A Look Back and A Look Ahead
As I sit here staring out the window on a warm and dreary day in Northeast Florida, listening to the sound of rain falling onto the trees and grass, I really can’t believe it’s almost December! Time sure does fly whether you’re having fun or not. Seriously.
While my time in Jacksonville hasn’t been the most exciting of times, it sure has been a necessary time of personal healing. When I came here, I was confused about everything and that confusion spilled over into my confidence both personally and professionally. It is really amazing when you can look back and see God’s hand leading you through the past year and I can definitely see Him in mine.
I had an opportunity to get on with the major media player in town, but due to my mental and emotional state it would have been a disaster and I can see God’s hand in leading me away from that job in a miscommunication of interview times. Even though the job I did land barely allows me to make ends meet, I have yet again enjoyed favor in the company and have been able to chart my own course in hours, lunches, time off and the lateral move into a better fitting department. Looking back, I can say that I needed a lower key job while I was going through a time of personal healing so that I could make my way back to the confident, intelligent, go-getter that I am.
So much has happened on the spiritual side that I don’t even know where to begin. God has been speaking into my heart through some of the pastors here in town as well as my home tribe in LA. Don’t you love it when the devil comes at you with brute force and God leads you to a church service where the pastor affirms your stance, gives you confidence and breathes new life into you? That happened to me this past year. I had a Stephen Minister who is part of a local Celebrate Recovery call me stupid for surrendering a certain area of my life to Jesus and actually abiding by His word in this area. He did more than just call me stupid, he was actually trying to coerce me to see things his way so he would have an open door, which I shut and dead bolted immediately. To say this caught me off guard is an understatement. At the time I was going through Redeemed Esteem at Celebration Church, which is a book and corresponding program for those who have past abuse in their lives. I was already in extreme emotional upheaval due to the class, but the devil likes to strike when he thinks we are weak. The trick is – if we are surrendered to Christ and actively putting Him first in our lives – we’re actually stronger than ever regardless of what we might look like to others. I let this man steal my joy for about a month. I had an opportunity to lead big group one night and I couldn’t do it because he was there. I hadn’t fully digested what had happened, how it affected me, why it affected me that way and fully given it to God so I just wasn’t ready. While I do disagree with the fact that he is a Stephen Minister – limited Stephen Minister I should say – I can be in the same room with him now and I pray for his spiritual maturity because he needs it. I kind of drifted, what I meant to say is that the very next day – I went to hear Russ Austin over at Southpoint Community Church and he spoke an entire sermon on the issue with which I had just been challenged. My friend looked at me and said, “ That was for you!”
The last minute, last seat in the Redeemed Esteem class at Celebration was also intended for me. It might even be one of the main reasons I came to Jacksonville. A lot of healing took place in that class. Strongholds that I have had for years vanished in that class. I have shared previously that I have never been able to see myself correctly in that I tend to see someone much heavier in the mirror. I literally freaked out one day because my wrist looked so small. Truth is I think I was seeing as it really is for the first time that day. I like what I see when I look in the mirror these days too. I have a new confidence that I didn’t have before participating in that class and I am grateful for it. I told the leader / author, Patricia Newton, that I am interested in facilitator training so that might be something on the horizon in the new year as she is working to get the corresponding study guide published and on the market. The book is available online and in select stores for those interested.
I have also been challenged to start tithing. I have to admit that I have never been a tither. Namely because I tend to be on the poor end of the prosperity spectrum, but in a recent sermon by a guest pastor at Celebration I felt God hit me over the head. I knew it was my time. I know that when you put God first, God blesses that area of your life and the one area I have yet to give Him is my finances, which by the way, are at a level of devastation that I didn’t even experience in LA! And so I tithed for the first time a week ago. It hurt. I cried. I’m a gluten-free, diabetic who needs to eat. I have a car that is literally on its last leg. I have too much debt to mention. My identity was stolen earlier this year creating more debt that I am fighting. My job is not sufficient, but I knew that when I took it – it was suppose to be a get my wits back and move on sort of position. I didn’t think I’d be there this long and so with all of this going on – I have started tithing! I mean with all of that facing me it seems like a no-brainer – I need to put God first in my finances and I am doing just that despite the fact that I have no idea how I am going to make it through each month. From now on I do the following with each check I receive: pay God, pay myself, and manage the rest. Period. End Point. Ditto.
