One Foot In Front of the Other
One morning in meditation I focused on the phrase “I am capable”. I began to hear the lyrics to a Crowder song float through my head… “Oh, the cross meant to kill is my victory…” My mind began to combine the two into one phrase or one thought: I am capable because the cross meant to kill is my victory… This led to a final impression during the meditation: That which is meant to destroy me, can also be used to propel me forward.
I think anyone reading this blog knows that I have really been going through it since my return to Memphis. I have known some others who like myself left, got sober and later returned to only find themselves back in treatment. I even had people warn me to stay away, but my path took me here. At the time, I just thought they were weak or not working their program, but Memphis is proving to be the biggest test of my sober life. I love that my family is here, but I don’t really love anything else about this town, or the south for that matter. It’s not like I live against the grain here or anything… I just find that I do better or feel more comfortable in very open and creative environments. It’s like my introverted soul needs that accepting energy in order to breathe.
After the meditation, I decided to jot down the things that I perceive to be crippling my life:
My job – the happy hours, the coworkers, the work itself or lack thereof.
My severe social anxiety
My indecision paralysis
My health issues
My depression/Fear of my future
My question to myself has been how in the world do each of the above items propel me forward? How can each of them be used to propel me forward?
In typical Jesus fashion my answer came in the form of a parable regarding life on the trail. I feel most free when I am exploring a new trail and it occurred to me that I never remember the end of a trail… I never remember the moment I finished. I only remember the sights, sounds and discoveries made while exploring. I recall the pressure moments when I had to find a way around, over, under or through something in order to continue on the trail. I recall a creek discovered, the baby deer we got footage of, the large snapping turtle that walked across our path or the moment we decided to veer off the main path which led us to a private waterfall. I never recall the beginning or the end… only all the stuff in the middle, the experiences, the moments of awe and the moments of sheer terror and it is these moments that form and mold me into the person I am today. It’s not a defining moment, but rather a slow progression that happens without my even being aware of it so long as I continue navigating to the best of my ability and trusting that my savior and friend will help me if I get stuck.
I guess that’s the answer to my question. How does each of my life crippling factors propel me forward? They just do so long as I stay committed to putting one foot in front of the other and doing the next right thing over and over again while staying committed to doing life with my savior and friend, Jesus.
I mean I have seen it happen in my own life. My first year of sobriety in Los Angeles was insane. I couldn’t even take myself to the grocery store I was so freaked out…. But somehow I finally managed to go grocery shopping, attend all my meetings, get a good job, make friends, find a church home, start adventuring, take commitments at meetings, take commitments at church, learned to rock climb, learned to paint, learned to SUP, learned the neurology of addiction and most importantly I have learned what it means to do life with Jesus because when you can’t even go to the grocery store because you are paralyzed with fear… you really learn what it means to lean in, trust and walk hand in hand with the Creator of the universe. (P.S. it was my sobriety that led me to several new loves in my life including hiking/adventuring, photography, live show production and public speaking! Not bad for someone that was so scared and timid she couldn’t even go to the grocery store!)
Walking hand in hand with my higher power is what I am doing right now. I am being tested beyond belief, maybe slightly loosing my mind some days, but I am staying sober and not taking on any new addictions – thank you! Slowly, but surely I am getting back on track with my creative pursuits. I feel uncomfortable, I feel unstable… I feel like nothing in my life is making sense right now, in fact, I feel like I am walking on a dead end road and maybe I am for that matter…. but I know that all of this stuff that is meant to destroy me… meant to be my downfall… is actually going to be what propels me forward into a new existence, a new reality or perhaps onto a new path. It’s not about the beginning or the end; it’s about where the journey takes you and who you become as a result of saying yes to the adventure.
I was told that this year is going to be full of a lot of things that don’t make sense. It is ringing true. The new job I was so happy to obtain has brought a new set of challenges in that this office really likes to drink! The office has a nice café in the center that not only includes coffees and teas, but also vodka, wine, champagne and a bevy of beers. My coworkers are big on happy hours and routinely take the last hour of the day to congregate in the café and pour their drink of choice while talking about all the drinking they do when they are not at work. I don’t usually go to these “happy hours” which has me singled out as the new girl who doesn’t like the people in the office. I don’t know why I am so weirded out by it. I have been in plenty of offices where alcohol and drugs were around… maybe it is the whole Memphis thing that has me feeling extra introverted. I’m back in that muck of what I once was and I don’t know how to escape it. My friends in LA wouldn’t even know what to do with me right now… I’m such a shadow of the person I was when I lived out west.
