The Tomato: A Story About the Details

Last night, I was cranky.  

 

We had just gotten home from celebrating our soon-to-be-born niece at a baby shower. 

 

We brought home our older niece, this baby’s big sister, to have a sleepover with her cousins.

 

As I heard the giggles coming from our little ones down the hall, I felt myself becoming more and more the opposite of what I was hearing. 

 

I was completely, utterly frustrated.  

 

I was angry. Down. Depressed. 

 

Without going into detail, we’ve, once again, been finding ourselves severely attacked by Satan.  

 

We have found ourselves confused as we see others not struggling, others that have what we’ve asked for for years, and haven’t received.  

 

One of those things being, that we’ve dreamed about potentially adding on to the side of our house. More bedrooms, a much needed garage. Nothing fancy. Just basic.  

 

Now, for the past four weeks, as we leave our nook in the woods, we are greeted by the very addition that we want for our home, but cannot afford.  

 

The house directly across the street, newly remodled and purchased by a family of three, is building a very large, albeit, slightly overkill addition for their home. 

 

Its exactly what we’ve been hoping for. 

There’s more to why we feel this way. There’s a lot more I cannot tell you, and will be revealed in eternity. But, trust us, there’s several perfectly good reasons why we feel almost forgotten in the financial blessings department. 

 

So, we had this conversation about how it’s very difficult to see beyond this life. It’s very difficult to keep our eyes on an eternal reward we can’t effectively imagine.  

 

In fact, I have no idea what is waiting for us.

I’m sure it’s great. I’m sure it’s worth the struggle here, but it’s tough to trust that God still cares about the details when He doesn’t allow things for us, but for others. 

 

Do you ever feel this way?  

 *Click thru the photos.💗

Around 8PM, I was in the kitchen cutting a juicy, plump, fresh organic tomato.  

 

A warmth came over me. A familiar warmth.  

 

And I stopped cutting for about half a minute, allowing His Spirit to speak. 

 

I really saw the tomato for what it was. I mean really, really saw it. With spiritual eyes. 

 

A beautiful, detailed, amazing creation of God. 

 

It was full of purpose, beauty, and provision.  

 

If God can care about the details of a tomato, surely He even more so cares about the details of my life.

 

Of your life. 

 

But He went on further.  

 

The redness of the fruit: representing the freedom found in the shedding of His blood. 

 

The fruit itself: a representation of how He is the vine and we are the branches. We have the ability to bear fruit.

 

Tomatoes grow on vines. Are you actively growing thru your times of struggle?

 

It’s easy to grow when it rains, but what about times of drought? Are you willing to allow the elements to dry up your fruit?  

 

The seeds inside the tomato: a representation of duplication. 

 

Are you trying to actively duplicate yourself, starting first with your family, and then with your communities? Making disciples of Christ is what we are called to do. No matter if we’re in the valley or on the mountain top. 

 

Purpose. 

 

Cared for. 

 

Perfectly loved and designed to nourish the lives of others. 

 

I must say, I was so thankful for the reminder in this little tomato.

 

I was thankful for the reminder that God, always, always, always cares about the details of our lives.  

 

Why? 

 

Because He’s a detailed God.  

 

He’s an orderly God.  

 

And He certainly never ceases to show us His perfect love, even when we don’t remotely perfectly understand.  

 

 

 

 

The True Bottom (Of the Pit)

There are several times, in the past 3+ years, where I would’ve described my being at the bottom of the pit of life.

But, this year, 2018, has shown me that those times prior, were truly just half way down.

I’ve officially been to the bottom. 

I hesitated in saying that because, I truly believe the worst things that could happen in my life would be if I lost my husband or one of my children. But, I  believe that anyone who feels and believes and lives out that their life isn’t worth living anymore, that they’re truly in the cesspool of the bottom of life’s pit.

A Little Backstory

Maybe some of you are aware that the last 3+ years, I’ve struggled with health issues. The most prominent of those issues being with anxiety, depression, fear, and panic. 