Celebrate Recovery has been another major healing factor in my life and I also believe this to be one of the reasons I came to Jacksonville. I was just too busy in LA to get involved in CR, but once I moved to Jacksonville, I had all the time in the world. Celebrate Recovery has been the other major component in helping me get my groove back so to speak. After attending the same CR for a while, I was able to move onto the leadership team and start being the women’s small group facilitator. I also help out in big group on occasion and was able to give a mini-mony at this CR’s Anniversary party. After giving my mini-mony, I was approached by a couple other CR’s in town to give my full testimony at their meetings. A few months later I received a surprise email asking me to give my testimony at the Mandarin area meeting and I said yes even though I hadn’t bothered to flesh out a 20 minute testimony and would only have a few days to get it written in order to submit it for review. I am so glad I said yes! I was able to flesh out a close to 20 minute testimony and really enjoyed being able to share my story of transformation with others. That first night is special to me and the crew over at Mandarin UMC were so welcoming. An interesting thing happened that night that I want to share: During the pre-service prayer, where leaders pray for the band, host and speaker, I felt the room grow warm to the point we were all flush. A wave of calm swept over me that was so powerful that I had to ask the angels present to take a few steps back because I felt like I had swallowed a chill pill or muscle relaxant and needed this calming energy to fade just a little bit or my testimony would be rather interesting! The amazing thing is that the energy dissipated just enough for me to be fully there, but also be fully calmed. My nerves left and did not return. I was fully comfortable up in front of everyone and was able to maintain a good speaking flow and a lot of eye contact with the audience. It truly is amazing when the angels come close! Another cool thing about that night is that there were about ten female newcomers all my age in the audience. I, of course, did not know until afterwards when the group walked over to CR 101 and I over heard them saying they were all first timers. God is so Good. I truly hope that my story of transformation helped them to open up to the transforming love of Jesus Christ and to keep coming back to CR of course! I am also excited to do it all again over at the Chets Creek CR in the new year because if there is one thing I love talking about – it is Jesus and what all He continues to do for me.
Hillsong came to Jacksonville for their Hillsong NIghts tour and it was incredible. I tried to explain to my friend that the energy of that night is what it is like to go to Mosaic every Sunday. She couldn’t quite believe me, but its true. I miss the energy of Mosaic and it was nice to have that energy back at Hillsong Nights. The next day I went to Celebration to hear Brian Houston speak on what would become a talk for the dreamers of the world. At the end, my friend, yet again, turned to me and said, “That was for you!”. Little did she know that during that sermon God breathed a new project into my life.
I have only been in Jacksonville a year, but a lot has happened. God definitely had a reason for ripping me out of Los Angeles and bringing me to a moment of stillness so that He could take me up a level so to speak. I am hoping to refresh my website over the month of December revealing a new look and vibe for the January 1st 2016 post. I am also going to be expanding into the vlog/video world in the new year. This is the project that God breathed into me over Hillsong weekend. I have finished the brainstorming phase and am moving into the content creation phase which will be followed by deciding on a home for the content and of course, production. I do not yet have a launch date as I don’t yet know if this content will be on my site, on YouTube or somewhere else so stay tuned as info becomes available. Lastly, God has laid it on my heart to work on a memoir in the same vein of my CR testimony only on a much larger scale. I probably won’t start on that until the video content is off the ground, but you never know because God’s time table and our time tables are not always the same.
I guess it is sufficient to say that I am grateful for 2015 and excited to see where God takes me in 2016. My motto is always Stay Gypsy… Stay in His Wind.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of You!
P.S. my friend Ruth is currently trying to fund a well through Generostiy.
Her project page is give.generosity.org/ruthwarner
Feel free to read up on all the amazing work of Generosity Water, donate to my friend’s Well, spread the word, buy some goods or start your own Well Project! If you’re not the charity type, 2016 is a great time to start on a new path.
I have been plagued with sickness this past month. My mind, body and soul have been rather weary and the heat isn’t helping. I am also not getting enough rest, which is something I have struggled with my whole life. I am really good about sleeping on the weekends, but the weekdays are an entirely different story. I guess I am feeling pressure in regards to getting a new career going, but I can only do so much and I really need to listen to my body more often.
On a positive note, for what is sadly the first time in my life, I recognized a player for being a player. It took three months and constant prayer for discernment before I realized that I was completely being played, but I was able to see the truth in the situation before any strings got attached if you know what I mean. What’s even more amazing is the fact that I was able to realize that I do not want someone who has the qualities I see in this guy. I actually want a good guy who will treat me right. I am actually looking for someone who is honest, kind, gameless and has an active relationship with Jesus instead of the normal slap-me-in-the-face carnal attraction player types for which I usually fall victim. Now, hold your excitement, because while I want a guy with these characteristics – I am obviously not yet attracted to this type of guy. But, I can say that I have turned onto the road that will lead to my being attracted to someone who is actually a decent human being. So there is growth happening in this 34 year old who is sometimes going on three and a half.