Maybe I am in one of those middle of the night moments I read about for the umpteenth time in my favorite book, Calm My Anxious Heart. I find this book to be similar to the Bible and The Big Book in that every time I read it, I glean something new. The author, Linda Dillow, talks about the night before God parted the Red Sea. She speaks on how the Israelites were most likely freaking out… they were pegged in against the Red Sea with no where to run to, no where to go… so all they could do was listen and wait for their death. She speaks of a little phrase found in the Bible with immense impact… “All that night the LORD drove the sea back…” God didn’t perform His miracle in daylight; He chose to perform the miracle in the middle of the night, in complete darkness, while no one was watching. The entire night the Israelites had no idea their God was overcoming what was overcoming them. Quite an interesting thought to ponder. I don’t know why I am back in Memphis or why I have a job with a kitchen full of liquor for happy hours or why I am back to feeling more alone than ever. None of it makes sense, but like I said – none of it is supposed to so maybe I am exactly where I need to be… Maybe it will all make sense at some point. I was told that it would after certain things fall away from my life and new things emerge… Maybe while I am sitting here dealing with loneliness, fear, anxiety and a general desire to leave planet earth… God is working on my behalf in ways I can’t know, touch or see at the moment. I can say that I am putting my program to work in this situation just like I did in the last situation. I am making sure I get to meetings, making sure I make time for things I enjoy like walking (it clears my head) and I am keeping busy. I recently joined the media team at that church that makes me feel so uncomfortable. This church does live, broadcast and web feeds so the opportunity for learning is huge. I am currently training for a position in the control room and as much as I dread showing up, I find that I have a blast once I am there. I often think it is crazy that a timid, shy and anxiety filled me would find enjoyment in speaking engagements, live show production and other similar things that scare most other people. I just like the energy of making something happen and truth be told I am somehow good at it too. I just have to get ME out of the way.
Another thought from this book is the creation of an Anxiety Box. Not unsimilar to what a lot of people refer to as a prayer box, only instead of prayers, you place all the longings, desires and dreams that keep you awake at night and steal your joy during the day – into this box. You hand them over to your creator and you allow Him to deal with them. Just like in sobriety, sometimes you find yourself handing over these joy killers all day every day. I know I have been deeply depressed. A lot of my dreams seem to be dying as each year passes, at least they are dying in my own mind. This marks another major lesson for me this year. It was impressed upon my by my higher power (Jesus) that I need to stop making assumptions (jumping to conclusions) about how my life is going to go. I have it in my head that I am going to get to a point where I simply cannot go on… I guess I have it in my mind that I am going to stay single, never amount to anything, become homeless yet again and just have to jump off a bridge and become fish food. It is a reoccurring and dominating thought in my inner life… It just seems that everything in my life is moving me toward this end. This would be one of those moments where you think Sweet Jesus would appear and tell me how much He loves me, but no… He told me that I have to stop jumping to conclusions about my life, my abilities, about everything. And there is truth here. I will not lie. No one takes me out of the game more than myself because I tend to decide ahead of time how things are going to go, how people are going to perceive me and whether or not I will be successful or liked or whatever. I’ve always had this assumption that I am not wanted, not good enough, not smart enough, not fast enough, not pretty enough, not thin enough, not fat enough… just not enough, just not wanted. Somehow everyone else on the planet makes the grade and I don’t. This is such a deeply ingrained part of me that I make assumptions based on this thought pattern all the time and I rarely realize I am doing it. All I can do right now is pray to be made aware of when I am jumping to a conclusion or making an assumption that I should not make. It probably comes from some survival skill that is way too strong from early life trauma and while it serves a place in certain situations; it cannot continue to reign supreme in my life.
On a positive note, I have taken myself back off the Caramello bars! LOL! I am back on a decent schedule that allows time for the things I need and while I am still enjoying some chocolatey sweets, I am choosing healthy, low sugar options instead. I guess choice by choice I am making decisions that prove to myself that I am worth it. In life, just as in sobriety, we sometimes find that we have to find simple ways to override our brains. Our brains are designed to retain system balance and system balance doesn’t always mean keeping us alive and healthy. This tidbit is one of the best things I learned from my first sponsor. Just because the brain wants to restore a perceived imbalance doesn’t mean you should follow its impulse. It will reach for the easiest and fastest way to achieve its end, which usually means walking down a bad road. The same is true in life.