Ive literally been to every doctor around. From the most prescription happy doctors to the most crunchy, natural ones. I’ve been prescribed every single antidepressant known to man, and I flushed them all down the toilet. 

Never convinced. There’s something else here.

I spent thousands and thousands on bloodwork and supplements. In fact, as I type this in the coziness that is my local LabCorp Facility, I am about to get even more blood work done.


Chiropractic care, Nexalin treatments, foot detox baths, laser therapy, homeopathy, muscle testing, and anything else you can imagine except for acupuncture.  (I was never quite brave enough for that).

Everytime, aside from the time I presented with hyperthyroidism in 2015, it was just: “Low Vitamin D/semi-wonky cholesterol levels”. 


A potential suspicion of Lyme Disease or some sort of other chronic illness still looms over my head as of current. I went to the best doctors on the east coast to find that out last Friday. But, does it really matter where it’s all come from?


Maybe.


And if it comes up as none of the above , I’ll have to swallow and digest that my brain is just running the show and depression, anxiety, and panic is the “thing”.


But, You’re a Christ-Follower


In January of this year, January 3rd to be exact, I had my third encounter with Jesus.


At 2:30am, after two days of prayer and fasting, I woke up, abruptly, from a deep sleep.


I sat straight up in bed and opened my eyes.


Jesus was everywhere I looked.


Just standing there.


Smiling at me.


This occurred for maybe two full minutes, in which time I nearly beat awake my poor husband. I begged him to open his eyes and see what I was seeing, but he saw nothing and told me to go back to sleep.


I continued to fast and pray for eight more days. Determined that this would be the year that God and I would be stronger than ever before.


I had 11 specific prayer requests, three about my maladies, and he answered all of them during that fast...


...except for the three about my healing.

 

I can’t begin to tell you how many times in the past few months that I’ve gone back to this moment and rolled my eyes in disgust. Why would Jesus visit me and just smile as if everything was going to be alright?!  


Crashing Head First Into Rock Bottom


For years now, I’ve dealt with near continuous anxiety and panic. As the months waned on, my list of fears grew exponentially.


It began with some simple health anxiety. And after that first panic attack, I was terrified of having another.


By the end of 2015, I was a full blown hypochondriac and eventually experienced continuous electricity going through my body from the moment I would wake in the mornings, until the unconsciousness sleep provided me at night.


I couldn’t sit still.


Did you know that simply shaking your leg up and down all day burns nearly five-hundred calories?!


I had the most muscular right leg in my family back then.


Panic attacks became my default mode. I could go anywhere and feel like “this was it”...my moment to die. No place was safe from these automatic responses.


The park, Aldi’s checkout line, buying movie tickets, sitting thru a movie, Church, drive-thru’s, driving, waiting for any length of time, checking the mail, being the passenger in the car(which I was all the time at my worst), picking up our groceries, waking up in the morning, and eventually just being in my own home. 


Depression began to creep in slowly this past January. And before I knew it, everything I used to have a desire for had left me.


Dancing sounded like torture. Music was merely noise...like fingernails on a chalkboard.


The thought of doing anything beyond just sitting down and wanting to die already, was too much.


I stopped caring. And, I didn’t even want to stop caring. It just happened.


Winter pressed on with a vengeance and so did this dark cloud. A cloud that filled up heavier and heavier, just waiting for the release of the deluge it was holding tight to.


After I had the worst panic attack of all on February 9th, one in which my children had to assist firemen and paramedics in our home, the whole dam broke and left me desperate to stay above water.


Now my very “safe zone” wasn’t safe. Anxiety and panic had filled my walls up to the ceilings and I absolutely hated my life 100% for the first time ever.


Nothing to live for, I thought.


Tired of struggling. Tired of my brain playing tricks on me. Tired of fighting.


All I wanted to do was die.


They deserve better. Everyone did.


So, I pushed them all away. And I became seriously suicidal.


Depression Doesn’t Care If You Have It All


Unless you’re my husband or mother-in-law, the following description of what I’ve experienced this year won’t give you its full effect.


They are the only ones who really know how bad it got.