Another positive from this past month is the confirmation that I definitely want to make a career transition to a non-profit ministry. I know I shared that I was giving this idea serious thought last month and can confirm this month that I am now concentrating my job search efforts in this direction. I feel that my writing is faith based, my stories are faith base, that everything I create is faith based so I might as well transition to a career that aligns with where my heart apparently resides. I actually had an opportunity to interview for one of the few faith based non-profits in the San Fernando Valley. I cannot lie and say I was not crushed when I literally slept through the interview, was able to reschedule only to get lost beyond belief and still able to reschedule a third time only to not check my email in time to confirm the appointment! However, I can say without a doubt that it was not I who sabotaged this opportunity. After the events of this past week, I feel that God slammed that door in my face so that I could have closure regarding the player mentioned above. I guess I needed to tie up some loose ends and receive some confirmations before moving forward. Sometimes receiving clarity is best gift one can receive.
I apologize for this being a short and not at all poignant post. I set aside an entire weekend to focus on this post, but ended up in bed the entire weekend with a fever and extreme fatigue. While I am better, some healing thoughts my way are definitely welcomed as the Southern California inland heat is not making things any easier. I am definitely better, but I am either suffering greatly from the heat due to lack of air conditioning or I am experiencing a drop in my potassium. Both cause one to be fatigued, have a low-grade fever, muscle weakness, shortness of breath and an all around feeling of blah. May you and yours have a lovely end to the summer season and I will catch you in September.
I feel like I am in the middle of an uprooting. Just how much of an uprooting I do not yet know, but I am definitely being pulled up and out to something, someone and somewhere new. Over the past month I have had some mind bursting revelations in regards to promptings. It seems that I may have been confusing certain promptings for panic attacks or crazy and unfounded fears.
It all started a few weeks ago. I started having intense panic while driving to church. My muscles would tighten, my breath would shorten and my mind would desperately search for the “why”. Nothing was causing this reaction. There was not any beliefs or bad thoughts or fears. It all just seemed irrational. It got to the point that when I would step back into my car afterwards that my mind would utter “Whew. I got in, I got out and they didn’t get me.” Who is “they”? I wasn’t sure and I did not know why this was happening. This same strange phenomenon was also happening at a mission class I was involved in at this same church and it was beginning to happen at my long-time home AA group. The question as to why remained.
I can recall having panic attacks prior to my decent into alcohol absurdity so my natural inclination was to think that I was right back to my starting point and had to figure out how to handle this panic without alcohol. The problem was that I only had this phenomenon in certain situations. So, why these situations? I for one did not have an answer.
Here is where it gets interesting. One night God was pulling me to the computer to write. He does this often. It is a particular pulling in my soul and I know exactly what it is when I feel it. The only other time I have felt something similar was that day in the hospital when my soul was set on fire and I knew I had to kick everybody out because it was time for my family to say goodbye to my father. That fire in my soul feeling was not instantly understood. I remember just knowing that it was now, it was urgent, it was time to say goodbye. I did not understand it, but I had to act. I have only experienced this one other time in my life and that also centered on an earthly departing. It was in the recalling of these experiences that a key piece of information hit my brain. All of these promptings centered in that area near the heart that I refer to as my soul-self. Anyone who has experienced these soul promptings knows that you just can’t put these experiences into words. They are not readily explainable, but you somehow know what they heed and in that moment you realize that you really are much more than this existence.
That key piece of information was this: These so-called panic attacks center in the soul. The same place I get pulled to sit down in front of the computer and the same place that got lit on fire that day it was time to say goodbye. In this same instance my mind went back to the previous “panic attacks” and I realized that every place I had experienced this phenomenon something very bad ended up happening to me. It was in this moment that I realized these are not panic attacks. These are warnings. God, Himself is sounding the warning alarms in my soul and my body is responding. The tightening of my muscles which make it hard to drive and walk, the shortness of breath, the inexplicable uneasiness in my soul pulling me up and out of the situation – trying to prevent me from even being in the situation. I am not having panic attacks, people. My soul’s alarm is sounding because impending doom is ahead if I continue in these situations!