Back to the Start
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.
Touchdown or Crash-Landing?
Sometimes life takes you way, way, way up in the air and just leaves you there, hanging. After a while you can’t help but wonder if you are headed for a touchdown or a crash landing.
While my financial situation hasn’t changed, my stress level has skyrocketed. The company that I have been trying to run from is crumbling before my eyes. There is good news though! After feeling uneasy and unsafe for so long I had started to question if my past was causing issues in my present, but it would turn out that my gut, my discernment, my instinct – whatever you want to call it – it was telling me something is off and so are all these people. I couldn’t understand it. It was unfounded and I found it crazy that I felt safer in gang-ridden Los Angeles than in Jacksonville, FL, but as I now know those feelings weren’t so unfounded after all. This is the good news. It wasn’t me. It was and is the company and people I call my day home. While I cannot share any of it here at this time, it does feel good to know that I can and should trust my instincts.
I have been questioning many of my past decisions that were made based on my gut instinct and while they look like they might have been wrong – current happenings say otherwise. Following your gut instinct can lead you into a deep valley, but that doesn’t mean you were lead astray. In my case, I know that the valley I am in is a back-to-the-basics, re-grounding and re-focusing list of lessons that will make all the difference when the gate opens to the pasture in my future.
One of those lessons is the simple truth that I can ask Jesus for a hug whenever I feel overwhelmed and over stressed. I learned this one evening while in shavasana after a hearty detox flow. I saw myself as a little girl in a white dress balled up crying my eyes out. Jesus came to me and picked me up and I watched myself disappear into His light. I did catch a glimpse of myself in His arms and I was smiling from ear to ear and happy as a child could be. I then saw present day me get up off the yoga mat and walk into Jesus’ arms disappearing into His light. While I was watching all of this I felt an overwhelming sense of peace, calm and tranquility. I was immediately elevated somewhere above my current human status and experienced a calm I had never known before. I guess what I felt was love and my tear stained face proved it. And I have felt this same tranquility again and again as I have taken Jesus on His word when He told me at the end of that vision “Don’t forget I AM always here.” I no longer deal with anxious or unwanted thoughts in bed and I no longer worry about what to do with myself when I am alone. Some people have alcohol or weed or a host of other things, but I have Jesus and I find Him to be the most effective calming presence with zero negative side effects.
I am also finding out what is important to me and what deserves my focus and what does not. I am sad to say that like many people who grew up like I did – I have quite a fascination with materialistic things and the finer quality things at that. Take it from one who always wants the most expensive of everything… It turns out that I look just as good if not better in what I can easily afford! I do have to admit that my pride took a hit and I might have had to be forced into one of the stores after exhausting myself in 100-degree heat trying to replace a pair of everyday sandals that broke, but once I was in the store I had a hard time leaving.
And then there’s that whole living with intention and learning to make the best of every situation and becoming a living example of what I want to see more of instead of what I want to see less of…. Yes, I do agree… trusting your gut can lead you into a deep valley, but it does not mean you misunderstood or made a mistake. It does mean that you went where you needed to go to learn what you needed to learn for when you get plucked out of the valley and into the pasture that is your future. I mean what’s the purpose in getting everything you want if you have no idea what to do with it? I am now realizing this could have happened to me and it would have been a complete disaster! Oh and another something – I am finding that when I spend the day in Jesus’ arms – all those personality traits that I have been trying to get rid of somehow disappear and I didn’t do anything but ask Jesus to let me sit in His arms all day long. They say Jesus is sufficient and after spending the last couple of weeks in His arms I can say with complete certainty that He really is more than enough.
Life in the Bull Pin
Hello from sunny and very warm Florida! Have you ever had the flu in 90-degree weather? Isn’t it amazing that when you have those pesky chills that nothing can make you warm! I even tried wearing a sweat suit while bundled up in three layers of blankets in 90 degree plus heat and it didn’t help me one bit! Whatever flu I had, I kicked its butt with potent vitamins, plenty of water, detoxing yoga sequences and lots of sleep. I give the sleep part to God because I honestly don’t know how I was able to stop the nose blowing and coughing so I could sleep like a baby through each night, but I did. I can also tell that this sudden halt to my life is going to be continuing for a while as my respiratory system is very compromised so here’s to enjoying a slower pace, more yoga than weights and learning the art of what they call an active restful peace.
