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.
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.
A Look Back and A Look Ahead
As I sit here staring out the window on a warm and dreary day in Northeast Florida, listening to the sound of rain falling onto the trees and grass, I really can’t believe it’s almost December! Time sure does fly whether you’re having fun or not. Seriously.
While my time in Jacksonville hasn’t been the most exciting of times, it sure has been a necessary time of personal healing. When I came here, I was confused about everything and that confusion spilled over into my confidence both personally and professionally. It is really amazing when you can look back and see God’s hand leading you through the past year and I can definitely see Him in mine.
I had an opportunity to get on with the major media player in town, but due to my mental and emotional state it would have been a disaster and I can see God’s hand in leading me away from that job in a miscommunication of interview times. Even though the job I did land barely allows me to make ends meet, I have yet again enjoyed favor in the company and have been able to chart my own course in hours, lunches, time off and the lateral move into a better fitting department. Looking back, I can say that I needed a lower key job while I was going through a time of personal healing so that I could make my way back to the confident, intelligent, go-getter that I am.
So much has happened on the spiritual side that I don’t even know where to begin. God has been speaking into my heart through some of the pastors here in town as well as my home tribe in LA. Don’t you love it when the devil comes at you with brute force and God leads you to a church service where the pastor affirms your stance, gives you confidence and breathes new life into you? That happened to me this past year. I had a Stephen Minister who is part of a local Celebrate Recovery call me stupid for surrendering a certain area of my life to Jesus and actually abiding by His word in this area. He did more than just call me stupid, he was actually trying to coerce me to see things his way so he would have an open door, which I shut and dead bolted immediately. To say this caught me off guard is an understatement. At the time I was going through Redeemed Esteem at Celebration Church, which is a book and corresponding program for those who have past abuse in their lives. I was already in extreme emotional upheaval due to the class, but the devil likes to strike when he thinks we are weak. The trick is – if we are surrendered to Christ and actively putting Him first in our lives – we’re actually stronger than ever regardless of what we might look like to others. I let this man steal my joy for about a month. I had an opportunity to lead big group one night and I couldn’t do it because he was there. I hadn’t fully digested what had happened, how it affected me, why it affected me that way and fully given it to God so I just wasn’t ready. While I do disagree with the fact that he is a Stephen Minister – limited Stephen Minister I should say – I can be in the same room with him now and I pray for his spiritual maturity because he needs it. I kind of drifted, what I meant to say is that the very next day – I went to hear Russ Austin over at Southpoint Community Church and he spoke an entire sermon on the issue with which I had just been challenged. My friend looked at me and said, “ That was for you!”
The last minute, last seat in the Redeemed Esteem class at Celebration was also intended for me. It might even be one of the main reasons I came to Jacksonville. A lot of healing took place in that class. Strongholds that I have had for years vanished in that class. I have shared previously that I have never been able to see myself correctly in that I tend to see someone much heavier in the mirror. I literally freaked out one day because my wrist looked so small. Truth is I think I was seeing as it really is for the first time that day. I like what I see when I look in the mirror these days too. I have a new confidence that I didn’t have before participating in that class and I am grateful for it. I told the leader / author, Patricia Newton, that I am interested in facilitator training so that might be something on the horizon in the new year as she is working to get the corresponding study guide published and on the market. The book is available online and in select stores for those interested.
I have also been challenged to start tithing. I have to admit that I have never been a tither. Namely because I tend to be on the poor end of the prosperity spectrum, but in a recent sermon by a guest pastor at Celebration I felt God hit me over the head. I knew it was my time. I know that when you put God first, God blesses that area of your life and the one area I have yet to give Him is my finances, which by the way, are at a level of devastation that I didn’t even experience in LA! And so I tithed for the first time a week ago. It hurt. I cried. I’m a gluten-free, diabetic who needs to eat. I have a car that is literally on its last leg. I have too much debt to mention. My identity was stolen earlier this year creating more debt that I am fighting. My job is not sufficient, but I knew that when I took it – it was suppose to be a get my wits back and move on sort of position. I didn’t think I’d be there this long and so with all of this going on – I have started tithing! I mean with all of that facing me it seems like a no-brainer – I need to put God first in my finances and I am doing just that despite the fact that I have no idea how I am going to make it through each month. From now on I do the following with each check I receive: pay God, pay myself, and manage the rest. Period. End Point. Ditto.
