New Year, New Everything?
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!
I recently had the opportunity to share a bare bones version of my testimony at a local Celebrate Recovery anniversary party. I didn’t realize how much of a story I actually had until I tried putting my story on paper. I spent the following week trying to cut it down to the time frame I had been given and it was tough because everything I’ve ever been through seemed pertinent. Anywho, since August brings my 3rd Sober Birthday I thought I would share my bare bones testimony with all of you:
Hi! My name is Jessica and I am a grateful believer in Jesus Christ who struggles with alcohol, anxiety, and self-worth.
When I write I like to have angle to work with and my angle for this testimony came from a song called Broken Vessels: “Oh I can see you now, Oh I can see the love in your eyes, Laying yourself down, Raising up the Broken to Life.” Because this is exactly what Jesus is doing for me!
You see I have been switching back and forth between two very different lives since I was nine years old. I grew up in church. I had a good family. I lived in a nice house in a nice part of town. I sang in the choir, I taught Sunday School, I went on mission trips, I led bible studies and I helped make the first Passion Conference happen. I did a lot in a few short and widely separated years of sobriety.
However, the majority of my life went more like a nightmare. I grew up with extreme social anxiety and had a hard time connecting to anyone. BUT, I quickly found that I could do anything and be anyone as long as I had alcohol in my system. My first drink was at nine years old. Nothing special, just a stolen beer shared between two best friends. It would be years later before I would have another alcoholic drink. I was 16 and made a new friend who introduced me to wine coolers. High school quickly became a blur as I routinely opted for spiked coffee in the morning, spiked soda at lunch and whatever I could get my hands on after school. I had a horrible relationship with my parents. I cursed them out daily and was out all hours of the night. My parents had no idea what to do with me. It was normal for me to drink until I blacked out and I did so every night of every weekend. My social anxiety made me dependent on alcohol, which brought a lot of depression so I was also a cutter for most of my teenage years. I hated myself, I hated my life and I only felt free when I was in the oblivion alcohol brought me.
As I mentioned earlier, I had bouts of sobriety that were broken by that lie alcoholics like to tell themselves. “I can control it this time. I just need a little release. Everybody else gets to let loose. One drink won’t kill me.” And down the rabbit hole I went faster than the previous time. Only now I was working and supporting myself. I was in Human Resources of all careers and I had found a new best friend in wine. Most of the time I was sober during the day, but I started drinking the second I was home. I longed for the weekends so I could go on benders and I got increasingly irritated with my co-workers, family members and friends due to my constant craving for oblivion. It got to the point that I was consuming multiple bottles of wine a night, often drinking until I vomited or passed out.
I eventually had another stint of sobriety that lasted about two years. It was all adrenaline and zero anything else and so I fell back into the arms of alcohol and told myself I would change my life once I left Memphis and I did just that – but it was not on my terms.
A few years later, I found myself living in a roach infested rented room in Los Angeles. By this time I was drinking a large bottle of Vodka a day and popping migraine pills to ease the suffering of my vodka based diet. I could barely walk to the mailbox because my muscles were so weak, including my heart, which palpitated non-stop. For the first time in my life, alcohol was not working. I could no longer reach oblivion. I needed something else, something stronger – and considering the state I was in – that something would have killed me.
I was at a very dangerous cross roads when God intervened in my life one last time. I had been seeking His help with a job. During a day of prayer and fasting I had a vision that scared the crap out of me. It turns out that Jesus loves me, but He was ready to let me die if I did not hand over the alcohol once and for all. I cried out – But it’s my Everything. Jesus replied, Exactly. Realizing that I had finally pushed God past His point of no return, I surrendered the one thing I had that made everything else okay and entered into a very reluctant sober state. I entered the rooms of AA in Los Angeles and I found a new home. After about 6 months of screaming into pillows and being afraid to even try going to the grocery store - something just changed. I started feeling more comfortable. Los Angeles taught me a lot. The Recovery out there is top notch and I needed to hear every word that was spoken. My favorite being “you’ve been upside down for so long that you have no idea what right side up feels like. Of course you feel upside down right now – it’s because You’ve finally turned right side up. Give it a minute.” And he was right! I also learned to like myself in Hollywood of all places. I made friends that liked me for who I am. My LA tribe helped me realize that I am funny, pretty, sweet, fun to be around and deserving of the best in life. After I got called to leave LA and found myself in Jacksonville, FL – I felt God nudge me to attend Celebrate Recovery instead of AA. I did not understand this at all. AA had saved my life. I live and breathe the AA logic in my soul. It keeps me from doing stupid things. But, I decided to follow God’s prompting and visited CR and I absolutely hated it. I felt so weird. I was a newbie all over again, but my AA logic quickly spit out the “Shut up and Show Up for 90 days” and so I did.
