my blog review, and yet, I am still processing the first couple of chapters of this text.  Already I feel like Leanna is a great friend who is journeying with me in life.  I can sense that she is someone that I would indeed like to meet.

For the first time in quite a while, I’m allowing myself to underline, circle, write questions, and even journal entries/prayers within the pages of the book.  I know that I will return to this book during different seasons of my life, and I hope that I will be able to see how God has been faithful in the past.  Also, I want to dialogue with God as I learn how to “let go and fully live.”

My intention is to come back in few weeks to process this book more via another blog post.  In the mean time, I encourage you to get this book for yourself or for someone you love.  Yes, I read this book, which I receive for free, in order to write a review, and yet, the request to obtain this book for yourself is one that comes straight from my heart to yours.

My past few months have been full of juggling one event and responsibility after another.  One person even commented that I did not look like I was enjoying my work any more.  And as I read this book, I know that I am not the only one to ever deal with feeling overwhelmed or unable to meet the expectations I put on myself.  What a relief to know that I am not alone in my struggles!  What reassurance, via Leanna’s words, to know that I am not alone!

What have you been reading for inspiration?  What helps you to know that you are not alone in your struggles?  Please share…I want us to share resources and experiences so that we can help one another.

Reading Provides an Escape

As I struggle to balance three jobs and life, I want to escape for a few hours at a time into another world.  Irene Hannon’s book Deceived allowed me the opportunity to go into another world, a mystery world of real life proportions.

The main character, Kate, has a compassionate, generous heart, and I could relate to her secretary telling her not to work too many hours.  Hannon wrote in such a way that you felt that you were journeying with each of the characters in the midst of their ordinary moments and their far from ordinary ones.  As you turned pages, the characters became more alive.  Even though the plot seemed quite predictable at times, unexpected turns happened frequently.

Hannon’s novel challenged me in my faith and in the hectic pace of my life.  How often do I give up hope in difficult situations?  Am I willing to mentor others in the faith?  Am I still finding ways to serve out of my passions and giftedness in the midst of my busy schedule?  I felt the truths of scripture come alive from within the pages of the novel, and I am grateful that Christian writers, such as Hannon, write about characters who have a real relationship with Christ.

I am too busy to write these days–at least that is what I think.  And I wonder if Hannon encountered any challenges while she wrote this novel?  I am curious to know if she did.  If I allow my business to block out my writing, am I going to be as fulfilled?  Honestly, I don’t think so.

So as I continue to read more novels (and escape into their worlds), I hope that I’ll take time to process the plot of my own life and keep blogging and putting together other writing pieces to be considered for publication.

Holy Spirit

Last night as I was walking our dog, I felt the Holy Spirit speak to me.  I’m convinced the nudging was indeed from God because I immediately looked up at the sky and started to argue with God.  You want me to do THAT?  NOW?  REALLY?  I thought of a million other things that I could do rather than the specific task that God was speaking to me about.  My choice was between obedience and disobedience.

I know that several friends and family members are specifically praying for me during this season of my life, and so I felt confirmed that this request was indeed from God.  Usually we expect God’s Spirit to urge us to do tasks evangelistic in nature or to lead us to make life altering decisions.  God continues to surprise me with His concern for the everyday aspects of our life.

On purpose, the specific task God led me to do is not being revealed.  Nonetheless, I wanted to share my experience.  Perhaps my journey will help encourage someone.  If nothing else, I’m documenting this moment of my faith walk so I can remember.

While traveling last year, I felt God leading me to stop at a Cracker Barrel to go to the restroom.  In this instance, I thought if I heard God wrong I haven’t lost anything.  God sent me to that restroom so that I could be there in that exact moment to help a woman in a wheelchair.  If I had went to another location for my pitstop or stayed in the car wondering if I really heard from God, I would have missed this opportunity to help this person.

