The story of Easter brings many messages and applications when you dive deep into the actual events of the days leading up to Christianity’s main event. One such message hit me last night on Good Friday. I was watching the Good Friday live stream of Mosaic from the comfort of my living room and a line jumped out at me: “Jesus was still the victor while He was suffering”.
In our society to suffer is often times looked at as a punishment or as an attribute to the life of one ill equipped or in other words… a loser. If you are winning at life then you are happy, have everything you want and are in optimal health, right? Those of us that have been around a bit know that suffering is a natural part of life. At some point, we are going to go through a season that we don’t want to be in whether it is a job where we are belittled everyday, a family member that tries to constantly sabotage our efforts or a health condition that changes our daily living habits. Maybe you’re the only single person in your circle or maybe you just can’t find a circle and you feel lost and alone.
I, for one, am dealing with aloneness and worth issues stemming from a set of current circumstances in my life. Are these circumstances permanent? Most likely the answer is no, but being able to navigate the unfun seasons without letting it rip you of your worth can be difficult. This is just one of the life applications we can glean from Easter.
Jesus also had a horrible set of circumstances He had to walk through while He was still the Victor. He was betrayed by a close friend and handed over to Roman soldiers who stripped Him of His clothes, repeatedly beat Him, hurled insults at Him and taunted Him as the King of the Jews. These Roman soldiers could easily be present day bullies who live to demean, insult and ridicule others. These soldiers even went as far as to crown Jesus with thorns and nail Him to a cross for His unbelievably slow and painful death with a sign adorned to His cross stating He was the King of the Jews. The mockery continued until He breathed His last breath. And it wasn’t just the soldiers who ridiculed Him the entire time it took Him to die… The onlookers and another criminal hanging beside Him joined in spitting, taunting and laughing at Him until He breathed His last breath.
But what did Jesus do during this time of extreme hate and ridicule? He simply uttered the words “Forgive them for they know not what they do”. Jesus knew that He was the victor despite His circumstances. He knew His worth was not tied to what was happening that day. He knew that He was just walking through a moment and that another moment was coming – a moment that would change everything. His ridiculers might have had fun for a while, but a day would come when His ridiculers would see Him in a new light.
The same is true for each of us. We may have to walk through some unpleasant seasons in our lives where someone treats us harshly, doesn’t appreciate our talent or good nature or is just hell bent on ruining our day, but we can still be the victor in these moments. Our self-worth is not determined by who other people think we are; our self worth is determined by who God thinks we are …co-heirs to His throne to be exact.
A couple of excerpts from “So Will I” by Hillsong say it perfectly:
“And as You speak, A hundred billion failures disappear, Where You lost Your life so I could find it here, If You left the grave behind You so will I…...
I can see Your heart, Eight billion different ways, Every precious one, A child You died to save…”
That’s who you and I are. Really. That’s who everyone is, really. A precious one, a child Jesus died to save…
Carrying this knowledge deep in your soul is what allows you to walk through the grey seasons without loosing your worth. It does not mean you walk through muddy waters thinking you are better than everyone else or deserve better and mount up resentments. What it does mean is that you simply go through the muddy waters with the knowledge that you are fiercely loved and cared for and you continue to learn and grow and do your best, trusting God to carry you through the rough parts and asking for guidance along the way.
Well, California, if it makes you feel any better, I too am in what feels like a burn season. I lost the job I have been trying to get rid of, had a biopsy done, got rear-ended by a dude in surgery scrubs who wasn’t paying attention and may now loose my car to the wonderful state of Florida who has all the laws it doesn’t need and none of the laws it does need. As we all know you can kill people and get away with it here in Florida, but to make it easier for killers, crazies and terrorists, the great state of Florida allows anyone to buy a gun with no wait and no background check. Anywho, that’s a soapbox for another day. Life can just sweep you off your feet in the worst way possible and that is what it is doing to me right now.
I was able to get another job within two weeks, but the job is still low pay. I believe it is going to average out to about $20 more a pay check so I guess I can say that I did move up, albeit a very tiny step in the right direction. The good news is that I have good benefits and much more time off. My work days are shorter, I get more holidays and I have a shut down at Thanksgiving and Christmas which means I will be able to go home and see my family. For those of you who haven’t caught on yet, I am now in the field of higher education. This is a career field I have been thinking about because it is historically good for women, has longevity, great benefits and depending on the university and department within the university – there is ample time off that you don’t get unless you are in education or entertainment production. All of which are pluses in my book. So while I may still be in a monetary pinch, I am seeing this as a launching pad sort of opportunity. I will be learning the ins and outs of a controller’s office and in a few years I can either jump to an internal opening or jump to another university and they have those everywhere! So it is not all doom and gloom for this gypsy heart lady.