Celebrate Recovery has been another major healing factor in my life and I also believe this to be one of the reasons I came to Jacksonville. I was just too busy in LA to get involved in CR, but once I moved to Jacksonville, I had all the time in the world. Celebrate Recovery has been the other major component in helping me get my groove back so to speak. After attending the same CR for a while, I was able to move onto the leadership team and start being the women’s small group facilitator. I also help out in big group on occasion and was able to give a mini-mony at this CR’s Anniversary party. After giving my mini-mony, I was approached by a couple other CR’s in town to give my full testimony at their meetings. A few months later I received a surprise email asking me to give my testimony at the Mandarin area meeting and I said yes even though I hadn’t bothered to flesh out a 20 minute testimony and would only have a few days to get it written in order to submit it for review. I am so glad I said yes! I was able to flesh out a close to 20 minute testimony and really enjoyed being able to share my story of transformation with others. That first night is special to me and the crew over at Mandarin UMC were so welcoming. An interesting thing happened that night that I want to share: During the pre-service prayer, where leaders pray for the band, host and speaker, I felt the room grow warm to the point we were all flush. A wave of calm swept over me that was so powerful that I had to ask the angels present to take a few steps back because I felt like I had swallowed a chill pill or muscle relaxant and needed this calming energy to fade just a little bit or my testimony would be rather interesting! The amazing thing is that the energy dissipated just enough for me to be fully there, but also be fully calmed. My nerves left and did not return. I was fully comfortable up in front of everyone and was able to maintain a good speaking flow and a lot of eye contact with the audience. It truly is amazing when the angels come close! Another cool thing about that night is that there were about ten female newcomers all my age in the audience. I, of course, did not know until afterwards when the group walked over to CR 101 and I over heard them saying they were all first timers. God is so Good. I truly hope that my story of transformation helped them to open up to the transforming love of Jesus Christ and to keep coming back to CR of course! I am also excited to do it all again over at the Chets Creek CR in the new year because if there is one thing I love talking about – it is Jesus and what all He continues to do for me.
Hillsong came to Jacksonville for their Hillsong NIghts tour and it was incredible. I tried to explain to my friend that the energy of that night is what it is like to go to Mosaic every Sunday. She couldn’t quite believe me, but its true. I miss the energy of Mosaic and it was nice to have that energy back at Hillsong Nights. The next day I went to Celebration to hear Brian Houston speak on what would become a talk for the dreamers of the world. At the end, my friend, yet again, turned to me and said, “That was for you!”. Little did she know that during that sermon God breathed a new project into my life.
I have only been in Jacksonville a year, but a lot has happened. God definitely had a reason for ripping me out of Los Angeles and bringing me to a moment of stillness so that He could take me up a level so to speak. I am hoping to refresh my website over the month of December revealing a new look and vibe for the January 1st 2016 post. I am also going to be expanding into the vlog/video world in the new year. This is the project that God breathed into me over Hillsong weekend. I have finished the brainstorming phase and am moving into the content creation phase which will be followed by deciding on a home for the content and of course, production. I do not yet have a launch date as I don’t yet know if this content will be on my site, on YouTube or somewhere else so stay tuned as info becomes available. Lastly, God has laid it on my heart to work on a memoir in the same vein of my CR testimony only on a much larger scale. I probably won’t start on that until the video content is off the ground, but you never know because God’s time table and our time tables are not always the same.
I guess it is sufficient to say that I am grateful for 2015 and excited to see where God takes me in 2016. My motto is always Stay Gypsy… Stay in His Wind.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of You!
