The story of Easter brings many messages and applications when you dive deep into the actual events of the days leading up to Christianity’s main event. One such message hit me last night on Good Friday. I was watching the Good Friday live stream of Mosaic from the comfort of my living room and a line jumped out at me: “Jesus was still the victor while He was suffering”.
In our society to suffer is often times looked at as a punishment or as an attribute to the life of one ill equipped or in other words… a loser. If you are winning at life then you are happy, have everything you want and are in optimal health, right? Those of us that have been around a bit know that suffering is a natural part of life. At some point, we are going to go through a season that we don’t want to be in whether it is a job where we are belittled everyday, a family member that tries to constantly sabotage our efforts or a health condition that changes our daily living habits. Maybe you’re the only single person in your circle or maybe you just can’t find a circle and you feel lost and alone.
I, for one, am dealing with aloneness and worth issues stemming from a set of current circumstances in my life. Are these circumstances permanent? Most likely the answer is no, but being able to navigate the unfun seasons without letting it rip you of your worth can be difficult. This is just one of the life applications we can glean from Easter.
Jesus also had a horrible set of circumstances He had to walk through while He was still the Victor. He was betrayed by a close friend and handed over to Roman soldiers who stripped Him of His clothes, repeatedly beat Him, hurled insults at Him and taunted Him as the King of the Jews. These Roman soldiers could easily be present day bullies who live to demean, insult and ridicule others. These soldiers even went as far as to crown Jesus with thorns and nail Him to a cross for His unbelievably slow and painful death with a sign adorned to His cross stating He was the King of the Jews. The mockery continued until He breathed His last breath. And it wasn’t just the soldiers who ridiculed Him the entire time it took Him to die… The onlookers and another criminal hanging beside Him joined in spitting, taunting and laughing at Him until He breathed His last breath.
But what did Jesus do during this time of extreme hate and ridicule? He simply uttered the words “Forgive them for they know not what they do”. Jesus knew that He was the victor despite His circumstances. He knew His worth was not tied to what was happening that day. He knew that He was just walking through a moment and that another moment was coming – a moment that would change everything. His ridiculers might have had fun for a while, but a day would come when His ridiculers would see Him in a new light.
The same is true for each of us. We may have to walk through some unpleasant seasons in our lives where someone treats us harshly, doesn’t appreciate our talent or good nature or is just hell bent on ruining our day, but we can still be the victor in these moments. Our self-worth is not determined by who other people think we are; our self worth is determined by who God thinks we are …co-heirs to His throne to be exact.
A couple of excerpts from “So Will I” by Hillsong say it perfectly:
“And as You speak, A hundred billion failures disappear, Where You lost Your life so I could find it here, If You left the grave behind You so will I…...
I can see Your heart, Eight billion different ways, Every precious one, A child You died to save…”
That’s who you and I are. Really. That’s who everyone is, really. A precious one, a child Jesus died to save…
Carrying this knowledge deep in your soul is what allows you to walk through the grey seasons without loosing your worth. It does not mean you walk through muddy waters thinking you are better than everyone else or deserve better and mount up resentments. What it does mean is that you simply go through the muddy waters with the knowledge that you are fiercely loved and cared for and you continue to learn and grow and do your best, trusting God to carry you through the rough parts and asking for guidance along the way.
I’ve been talking a lot about the recent journey I have been on, but I have good reason. I’ve been thinking about it a lot because I find myself back at the start. I returned home five years to the day I left and I am somehow right back at that starting point. My creativity is flowing and my desire to return to LA is stronger than ever! I feel like I have trampled my away around a gigantic circle and now I find myself where I started, completely unsure of what to do next.
I know I had to leave Los Angeles when I did in order to experience more personal growth and receive some much needed healing. I am not saying in any way shape form or fashion that my decision to leave was wrong. It was not. The strange thing, that I am trying to digest and figure out what to do with, is after this five-year journey of growth, healing and transformation… I now find myself right back to where I was at the beginning. Even though I did do the impossible last go around, in terms of moving across the country with a mountain of debt and my sheer will to succeed, I cannot do anything right now. I am more strapped than I ever have been, closer to financial disaster than I ever have been and then there’s the whole car issue… Hercules might make it back to Los Angeles, but he cannot pass inspection and so I have to ask what was all of this for? Why have I been plopped back down at the starting line? And what the hell am I supposed to do about it?