Life in the Bull Pin has been tough although I am finally adapting to my environment instead of constantly trying to escape it. I started watching a show called Life or Debt and some wheels started turning in my head and I came up with a budget for my current existence. I had to cut my groceries, toiletries and fun money in half and as a result I am getting rather creative with my food options to stay on budget. I have been attempting to follow my new budget for the past few weeks and have done well so far. My goal was to stop having to cut into savings each month especially since I cannot put anything into savings! This budget is not a long-term fix since I cannot effectively pay off my debt and keep out of savings, but it will allow me to at least make ends meet while I am in the bull pin. The simple truth is plainer than day: I cannot stay where I am, but the door remains locked as to going any where else. And so, I created a budget for the bull pin.
I find that whenever I get sick, it gives me time to reflect on my life and this time around I realized that I have been running myself ragged trying to make Jacksonville work. When I first arrived here, there were better paying jobs available, but I was burnt out and needing some rest. Now that I am mentally back in the game, the good paying jobs have vanished. They are just not here. The Jacksonville economy is really weird anyway. There seem to be three sets of jobs available here – an insane amount of minimum wage to high 20K, a few $30K’s and then a bunch of $50K-200K+ jobs that are manager/director level and out of my reach. Jacksonville is a beautiful city boasting great weather, a river front, the intracoastal waterway and several area beaches, but the economy here is wack and it is probably responsible for the fact that this amazing city hasn’t grown like it should have considering all it has at its finger tips. Anywho, I kind of got side tracked, but the point I was trying to make is that I have been making myself sick trying to make Jacksonville work. I sit all day at a desk reconciling things on multiple computer screens, come home, work out, then get on the computer to job hunt and apply to jobs and nothing worthwhile ever seems to come back. And I’ve literally been doing this for a year! While I was sick this time around – it hit me that maybe I need to take a step back. When I first came here, I was told that Jacksonville is preparation – so maybe I need to stop trying to hold on to something that apparently doesn’t want me to hold on to it.
On a brighter note, I had an insane outburst at a festival I attended very recently, but it hit me later that day, that it was my first outburst in weeks! I have turned a corner in the temper department and I guess I had to have an outburst to realize how long it had been since I had one! LOL. But in all seriousness, I am continuing to work on staying calm and being an example of love and grace to all I meet. It is not easy, but new habits are taking the place of old ones and my outbursts are becoming less and less a part of my life.
And now, I feel I am learning the art of really letting go of the steering wheel of life. I now realize that I have done everything I can to the point of extreme exhaustion to prevent what seems unpreventable – total financial collapse. I just can’t worry about it anymore. I just have to let go of the steering wheel. My new prayer is that I would know when I am taking the wheel out of God’s hands because it is hard to decipher between taking the wheel back and just using plain common sense. All I know is that I am no longer job-hunting like a crazy person. On the weekends, as I have time, I will do a local hunt and a national site hunt and if the hammer drops before I land something then so be it. I will take myself back to Tennessee where I have a house I can stay in rent-free. Sometimes we have to stop trying to walk or keep up and allow ourselves to be carried.
Coming Back to Life...
November, the month of Giving Thanks, Creating Families and most importantly the month of Jessica getting her groove back!
In case you are not aware – World Adoption Day is November 9th. Hank Fortner, one of my Mosaic pastors started Adopttogether.org, a non-profit focused on helping beat the number one barrier to families looking to adopt – MONEY. There are a lot of families out there that want to adopt, but simply don’t have $10K, $20K, $30K or even $40K sitting around to make the adoption happen. This is where Adopttogether.org comes in and helps secure funding for families wanting to adopt through crowdfunding. World Adoption Day is a day of celebration for both parents and kids who won big when adoption changed their lives. World Adoption Day is also a day of awareness for adoption so please join us on Monday November 9th by posting a selfie with a smiley on your hand to spread awareness or to celebrate your own adoption story or that of a friend.