Now I don’t know about you, but that is what I call a mind-bending revelation. All I can do at this point is acknowledge and heed these warnings and see where they lead me. As a result of this new information, I am taking a step back from my current church and from my AA meeting. These two places and the people in them have been my LA home for the past year and a half, but I am heeding the warning and letting go. I know you have to be willing to let go of what does not completely serve you in order to receive what does, but that does not make the letting go any easier. So here’s to seeing where this Wind is blowing as I march into the month known for its changing of the seasons.
A Fork In the Road
I find myself walking up to a fork in the road. I am not there yet, but I can feel it coming. It has been both a blessed and a cursed year with the curse being extreme financial lacking and it has weakened my resolve. I am exhausted from the strain of not being able to cover my basic needs much less attend outings to which I have been invited. I am also finding that I hate the hectic pace of my current career. I swear I do nothing but bend over and take it in the rear all day long and for absolutely no reason at that. But this is the glory of being in the distribution world…Not.
The fork that I see coming is the decision to stay in the entertainment industry… albeit in a completely different part or jump ship to a stable, slower paced and financially rewarding private sector institution. There are pros and cons to both roads. Road 1 (the industry) has definite advantages for writers: creative environment; networking with agents, actors and producers; and privy to the inside scoop on everything Hollywood. The down side of the industry would be the long hours, high stress and hectic work environments often supporting projects you don’t support or believe in and until you make it past a certain milestone – very not great pay or benefits. Meanwhile, Road 2 (the private institution) has its own pluses and minuses. Pluses would be the slower pace and non-neurotic managers, the better pay, hours and benefits, as well as better job growth and job security and a better possibility of actually supporting that for which you toil. The only minus on this road is the simple fact that I would be out of the creative scope for a majority of my day.
No doubt to many of you it seems like the simplest decision on the planet. Road 2 clearly has more advantages than Road 1, but Road 1 still has my heart or at least some of it.
Considering the fact that I am known for making bad decisions and passing up opportunities like they number the stars in the sky, I have thought about partaking in an experiment of sorts: Do whatever it is that I do not want to do. In other words, if I want to go left – go right. But I struggle with this decision. You see even with all of the hardship I have endured out here in LA, I still feel I am supposed to be here. I still feel that I am right where I am supposed to be; I still feel that it was the right decision – It’s just not making complete sense yet.
And so I continue to make my way towards this fork in the road, hoping with each step, that the decision will somehow be made for me, that perhaps circumstance will force me onto one road versus the other. If not, I will have to decide whether I should go with my gut like I have always done or try something new and do the exact opposite.
TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood
In continuation from last month, I need to ask what does it mean to act like you are the answer to someone else’s prayer? How do we break that down into bite size pieces that are small enough to apply to our lives? I guess I can start by stating what it does not look like. I know it does not look like complaining about the lack of or perceived lack of planning at my church or giving the worship leader the coldest shoulder I could muster this morning or coolly responding to someone who was just trying to make small talk before service. What can I say? I was having a moment.
Anywho, when I think about what it means to act like I am the answer to someone else’s prayers, I am reminded of a short message given by the very person I spent all morning complaining about. Coincidence? I think not. The message regarded Being Your Best For God and was the central theme of a production meeting held earlier this year. In this meeting, our worship leader spoke about how God wants to work in us, with us and through us. By working in us, God wants to challenge us to be on a continual path of improvement with ourselves, the responsibilities He has handed us and the people He places in our lives. And yes, this includes, those pesky horn honkers on Wilshire, that co-worker who makes your skin crawl and that obnoxious new friend of your best friend. Our end goal being, of course, to love our neighbors as ourselves just as Jesus demonstrated. Once God is able to work in us, He can start working with us to build His Kingdom. He has a role for each of us to play and has therefore, equipped each of us with a unique set of abilities and interests. It is as we begin working with God that He is able to show Himself to others through us. Instead of living in a world of me, we begin to live in a world of we and as a result we begin to treat others with kindness and respect. We begin to change and so do the people around us ... in that they don't seem so bothersome anymore. What's really happening is that we have stopped being a part of the problem and started becoming a part of the solution.
Yes, we are all still going to have our moments, but the goal is to have less “me moments” and more “we moments”. More smiles, more kindness, more generosity: these are the ingredients of a much happier you and a much happier world. So I end with asking what is God stirring up in you? What is your first step? Do you need to become more reliable? Do you need to be more proactive with the responsibilities God has handed you? Do you simply need to be more welcoming to the people that cross your path? Whatever it is that God is stirring up in you, I challenge you to improve in that area and see what God does as a result. One thing I do know is this: He works in you to change you for the better so that He can work with you and through you to … well, answer prayers, yours included.