The first CR I went to, wasn’t my cup of tea so I sought a different one and met a super sweet woman and so I came back and I kept coming back here at the Beaches CR every Friday night. I have found that Celebrate Recovery offers me an atmosphere of love and acceptance where I can work on the root issues that cause my insane desire for escape. Thanks to CR I am staying sober while learning how to ground myself in God’s truth. I am learning to see myself the way God see’s me. I am learning how to serve, I am learning how to lead and I am learning how to deal with those unwanted emotions that usually make me bolt in every direction except the right one. I can say that after working the steps, I mean really, honestly working the steps, I no longer feel the need for alcohol. Sometimes I may want it, sometimes I may think about one drink, but I immediately tell myself that it cannot happen. I know where that one drink leads. For me it leads to my death. It really is that simple.
There is no going back, there is only pressing forward to the life that Jesus is calling me to lead and excitement about where He is taking me. He has given me a new vision for my life, which is the old vision I started out with years ago before alcohol took over my life. The good news is that the last 15 years have not phased God one bit. His plans for me have not changed. He still sees me as the same person I was before all of this mess started. This past year He gave me a verse that has been spoken in this room by others – Joel 2:25 - …He will restore the years the locusts ate away… – thanks to AA and Celebrate Recovery I get to live a life of freedom today and I get to be excited about the restoration of all the things the locusts ate away in my life while I was deep in my addiction, my depression and my self-torture.
AA Saved My Life. Celebrate Recovery is teaching me how to live and accept the new life that has been freely given. If you’re new – keep coming back! Keep doing the next right thing! Get a sponsor, get an accountability partner and Work the steps! Make yourself available to others! Surround yourself with the right people – people who have what you want, people that are grounded in God’s truth! Lean into Jesus and you too can sing that song with gratitude knowing that you are one of the broken God has raised to a new and awesome life. Thanks for letting me share.
And I really am excited for all that is to come! The vision God has given me seems so unattainable and so unreachable, but that’s also the fun part – I cannot remember who said this – Louie, Erwin, Russ or maybe they’ve all said it at one time or another – God never gives you something you can do without Him – I just have to be willing and God will take my willingness and make something awesome out of it. Like this blog, for instance, the readership has slowly been rising since the day I started it and I will keep writing until the day people stop reading it.
I am also working on some full-length (main speaker) versions of my testimony as I might soon have the opportunity to share with some other nearby Celebrate Recovery groups. Not to mention that I am delving into the Advanced Leadership training materials as I continue to develop my ministry leadership skills.
Looking back, I believe God had to take me out of LA so I could slow down and figure out where my life was going. My LA life was very hectic and due to the location of my work it made it very hard for me to be involved in after work activities. I MISS LA A LOT, but it is clear God brought me to Jacksonville so I could slow down long enough to truly change direction.
August 26th, I will be celebrating 3 whole years of sobriety: Three whole years of a different way of living; Three whole years of a better way of living; Three whole years of feeling my feelings; Three whole years of facing my fears; Three whole years of being the real Jessica. Three whole years of being someone I am proud of, someone my family is proud of and someone I know Jesus is proud of. Three whole years of better decisions, better relationships and better impact on those around me. Whoever said Sobriety is boring, uneventful and unattractive - doesn’t know Sobriety.
A Resurrection of Sorts
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.
Speaking of a soul nudging, I had an intense desire to worship on a week night in March. I was just being pulled to the computer so I got some things done, logged into Pandora, clicked on the worship station and let it rip. By the second song, I knew this was not going to be an ordinary worship experience. God had made this appointment because He had something to reveal to me. I have previously shared that I have issues grasping and believing God’s love for me. I can fully believe it for everyone else and often encourage others in His love, but I have always had a hard time accepting it for myself. Alcoholics are known for being hard on themselves and I can say with all certainty that I have this trait. Becoming more and more aware of my lack of joy, I have been praying that God would help me to open up to His love, that He would help me receive it on a daily basis so that I can have the joy that so many other Believers seem to radiate. I don’t feel that I can ever become a light in this world until I am fully able to receive this love and so I have asked Jesus to help me receive it, that His love would become real to me, that it would impact me daily.