The ministry side of life is going strong. I am taking on some more responsibility in my Celebrate Recovery home group. Aside from leading the ladies share group, I will be doing more talking in large group, co-leading a fall step-study and getting my teaching feet wet by providing the training portion of the CR leadership meetings. I love my Friday nights with my ladies and am excited to learn and grow as a Celebrate Recovery ministry leader.
Now that I know I will be remaining in Jacksonville for a while, I need to pick a church home. I feel like I am repeating my Los Angeles days all over again. I started out at a church where I felt something was off, but I ignored the feeling and tried everything I could to find a place to belong. After a year long battle, I stepped away from church #1 and started visiting a couple other churches and one of them became home, my tribe and my life for the remainder of my time in Los Angeles. I seem to be doing the exact same thing on the other side of the country. I picked a church and made it home even though I felt something was off, tried everything I could to find a place t belong, but in the end I find myself stepping away. I guess I am hoping that what happened in Los Angeles will happen here in Jacksonville, that I will find my Mosaic here on the east coast.
While I don’t know what is going to happen with my car at this moment, I do have peace about the situation. The insurance company is doing everything they can to help me, but in the end, if the bumper comes off and the body shop reports frame damage, I will loose my car. I have fought and fought to keep my car, but it hit me the other night, that this might be one of those saving grace moments. If my transmission or some other major repair was suddenly needed, I might not be able to afford to fix the car and I cannot finance a car right now so I would be in serious trouble. Perhaps, I am losing my car and getting a little cash to buy another one (emphasis on little cash which is the issue) because something is about to go wrong with the car I am fighting so hard to keep. I can’t see what lies ahead, but Jesus can and He might have orchestrated the whole rear-ending event to save me from something I cannot see. In sobriety they tell you that you that your life is like an onion. Our lives, our emotions, our attitudes, our opinions, our perceptions and our actions form the layers around the core of the onion and it is in recovery that we begin the process of peeling back those layers to get to the core of who we really are. I feel that I have been peeling back the layers of surrender these past few weeks. The idea of surrender is a huge component of the 12 steps, but the day-to-day surrender takes on new meaning when you begin to realize that you really don’t have much control when it comes to anything except your response to every day life. If you are like me and like to have everything done a certain way and in a certain time frame then you have even more of a struggle with the daily letting go and truly letting God.
Everything good is grace and everything bad is the stuff Jesus holds your hand through until we get to abide in His arms. It is hard to take a step back and surrender to a life event, but it is what is required. We like to think that we have all the answers, but many times it is our decisions and our will that gets us into the tight spots in life. We thought we were right, we thought we had the plan, but then something happens to shake everything up and we get rerouted and more often than not, we look back and say thank you Jesus for rerouting me out of that disaster! In order to get rerouted we had to come to a moment of surrender that we did not like and move in a direction we did not want or anticipate, but that decision to let go and move in the direction God was apparently moving, is what rescued us.
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.
I have written so many versions of this blog that I am not even sure what number I am at this point. God has been doing a lot of talking and I have been listening for a change.
A couple of months ago I started a frenzied job hunt that resulted in a possible position with a Christian non-profit in Kansas City. As soon as that happened I started questioning whether or not I could actually leave the coast. I also started looking into the reason why I felt like I should be so thankful that an organization across the country felt that I was a qualified top candidate. Why was I risking everything to move across the country to what as might as well be the tundra to my SoCal-Flori skin? The answer was fear. I realized that I was afraid that nothing else would come along. I was afraid that no one else would want to hire me. I was afraid that given my current state of financial crisis I should just take whatever I can get wherever I can get it or else anger God. I was afraid of past so-called mistakes like that job in Nashville I rejected. I was afraid that I was making another mistake by not going for it and I was afraid I was making a mistake by going for it. I was just afraid and while I don’t know much I do know that making a decision based on fear will almost always lead you somewhere you don’t want to be.
I spent the day after Christmas on my front porch. I just sat outside and enjoyed the 79 degree day and the sweet breeze available on the front porch. As I sat there sipping soda (something I don’t normally drink) I felt God enter into a conversation with me. He began with “You know it’s not too late to live out your dream of living on the water? With the right opportunity and your continued financial management, there is no reason why you can’t begin your own beach front bargain hunt in ten years or less. As long as you are either working on or near (within an hour or two) the water you could have your primary residence on the water!” In all honesty, I had forgotten about this life long dream of mine. But God hadn’t forgotten at all, in fact, it never slipped His mind. He really does know my heart better than I do.