Halloween marks a year since I left Los Angeles and Thanksgiving marks a year since I have seen my mother and brother. I am excited to be able to spend Thanksgiving weekend with them at the beach this year! We will be catching up while we enjoy the views from our beach-front balcony on Florida’s gulf coast. I am very happy for this opportunity as I want very badly to be able to spend more time with them as well as a host of other people, but my finances are just in the way at the moment.
As I have mentioned previously, I now feel that I came to a much-needed standstill here in Jacksonville. It appears that I needed to slow down and take some time to heal internally, which is what has happened. From Celebrate Recovery to Redeemed Esteem to many other confirmations God has laid in my lap over this past year – it appears I just needed a lot of internal healing and I now feel that I am beginning to come back to life. My focus is returning, my productivity is returning and my overall energy is returning. One could argue that I am beginning to dream again!
I would also like to note that this might have something to do with a recent change in my morning prayer! In addition to praying the lyrics of Hillsong’s “I Surrender”, I have started asking God to help me release my potential each and every day to the point that when I reach the end of this life, that I would not have an ounce of my God-given potential left. It’s a bold prayer that I am not only praying for myself, but also for my mother and brother who are also dreamers with dreams in their hearts. For it has come to my attention that one of my biggest problems is my inability to release my potential. In other words, my inability to take the God-given dreams in my heart, put them on paper and then transform them into reality. I have the paper part down; it’s the whole transforming dreams into reality that seems to have had me stuck for far too long. And it looks like this new prayer might be working!
To kick off November, I will be sharing my first full testimony at the Mandarin area CR on the 6th and am very excited for this opportunity. I didn’t have a 20 minute testimony written upon the invitation, but I recalled a piece of advice I read from Seth MacFarlane that echoes countless other successful people both in entertainment and in ministry – that thought is this – when opportunity knocks, don’t hesitate, just say yes and figure out the how later!
I am also moving forward with a new project that God placed on my heart during Hillsong weekend here in Jax. I am calling it Hillsong weekend because I went to Hillsong Nights on Saturday and went and heard global founder, Brian Houston speak at Celebration on Sunday morning. He spoke on dreams and dreamers and God breathed a new project into my soul that very day. I have been reluctant to start work on it because as with anything God gives you – it is bigger than I am and I don’t feel I can do it all alone, but I am not meant to – I am meant to create it piece by piece with my Creator. It’s not supposed to be my thing, it’s supposed to be Our thing! I have the outline for the steps that need to be taken and am working on step one for the remainder of this year. I am really excited and really terrified, but I think all creators feel this way when embarking on a new project so I guess I am in good company.
I am also ready to get back in gear career-wise. I know I cannot stay at my current employer as the money nor the interest is there so I am back on the hunt for a good opportunity, but this time around I have a confidence in myself, my passion and my abilities that I did not have previously. It definitely changes the opportunities I look at and how I approach them and with any luck I will be in a new and better situation soon! With any luck I will begin to see a little of that restoration from Joel 2:25, the life verse God has given me which reads “… He will restore all the years the locusts ate away…” which I am taking to mean that God plans on restoring all of the things I missed out on while I was caught up in my addiction, depression and self-torture and I for one, can’t wait to see what He is going to do! Er’ I can’t wait to see what We’re going to do!
I hope all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and don’t forget to reach out to any singles, widows or flat broke folks that might be spending the holiday alone unless you invite them to spend it with you!
A Pulling Up of the Boot Straps
Ladies and Gents, over the past month I have really forced myself out of the rut that has become my existence. A serious pulling up of the boot straps if you will. I have been spending a lot of time alone here in Jax due to my inability to make friends. I have a couple of people I can place in that category, but overall my life is pretty empty right now. I found myself gaining weight, not caring about what I looked like or wore and feeling rather pointless. I mean I couldn’t even bring myself to get a haircut because I couldn’t bring myself to care. I remembered a phrase spoken by Craig Strickland, one of my former pastors, “you can’t feel your way into an action, but you can act your way into a feeling”.
I decided to heed the advise in those words and made a list of things I could do to make it look like I gave a flying seaweed about myself and my life. I got my hair cut and added some highlights, started working out on a regular basis again, started eating better and watching my calorie intake, took advantage of some Labor Day sales and updated my wardrobe, and made a point to think about what I was going to wear each day (makeup, jewelry, dress, shoes, bag). I decided that just because I feel like nothing matters right now, doesn’t mean I have to act like it. I feel like I am loosing myself here in Jacksonville so I am just going to act like I am still in Los Angeles. I am going to wear the right clothes, have the right attitude and keep working towards my goals whether I feel like there is any reason to or not.