P.S. my friend Ruth is currently trying to fund a well through Generostiy.
Her project page is give.generosity.org/ruthwarner
Feel free to read up on all the amazing work of Generosity Water, donate to my friend’s Well, spread the word, buy some goods or start your own Well Project! If you’re not the charity type, 2016 is a great time to start on a new path.
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….
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.
I have to be honest that these first two months in Los Angeles have not been easy. For one, I am up in the valley and apparently “no one hires people from up there”. Second, I happen to live with six female college students who don’t speak a lick of English as they are all from the great land that owns us, China. Being from China you would think they would be at least a little tidy, but they are just like American college students in that they are filthy and apparently under the impression that a fairy is going to clean up after them. My biggest problem as of right now is parking in that I am not use to having to have cash on hand 24/7 to park and I happen to be out of cash at the moment. Dear State Farm Bank: Please send me my debit card, as it is of utmost importance that I receive it. I am also not use to pedestrians being everywhere so if you, a pedestrian, see a silver Impala please look before crossing because I am probably not even aware that you exist. On the bright side, I am finally starting to get a handle on navigating this giant city and as a result only make one wrong turn per trip, which is an improvement of gigantic proportions.
Boredom and lack of human interaction has also been a major problem in these first two months. As is being stuck in a hot, un-air conditioned house in the valley that could use some serious TLC. Moreover, I am facing the fact that I need income as medical bills keep arriving that I cannot pay. Adding to the boredom and impending financial doom is the fact that I am getting sober for the umpteenth time. Needless to say, I need something to give and I need it to give now. Unfortunately, I seem to be sending out resumes left and right and nobody seems to be interested. Moreover, those that are “interested” only seem to be interested in telling me that I need to “move to the city” or better yet “you need some experience before you can intern here”. Um, really? I thought internships were for experience and as a matter of fact, I am in the city! And for the love of God, the 405 is not that bad! Suck it up Lalians, Suck it up!
Any who, things got to the point that I felt like I was suppose to receive some sort of key in order to actually live here and without that key I would be doomed to wander the streets as a beggar. No matter how much I prayed or cried, nothing seemed to be changing. I felt locked out and I had no one to seek advice from and I didn’t know what to do so I did the only thing I could do… I unloaded all of this on the poor messianic pastor at the messianic synagogue I have been visiting and I did this unloading during the service. He, obviously having dealt with a bunch of crazy people in his life, asked if I had ever tried fasting and prayer. He said that whenever he needs a breakthrough in life, whether it is financial, relational, emotional or physical, he sets aside a day or a weekend to fast and pray. He told me that Yeshua, himself, in the seventeenth chapter of Matthew, told His disciples that some problems require fasting and prayer. As luck would have it, the congregation was having a day of breakthrough prayer and fasting the very next day. I assume you think I went. You would be wrong. I got scared at everyone trying to get me to go so I left the service as quickly as possible. I must have resembled a dear caught in headlights. Note to self: flight response is alive and kicking; fight response – not so much.
After I got home, I looked up Matthew chapter seventeen and found in verse twenty-one that Yeshua did indeed say that some things can only be conquered through prayer and fasting so I decided to do my own little version in the solitude and safety of my little rented room in the hot, sticky valley that everyone pretends doesn’t exist. Being that I have never done this before and being that I always have a bit of method to my madness, I decided to plan out my six hours of prayer and fasting… I’ve never done this before and thought a whole day was a little presumptive of myself.
Hour 1 (12-1pm) – Praise
Hour 2 (1-2pm) – Prayer
Hour 3 (2-3pm) – Praise
Hour 4 (3-4pm) – Scripture
Hour 5 (4-5pm) – Prayer
Hour 6 (5-6pm) – Praise
Okay, so maybe I did a lot more praising than I did praying, but due to a recent realization, I actually connect to God through praise much more than I connect through prayer. While, I could probably do a whole post on all that thought encompasses, it will not be done today.