However, I must be candid here, as I always have been. Because, this is real life and my reality. And the truth sets us all free, even when the truth is tough to admit.


Every morning, for about six weeks, I’d wake up, wail and sob uncontrollably until about 11am. I’d have panic attack after panic attack, but this time, depression held its hands. They were like this dynamic super duo that held me in an altered state for hours.


I’d scream and scream and yell at

God and Mike and myself.


I’d over turn tables, throw anything in my reach at the walls, and bang my head against the ground. I’d punch cushions and the walls until my knuckles felt like breaking. I’d lose all of my energy and hyperventilate to the point of almost passing out every morning.


It got to the point where I wasn’t doing life at all. Screw everyone and everything. I hated it all. I didn’t want friends. I didn’t want my family. I wanted to go away and begged, several times a day even, for someone to just take me in.


Finally, after realizing that the supplements, the oils, the countless bloodwork and appointments were getting me nowhere, I decided that maybe I need to get on a medication once and for all. And not flush it this time.


Ladies and gentlemen, you can have it all and still experience the deepest and darkest pit.


Which makes no sense. It doesn’t. I know. And that was THE MOST frustrating part for me. Knowing that I have it all and I can’t even have the eyes and the mind to enjoy it. It was impossible. Like throwing a feather at a freight train, nothing I tried helped. Not even Bible verses. Not even prayer.  Nothing took it away. Nothing.


So, I stopped reaching out to God. I was done. And up until a few days ago, I was still done.


Medicated Christian


Here’s the deal: I’m super prideful. I spent over three years spinning my wheels, dumping medications down the toilet and doing everything in MY power to will this all away.


Sometimes the answer to our problems lies in a tiny green pill. A tiny green pill that literally made me shake with fear everytime I opened the bottle.


I’m five weeks removed from that low moment where I called my primary, smack in the middle of my morning meltdown, and she translated my broken, hyperventilated speech into somehow understanding that I needed an appointment for meds and NOW.


I’m five weeks removed and I no longer cringe when I open that bottle. In fact, I am happy to take it because I’m seeing pieces of myself again.


The Worst Day of My Life


Two weeks ago, after experiencing four straight days of conquering fears, having energy, and laughing for the first time in months, I woke up under the darkness again.


During this particular morning meltdown, while my children were safely spending the night at their Grandmothers house, I placed myself in front of the knife drawer in my kitchen.


I contemplated which one would serve me best: the carving knife? The steak knife? The paring knife?


I just had so much pain in my head. Not in the physical sense, but mentally, I was writhing. It hurt so bad. The medicine had betrayed me. The last four days were a joke. I saw life as better off without me.


So, I took out my pain on my left forearm.


Over and over. I just wanted to release my pain. I just wanted to put the mental pain with a physical pain.


And, hours later, after the cloud lifted from me around noon, like it always does, I felt remorse. I felt awful. I felt guilty and stupid. Idiotic. Irresponsible.


Now...I’m untrustworthy.


After two consecutive days of accompanying my husband to his job site, sitting in the van for hours with our children, I realized that this...THIS was rock bottom.


But, it gets worse...


The following Monday, after four straight weeks of my husband having to work at home, I had a follow-up concerning my dosage.


This follow-up led me to an hour long drive to a Psyc Ward in Charlotte to speak to a Psychiatrist about a more “fine-tuned” medication plan.


Naive as I was, I walked into that place thinking that a simple 20 minute convo with the on-call doctor would be my experience.


However, what I actually experienced was, how do I say...a tad more “involved”.


I was treated like an imminently suicidal patient.


I was stripped naked and inspected in every crevice. I was humiliated as the security wand went over my naked body. I was commanded to put all of my belongings into a special plastic bag and I was given scrubs to wear that were the ugliest shade of tan.


I wondered what was happening. I told them with the sweetest, non-psycho person smile I could muster that I was just here to discuss a possible med change with the doctor.


They didn’t care. And they told me to go sit in the “day room” with the other inmates and that my lunch would arrive on a tray.