I have also come to the realization that I really need a better paying job. While it is true that I am in one of the better departments with my current employer, I do need to make a jump in the not too distant future which brings up the question do I wait for a decent paying ministry position to open or go back to the entertainment industry or go for both and see which door opens first? I will most likely do the latter once my class ends in a couple of weeks because like I said, I need some financial stability, a place to call my own and some sort of anchor in my life. Whether that anchor is a job, a city, a ministry or a man, I am feeling the need to anchor to something besides myself. Maybe it is the security driven Taurus side rearing its head, but I feel a major push to get some things taken care of financially and get a home base ASAP. Problem is how does one pick a home base when one hasn’t yet found a place to call home. Perhaps home will find me.
I am just going to have to trust that whatever door opens is the door I am supposed to walk through. I am going to have to trust that there is a plan at work and that the next steps will make sense. Trust has come up several times in my Redeemed Esteem class and I feel like God is not only teaching me to trust Him right now, but He is also teaching me to trust myself, my gut, but not necessarily my feelings. I tend to attract very inappropriate men. It is probably why I am still singe, well that and all the drinking. But anywho, I had been keeping a certain male at arms length for a while and no one seemed to understand why. I guess I should also say that this was not a romantic interest, just a fellow alcoholic on recovery road. Everyone else sings praises of this person, but I felt something else, then when this man started complaining to me about his marriage and his sex life, I thought hmm, I might be right about him because why else would he be talking to me about a topic that establishes emotional intimacy nevermind the fact that I have never been married or that he is no where near my age. Then the nail was hit on the hammer. I will not repeat his words here, but I received total confirmation that he is not trustworthy, definitely not Godly or even trying to be and definitely not someone who should be in any sort of ministry position (which he is L). I am just glad that I could smell him a mile away and was able to get an early confirmation so that I can keep stiff arming him as long as it takes.
I am also learning to like and love myself. I can say with all seriousness that this is the first time in my life that I have been able to look in a mirror and like what I see in the reflection. When God told me that I was in Jacksonville for preparation, I had no idea what He meant, but now that I am going through this class, serving in a ministry and taking part in a women’s leadership group, I feel that the preparation God was referring to was internal. I feel that this is a time to get the inside right. To cultivate good habits, good thought processes and a healthy belief in myself and my God. Those signs you see at the front of roller coaster rides that say “if you have a nervous disposition then don’t ride” Well, that’s me. I am somehow always freaking out and living in fear of every mistake I make, but I am learning to ride the waves of life, trust my gut, trust my God and more importantly, I am learning how to enjoy the ride as I move towards realizing all of my God-given potential.
Producing Fruit in a Desert
What can I say folks, sometimes life hurts. And my life is hurting bad right now. I think it is safe to say that I left a physical desert where I was in a mental, emotional and spiritual oasis in sunny SoCal, and now find myself surrounded by water in a mental, emotional, and spiritual desert in sunny Florida.
Physically, I am back in a complete standstill. I threw out my back a few weeks ago and went from being able to do a forward bend with my nose against my knees to having to fight to barely touch my toes! I thought I was on the mend and went for a short walk a few days ago that reignited all of the pain and so I am back to gentle yoga and absolutely nothing else. My lower back and right hip are the main culprits with my right hip taking the trophy for intense sharp pain shooting around all the day long. Emotionally, I might as well be the only person in this town. Every time I think I have made a new friend they start treating me like an afterthought by routinely making plans with me and then canceling at the last second only to say something like “hey, I’m doing this now so can’t do whatever with you.” My roommate says she has experienced a lot of that herself. Who knew small town Jacksonville would have bigger and more blatantly rude flakes than that of Los Angeles. At least in LA people make up an actual excuse! Here in Jax people actually tell you what they are going to go do instead of hanging out with you! So Rude. And then there’s that job I have. There’s nothing like working with people that you know hate you. It gets even more fun when your job doesn’t even begin to fulfill, engage or excite you. I am one of those people who need to be fully engaged in my activities because if I am not, my mind rolls over to everything in the world that I should not be thinking about and so with the pain, the rude treatment from could be friends and the nothing but time to focus on all the wrong things – folks – I am mentally, emotionally and physically spent. I have no idea how long I am supposed to be in this town, but let’s just say that unlike LA, I don’t think I’m gonna feel terrible if I suddenly have to move elsewhere.