This week night worship experience ended up being a dialogue of love from my Heavenly Father to me. Through the songs that played He told me how He already knew every mistake, slip up, wrong turn, absurd plan, stupid word and every disappointment I could ever cause Him and He still deems me worth taking on the worst death in history so that we can walk together through this life and escort me into an eternal life that is beyond what any imagination can fathom – supreme happiness – everything this world started out to be until we intervened.
I am proud to say that since this worship experience, I have noticed a difference in my attitude at work, in the car and during my personal outings. I am nowhere near perfect, but I can tell that God is transforming me into that radiate light I so want to be and it is awesome. If you are reading this and think you are too far-gone to ever make a change like I am making – then by all means read through my earlier posts. I am not a saint and that is exactly why I am thankful for my Savior.
This worship experience has also redefined my goals for this year. First and foremost, I am striving to love Jesus by living my life in such a way that it leads others to Him. A second goal is to stay sober, which has not really been an issue as of late. This, however, is due to the fact that I tend to only hang out with people who either do not partake in alcoholic beverages or I only accept invitations where it is unlikely that alcohol will be a focal point. I know that I will have to branch out at some point, but until then I am happy to just be enjoying the sober life. Lastly, God has reminded me of something He told me a few years back: My job is to write; His job is everything else. Insert eye roll or dumb face or whatever you would like because these are the ways I usually respond to this comment from my Creator. It just does not compute in my brain. How can I only carry the writing and God carry everything else? It seems like a deal anybody with even a quarter of a brain would jump on but, I am one of those beings who seems compelled to make everything more complicated. Nevertheless, I am complying and what I am finding is that as I make my writing a priority, interesting things start to happen around me. For instance, the more energy I put into my writing, the clearer I become on what I want out of my daytime career. I also have some doors opening in terms or new writing groups, critique groups and info-panels that directly correlate to my own business plan. Hmm, maybe I should listen to my Creator more often! It’s a horrible statement, but it is true. So often in life, we earnestly seek God’s advice, but as soon as He gives it, we tend to shrug and go make another mistake that makes more sense to us. Somehow, He still loves us through it all and even patiently holds our hand while trying to keep us from walking directly into and/or climbing over the bumper rails He’s so kindly placed on our paths.
The winds of change are still blowing through my life at this moment and I know I am headed for a major career change, but I also know that this change will usher in a new era in my life. I feel a resurrection of sorts is on its way – Whoever said it is not about the destination; it is about the journey was right. Destinations change and often times you find that once you arrive, it is not at all what you had in mind so you might as well savor every moment and let the destination find you. Besides, if it weren’t for the journey, how would you ever know where you belong?
Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.
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
Yep, that about sums up my existence right about now. Nothing bad is happening per say, but neither is anything good. Life is moving at the speed of sound and I am standing still watching it all happen to everyone, but me.
The other day, I told my mom that being broke in southern California is like going to Disneyland, but not being allowed to ride any of the rides. It just plain sucks. I feel like I am sitting on a track, only there is a race going on and I am the only runner not running. The only thing that does seem to be happening is the increase in the number of fine lines on my now aging face.
It would be an understatement to say that I am having a case of the blahs and to make matters worse my sunshine fell out of my back pocket blocks ago. I need to find a way to be interested in life again. Yes, it is true that some of this blah is connected to the fact that I am coming up on one year of sobriety so that first year funk is rolling in like a thick and non-dissipating marine layer determined to ruin everyone’s day at the beach. On top of the funk is the wonderful sugar doldrums as I am three weeks into my new diabetic existence. (But I do have to add that being able to eat all day long and not gain a pound is awesome and might I add that diabetes is a very unexpected way to answer that lifelong prayer of being naturally thin!) On top of my now sober and sugar free existence is complete boredom at work and financial strain every waking moment of the day.
I guess the one thing that I am not doing (that usually makes everything better) is writing, not that I haven’t been given some story ideas. I just find it hard to focus on writing when my own well-being is not in order. I am putting pressure on myself to find a new job because I feel that I am too old to not have a career of some sort. And I fear that if I don’t find something soon, I am going to cross that age line and only be considered for the positions that no one else wants. The eternal spirit inside me is screaming, “This is not how life was supposed to turn out! You were supposed to move to a sleepy beach town, get married, have fur babies and write novels and plays from your chic home office with a sea view. What happened!”