The Holy Spirit is difficult to comprehend.  The Trinity is complex and simple simultaneously, and on this side of heaven, I may not fully understand the mystery and sacredness behind the Trinity.  Still I pray that I continue to sense God’s Spirit during the ordinary moments of life.

Have you ever felt the Holy Spirit urging you to do something strange and/or ordinary?  I would love for you to share in the comments about your experience(s) with the Holy Spirit.

“What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days”

Some days leave you wanting to call in sick, crawl back under the covers, and put online puzzles together all day.  Have you ever had those times when you want to eat loads of chocolate, Dorittos, and Sunni Sky’s ice cream?  Unfortunately, these seasons creep up on me every once in a while.  Usually these depressing days come upon when I get super stressed, and I am overwhelmed.

Thankfully, What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days arrived at my home right as this season was beginning.  Holley Gerth’s latest books is perfect for your coffee table and for your heart.  The Holy Spirit has used her written words to reawaken the passion within me.  She uses the Psalms as her inspiration for her bite sized devotions of truth, humor, and compassion for women in hard times.  I have been refreshed, and I know that I will return to this book often as a source of wisdom, comfort, and inspiration.

I admire Holley (as much as I have learned about her from her book and the (in)courage blog I feel like we’re on a first name basis).  She shares her vulnerability and pain as an offering to God and to women who ache in response to the brokenness of this life.  Perhaps one day my dream of encouraging others in a similar manner will come true.

At times, I felt she must have been speaking directly to me.  Alicia, “a full schedule and an empty heart is a sure sign that it is time to draw closer to the Shepherd again.” (p. 46)  I feel that our conversation (imagine two friends enjoying fruit smoothies together) would continue as she lovingly asks me the following questions: “What are you holding on to out of fear?  What is not bringing real nourishment in your life?  Where do you need to stop striving and begin trusting again?” (p. 46)  I’ve begun the internal journey of processing these questions with God, and I’m thankful for Holley’s words.

Check out Holley’s Facebook group to join a FREE online book club.  Join Holley, me, and others as we encourage each other in the midst of our journeys!

I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for writing a blog post about it and an online review.  And I received two blessings: the free book & a new perspective on life!

Dear College Freshman Alicia

About a year a go, I wrote a letter entitled “Dear Younger Alicia Joy.”  Today I decided to write a letter to me, the eighteen-year-old me who just started at Campbell.

Dear College Freshman Alicia,

freshman Alicia

Alicia @ 18

I know that your time away from home is challenging, and I know that your family is facing many difficulties.  Know that God knows what is happening as well.  He records each tear that you cry, and he aches each time you’re anxiety is once again so intense that you vomit.  You will get better.  You will learn to smile and to laugh again.  Please don’t lose hope!

Recognize that your relationship with God is indeed your most important relationship.  Yes, be involved in campus ministries, and recognize that you do not have to go to a Bible study every night of the week to impress God.  Your Heavenly Father desires for you to tell him how you really feel.  You don’t have to get his attention with “churchy” words.  You can be real with God.

Kourtney & I on her wedding day

Kourtney’s Wedding

Your friends are important.  Your roommate will someday stand with you at your wedding, and you’ll be a bridesmaid in her wedding.  However, not all of your friends will still be close to you at the end of the next decade.  Care less about what they think about you, and instead care more about how you can show them that they matter.  You may only have a semester or two to be close to someone during this season.  Be yourself because you are the only guaranteed person you’ll always be around.

And yet I know that you have no idea who you are supposed to become.  You grew up in a small town with great values, and you were nurtured by a wonderful church congregation with a specific theological bent.  The world is more diverse than what you have always known.  Hold on because you are going on quite an emotional roller coaster before you discover who you can be and what you can do.  No matter what though keep your roots grounded in Christ and maintain the foundation of your home town and your home church.  A lot of love and care went into shaping you, and you will always be grateful for where you come from.