The only good news is that I have finally sort of picked a church home. It is a church I just keep going back to because I really dig the pastor. I am actually going to be spread across two churches this fall – a class at one where I will be taking on a major issue in my life and a life group at the one I am calling home at the moment. The other good point is my continued involvement at a local Celebrate Recovery where I am getting my ministry feet wet. I am learning how to lead a group of ladies, learning how to connect to people and learning how to speak in front of others and hopefully slowly gaining a stage presence. It is this ministry stuff that needs to become more of my life – that is where my passion is, that is where my excitement is, that is where I come alive and activate the best version of myself.
You would think year 3 would sound better wouldn’t you? I thought about that too and then it hit me – I spent 15 years in rebellion to God in an addiction that I repeatedly chose to stay in. Yes, I gave God the one thing I didn’t think I could live without, but I’ve only worked off 3 of my 15 years. Thank you Jesus that You are not that kind of God! While it is true that I am still an infant when it comes to sobriety, God is not sitting up there with a stick marking off each day waiting for me to equalize the situation before He can bless me, love me or work in my life. We humans tend to find ourselves thinking that way because it is how we were taught right from wrong. You intentionally break your little brother’s tricycle so he can’t follow you around, chances are your parents will take away your bike as punishment. It’s how they teach us to treat others the way we would like to be treated, but it is not how God deals with us, especially when we come to Him and admit what a shattered disaster we have become. I fully admit that I have absolutely no idea how I am gong to go from where I am right now to the vision of my life that has been laid out by God. The good news is God does! My job is to stay close to Him, stay in His word, abide by His word understanding that any parameters are there to protect me and not keep me from having fun, and trust that as I grow in faith, God will open the doors that I so desperately want to open right now. I guess for me, year 3 is the year of being a grown up, digging in and doing what I don’t want to, being faithful to the positions and places God has put me in until He opens another door.
That door I am so desperate to open is a position under a successful and dynamic ministry where I can learn how to be a leader and grow my abilities for speaking God’s word, teaching God’s word and leading others through discipleship. Until that happens I am continuing to learn and grow in the ministry I am currently serving in and hoping for a career opportunity in the same realm.
I recently heard a mega gator fan give his CR testimony and in that testimony he shared this line from Tim Tebow’s book: Use the platform you’ve been given for God’s purpose and not your own. That line made me start thinking. I know what I want out of my potential ministry involvement, but I haven’t asked God what He wants out of it. I haven’t asked God what He wants out of my life, my work, my writing, my relationships or any platform that He might bestow upon me. And that’s a question I probably should have asked at the beginning. I am currently meditating on that question with God. So far, I feel like He has told me that His purpose and Plan for any platform He gives me is to help change lives by changing habits and to promote true healing by helping people live in true alignment with Christ mentally, emotionally and physically. I really need to start making this my purpose in all of my dealings whether it is in a CR group, the grocery store or with my less than desired co-workers. I may not be living the life I wish to yet, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t act as if I already am that person.
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.
You have to find your contentment in Jesus, not in the blessing – Joby Martin
Crushes are pointless correct? I mean how many times have you liked someone from a distance only to meet him or her and find that you have absolutely zero chemistry. That if it was between spending thirty minutes trapped in an elevator with this person or fighting off a lion with your bare hands – you’d probably pick fighting the lion to having to spend another painstakingly awkward second with that guy or gal you were crooning over. I only mention this because as I type this post, I am staring into the eyes of a current crush. I have his photo pulled up right beside my doc. He is giving one of those cocky come hither stares that lets the world know that he knows he’s got it. Unfortunately, these are the guys that tend to land on my radar. Christian or not, they leave a lot to be desired in the companion department. They are not good to themselves and they certainly aren’t good to or for anyone else.
So why are you staring at him you ask? Well, the topic of idols came up in a recent small group conversation. While I have not found a church home here in Jacksonville, I am in a ladies small group for the mean time. The discussion centered on the things in our lives that can become idols to us and replace the only idol we should ever have – Jesus Christ. You see an idol is anything that we are waiting on to complete us. Anything that we can put in the sentence that goes something like this: “If I can only have/get/attain __________, then I’ll be happy/set/satisfied. The danger with thinking like this is that there is always going to be something else we want. If we are not careful, a new idol always crops up in our lives and wreaks havoc by stealing the joy from what is and placing the focus on what could be soon thereby keeping us in an unhappy loop that is forever stuck on repeat.