The answer is I happened. I made bad decisions and walked down roads I shouldn’t have and as I look at the future that is now in front of me I shudder. The future is not yet set, but it is not looking good either. I guess I just have to keep in mind that one moment can change the course of my life completely. One moment can make everything I am going through worth it. One moment can connect all the dots that I cannot connect right now. Until then I just have to keep doing my part: stay sober, work on bettering myself both inside and out, keep working my steps, keep my commitments and keep trusting that if God is going to this much trouble to make me anew, He must have something for this new me to do.
“A story only matters, I suspect, to the extent that which people in the story change.” ― Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane
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.
Trust in the Trenches
Once a tissue box, now a prayer box.
They say that Jesus loves you. What about me? - Jewel
Oh, the T-word… I spoke about it last month, but it is has been a serious struggle for me this month. Yes, the word I am referring to is TRUST. I have to say that I have been in and out of church my entire life, but I don’t think I ever grasped the real, everyday concept of trusting God. I guess in a way, I have always had other people to rely on in the event I got myself in any sort of physical or financial strain, whereas, now I do not. While it is important to trust God for a roof over my head rather than a park bench, which is a reality that is extremely too close for comfort at this moment in time, my main concern is my seemingly inability to trust that God really does love me.
A Christian man at one of the meetings I attend always asks me why I’m having such a problem because as a Christian the twelve steps should come easy to me. This made me think about the things I easily trust God with versus the things I have a hard time handing over to Him and leaving in His care. What I found is the things I have absolutely nothing to do with are easy to hand over, but the things that I play a part in are the things I keep taking back. As it turns out, I have a serious trust problem. I mean the Bible doesn’t say our works makes us righteous; it says our TRUST makes us righteous. Never mind the fact that my inability to trust states that I have more control than my Creator and Sustainer. I mean come on! Yes, the choices I make and the actions I take do have consequences, but if I am honestly doing the best that I can and seeking God’s will daily, does God not honor that effort and add His touch to the situation? Did I not write about this last month?
I guess I should add that I am having a problem seeing myself as a person of worth and value which is why I am having a hard time grasping the reality of God’s love for me. All of my self-sabotaging ways are a result of this deep inner feeling that somehow, some way I’m just not good enough, but God has an entirely different view. God created me to be a blessing and not a curse. He created me for a specific purpose and has a specific plan for the contributions I will make to this world. I’ve been trying to force myself into agreement with God’s view of myself and getting absolutely nowhere except for Discouragementville. Then I heard God whisper that I am trying to make a leap where I need not make one. All I need to do is be willing to accept that what He says about me is true. If I am willing to accept that what He says about me is true then I can be willing to act like what He says about me is true and as I act like what He says about me is true I will eventually become His truth. I will become all that He says I am. I just have to be willing to accept His truth, which allows me to act on His truth, which will at some point down the road make me His truth. AWESOME.
I’ve started praying the following prayer each morning: Lord, help me to trust You. To believe that you really do love me and to know that what You send me is good. Because sometimes the best presents arrive in the ugliest wrapping paper.
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?
I have to be honest that these first two months in Los Angeles have not been easy. For one, I am up in the valley and apparently “no one hires people from up there”. Second, I happen to live with six female college students who don’t speak a lick of English as they are all from the great land that owns us, China. Being from China you would think they would be at least a little tidy, but they are just like American college students in that they are filthy and apparently under the impression that a fairy is going to clean up after them. My biggest problem as of right now is parking in that I am not use to having to have cash on hand 24/7 to park and I happen to be out of cash at the moment. Dear State Farm Bank: Please send me my debit card, as it is of utmost importance that I receive it. I am also not use to pedestrians being everywhere so if you, a pedestrian, see a silver Impala please look before crossing because I am probably not even aware that you exist. On the bright side, I am finally starting to get a handle on navigating this giant city and as a result only make one wrong turn per trip, which is an improvement of gigantic proportions.
Boredom and lack of human interaction has also been a major problem in these first two months. As is being stuck in a hot, un-air conditioned house in the valley that could use some serious TLC. Moreover, I am facing the fact that I need income as medical bills keep arriving that I cannot pay. Adding to the boredom and impending financial doom is the fact that I am getting sober for the umpteenth time. Needless to say, I need something to give and I need it to give now. Unfortunately, I seem to be sending out resumes left and right and nobody seems to be interested. Moreover, those that are “interested” only seem to be interested in telling me that I need to “move to the city” or better yet “you need some experience before you can intern here”. Um, really? I thought internships were for experience and as a matter of fact, I am in the city! And for the love of God, the 405 is not that bad! Suck it up Lalians, Suck it up!