Getting Rid of the Clutter
“Don't own so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire.”
You find me this month in the beginning stages of downsizing. I know you must be thinking how can you be downsizing when you rent a room? Well, I am moving into a much smaller room later this month in a more prime location. I may be giving up a little bit of space and a tad amount of privacy, but I am gaining central air conditioning, a nice large patio and a fully equipped kitchen I share with only one other individual. Not to mention the fact that I will be right down the street from a large park where I like to jog. Looking at the mess that is my room, I have no idea how I even managed to get all of my belongings into my car the first time around, but I will most definitely not be taking all of them with me to my next dwelling.
I guess you can say that I’ve been clearing away the clutter from my life as well. This past month has brought a lot of acceptance on my part. Accepting where I am in life and my part in it all. Accepting that my choosing to stay on a path of destruction might have made me miss out on some of the very things I desperately wish were a part of my life and accepting the cold hard fact that it might be too late for some of those things at this point. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but through this acceptance I have been able to relinquish some of the control I foolishly hold onto. It’s so strange how the things I nonchalantly ask God for are the very things He provides, but when it comes to the things I cannot let go of and continue to pray, beg and plead for… He doesn’t even touch. I guess He is waiting for me to leave them in His hands and by leave He must mean give to Him, relinquish all control and go on about my business… Something I don’t do very well. If you think about it, it is practically impossible to do anything with something someone keeps taking back and messing with. It's like a spreadsheet you spent hours formatting only to find that someone else logged in and managed to delete half of your painstaking work.
I guess it makes sense that I shouldn’t have to keep checking in on my God and making sure He knows what He’s supposed to be doing on my behalf. I guess I should stop rearranging all the prayers in my prayer box each week. Yes, I do that. I guess I need to learn that age-old lesson that says if you truly want to see God work, then you have to truly let go of the situation. So when I say I have been getting rid of the clutter, I mean I have been practicing giving God the control He deserves. He definitely led me to California and He definitely placed me in the right part of LA for my first year. He also led me to a job, that while it is very taxing on me, I am around some very amazing people that treat me extremely well and not many people can say the same. He also lead me to a church with people who have been willing to put up with me while I was scraping through my first stages of sobriety and now He has lead me to a great new dwelling for year two of life in LA. When I say I am getting rid of the clutter, I mean I am letting go of bad habits. I am letting go of fear and letting go of control and taking steps to simplify my life and my time and loving every minute of the person I am slowly becoming. Besides, life is too short to deal with the ramifications of a cluttered soul.
“Walk out of any doorway, feel your way, feel your way like the day before.
Maybe you'll find direction,
Around some corner where it's been waiting to meet you.”
Lyrics from Box of Rain, Grateful Dead
Have you ever been in a situation where you were so sure it was going to work out only to find yourself slapped in the face with calamity, disaster or even worse, humiliation? Have you ever had a person enter your life that you thought was the answer to a problem only to have them spit in your face and call you crazy? Have you ever landed a great job only to get settled in to find that the writing on the wall screams not your cup of tea? Well, that’s just God taking you in a different direction.
I’ve had a string of these situations recently and I find myself in the middle of such a situation right now. It’s not fun being unsettled, especially when the writing is so clearly written on the wall and you have yet to uncover your next destination as well as the how and when of your arrival. It’s like being stuck in two worlds. You know you aren’t staying where you are and you have some clues to where you are going, but the exact destination and route are still unknown. It’s all God leading you in a different direction.
I was recently handed a job that was a literal lifesaver in that I was about a month away from being homeless when I got hired. I was very excited to find that not only was I able to stay in California, but I also had a pretty easy job with awesome co-workers, kick-ass bosses and a general laid back, easy going vibe of an office. All in all, it was a good fit… well, all except for the fact that it is nowhere near my life’s passion. I knew when I took the job that it was not a forever kind of deal, but I had no idea the honeymoon was going to end so quickly! These past couple of weeks I have become very aware of how tired and drained I am at the end of the day and the general disinterest in all things pertaining to my job doesn’t help either. Moreover, God is staring to nudge me in terms of reminding me of why I came to California in the first place. He’s starting to build a fire under me regarding my writing. I told my God that I needed a day job that excites and energizes me if I was going to get my writing groove back. I also spewed something along the lines of this tired and annoyed shadow of a human being is hanging on to her sobriety by a thread and now You’re nudging me to get back to writing? When and how was that going to happen?