I do have to say that the experience did not disappoint. I thought I was going to be bored. I thought I would not be able to concentrate or run out of things to say, but let me tell you that when the God of the Universe wants to talk, He has a way of commanding your attention beyond all of your human capabilities. I used the Praise & Worship channel on Pandora for my praise hours and actually found some songs and artists that I really enjoyed. As for the first hour of prayer… I began by telling my God and King my purpose for this time and explained in detail what I was feeling and what I felt I needed from Him. After that, I opened up the floor for Him to speak and well, let’s just say He relayed what He needed from me before He could give me what I claimed to so desperately want! I had recently taken a class entitled Actualizing Your Soul’s Goals with Mastin Kipp from The Daily Love, an online blog and community. In this class Mastin taught us the difference between goals and intentions and lead us through a series of exercises designed to bring out our own individual purposes for this life. By the end of the class everyone had a list of intentions, goals and grounded action steps to help them reach the goals that would bring true fulfillment. I have to say the class was awesome and I was immediately hit between the eyes with the realization of what was keeping me in a very unhealthy cyclical holding pattern from which I was desperate to break free. I thought the work from that class was done, but during the first hour of prayer God took all of my class work and went much, much deeper. I ended up spending the last thirty minutes of prayer completely re-writing my intentions, my purpose and something Mastin calls my Major Definite Purpose. I had gotten ahead of myself in the class and while the majority of what I wrote was and is true, I have work to do before I actually get there. AMAZING!
After the initial prayer hour, I continued with my itinerary until I came to the scripture hour. I actually didn’t have a clue as to what I was going to do with that hour. I suppose I was planning on looking up some verses on some particular topics I am struggling with but I ended up just asking God to guide me as I opened His book and He did. It seems He has some things to tell me about life and how one is to live life. He directed me to several scriptures, one of them being 1 Thessalonians where Paul talks to the new Christians regarding how they are to live their lives and why. He also led me to look over the Ten Commandments again. It seems as though God wanted to remind me that He has some advice on this thing called life and that it would be good for me to familiarize myself with such advice both on a physically practical level and on a mentally practical level.
And don’t think the hours of praise were a vacation either. I strained to really listen to and contemplate the meaning of the words I was singing and in those words I found God speaking loud and clear regarding many aspects of my life. It is interesting to note that I now feel that my own personal life purpose is to… “Be a blessing to everyone I meet by empowering myself so that I can empower others to live out their own individual purposes thereby sharing their own unique gifts with the world and making the world a better place by having done so.” … When I am so far from being a blessing in any sense of the word to any other human being on this planet. In simplest terms, I have a lot of transforming to do in terms of what I say and what I do blending into a recognizable harmony.
All in all, I am very happy with the outcome of my first ever day of prayer and fasting and feel it is a great way to reconnect with God, empower yourself when feeling vulnerable or need divine insight into a person or situation. It is especially useful for times when a breakthrough is needed. If the door is locked, go to the Person with the key… You know, the Person who created the door and the lock or at least allowed the lock to exist. Of course, the challenge is to keep your focus on God and His love and NOT on the end result because God will only give you that which you are ready to receive. Though you can be sure that He will reveal exactly what you need to cultivate in your life in order to be ready for that which you want.
As for me, I guess I was ready. Let’s just say that the giant door on the entertainment industry appears to now be unlocked. I have received a multitude of internship opportunities and am in the midst of the selection process as I type this post. On an even more pleasing note, I am beginning to receive interviews for paid positions within the industry too. Hopefully, I will land an offer soon and be well on my way to obtaining a place of my own in this land known as La la.
