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.
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.
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.
Cake or Icing?
Do you tend to go for the cake or the icing? It says a lot about you, if you think about it.
Anyone who has made a cake knows that most of the preparation and baking goes into making the cake and not the icing. The reason being that the cake is the foundation. It is what you put the icing on so a lot goes into the making of the cake. In our lives, the “cake” would be our relationships with our God, our family, our friends and maybe even our co-workers and neighbors.
After the cake is made, the chef or baker turns their attention to making the icing, which is usually a quick process. While the icing is not an afterthought, neither does it garner as much time and attention as the cake. When I think of icing, I think of the things in life that make the cake better like a significant other, financial prosperity, the privilege of leisure and material possessions whether it’s a closet full of the latest trends, a nice car, or a spacious house in a sought after neighborhood. All of these things are fine and dandy and make life more fun, but if we don’t have quality relationships with our family and friends are we really going to be able to enjoy the nice car and the nice house and the ability to travel whenever and wherever we want?
Trust me on this: there’s nothing worse than finding yourself in paradise and not having a soul to share it with. And I’m not the only one who feels this way. Just ask all the millionaires shooting up and smoking their lives away to numb the pain of having every material possession possible all the while knowing that even their closest “friends” have more interest in their death than in their life.
We are all naturally one type or the other. We are either busy eating the cake or we are busy eating the icing. When you look at your life, where is the majority of your time and money spent? Are you focusing all your energy on the cake or on the icing? Does your paradise consist of the things you own or are the people in your life, your paradise?
I’ve had a lot and I’ve had a little plenty a time in my life, but the only time I was ever truly saddened was when I was without my closest friends and family. As it turns out, things are interchangeable; people are not.
A Willingness to Change
This past month I made it to one year of sobriety for the third time. This trip on the carousel has definitely been different in that I brought absolutely nothing to the table other than a willingness to change. I have to say that my life is remarkably different and that I am becoming a believer in the notion that there is magic in the twelve steps.
Prior to quitting this time around, I now realize that I was walking up to a very dangerous fork in the road that would have cost me my life. Now while I’m not the tiniest of ladies, I’m not a big girl either, yet I was consuming a large bottle of vodka a day, sometimes two large bottles of wine, but mainly the vodka. Why I thought this was normal behavior I will never know. Anyways, my days were spent consuming vast amounts of vodka followed by popping migraine pills. I began to spend more and more time in bed. Not only was I completely dehydrated and malnourished but my drinking also made my potassium plummet and I suffered from constant heart palpitations and muscle spasms. This once runner and soccer player could now barely walk down the hall, much less down the street. Any sort of physical exertion was just out of the question. Frankly, I was at the point where I was about to exchange the long time love of my life for a harder and faster fix and it would have killed me due to my weakened state.
I guess I can say that I never really decided to get clean. It was more like I was out of options. I had no money and I couldn’t get a job to save my life. God had me cornered and I began to desperately seek His help, but the only response He kept giving me was to give up alcohol. I told Him that I didn’t understand because my seeking was for a job. I told Him that He did not understand what He was asking of me. I told Him that alcohol had nothing to do with my problems. I also told Him that alcohol is the love of my life, that it is my everything. He refused to budge. It would be months before I would realize why getting sober was the key to everything else unfolding in my life, much less the fact that it was the key to me staying alive.
And so I very reluctantly, quit drinking. It was horrible. Oh my God, was it horrible. I literally did nothing, but scream into a pillow for the first sixty days. I did not realize how dependent I was until I no longer had my magic potion in my cup. I was scared of everyone and everything. I was paralyzed with fear and mundane tasks brought about serious panic attacks to the point that I was retreating from places more than I was going to them. I was literally a dear caught in headlights for the first three to four months of my sobriety.
