Hello Sisters! My name is Alisha York Stradling and I am the contributing writer for “A New Name: Bride of Christ” for the Fall Intro issue of The Grace Mask Journal. I have a wonderful husband, Jacob, who is patient, kind, loving, and strong. Jacob has the heart of the Father and has chosen to love two girls he didn’t create. Our daughters, Julia and Josie, are ages sixteen and nine. They both share a passion for horses and they love to ride. Jacob and I also have a baby in Heaven that we will meet when we meet Jesus after this life is over. I have also been blessed with wonderful parents. My mom and dad have been the love of Christ to me by stepping in with love and kindness when I was a single mom and then later going through a very hard divorce.
When I was a little girl, one of my strongest dreams was to be married and a mother. At twelve years old, my life was severely altered by sexual abuse. This sin against me stole my security and my self-worth. I responded to this huge life shifting event by doing what I did when I was hurt playing sports. I walked it off. I abandoned the prophecy that had been spoken over my life as a child and I walked, ran, drove, flew, and did anything I could to “walk off” that event in my life. I was so full of shame that I chose to stuff this horrendous experience and not talk about it. I went through my life pretending it didn’t happen. I didn’t value myself at all. On the outside it looked like everything was great. I was an honors student, I was a top athlete, I was Miss Merry Christmas, and I was a talented singer. Yet, underneath it all I was completely broken. The greatest strategy the enemy uses against us is to convince us that we are too far gone, too broken, and that not even God, could love us. As I continued on in life, I excelled at my career. I was young, well respected, and moving up the corporate ladder quickly. On the surface, I had it all. Beneath the surface, I was full of shame, empty , broken, and didn’t respect myself at all.
Not seeing myself the way God saw me caused great problems for me with relationships with men. I didn’t chose wisely and I didn’t guard my heart or my body. I thought I was damaged goods and no one would ever love me so why would it matter. This led me into many relationships that didn’t honor God. And my life and my heart were filled with brokenness as a result. But The Lord……
In the midst of an abusive situation, single, pregnant, and alone He gave me beauty for ashes. When I found out I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, I practically ran to the altar. I remember what I was wearing – jeans and a blue shirt – and I remember the moment my healing began. I have been walking on this road to healing for the last seventeen years. It has been hard at times. It has been painful and I have cried many tears. Through it all, the Lord took my brokenness and He healed me. It doesn’t matter what has been done to you, what you have done, where you have been, Jesus Christ died for us all and He is worthy of our praise. He has taken what I have been most ashamed of, abuse and broken relationships, and turned it all around to bring hope and healing to women and girls. I share my story, not for my sake, but for HIS glory.
His Words Evoking Beauty:
God gave me the gift of having a hunger for His word when I was saved. When I was little and in church, we had to read chapters in our Bible and report back to the preacher how many chapters we had read each week. It was a job. I didn’t understand why I was doing it, I just didn’t want to be caught in the service saying I had not read my Bible. When I was saved, I immediately began to hunger for the Word of God. I couldn’t get enough of it. I read my Bible as often as I could. The Word of God changed me. It taught me what God thought about me. I was so shocked to know that while I was still as sinner, the God of the universe sent His only Son to die for me. He loved me that much. I found the innocence that I had so longed for in the Word. The Word restored my mind to righteous thinking. The Word gave me answers to my problems and taught me every step I should take to walk through life. The reading of the Word renewed my mind and my self-image. Instead of seeing damaged goods, I saw a holy daughter. Instead of shame, I saw honor. Instead of hiding, I found evangelism. And I believe the Word of God will take me through continued healing through the rest of my life on the earth. I realized through God’s Word that it was now my honor to testify of the great things that God, through faith in Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit had done in my life and to be an active part of the body of Christ by reaching out to those who need hope and encouragement. The Church has been a refuge for me to be transparent and has been a wonderful place for me to serve the Lord with all of my life, the good, the bad, and the BEST.
Bring Out the Best:
My relationship with Christ brings the best out of me because it propels me to be the hands and feet of Jesus, everywhere I go. I open doors for people and I pray over them quietly. I pray for my checker at the store and I pray for opportunities to reach the lost. Jesus gives me a servant’s heart to do things that maybe no one else wants to do or will do. My relationship with Jesus allows me to do those things to lift the name of Jesus high and to give glory to God, the Father. Everything I do for others is a direct reflection of my relationship with Jesus. I want the world to know Him like I do, to know they are loved and cherished. My relationship with Jesus brings out my compassion and long suffering. God, through Christ Jesus, extends mercy to me and empowers me to extend mercy to others.