Learning Spanish is important, but you don’t have to be a perfectionist.  The hours you spent in your professor’s office begging him to change your grade could have been better spent actually learning the language.  Learn to work hard for your success rather than trying to change someone’s mind.

Have fun!  Watch the movie with friends rather than trying to do homework while everyone around you is watching the movie.  You can really enjoy the basketball game without doing your homework during time outs.  Realize that you can relax and the world will keep spinning.

One of your most important decisions was to become involved in a local congregation, Buies Creek First Baptist Church.  Continue to let these wonderful folks love you, challenge you, and pray for you.  You’ll look back on your friends and mentors from this place, and you’ll be thankful.

Your Older Self, Rev. Alicia Turner Beard

Alicia @ 27

Alicia @ 27

St. Bryce Foundation

A few months a go, Colleen Mitchell and I begin a friendship via Facebook messages and e-mails.  God brought us together as we led an (in)courage community Facebook group together.  Colleen is a Catholic, and I am a Baptist/Methodist.  Colleen is a mom, and I am a few weeks shy of my first marriage anniversary.   Colleen’s family currently lives in Costa Rica, and Adam and I are still stateside paying off our student debt before we go on the mission field.  Despite our many differences, we have become great friends, and she is a great mentor to me.  She has walked many season of life ahead of me, and I am grateful for how she shares her wisdom with me via technology.

Today is a tough day for Colleen’s family.  I can only imagine the grief and pain that they are experiencing today.  Five years a go today, Bryce, their 6th son, went to sleep, and then he woke up in the presence of God.  At thirteen weeks old, he passed away, and his family remained behind.

bryce

Bryce Philip Mitchell

Out of their deep grief, the Mitchell’s felt God’s call to reach out to others so they founded St. Bryce Missions.  The Mitchell family now lives in Costa Rica, and they lead the St. Francis Emmaus Center where mothers and infants are tended to during their time leading up to delivery and afterwards.  Colleen’s Facebook feed is continuously full of updates of these mothers and their little ones.  If I close my eyes,  I think I can imagine myself there via the pictures she posts and her descriptions.

Unfortunately, several friends close to me have lost their precious children.  My heart aches for them, and I pray that they know they are close to my heart and often in my prayers.

If you would like to honor the life of Bryce or another child in your life, the Connell’s would love to have you pray or even donate to their ministry.  The family suggests that individuals donate in increments of five ($5, $15, etc.) to remember that five years a go was Bryce’s glory day.

“We Are a Family”

Ohana means family.  Family means no one is left behind or forgotten.”  “This is my family.  I found it all by myself.  It is small and broken, but good.  Yes, definitely good!”  Imagine these two quotes being said by Stitch from the Lilo and Stitch movie.  These quotes are special to Adam and I, and we often quote them to one another.

ohana

Recently, especially since I have finished graduate school, the questions have started about when we will start our family.  Are we not already a family as a married couple?  I think we are indeed a family!  Perhaps questions of a sensitive nature are appropriate in some cultures, but questions about when we’ll have kids make me feel uncomfortable.  Mostly these questions come from complete strangers or acquaintances who are trying to get to know me better.  Nonetheless, I feel like we should all stop asking these types of questions.

I “mother” children all day as I teach them, pray with them, wipe their noses, dry their tears, and listen to their laughter.  I am not their mom, and yet I treat children how I want my future children to be treated.  At the end of the day, these children all go back home to their families and I go back home to mine.

My family is good, even if people think that we should already be having children.  I look forward to the day that children are brought into our family, whether biologically or by adoption.  Until that happens, I will enjoy being part of my family of two + Ryder and treasure all the little ones (many who are now taller than me) that God has brought into our lives.

family kiss

A beautiful beginning to our family!

I would love to hear your thoughts.  Do you think individuals should ask others when they want to start having children or if they plan to have more children?  How close should you be to someone to ask this question, or is it ever appropriate?  I welcome opinions, presented respectfully, that differ from my opinion.  Please write your thoughts in the comment section!