It was during this time, that God placed me into a church. Mind you, I had previously made a solemn vow to never be a part of a church again, to never get close to any Christians ever again and to certainly never ever get close to any pastors ever again. God obviously had other plans and decided that my being completely upside down was the perfect time to place me into a new church. He knew that by the time I realized that I had become an integral part of a church again that it would be too late and He was right. I also have to hand it to these people as they have done a good job caring for the crazed lunatic that is/was myself though I do keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. I do keep wondering why they haven’t thrown me away yet and wondering when they finally will, but this is one of my character defects and I am working on changing these thoughts as I come to terms with the events that created them.
As I sit here typing on this last day of August, I can say that life is very different in a very good way. Yes, I have my list of character defects, but I am aware of them. I no longer crave alcohol either. I do still spin, but I am starting to catch myself earlier and earlier and am able to stop that spinning almost immediately. I am told that this is the program of Alcoholics Anonymous in action. I am told that my ability to catch my spin before I actually spin out of control and do something stupid is proof that the AA program works. I am learning how to deal with life, something I apparently never really learned and I thankfully, no longer resemble a deer caught in headlights. I guess you can say I am getting my chutzpah back. I have great friends and really good, solid people around me; people that really do care and I know that I am loved. I am in the process of obtaining a new career position and have plans to begin publishing some of my fiction works in the next year or two. I guess the biggest difference is that all of these struggles have walked me across that bridge to where God is my everything and for this I am most grateful.
Earlier this month I asked God to help me grasp His love for me. You see, some pretty awesome people that are on some serious Jesus juice surround me and I want to be on it too. They have this passion and peace and joy that is contagious only I can’t seem to catch it. I do know that they all seem to be able to grasp how much God loves them and that is one thing I just cannot seem to accomplish. I will believe it for a few days or on a good week, but then life slaps me in the face again or I make a mistake or something doesn’t go my way and I for some reason assume that God doesn’t approve of me which translates to Him not loving me.
It’s strange that I have always been able to trust God when it comes to keeping me cancer free. (Back-story: I had a melanoma while my father was fighting his losing battle with melanoma. Mine was in the skin which is stage 1; his was everywhere which is stage 4) I recall begging God to just keep it in the skin so I never have to go through what my father went through and I’ve never really worried about it since. I’ve had several moles removed over the past six years with most of them being pre-cancerous. In fact I had another mole removed this month and it was while I was alone in the room waiting for the extraction that a terrifying thought occurred to me. I have a part to play in my having this type of cancer. You see, I’ve always thought the reason it was so easy to trust God with something like cancer was because I had no part in it. It was His deal and therefore He was responsible. The truth is that simply is not the case. While a genetic predisposition to Melanoma does play a huge factor in whether one is susceptible to this disease, so do one’s actions. As a young lady in the south, I did more than my fair share of idiotic sunbathing. Hell, I’d never even use sun block… No, I sir… I had to have the tanning oil that seeped the sunrays into my skin. I was also a heavy tanning bed user and considering that my melanoma was on my foot, I’m pretty sure that what I use to refer to as my “bright, warm coffin” almost actually was just that for me. I mean I even returned to the tanning bed after my father lost his battle with melanoma and after I had a melanoma. I mean my actions were beyond stupid, but God has honored my request nonetheless. I can see His hand in the timing of some of my doctor appointments, in the doctor’s I was lead to who ended up being awesome, proactive caretakers including my brand new California caretaker.
It hit me in that exam room, that God has been keeping me alive and keeping this persistent melanoma from going past my skin for six years. I also thought about my many car accidents, all of which, I am extremely lucky to have walked away from much less walked away unharmed. Those accidents were 100% my doing, God had nothing to do with those and yet He kept me alive through all of them. Then I remembered how I almost died when I was a year old due to a heart valve that wouldn’t close. I just stopped breathing and if my neighbor had not been home to rush me to the hospital, I would have died. I recalled how I endured several high-risk surgeries and practically spent the first few years of my life in a hospital in Nashville. My mother says it got to the point, that if I saw anyone who resembled a doctor or a nurse, I would just start screaming. They were trying to help me, but the only thing I knew was that when they came, it hurt.
Believe it or not, the list actually continues. Some items on the list are all my doing and some are half mine and half God’s and only one is just God’s. The fact is that regardless of whether I was at fault, God still had His hand on me, He was still carrying me through and He has had more than several chances to get rid of me, but He has chosen to keep me around. He must think I am worth something. He must have a plan for me. He must love me.