Six hours and 75 almost panic attacks later and I got my stuff back. Vowing never to return again.


A waste of time.


“Stay the course,” said the Psychiatrist.


A twenty minute/$1000+ meeting that led to those three simple words.


I was DONE.


Tired of serving the Lord, at this point, I was so hurt.


How could he allow this to happen to me?


I didn’t belong there, yet, I was forced to experience it all. The screaming, the cursing, the smells, the bleakness...a line of small children that were stacked from smallest to tallest, led by security guards down a hallway that had a “faux skylight of the real sky”. These people never see the real sky. The windows are frosted all the way up, minus a foot of clarity at the top.


I saw syringes and fights and nurses holding down bodies that couldn’t contain themselves.


I dared not show my internal panic here in front of these people, lest they inject me with something, too.


“You’re so sweet,” one nurse chided as I was putting my street clothes back on at discharge. As if she could see from experience that I was probably the most sane person to wear that hospital band.


Glimmers of Hope


Here’s the truth now: if last Tuesday was the shit at the bottom of the pit of life, Wednesday began the climb upwards.



I’ve driven my children to the park. Alone. Twice. Something i hadn’t done in four years.


My husband went back to work and I could be trusted again. Panic attacks were spacing out. Depression was walking away from me. I started talking to my sister again some. I hadn’t spoken to most of my family in months. They’re all in Texas anyway. They can’t really help me.


I still don’t know why or how or what concerning these struggles. I may never understand.

 The photo that changed my life. Last Tuesday, while I was throwing up from side effects, my children were praying for me. They are worth living for. 

The photo that changed my life. Last Tuesday, while I was throwing up from side effects, my children were praying for me. They are worth living for. 


All I’ve ever tried to do with my life was to serve God and others. To encourage you. To help you see how amazing God is. To write from my heart and live a simple life.


I’m not frivolous. I’m not even trying to be like anyone else. I just wanted to be a blessing to you. To my family.


And it breaks my heart in two to know that this is a real, bonafide, legit disease. The disease of the mind and Christians are encouraged to just pray more and sing “Oceans” during their times of panic.


No.


Yes, because of Christ, we can and we do have the ability to praise Him in the storm, but sometimes, there are mental deficits that prevent us from actually doing those things.


I’m not fully there yet, but I’m on the way.


I’m in counseling. I may have to take an Ativan every now and again to make it and risk sleeping for three hours after. I may need this medication for this season or for always. I don’t know.


What I do know is that I’m done with being embarrassed and ashamed for being a Christ-follower, an author of a book about embracing life to the fullest, and a woman that needs help getting her sick mind back on track.


I’m done with that. Which is why I wrote this, leaving few details out. You deserve the truth. And maybe you feel yourself in the same boat. Maybe you long to die. Maybe you feel like your mind is not cooperating anymore. Don’t be ashamed to do something about it. Even if you aren’t fully supported by your peers or your church.


I no longer wake up in the mornings and meltdown.


I no longer curse at God and wish to die.


I no longer shake my fist at life and hate every ticking second.


I’m learning to embrace my mental illness and fully recover knowing that God never did leave me after all, I just couldn’t see any truth at all.


Pray for me and us in the weeks to come. Things are getting better and I am hopeful that all will be fully restored in time.


The fact that I am writing to all of you again is a good sign. I have my desire back. I can remember how to laugh and smile now.


Please contact me ASAP if you feel you need a shoulder right now. We long to be understood. Especially those of us that deal with these issues. I’m here.


And remember, Philippians 1:6....He will complete the good work in you that He already began. Hold tight to that.


Love, Alicia












 

 

 

 

 

 

The Small Role We Play

I remember little Elementary School plays.

 

I was never out to be the lead. I was comfortable accepting a supporting role or a walk-on/non-speaking role. 

 

But, I believe a lot of us clamored a bit for that spotlight. Maybe you were one of those that did above and beyond to stand out for the lead roles. 