I guess I had kind of given up. I am 35, single and in a financial pit in the middle of a financial desert with no help in sight. One unfortunate instance could have me packing up a rental car and heading back to Tennessee in defeat. Those reading my blog on the regular know how hard the move to Jacksonville has been on me. I left a great church and great friends in Los Angeles only to find myself unable to find any sort of community in Jacksonville. I have been straddling two churches and trying to get involved at both and my efforts have frankly been a giant disappointment. No one seems to be interested in knowing me. I do have one friend here that I am very grateful for and we do hang out most weekends, which helps a lot, but my happiness cannot depend on one person and it never should. I need a community and I cannot seem to find one no matter how hard I try, no matter how many groups I join or events I attend. I didn’t have to try in Los Angels – everything just kind of fell into place. Jacksonville has been quite the opposite and my job has been the worst part of it all. I am use to being in a rather mobile position that includes a lot of social interaction, but my current job involves me sitting at a desk all day long and staring into a computer without so much as a peep from my co-workers. YUCK! Of course, I never meant to be in this job this long – it was a till I get myself sorted out and find something good sort of job that somehow has almost lasted a year. The people are bad, the work is bad, the hours are bad and the money is really bad as is the vacation and holidays. I know I am worth so much more. It is just a matter of finding someone else who thinks so at this point. Of course I also want to make sure the next position I take is a better fit for my personality and financial future. I want something I can stick with for a while.
The interesting thing that came out of the KC option was that I found a new appreciation for where I live regardless of how disappointing my daily life. I live in a city on the beach. I can sit with the waves any time I want. I even have a new appreciation for the church I find myself going to these days. While it is no Mosaic, it is a good substitute. I cried through most of the service today. The guy speaking ( don’t know who he was as he forgot to introduce himself) spoke on what happens when the escalator stops and you have to make a move. It was about endings, seasons in life and how sometimes you don’t know what to do, but it doesn’t mean you should stop either. He talked about how many of us feel like we are on plan triple Z when in fact, we are actually on Plan A. If God knows everything, then He knew every decision, mistake and stupid action we were going to make and it is all included in His plan. We didn’t run a million miles in the wrong direction only to miss out on His blessings. As long as we strive to keep Him first in everything we do – we are on plan A. I guess I needed to hear that. I mean if I had said yes to that Nashville job, I would have never gone to Los Angeles and if I hadn’t gone to Los Angeles I would have never gotten sober around the best recovery in the world and I would have never found Mosaic and never been lit on fire by Erwin and Hank and never met the amazing friends who love me for who I am and taught me that I am lovable. Had I never gone to Los Angeles, I would have never learned how to survive the entertainment industry, which taught me so much in life and in work. Had I never gone to Los Angeles, I might not have heard of Celebrate Recovery. Had I not left Los Angeles when I felt called to Jacksonville, I would not have had the time to get involved in CR, become a small group facilitator, write and give my testimony and I wouldn’t have been open to going through the Redeemed Esteem class at Celebration. If I hadn’t said no to Nashville and yes to Los Angeles – I don’t know who I would be right now. Maybe the decisions we look back on as our biggest mistake are actually the best decisions we ever made.
God said something else to me recently and it was not sweet or reassuring. The pastor from Celebration Orlando spoke in Jacksonville recently and while I was minding my own business (my antennas were erected) keeping watch on a guy who peeked my interest and partially listening to this dude named Josh tell a story about a conversation he had with his wife, a bomb detonated. The story was something about his wife asking why it had taken this long for him to get an opportunity like the one he was about to embark on (I think he was about to speak at one of the Hillsong locations) and he claims that the Holy Spirit immediately told him that his character could not sustain the platforms he was seeking. This catapulted me out of dreamland and into the reality that this little nugget was for me. Insert frownie face. I immediately wrote that quote down and a few other things and haven’t looked at the page since. I didn’t need to, I know exactly what God was referring to – my inability to not act like a 35 year old going on the terrible twos on a really shouldn’t be regular basis. Ever since that sermon, I have been acutely aware of everything I do that has to change! It’s horrible. I really do have to find a way to ride the wave of life without say throwing the church program down, pouting through worship, refusing to greet anyone and yelling at the traffic guy for trying to direct me around the traffic circle (I’m not stupid!) In other news I might have had a complete melt down at a Christmas Eve service this year and it pretty much included every verbal and nonverbal thing I do that has to stop! I like to blame my little outbursts on being a Scots-Irish Taurus Female who is diabetic and sober and trying to deal with it all, but I guess it is time to put my big girl britches on and stop acting a fool. I have to if I want to step onto the platforms for Christ that I desire.