I have been doing a lot of meditating as of late. I’ve shared that I have always had some sight so to speak and I have been working on focusing that sight and one of the ways one maintains a clear channel is to meditate so one can quiet the chatter and hear the Voice that counts.
You know how sometimes you just know something and don’t even know how you know it? I have had that too lately. Along with meditation, I have been doing a lot of praying and sometimes begging for clarity. I have a list of things I am to accomplish for the end of 2017 and most of them don’t make since to me, but they are what came through while listening for that Voice that doesn’t belong to me. That Voice told me that as I move forward, He would move me forward. And I believe that has happened or is happening. As I have stepped out in faith and completed some of these steps, new steps have appeared for the first half of 2018. I will tell you this, the steps I am completing right now are easy; the steps for the first half of 2018 are not. But I am willing.
I guess I say all of this to tell myself that if God is pouring into my life then He must have a reason. As I sit here right now on the brink of financial ruin, wondering if either of my lifelines will come through in time and if I should even do what I am thinking of doing… I am just in one of those moments where I cannot see an inch in front of my face and nothing makes sense. Why go through the spiritual journey just to end up defeated? Why am I creatively coming back to life at a time when I cannot make anything happen much less fund any projects? Why have I been brought back to the starting point? I can’t answer any of these questions. All I can do is complete each task on the list and keep on completing the tasks. It is like I am experiencing that staircase Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about. As I take one step, the next step appears out of nowhere. I have often spoken about how I need to learn to live my life as if I am trekking up a mountain. I never have any problem figuring out where to go when I am exploring… I let the spirit inside (who is mighty curious) guide me. I never wonder if I should take this side trail or if I should duck under that rope and head down the cliff to enjoy an amazing view… I just do it. I have literally hit a wall of rock on some of my explorations and you know what? I scaled those walls. I can say that some of the best trails I have ever been on were the trails we got lost on or encountered something we weren’t prepared for, but we figured it out and we always found a sweet reward in the form of a hidden pool or creek or view. I don’t know why I can’t translate who I am on a trail to who I am in life. Maybe that’s what I am beginning to do right now. Maybe what feels like utter defeat is actually my learning to treat life like one of the many trails I have explored.
I do still need an income though. I have had some amazing opportunities slip through my finger tips because I am way too qualified or the person sitting across from me doesn’t understand why I want to work for their company after what I’ve done and where I’ve been! That last part might be more of the reason…. I can say that I have started looking into avenues that I would have never looked into previously so who knows maybe one of them will work out before the burial begins. I guess I just have to keep reminding myself that if God is pouring into me then He must have a reason.
Putting all of my life havoc aside, November is the month of Thanksgiving! I personally strive to make gratitude a part of my daily life. I wake up thanking God for bringing me back (because He did not have to) and I go to bed each night thanking God for His provision, His direction and His protection on my life and the lives of those I hold dear. I used to struggle with insane amounts of depression and anxiety and I spent a great deal of my life in addiction with thoughts of suicide and actions of self-harm as a regular part of my life. Gratitude and its daily practice is one of the many components that have taken me out of those lower vibrations of living. I cannot even allow myself to feel those thoughts, those feelings, those vibrations… If you don’t have a daily practice… I highly recommend you start one by buying a notebook or journal and taking some time each day to write down anything good in your life. I have learned that no matter how bad my situation is… it can always get worse and I am thankful for all that God is keeping me from that I cannot see or have any consciousness of! Another way to ward off pity parties, self-doubt and all around bad vibes is the careful use of music. I am in love with a song called King of My Heart. I particularly love the extended worship versions from institutions like Bethel Music. I even listened to a 17-minute version the other night while walking because I was in such a bad head space over this financial entrapment I am currently walking through. This version includes a spontaneous line of “You never fall off Your throne.” I needed to hear it; I needed to be reminded of it. There are other songs playing in my head right now, but their messages are not what I need to be hearing. Sometimes you just have to turn certain messages off.
I hope everyone reading this has a lovely Thanksgiving. If you don’t have anyone to share the day with – try inviting people over to your place, look for churches that host holiday gatherings (I know Mosaic in LA used to/might still do this), or try being of service with others by helping out at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter – Just don’t be alone. The vibrations you will get from being alone are not worth it. On the flip side, if you have holiday plans – be on the look out for those who might not have anywhere to go… No they will not tell you, but just try and be a little aware of those around you, be willing to invite people you know don’t have family in town or have recently lost family or don’t have good relationships for this time of the year… Be willing to spread a little cheer.