For all I know I’m just having trouble adjusting to working full time and you know – being fully aware of it. Luckily, I remembered something Mastin Kipp said in one of his classes… that confusion precedes clarity… so I’ve been hanging on to that invisible thread, and trusting God to show me whether it’s me or the situation and what my next steps should be and then something amazing happened. For starters a nocturnal owl perched in the room next to mine confirming my search for new digs…. Mind you I’m not sure where I should search for digs at this point as I also started hearing things at work about how the company was going to be changing over the next year. As it turns out, almost everything I love about the company will soon be non-existent. The people I love are moving to a different location, the laid back atmosphere is being replaced with an annoying high security ambience and the one thing I’ve always said I’d never partake in is becoming a part of my job duties. Well, how’s that for some giant and completely legible writing on the wall! I told my God I was beginning to feel like I was being shooed out of a town without any money or transportation to take me on to the next town. I then began to become acutely aware of the fact that the work I do in an internship capacity always energizes and excites me no matter how drained I am and that I needed to pay attention to that particular piece of information. It also dawned on me that I happen to hold a volunteer position in a different component of the same field. Light Bulbs Flashing! So not only was the writing on the wall as clear as day, but I finally had a clue as to what direction I needed to move towards. It’s all such an emotional whirlwind: this whole being where I am, while trying to figure out how to get to where God’s taking me. I like the people I work with and there are perks to my job, but it just isn’t my final destination. This job is more of a layover in that it is keeping me in place so I won’t miss the plane that is about to pull into the gate.
Sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t and we can’t take it personally, we just have to realize that God may be taking us somewhere else. The next time something or someone doesn’t pan out, ask God what that was about… I’m sure He’ll tell you that it was just Him leading you in a different and better direction.
Just Keep Showing Up!
And when the rain falls down
You know the flowers are gonna bloom
And when the hard times come
You know the teacher's in the room
Excerpt: MICHAEL FRANTI - HAVE A LITTLE FAITH LYRICS
To say this past month has been an emotional rollercoaster would be an understatement. I stay very busy between job hunting, my internship and other projects I have on the burner, but my addiction has been making a very convincing play for my life. I find that nights are the worst, which is when I would typically drink. I am also in amazement at how quickly I am returning to the person I was ten years ago. I thought I had evolved, but it turns out I was just drunk all this time. Today happens to be a good day and by that I mean that the monster living somewhere inside me is asleep. I see my addiction as this little green monster that stays locked up in a cell and from time to time he wakes up and throws a temper tantrum, which is when I crave like a crazed maniac. I just have to remember that if I feed the monster, he will get bigger and eventually break out of the cell and destroy my body and my life. But, if I do not feed the monster, his temper tantrum will eventually give way and he will give up and go back to sleep. The key is to not feed him.
I recently read in 2 Corinthians that Paul talks about feeling as though the end is near, feeling as though there is no way out, but that his God continually rescues him. This made me think about my own cravings because when they come, they come strong and hard and I feel as though I will die if I don’t drink. It occurred to me that during these times I need to just talk to God about what I’m feeling and ask Him to handle that monster. I find that sometimes, just talking to God about my cravings and the fear and depression that comes with them can help restore some of my sanity. It also occurred to me that if I am having a craving when I have somewhere to be and feel too overwhelmed to go, I should make the decision to do nothing more than show up and tell God that He will have to handle the rest. Just showing up, after all, is something I can handle regardless of my state of being and I have found that when I am honest with God, He tends to honor my weakness by adding His own touch to the situation whether it be a friendly person, an easy on ramp, a parking spot right in front of the door or a renewed mind and spirit, I find that He shows up when I do. In fact, this entire post is an example of God honoring my weakness in that I honestly chose to sit at the computer even though I didn’t think I had anything to say for this month.
With holiday season nipping at our heels, it turns out this is a great time to post about reliance on God. If you have a roof over your head, food on your table and people that love you then be THANKFUL for the gifts God has given you because these things we refer to as necessities really are nothing more than gifts from our Heavenly Father. If you are lacking in one or all of these departments don’t feel bad or unworthy. Instead, turn yourself over to God all day everyday, surrender to His will and ask for His plans for you. I have no doubt that He will see you through not only this holiday season, but through the rest of your life as well. Let me just put it this way, if He still has a plan for my self-sabotaging and addicted butt, then He has to have a plan for you too so talk to Him daily, get in His word and just keep showing up. Do these things and let him do the leading and you will have peace in knowing you are exactly where you are meant to be in order for His plan to unfold in your life.
The Courage To Bloom
There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. – Anais Nin.