 

The night of the performance, emotions are high. Parents and grandparents fill the room, cameras in hand, whispering to other parents what parts their children have in the production. Each exchanging several adjectives describing their child and how they’ve spent weeks preparing for this night.  

 

Lights dim.

 

Spotlight ready.  

 

Curtain goes up.  

 

Music begins.  

 

And so begins several scenes. The actors, the stage hands, the background, all collide in a dance that represents weeks of preparation and careful planning.  

 

I was reading Revelation this morning.

 

Talk about a book filled to overflowing with dramatic scenes and characters. This book takes the Oscar for Best Picture, for sure. 

 

There’s this heavenly scene in chapters 4 and 5 that pierced my heart through.  

 

John is transported to Heaven, in the Spirit. 

 

He begins describing the scene. First, he’s instantly taken with the “someone” on the throne.  

 

This being had the appearance of “jasper and carnelian” (vs.3), which is the color of red, for those of you who aren’t aware.  

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The jasper represents Gods holiness and carnelian, His wrath.  

 

A rainbow surrounded the throne and had the appearance of an emerald. We all know that emeralds are green, but I bet you didn’t know that they represent Gods grace and mercy. It’s a promise and it’s never-ending. 

 

He describes these creatures filled with eyes, the sights and sounds that are coming from the throne, and the never-ending song of the creatures:

”Holy, holy, holy

Lord God, the Almighty

who was, and is, and is to come.” 

 

Day and night they sing. And day and night they cast their crowns before His throne. Never bored. Never weary from this loop of adoration.  

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Here’s the part where we come in. 

 

There’s a scroll in God’s hand, sealed with seven seals. An angel loudly shouts for someone to open the scroll. But, no one, both in Heaven and on earth was worthy to do so. 

 

John begins to weep uncontrollably because no one is found worthy to do this task. 

 

Then, the Lamb of God is found standing in the midst of the throne. The climax of the scene. Every moment prior has led up to this.  

He takes the scroll out of God’s hand.  

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The four eye-filled creatures and the twenty-four elders begin bowing down in worship to the Lamb.  

 

“Each one of them had both a harp and golden bowls (plural) filled with incense, which are the prayers of the saints.”  (5:8) 

 

And there we are. 

 

Thats our part in this breathtaking scene.  

 

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Just a little puff of smoke. So insignificant. Held in these spectacular bowls of pure gold, we are the puffs of air rising to the throne of God.  

 

Do you understand how incredible, and yet, extremely humbling this is? 

 

Here the God of Creation is surrounded by glory. Sounded by songs and light and perfection and beauty and indescribable things. And while He’s being praised, night and day, day and night, without ceasing, here we are: little puffs of smoke coming from the bowls of the creatures who sing beautiful songs of holiness to Him without ceasing.  

 

And yet, YET, He includes our prayers, our words, in this scene of glory and worship.  

 

He loves to hear from those who follow Him so much, that He includes our words in the ultimate worship scene of Heaven.  

 

And the fact that He’s never too “overwhelmed” by all this action to not take it all in. The singing, the prayers, the setting...it would all be too much for us human folk.  

 

Yikes. I get to “going to implode” status if two kids are talking at once, music is playing in the background, and I’m trying to send my husband a text message. I nearly scream from the overload.

 

But, not our God. Our God is immeasurably perfect and sustaining and beyond our full understanding, that a scene like this is just a regular day to Him. It’s His Home. It’s why we need to remember how big He is and how nothing we are.  

 

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So. I ask you now; how do you plan to add yourself to that scene today?  

 

How long has it been since you talked to your Creator? Because, He clearly loves to listen to you. It’s part of His continuous worship service. 

 

And how can you humble yourself today? Remember, you’re just this little supporting role. A speck of air. A poof of smoke. Not dazzling. Not glorious by any stretch. Yet, this amazing God we serve sees our speaking to Him as important enough to put our names in His playbill. 

 

Meditate on this today.  

 

And maybe, you can just join the beings in that throne room and sing the words that they never stop singing:  

“Holy, holy, holy

is the Lord God Almighty

who was, and is, and is to come.” 

 

Amen.  

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