The drive back home was riddled with blinding rainstorms and interstate standstills so I had plenty of time to think back to life in Los Angeles and life in Jacksonville… The people I met, the things I learned, the growth that took place. As I look back over the last five years there are definitely some people who stand out in my mind. Some of these people are like Kirsten, Liz, and Tracy who became my close friends and made life fun. Liz was my adventure pal. We scaled a waterfall, paddle boarded and kayaked our way through various marinas and hiked our way through various mountain ranges during my time in Los Angeles. I hope to start an annual girls adventure vacay with some of my LA friends and some of my Jacksonville friends soon. I have so much more to see and experience and I want to make travel a top priority once I have the debt paid off and am back in my own place. Kirsten, Larissa, Nora & Lauren were my Mosaic friends. I met them all in a life group. On my first visit I knew I’d found friends and we became just that close friends doing life together. I miss having that in my life, but I am hopeful I will have some ladies to do life with again soon.
Someone I probably have not mentioned at all on this blog is a man named Joel. He was a producer at a church I went to for a while prior to making Mosaic my home church. I was freshly sober and scared of everything and somehow got put on the production team of this church to basically run the services. By that, I mean I ran the ever so important Macbook that ran the pre and post house music, the pre and post screen loops, the worship lyrics, the teaching screens, the videos… the only thing I did not run was the lights and sound, but I learned how to do that too… well, the lights at least. When I say I was scared of everything, I mean I really was scared of everything and everyone. I had no idea how to do anything without alcohol and I walked around looking like a deer in headlights to everyone I encountered. People were always asking me if I was okay and I always gave a very unsure “yeah”. Joel had the task of taking this deer in headlights girl and making her into someone who could run church services like a pro and that is exactly what he did. I remember the first time I was up to run point and he, being very smart, did not tell me. Instead, he let me figure it out when I heard him praying for me in our pre-service prayer. I had no time to freak out or get upset or think anything really. The only thing I could do was quickly go over what I needed to do and just do it and I did.
This experience came in handy shortly thereafter when I was working with a filmmaker on a live non-profit show that featured celebrity guests. One day I showed up a tad late at our downtown show location and the first words out of her mouth were “good you’re wearing something nice. The host cancelled. You’re it.” And just as before, I did not have time to freak out and I relied on my previous experience to ask the questions I needed to ask and memorized what I needed to memorize and about 45 minutes later, after introducing myself to the celebrity guest and getting some information from him – I took the stage and played host for the evening. It was so much fun! I got to welcome the audience, introduce the guest and occasionally remind everyone why we were all there – for a charity called Kids Need to Read. It was a great evening and we had a great time and more importantly I had a great time doing something I never thought I would ever do! I’m an introvert after all, but I have realized that doing what I never thought I would do has been the name of the game for this deer in headlights girl.
After leaving Los Angeles, I got involved in Celebrate Recovery and soon found myself back on a stage. This time I was giving my alcohol testimony and I did it for a few CR’s in the Jacksonville area. The more I get on stage, the more comfortable I become. I have learned the hard way that the only way to get over something that scares you is to do that very thing you fear. Now, I give other people advice on how to overcome their fears and I routinely put those with public speaking fear on the spot because it is the only way anyone can ever over come that fear. My next move is to get my teaching/preaching feet wet either in CR or in a Women’s Ministry, but I guess I need a CR or a church home for that.
Actually, my CR leaders Jay and Karen in Florida also had a big impact on my growth over the last couple of years. Looking back I now know the reason I was led to Celebrate Recovery – I needed a lot of healing. I needed to learn to love myself. I needed to learn how to make healthy choices and healthy decisions and healthy boundaries. I needed to raise my self-respect and my self worth and that is exactly what I did. I also was able to get my ministry feet wet by learning to become the women’s share group leader. Jay and Karen are also the ones who got me onto the testimony circuit and provided feedback so I could get better at speaking in public. I also needed to learn to love others, but I think that comes with being comfortable with yourself and understanding who and what you are.