Any who, things got to the point that I felt like I was suppose to receive some sort of key in order to actually live here and without that key I would be doomed to wander the streets as a beggar. No matter how much I prayed or cried, nothing seemed to be changing. I felt locked out and I had no one to seek advice from and I didn’t know what to do so I did the only thing I could do… I unloaded all of this on the poor messianic pastor at the messianic synagogue I have been visiting and I did this unloading during the service. He, obviously having dealt with a bunch of crazy people in his life, asked if I had ever tried fasting and prayer. He said that whenever he needs a breakthrough in life, whether it is financial, relational, emotional or physical, he sets aside a day or a weekend to fast and pray. He told me that Yeshua, himself, in the seventeenth chapter of Matthew, told His disciples that some problems require fasting and prayer. As luck would have it, the congregation was having a day of breakthrough prayer and fasting the very next day. I assume you think I went. You would be wrong. I got scared at everyone trying to get me to go so I left the service as quickly as possible. I must have resembled a dear caught in headlights. Note to self: flight response is alive and kicking; fight response – not so much.
After I got home, I looked up Matthew chapter seventeen and found in verse twenty-one that Yeshua did indeed say that some things can only be conquered through prayer and fasting so I decided to do my own little version in the solitude and safety of my little rented room in the hot, sticky valley that everyone pretends doesn’t exist. Being that I have never done this before and being that I always have a bit of method to my madness, I decided to plan out my six hours of prayer and fasting… I’ve never done this before and thought a whole day was a little presumptive of myself.
Hour 1 (12-1pm) – Praise
Hour 2 (1-2pm) – Prayer
Hour 3 (2-3pm) – Praise
Hour 4 (3-4pm) – Scripture
Hour 5 (4-5pm) – Prayer
Hour 6 (5-6pm) – Praise
Okay, so maybe I did a lot more praising than I did praying, but due to a recent realization, I actually connect to God through praise much more than I connect through prayer. While, I could probably do a whole post on all that thought encompasses, it will not be done today.
I do have to say that the experience did not disappoint. I thought I was going to be bored. I thought I would not be able to concentrate or run out of things to say, but let me tell you that when the God of the Universe wants to talk, He has a way of commanding your attention beyond all of your human capabilities. I used the Praise & Worship channel on Pandora for my praise hours and actually found some songs and artists that I really enjoyed. As for the first hour of prayer… I began by telling my God and King my purpose for this time and explained in detail what I was feeling and what I felt I needed from Him. After that, I opened up the floor for Him to speak and well, let’s just say He relayed what He needed from me before He could give me what I claimed to so desperately want! I had recently taken a class entitled Actualizing Your Soul’s Goals with Mastin Kipp from The Daily Love, an online blog and community. In this class Mastin taught us the difference between goals and intentions and lead us through a series of exercises designed to bring out our own individual purposes for this life. By the end of the class everyone had a list of intentions, goals and grounded action steps to help them reach the goals that would bring true fulfillment. I have to say the class was awesome and I was immediately hit between the eyes with the realization of what was keeping me in a very unhealthy cyclical holding pattern from which I was desperate to break free. I thought the work from that class was done, but during the first hour of prayer God took all of my class work and went much, much deeper. I ended up spending the last thirty minutes of prayer completely re-writing my intentions, my purpose and something Mastin calls my Major Definite Purpose. I had gotten ahead of myself in the class and while the majority of what I wrote was and is true, I have work to do before I actually get there. AMAZING!
After the initial prayer hour, I continued with my itinerary until I came to the scripture hour. I actually didn’t have a clue as to what I was going to do with that hour. I suppose I was planning on looking up some verses on some particular topics I am struggling with but I ended up just asking God to guide me as I opened His book and He did. It seems He has some things to tell me about life and how one is to live life. He directed me to several scriptures, one of them being 1 Thessalonians where Paul talks to the new Christians regarding how they are to live their lives and why. He also led me to look over the Ten Commandments again. It seems as though God wanted to remind me that He has some advice on this thing called life and that it would be good for me to familiarize myself with such advice both on a physically practical level and on a mentally practical level.