I have a short quiet time each morning where I read a chapter of scripture and pray. In one of my recent morning prayers I popped out these words “… and apparently the idea of a relationship has become an idol to me and I am very sorry for that…” As soon as the words came out of my mouth I felt a jolt within me and I started to cry. I didn’t know a relationship had become an idol in my life until I unknowingly spoke the words in prayer. It is true that I have been struggling since leaving my friends in Los Angeles. I am very lonely here in Jacksonville and I guess my mind has been on a relationship a lot more lately. I am also turning the big 35 this year so I am officially hitting the status of Old Maid/Spinster for Life. I guess that’s what has been really eating away at my soul. My life has not turned out the way I wanted it to and I have no one to blame but myself. It is just what happens when you live for a bottle for 15 years. And there’s that sentence again “If I can just find my partner everything will be better… I will feel like I have someone or something to belong to” Ugh, I really need to shake this need for a significant other. I can want one all I want, but needing one is a problem and I believe that I have crossed over the unhealthy threshold from wanting a partner in life to needing one. I mean how can two days of relaxation turn me into boohoo city? Why do I freak out the second I find myself alone with nothing to do? Why does going to church alone make me want to kick God in the face? Yes, we are creatures designed for community, but community comes in many forms.
Truth be told, we all have that something special that is missing from our lives and we allow it to be the reason we are unhappy, we allow it to steal our joy. … “If I can just buy a nice house I will be happy,”, “If can just afford nice vacations each year I will be happy” or “If I can just get that promotion”, “If I can just work my way into that crowd” , “ If I can just get pregnant”, If I can just… etc, etc, etc to infinity. These sentences are not true. We like to think they are true, but whatever we are hoping for whether it is a partner, a career, a house, a friend or even that cute pair of wedges in the store window– all of these things bring new challenges and I am old enough to know that nothing is ever how we imagined it. I am beginning to realize the old adage is true – if we are not happy with our current circumstances, we will never be happy. Period.
One of the biggest problems with putting our happiness in the future is the simple fact that we never get to enjoy the present and if we don’t enjoy the present – Well then what’s the point? The present is all we have. If we do get to the future we have imagined, we will most likely realize it wasn’t exactly what we thought it would be. It might still be great, but it will not match the fantasy we have built in our heads and so we will begin hoping for something else and the unhappy cycle will keep on repeating until we reach the end of our lives and look back and wonder why we couldn’t enjoy every second we had. We will wonder why we never learned to enjoy our present for what it is – our present. Our gift. We get another day to create something beautiful with God.
There’s also a reason Jesus Christ should be the only occupant of our mantle. He is the only person that will never fail us, never leave us and always sustain us. If we are looking for satisfaction outside of Him, we’ll never find it. It doesn’t exist apart from Him. Making Him our focus, living a life pleasing to Him, being an example of His love to others and leading others to Him – that is where real happiness exists. You just have to clear your mantle and make Jesus your focal point. This is how you learn to be content, like Paul, no matter what your current circumstance might be.
So what does all this mean? Well for me, it means I need to make Jesus and the vision He has given me for ministry my focal point and I need to leave the man out of the picture. Whether God has someone in mind for me is irrelevant because that man does not deserve the pressure of being my only source of happiness and the same can be said for any friends that enter my life. Only one person can take that kind of pressure and only one person ever should – Jesus Christ.
I have been praying the words of an older song from Hillsong titled “I Surrender”. I just found myself singing this song non-stop and realized there must be a reason this song is staying on my heart. Reality is this: God needed take over because I was unraveling. I was lonely, I was upset and I was becoming more impatient every day. I needed God to step in and give me direction. And so I decided to stop asking God for anything and instead I just began praying the words of the song – Lord, Have Your way in me! Have Your way in my every minute of my every day, Have your way in my thoughts, my words, my actions, my interactions. Help me to know how to honor you at work and in my daily life. Lord, Have Your way in me!
Funny thing is the moment I made Jesus my focal point by inviting Him to have His way in me, a lot of the character changes I’ve been writing about over the past year just sorta started happening all on their own….