This leads to the people that made the most impact on me. The Liz’s, Tonia’s and Tracy’s – the people who like me for me. They think I am funny and intelligent and pretty and a whole lot of fun. I didn’t know anyone could like me without alcohol. I lived most of my life under the oppression of extreme social anxiety and it was not until I got sober, learned to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations and started making sober friends that I found true friendships that showed me things I never knew about my self. I do belong and I do have a place in this world and there are people who cherish me for me. I guess this is the biggest lesson I have learned because it is the lesson that freed me from trying to be anyone except me.
I do not know what lies ahead for me, but I do know that I can handle whatever is coming my way. Right now I am focusing on job hunting and once I land a job I can start making a place for myself while I get back on my financial feet. I always wanted to leave Memphis and never come back, but maybe I wanted to leave because of what I needed to learn.
"We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls." - Anais Nin
New Everything seems to be on my docket for 2017. It’s an everything must go sort of season in my life. For starters, the house where I have been room renting, is going on the market this month and it is being listed at base price to sell quick! Second, my car appears to be on its final leg. I own an Impala and anyone with an Impala from 2000 to 2005 probably knows what I am going through. Actually, most of you have probably already gotten rid of your Impalas. According to the Chevy forums, there is nothing that can be done, unless of course, God reaches down from Heaven and puts a stop to all this crazy coolant system nonsense. Third, after having spent a semester in my new job, I can tell you that I must leave this place! There is no money at this institution and moreover, people in my department haven’t seen a raise in five years! That’s just plain crazy. I do love the holiday shut down and time off structure, but that can be found in other institutions that actually pay their people so ya know… I will be leaving.
Change is everywhere right now and I do not know if I will land on my feet or crash on my butt. The only person I can blame is myself. I left Los Angeles for some financial stability, but the decisions I have made regarding employment have not exactly helped me attain much of anything close to stable. So now I find myself at a dangerous cross roads. I have a decent amount of debt to pay off and am in need of a new car and a new place to live and a new place to work. My brother has been pushing for me to come back home for a year and while he does make sense numerically, I don’t want to move without a job, which would put me in the realm of blowing my savings.
So with all that said, let’s talk New Year resolutions. You do have them right? Mine are simple this year and fall into two categories: Finances and Fitness.
Financially, I need to get the rest of this debt paid off so I can buy a new car! And of course, a house would be nice too! The main way to do this would be through a new and better paying place of employment. I am geographically open, though I would like to move closer to my mom and brother. I would also like to be in an area with a lot of hiking. One doesn’t really hike in Florida. There are tons of trails here, but it is more nature walking so to speak. Plus I haven’t really been able to find a good hiking group or find any outdoors buddies to go exploring with so I have been at a loss in terms of one of my favorite past times. I am a professional when it comes to living on nothing, so the challenge will be to keep living on nothing until the debt is gone. AKA, not buying new things, which is very hard to do once those credit cards start lighting up with zero balances. Self Restraint is needed indeed.
The second category is fitness. I am not necessarily trying to loose weight, but I do want to be healthy! I need to get back to eating mostly fruits and vegetables and zero sweets. I am trying to follow the adrenal body plan which means I need to add in protein. I have toyed with the idea of bringing seafood back into my diet, but I just don’t feel right about it. I mean if I can talk to it, I shouldn’t eat it. Right? I also need to up my morning and evening workouts. I do yoga every morning, but I need to start getting up earlier so I can get more time in on the mat and I need to be doing an hour of cardio and/or strength in evening when at home. Once my debt is paid off, I would like to join a gym or program where I can be taken through a series of exercises. I just do better with someone telling me what to do and making me do it when it comes to workouts. I am good at doing the workout, but I am also good at making every excuse as to why I don’t need to give 110% or why I need to do the beginner version or the low impact version or ya know whatever. I have decided to take a picture of myself on the first and last day of 2017 to further motivate me to eat healthy and keep up with the workouts. Perhaps I’ll share my results with you this time next year.
I guess I do have a third category in terms of New Year resolutions, but I feel that it is going to have to take a back seat until I am in a new job. The third category would, of course, be my creative endeavors. I have a few ideas that involve a second blog that is topic focused for 12 steppers and a YouTube channel and I do want to get back into my writing. Since this is more dependent on the first two resolutions getting off the ground, I will dub this a bonus resolution, which in turn gives me more motivation to make the first two resolutions happen.