You hear people say it all the time: Let me throw back a couple of drinks and I’ll be ready to hit up that bar or that party or that event. Hell, I said it all the time. I couldn’t leave the house, aside from work, before I had at least a drink or two in me, but why? What made it necessary for me to be lit before I could have a good time with people I considered close friends? What made it necessary for me to be lit before I could present a speech on a topic for which I cared deeply? What is it that I am choosing to drown instead of face? The answer is that dreaded four-letter f-word that seems to permeate every race, nation and walk of life… That word is FEAR.
Fear has been with us almost since the beginning of time. In the Garden it was Pride that caused Adam and Eve to partake of the one tree that they were commanded not to touch. When Adam and Eve sinned, fear resulted. They became aware of their differences, they became aware of good and evil and as a result of this new knowledge they became afraid. They were so scared that God had to call them out from their hiding places. They immediately realized they were in over their heads that they had bit off more than they could chew, so to speak. The good news is that God never wanted us to live in such circumstances. The words “Do not be afraid” and “Fear not” occur over and over in His word to us, the Bible. 2 Timothy 1:7 claims that God did not give us a spirit of timidity and fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of self discipline.
If you think about it, we are the ones who gave ourselves this spirit of fear when we decided to partake in that which we were not allowed. The moment we invited sin into this world fear came rushing in with it and fear continues to run side by side with sin creating havoc in our daily lives. Since we are the ones who invited fear into our lives, we have to be the ones to give it and all its friends the boot. How you ask? By choosing an action that leads to a state of empowerment rather than an action that leads to a state of powerlessness.
For me, my use of alcohol directly corresponds to the amount of fear in my life. The more I am drinking the more timid I become… Well, not while I am drinking, but a system gets put into place without my even being aware. For example, let’s say I am meeting a large group of people for dinner. I know the majority of them, but there are going to be a bunch of friends of friends as well. Being a little shy, I decide to throw back a couple of stiff ones before I leave. I arrive at the party with confidence. That little voice in my head that does me damage is silenced…err drunk and so I am able to strike up conversation after conversation and have an enjoyable evening. Never mind that to everyone else at the party I am clearly lit… I am having a good time and making friends. That’s what it’s all about right? Well not exactly. You see, the problem is that next time I have an invite to dinner with some people I may not know, I am going to feel the need to drink beforehand and the more I rely on drinking to make me feel at ease and chatty the more trapped I become. What appears to be an easy and fun way to relax my nerves is actually a noose I am tightening around my own neck. The more I rely on the drink as opposed to myself, the tighter the noose gets and the more powerless I become. I didn’t mean for it to happen, but I have unknowingly conditioned myself to require a drink in order to do anything that makes me feel the least bit uncomfortable. What’s even worse is that daily ordinary life tasks become harder because I have also inadvertently taught my meager little mind that whenever I leave the house there is a chance for discomfort so my mind reacts by creating a state of fear around very normal mundane things like going somewhere new or trying to find a parking place. All of a sudden I am hit by a panic attack of sorts because my brain wants the alcohol to shut up the little voice that’s freaking out… after all that’s the only way I’ve taught my brain to deal with any discomfort.
Luckily, our brain, yes, that thing that keeps us alive by telling our organs and muscles when to do what and why, is actually trainable. I, myself, am in the process of getting out of the fear cycle. I have been sober before and I have to say that I actually have had the better times of my life sober… maybe that’s because I can actually remember them. Last time I was sober I realized how much of life I was missing while drinking. Experiences are so much richer when you are completely present for them. I also really liked the person I was when I was sober. A funny thing happened: as alcohol was pushed out of my life, the less timid I became for a while…. Then a resurgence of fear returned. Just like with any sort of behavioral training sometimes there are set backs as the mind suddenly realizes its own transformation and for some reason it gets scared. It realizes it is in new territory and suddenly longs for the days of old where it knew how to handle what was coming at it. In the end my fearful brain won out and I returned to drinking to calm my nerves, keep me comfortable and retain what I thought was a spec of happiness. As I returned to the drinking my fear came back tenfold and this confident, chatty woman became the most timid being on the face of the planet. A lot of my creativity and productivity also suffered. Basically I became less and alcohol became more until I once again got fed up with having to have a drink or four in order to have a good time. That’s no way to live! I remembered how strong I was when I was sober and I remembered how good it felt to be comfortable with being uncomfortable and I wanted that feeling back.