And with that I give you my 2016 Resolutions. Some of you may find them a bit vague, but for where I am right now, they are exactly what I need to make my focus for 2016:
All in all, I want to appreciate the people, places and things in my life and continue striving toward the dreams God has placed in my heart while staking a claim for my own place in the sun/sand.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
There are times in life where everything seems so unfair. Whether it is treatment from co-workers or so-called friends, an inability to build a community around one’s self or a constant financial struggle. Life can, at times, seem very unfair.
I feel like I am on a rollercoaster of emotions these days. I have somehow gone from supreme happiness and contentment to the deep seeded need of belonging to a community. I feel more alone than I have ever felt and I do not understand where this feeling is coming from. While it is true that I have had a hard time building a community in Los Angeles, I have also stayed very busy so it has not been a bother until now. For a woman, feeling alone equals feeling unloved and you would think that my Father in Heaven would be very sensitive to me at this time. That He would gently remind me of His love and that He has great plans for me.
Instead, my Heavenly Father is in full on DAD mode. He has made me acutely aware of the fact that while I may feel like He is not taking care of me, He actually is doing that and so much more. It started with my learning of a gentleman who had a car accident very similar to the one I had several years back. The only difference being that I landed upright and he landed upside down. That one difference means I walked away with lesions and a life long case of whip lash, whereas, he has endured multiple surgeries to fix an internal problem that has yet to be fixed. He remains in constant misery, unable to work and lives on the verge of suicide due to excruciating pain from an internal problem that cannot be found much less cured. I could have been him, but I was not. I function normally, have no pain other than the reactivation of whip lash which means I cannot rock climb or do any thrill riding. What a difference in our lives! Favor was definitely bestowed on my indignant soul.
My Heavenly Father went on to remind me of all of the favor He has bestowed upon me in all those paying the bill jobs that I routinely tell Him I could do without. The only reason I even landed my first job was due to the fact that my boss just liked me and felt like I could be a friend and a co-worker. It was a similar situation in the second full-time job I acquired. The woman who was doing the hiring, wanted someone closer to her age that could be an accountable co-worker and friend and that is exactly what I was to her. I also received favor in the form of the president of the company taking a liking to me. This man was a ferocious human being, but when he saw me, his whole demeanor changed. Not once, did he ever accost me like he did everyone else. Moreover, once I had put in my notice to move to Los Angeles, I found out that he only kept me on the payroll for the previous year because he liked me. Work was very slow and there really hadn’t been a need for me at the company, but I was able to keep my job and my paychecks, which allowed me to save money to move to Los Angeles all because favor had been bestowed upon my indignant soul.
Once in Los Angeles, I was able to find a job in what I thought took eons but according to LA locals, I was “so blessed to get a job that quick because it can take up to a year or more to get a job in LA”. Again, a man at my company just took a liking to me from the start. If you ask me, I think I remind him of a younger version of his wife, but he has been on my side since day one and has also managed to get me two raises in a company where no one is getting raises even when they get un-asked for promotions. This last raise is what has finally moved me out of living paycheck to paycheck and allowed me to create a plan to get out of debt over the next year. Even though I tend to see nothing but what is wrong and missing in my life, God has yet again bestowed favor upon my indignant soul.
While I am not completely content with life as I know it, I guess I need to stop complaining and start thanking my Heavenly Father for being my DAD and making sure I have everything I need to live a decent life. Los Angeles is both great and horrible at the same time with the main issue being that I have not found a place to truly belong. It is this inability to belong that has me wondering if I only came LA to get clean and sober. The aloneness I constantly feel is eating away at my soul and it has me thinking about that job in Nashville that I so rudely kicked back to God while screaming “Hell No”. The very unfunny truth is that clean and sober Jessica would absolutely love that job! Go figure, right? I have also been thinking about the fact that if there were one other city in America that has the same self-publishing and writing community as Los Angeles, it would be Nashville. While Nashville has a few too many rednecks and no ocean, it is close to family and boasts a great city where I can afford to buy a single-family home. I guess I can say it is on my radar as a possibility in the next couple of years, but even as I type this, I am reminded of my mother who was bound and determined to get out of Tennessee and back to California – she never made it back because love has a way of happening when you are making other plans.
So here’s to staying up in the air, keeping an open mind, making choices that keep my writing a priority, having a thankful heart instead of a complaining one and most importantly… Here’s to a great summer full of whatever blessings God has in store for this indignant soul.