I wish all of you a Happy, Prosperous and Adventurous New Year!
My, Oh My, Oh My, it has certainly been a tough go of things here in sunny Florida. I recently had someone ask me “What is God trying to teach you?” I was explaining the never-ending circle of masochistic doom that I seem to keep finding myself in. The cities change, the regions change, the jobs change, but the circumstances always seem to be the same. Why oh why do I keep ending up in a crap job at a crap company with crap pay? How come no matter what I try to do, I always end up with the short end of the stick? This is when this lady asked me “What do you think God is trying to teach you?”
Well, let’s see, my temper came to mind and I am really working on it these days. In the latest installment of Jessica, The Beach and that book Live, Love, Lead I got a healthy kick in the arse about striving to live each day, in each circumstance, to all people as a witness of God’s love, compassion, mercy and strength. I am actually making progress, for the most part. I really got to a point where I had to ask myself how can I find some peace in all of my chaos and the answer for me was music. I already start my day with yoga and an intention to enjoy my day, but now I have added “to be a good witness” to my daily intention. After yoga, I enjoy a brief quiet time and/or worship time and then I am off to the races and I am usually racing hard as I am somehow always late to everything. It is the one thing that is a constant in my life. I just live on Island Time and I don’t know what else to say. I went through the music I have been listening to and decided that I need to reconnect with my hippie – gypsy groove and added a bunch of music to my daily commute. I picked music that makes me feel calm, happy, joyful and just plain groovy. I find that it helps me to lessen my death grip on my stirring wheel and my life. Why I keep such a tight grip on my life I don’t know – It’s not like I have helped it along or anything, which brings me to the second thing I am learning.
Sometimes it’s about what you learn from a shift in perspective. I recently awoke in the night with the knowledge that I had to catch the Mosaic live stream the next day and so I did. It had been a while since I was able to catch a live stream as I can only catch the 12 Noon or 5pm services with the three-hour time difference. I was all excited to hear Erwin or Hank, but I soon found I would be hearing from a guy named Joe. I was like what is this joker gonna tell me? Where’s Erwin? Where’s Hank? But as it would turn out, that Joker named Joe would speak into my life that day and change everything. I have really been missing my LA friends lately and reminiscing about life in Los Angeles and even contemplating trying to go back even though for whatever reason God ripped me out of that city. Joe said something that really rattled my cage. He asked us if we had ever had a time in our lives where everything was just good? A time where we were happy, doing well, but felt as if something was missing for some reason. I was like yes – that would be my time in Los Angeles. Anywho, Joe went on to drop some bombs in my world. One being that the only way to live the satisfied life is to never be satisfied, to never be okay with being okay, to always want to experience more, create more, help more, etc. His words were that if you are satisfied, then you should be dead because you have fulfilled your purpose on Earth! Another bomb being that the satisfied life can actually keep us from living the extraordinary life because to live an extraordinary life, you must let go of the satisfied life. Maybe that’s what is happening to me. I could have stayed in LA and enjoyed my church, my friends, my fast-paced life and never had time to slow down and get some much needing healing, never had time to step onto a recovery ministry leadership team, never had time to learn some much needed lessons because I would have kept choosing my friends and outdoor adventures over the growth classes and Celebrate Recovery meetings. One last bomb Mr. Joe the Joker (err Joe Smith) dropped was that God never gives step-by-step or turn-by-turn directions because He trusts that if we spend enough time with Him that we will turn when He tells us to turn. I have experience with turning when God says turn – it is how I got to Los Angeles and it’s how I arrived in Jacksonville. I guess I am just really hurting right now and desperately needing a new job and a community around me here in Jax, which brings me back to the beginning. When this lady asked me “What is God trying to teach you?”’ It hit me that if I ever want to get out of this cycle of disdain and despair then I’d better learn the lesson quick so that pasture gate can open. Otherwise, I will live out my life in the tiny bull pin God has me in forever waiting for the gate to open and wondering why it won’t.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I am in the process of learning a lesson that has been 16 years in the making. I am calming my butt down, finding meaning in the mundane and everyday existence, becoming that person that changes the thermostat in a positive way instead of a negative way and putting my focus on serving others, sharing love and kindness and being a more accurate witness of the God I claim to love so much. It’s spring. Everything is in bloom and I am too.