I am penning this on the evening of September 11th, a day in our American history where we all felt a loss of power both as a nation and as individuals. Our nation and our people wasted no time bouncing back from this tragedy for we were not going to let our enemies have the satisfaction of seeing us whither and die under the cloak of fear. I have no plans of doing such either. I am around three weeks sober as of this writing. To say getting sober this time around has been difficult would be an extreme understatement. I find myself scared of pretty much everything these days, but each time I venture somewhere new I know I have a choice to make. I can either face the fear, humiliation or whatever it is hiding as in my brain, head on or I can just retreat and promise to try again tomorrow. The funny thing is the times I choose to face the fear head on the more things seem to fall into place like I’ve initiated some sort of snow ball affect for blessings. On the contrary, the times I find myself unable to face my fear and choose retreat instead, I seem to invoke a rather evil snowball affect where countless things go wrong until I am able to choose to face my fear again. In other words, each time I choose to properly empower myself and live out 2 Timothy 1:7 I render positive consequences in my life and isn’t that what we all want?
The Activity of God
I have to say that these past two weeks have been a very exciting and busy time and while I do have several blogs in progress I do not yet have any of them finished. After finalizing my new digs, I had to find a bank, find health insurance, contact my car insurance, clean out my entire life and decide what’s coming with me, change my mailing address with the entire world, get my car checked out and the list goes on and on does it not? One thing I can say for sure is that I have been at the feet of God begging for discernment and confirmation throughout this entire ordeal and I thought I’d share a few things with you because it is awesome and not all that often when you ask Almighty God for something and He delivers immediately.
As always, I have to take you back to the beginning. It was Thursday, June 14th and I was going insane with worry. I mean I was seriously starting to question this whole move because I simply could not find a roommate due to my location. That night, I begged God to let the next puzzle piece fall if this move is right and good for me. The very next day I had three roommate options. I felt in my heart that this was God saying a gigantic YES in regards to Los Angeles and that it’s not some stupid dream I’m chasing, but is instead an actual part of God’s plan for my life. So after I got this information, I was still on the fence as to whether the time to move was upon me and so I begged God to make it abundantly clear to me that now is the time. I specifically asked Him for another Los Angeles area employer to contact me regarding a position and reminded God of all of the crazy things people in the Bible asked of Him in order to confirm His will in their lives and how, to the best of my recollection, He always answered these requests. Now, I knew I couldn’t make God answer me, but I sure could plead my best case and I did have an honest desire to know whether or not I was moving within His will and more specifically, whether or not I had His provision. The very next day a film production company in Hollywood contacted me regarding an opportunity. So at this point I know it’s LA or bust and I needed to pick the right roommate option and this time around I simply asked God that if He had a better place for me to live, He needed to bring that place into my life before I finalized a move-in date with one of the three options I mentioned earlier. No, another roommate did not show up, but God brought to mind a lot of positive things about this option and my brother spoke to someone who lives in the area and was told that it is a really nice, safe, family area and great for a newcomer. So at this point you would think I’d feel good about picking up my life and relocating it to Los Angeles, right? Well, wrong. There is another huge piece of the puzzle missing. It is called income. It is important. You know what else is important? Health Insurance. I have applied for an individual policy, but due to that giant C word, I do not know if I will be allowed entry into the health insurance club plus there is the fact that I might not be able to afford the premiums due to that giant C lurking in my past. I find it rather harsh and rude: Congratulations you are a survivor, but please accept our sincerest apologies because if you get it again we will most certainly not help you survive it again! Anyhow, that’s a soapbox for another day. Where was I? Oh, yes, you would think that I would have peace about Los Angeles at this point. After all, God provided immediate confirmations, but I was still freaking out. What can I say? I am human. So my last and final request concerning the whole money issue was that I would have an interview set up in Los Angeles before I leave Memphis in order to confirm that a job is coming my way and soon! Of course, this would also confirm that I would either be able to afford the insurance premiums or be under a group policy in the not too distant future. I have to admit that I felt very wrong making such a request, but I was reminded of the outlandish requests made of God in the Bible by those, who like me, just wanted to make sure they were in God’s will and had His provision. If you haven’t guessed already, I have an interview set up for Tuesday, July 10th with a staffing agency in West Los Angeles. That call came two days after I made the request. So as I drive Interstate Forty west this week I do have an overwhelming peace that I am in God’s will and that I do have His provision and that knowledge makes the trip that much sweeter. I know the first few months are going to be a little rocky, but I have faith built on evidence of God at work in my life that I am going to be just fine.
I hope all of my readers that are celebrating this holiday week have a safe and happy 4th of July and if Winston is reading this from over THERE: Stay Safe & Come Visit When You Can!