So I asked Him to help me slowly chew on this as it was going to be a long digestion. God is showing me a lot of love right now through the people He has placed in my life. People that love me right where I am and are patient with me as I continue to learn to navigate this world sober and I can truly say I have never experienced anything like it before. I can actually see His hand in everything that is happening in my life. Why I landed where I landed in LA, the people I have come to know, the jobs and internships I have held, the purpose of my current responsibilities… the dots are starting to connect.
Six months ago today, I surrendered the one thing I thought was my everything. On that day, I thought God was being mean and punishing me and wanting to take away the one thing that always got me through, but it turns out He was intervening on my behalf because He knew that if I stayed on that road, I wouldn’t be alive to write this post. When it comes down to it, we can be some dumb, defiant, stubborn, and greedy people and if we are honest with ourselves, we find that God works in spite of us much more than He works with us. However, He continuously chooses to intervene on our behalf… and if that’s not love, I don’t know what is.
“Walk out of any doorway, feel your way, feel your way like the day before.
Maybe you'll find direction,
Around some corner where it's been waiting to meet you.”
Lyrics from Box of Rain, Grateful Dead
Have you ever been in a situation where you were so sure it was going to work out only to find yourself slapped in the face with calamity, disaster or even worse, humiliation? Have you ever had a person enter your life that you thought was the answer to a problem only to have them spit in your face and call you crazy? Have you ever landed a great job only to get settled in to find that the writing on the wall screams not your cup of tea? Well, that’s just God taking you in a different direction.
I’ve had a string of these situations recently and I find myself in the middle of such a situation right now. It’s not fun being unsettled, especially when the writing is so clearly written on the wall and you have yet to uncover your next destination as well as the how and when of your arrival. It’s like being stuck in two worlds. You know you aren’t staying where you are and you have some clues to where you are going, but the exact destination and route are still unknown. It’s all God leading you in a different direction.
I was recently handed a job that was a literal lifesaver in that I was about a month away from being homeless when I got hired. I was very excited to find that not only was I able to stay in California, but I also had a pretty easy job with awesome co-workers, kick-ass bosses and a general laid back, easy going vibe of an office. All in all, it was a good fit… well, all except for the fact that it is nowhere near my life’s passion. I knew when I took the job that it was not a forever kind of deal, but I had no idea the honeymoon was going to end so quickly! These past couple of weeks I have become very aware of how tired and drained I am at the end of the day and the general disinterest in all things pertaining to my job doesn’t help either. Moreover, God is staring to nudge me in terms of reminding me of why I came to California in the first place. He’s starting to build a fire under me regarding my writing. I told my God that I needed a day job that excites and energizes me if I was going to get my writing groove back. I also spewed something along the lines of this tired and annoyed shadow of a human being is hanging on to her sobriety by a thread and now You’re nudging me to get back to writing? When and how was that going to happen?
For all I know I’m just having trouble adjusting to working full time and you know – being fully aware of it. Luckily, I remembered something Mastin Kipp said in one of his classes… that confusion precedes clarity… so I’ve been hanging on to that invisible thread, and trusting God to show me whether it’s me or the situation and what my next steps should be and then something amazing happened. For starters a nocturnal owl perched in the room next to mine confirming my search for new digs…. Mind you I’m not sure where I should search for digs at this point as I also started hearing things at work about how the company was going to be changing over the next year. As it turns out, almost everything I love about the company will soon be non-existent. The people I love are moving to a different location, the laid back atmosphere is being replaced with an annoying high security ambience and the one thing I’ve always said I’d never partake in is becoming a part of my job duties. Well, how’s that for some giant and completely legible writing on the wall! I told my God I was beginning to feel like I was being shooed out of a town without any money or transportation to take me on to the next town. I then began to become acutely aware of the fact that the work I do in an internship capacity always energizes and excites me no matter how drained I am and that I needed to pay attention to that particular piece of information. It also dawned on me that I happen to hold a volunteer position in a different component of the same field. Light Bulbs Flashing! So not only was the writing on the wall as clear as day, but I finally had a clue as to what direction I needed to move towards. It’s all such an emotional whirlwind: this whole being where I am, while trying to figure out how to get to where God’s taking me. I like the people I work with and there are perks to my job, but it just isn’t my final destination. This job is more of a layover in that it is keeping me in place so I won’t miss the plane that is about to pull into the gate.
Sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t and we can’t take it personally, we just have to realize that God may be taking us somewhere else. The next time something or someone doesn’t pan out, ask God what that was about… I’m sure He’ll tell you that it was just Him leading you in a different and better direction.
Happiness, hit her, like a train on a track
Stuck still, coming towards her, no turning back
-- “Dog Days Are Over” by Florence Welch & Isabella Summers
This year has brought a lot of necessary change as well as some mighty useful life lessons. After three years of wrestling with whether or not I should move to Los Angeles, I shifted into gear and drove across the country and landed in the San Fernando Valley. I quickly became accustomed to the LA area traffic windows, pedestrians and the unfortunate parking situation that is known as the City of Beverly Hills. I mean what is there not to love about this town? It is beautiful here and it usually boasts awesome weather to boot. While I wish I could say this journey has been all smiles and no frowns, I would be lying. I recall that in one of my resolutions from last year I stated that I felt God might have some intentions that were not on my radar and He did.
Enter Life Lesson #1: For reasons beyond my understanding at that time, God deemed it necessary that I get clean and sober and stay that way. After taking a couple of classes with Mastin Kipp (you can find him over at The Daily Love) I came to realize that my lack of sobriety was the one thing keeping everything from falling into place. It became clear to me that God was holding the key to my being able to stay in LA and that the only way He would hand over that key was if I handed Him my alcohol – something I wasn’t willing to do, but under the circumstances I had no choice. As the fog cleared and I started feeling feelings I’d never really felt before ( aka loneliness) I stumbled upon …
Life Lesson #2: I found my Creator and Sustainer and He wasn’t mad at me nor did He want to punish me; quite the contrary, He wanted to love me and prepare me for the gifts He still plans on giving me. As I continued on my sober journey and took a second class with Mastin, I came to realize…
Life Lesson #3 … that my fear of not being good enough is the root to every problem I have, including the alcohol. I learned that I continually sabotage myself by subconsciously seeking out people, places and things that reinforce my status of “fuck-up” or “black sheep” or “not good enough”. I learned that I have continually put myself in situations where I either didn’t have a chance to shine or never could shine so that I could keep my comfort status. I apparently decided that I’d rather amount to nothing and never achieve anything than face the fear of finding out if I am indeed good enough for myself, my family, my friends, much less a good man and the lovely masses.
So for 2013 I only have one resolution and that is to reinforce the positive in my life, which in turn allows me to face my fear of not being good enough on every level possible. This means putting myself in situations where I have responsibility so I can start changing that comfort status of mine. God, being several steps ahead, already has things set in motion. I have a new job where I am learning how to handle studio assets and accounts, a volunteer position where I am learning how to handle the media portion of a church service and an internship where I will be handling a live show or two come spring. I am also reinstating my writer status and have three projects to kick me off. Reinforcing the positive also entails spending time with quality people that have good hearts and good minds and are supportive in nature and you know actually give more than a flying hoot when it comes to my world.
Happiness does indeed sometimes hit like a freight train, especially for those like myself who fear anything that is actually good for us. I define happiness as a change that you don’t want or fear because you don’t realize that it sets the stage for all the things you want to come into your life. For me, sobriety hit me like a freight train. I hated it. It turned my comfy, miserable world upside down and made me realize what was actually keeping me in a deadly holding pattern. It also set the stage for me to uproot my greatest fear from my life and thereby make it possible for all the things I have secretly wished for to finally make an appearance in my life. So as we start this New Year, my only question for you is what is your freight train? What change do you need to make? I cannot promise it will be an easy ride, but I can promise it will most definitely be worth it.
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?