And don’t think the hours of praise were a vacation either. I strained to really listen to and contemplate the meaning of the words I was singing and in those words I found God speaking loud and clear regarding many aspects of my life. It is interesting to note that I now feel that my own personal life purpose is to… “Be a blessing to everyone I meet by empowering myself so that I can empower others to live out their own individual purposes thereby sharing their own unique gifts with the world and making the world a better place by having done so.” … When I am so far from being a blessing in any sense of the word to any other human being on this planet. In simplest terms, I have a lot of transforming to do in terms of what I say and what I do blending into a recognizable harmony.
All in all, I am very happy with the outcome of my first ever day of prayer and fasting and feel it is a great way to reconnect with God, empower yourself when feeling vulnerable or need divine insight into a person or situation. It is especially useful for times when a breakthrough is needed. If the door is locked, go to the Person with the key… You know, the Person who created the door and the lock or at least allowed the lock to exist. Of course, the challenge is to keep your focus on God and His love and NOT on the end result because God will only give you that which you are ready to receive. Though you can be sure that He will reveal exactly what you need to cultivate in your life in order to be ready for that which you want.
As for me, I guess I was ready. Let’s just say that the giant door on the entertainment industry appears to now be unlocked. I have received a multitude of internship opportunities and am in the midst of the selection process as I type this post. On an even more pleasing note, I am beginning to receive interviews for paid positions within the industry too. Hopefully, I will land an offer soon and be well on my way to obtaining a place of my own in this land known as La la.
The Ultimate Reward
This post was birthed from conversations with some of my Agnostic and Non-Religious friends. I have to admit that I do not have many Atheist friends. I believe it has something to do with the fact that I don’t believe in Atheism, which makes them mad and I find this hilariously ironic.
These friends have mentioned on many an occasion that they don’t understand how heartache and pain can be a part of God’s plan for our lives. I don’t claim to have the answers, but I can share a bit of what I have found along my own journey.
If you are like me, you have heard the phrase “Father God” many a time from the pulpit, in a prayer or in a Bible study book. We love to call God our Father, but we don’t like for Him to act like one, do we? In adolescence we grow to dislike our fathers because they are often the symbol of discipline in our lives. They punish us when we do something that is not in our best interest, they give us chores to teach us about responsibility, they give us boundaries in terms of activities and amount of time spent with friends, they may monitor what we eat, how much we study and what television shows we watch. Of course, as we enter adulthood and become parents ourselves, we realize that all of those things our fathers did that annoyed or infuriated us were only meant to protect us and to keep us on a path that would lead to personal success.
Since God made man in His image, not a perfect image, but still in His image…God is our heavenly Father. There are times in our lives when He knows that it is better to let us learn on our own rather than explicitly telling us something just like our own earthly parents have done. A non-religious lady I will not name recently shared that she did not understand why God did not answer her cries for help on an important business decision where she and her husband ended bottom up thanks to a shrewd and not absolutely legal real estate agent. She recalls driving an hour to see this building in the hot summer heat of southern Florida. She asked God repeatedly something along the lines of “I know I don’t talk to You often, but if You are there and if You are listening and if You are God…I really need You to help us know if we should move on this property and if we should do business with this man.” A long story made short, she and her husband did business with this man without seeing the contract and paid for it dearly. Could God have made her feel uneasy? Yes, but she will never do any sort of business deal again with not only seeing the contract herself, but having it looked over by a trusted attorney. In my view, she learned a very valuable lesson by a God who was doing nothing more than being a Father to her and her husband. While they did loose quite a bit of money, they did not loose everything and they rebounded shortly after much smarter than they started out.
Other times God acts like God and He provides opportunities for us to make u-turns in order to get off the wrong road we are on. I can recall a moment in time when I was bound and determined to do something I whole heartedly regret involving myself and a man that was not my own. On the way to dinner that evening, I literally hit two roadblocks and a detour and I have to admit that the thought that God was trying to stop me did enter my mind. Unfortunately, I did not listen.
While both of these scenarios involve God allowing our misdirection or sin to culminate in unwelcome consequences, what they do not do is make us pay the ultimate price. God in His loving kindness brought His own Son to earth for the purpose of taking on all of the earth’s sin. God’s Son, whom I call Yeshua, came to earth to take on my sin and your sin so that we do not have to pay the ultimate consequence for our misguided actions, which is eternal death. Yes, there are bad things in this world and yes, we do experience heartache, but we experience these things not because God designed them, but because sin is active in our world. How glorious it will be to experience an earth with no tears! Instead of giving us what we actually deserve God offers us the ultimate reward and all we have to do is accept it.