The Activity of God
I have to say that these past two weeks have been a very exciting and busy time and while I do have several blogs in progress I do not yet have any of them finished. After finalizing my new digs, I had to find a bank, find health insurance, contact my car insurance, clean out my entire life and decide what’s coming with me, change my mailing address with the entire world, get my car checked out and the list goes on and on does it not? One thing I can say for sure is that I have been at the feet of God begging for discernment and confirmation throughout this entire ordeal and I thought I’d share a few things with you because it is awesome and not all that often when you ask Almighty God for something and He delivers immediately.
As always, I have to take you back to the beginning. It was Thursday, June 14th and I was going insane with worry. I mean I was seriously starting to question this whole move because I simply could not find a roommate due to my location. That night, I begged God to let the next puzzle piece fall if this move is right and good for me. The very next day I had three roommate options. I felt in my heart that this was God saying a gigantic YES in regards to Los Angeles and that it’s not some stupid dream I’m chasing, but is instead an actual part of God’s plan for my life. So after I got this information, I was still on the fence as to whether the time to move was upon me and so I begged God to make it abundantly clear to me that now is the time. I specifically asked Him for another Los Angeles area employer to contact me regarding a position and reminded God of all of the crazy things people in the Bible asked of Him in order to confirm His will in their lives and how, to the best of my recollection, He always answered these requests. Now, I knew I couldn’t make God answer me, but I sure could plead my best case and I did have an honest desire to know whether or not I was moving within His will and more specifically, whether or not I had His provision. The very next day a film production company in Hollywood contacted me regarding an opportunity. So at this point I know it’s LA or bust and I needed to pick the right roommate option and this time around I simply asked God that if He had a better place for me to live, He needed to bring that place into my life before I finalized a move-in date with one of the three options I mentioned earlier. No, another roommate did not show up, but God brought to mind a lot of positive things about this option and my brother spoke to someone who lives in the area and was told that it is a really nice, safe, family area and great for a newcomer. So at this point you would think I’d feel good about picking up my life and relocating it to Los Angeles, right? Well, wrong. There is another huge piece of the puzzle missing. It is called income. It is important. You know what else is important? Health Insurance. I have applied for an individual policy, but due to that giant C word, I do not know if I will be allowed entry into the health insurance club plus there is the fact that I might not be able to afford the premiums due to that giant C lurking in my past. I find it rather harsh and rude: Congratulations you are a survivor, but please accept our sincerest apologies because if you get it again we will most certainly not help you survive it again! Anyhow, that’s a soapbox for another day. Where was I? Oh, yes, you would think that I would have peace about Los Angeles at this point. After all, God provided immediate confirmations, but I was still freaking out. What can I say? I am human. So my last and final request concerning the whole money issue was that I would have an interview set up in Los Angeles before I leave Memphis in order to confirm that a job is coming my way and soon! Of course, this would also confirm that I would either be able to afford the insurance premiums or be under a group policy in the not too distant future. I have to admit that I felt very wrong making such a request, but I was reminded of the outlandish requests made of God in the Bible by those, who like me, just wanted to make sure they were in God’s will and had His provision. If you haven’t guessed already, I have an interview set up for Tuesday, July 10th with a staffing agency in West Los Angeles. That call came two days after I made the request. So as I drive Interstate Forty west this week I do have an overwhelming peace that I am in God’s will and that I do have His provision and that knowledge makes the trip that much sweeter. I know the first few months are going to be a little rocky, but I have faith built on evidence of God at work in my life that I am going to be just fine.
I hope all of my readers that are celebrating this holiday week have a safe and happy 4th of July and if Winston is reading this from over THERE: Stay Safe & Come Visit When You Can!
Showing Doubt the Door
How come it is so easy for us to believe in our doubts, yet so hard for us to believe in our faith? After all, neither has any absolute concrete tangible proof so why do we always tend to lean towards the negative instead of the positive? Many of us can trust God to get us from our house to our office without a major traffic accident, but we crumble when it comes to trusting God to open up the right career door or introduce us to the right mate. What gives? God is still God. He hasn’t changed. He is still the same God that parted the sea for the Israelites to cross to safety. He is still the same God that healed the sick, led Ruth to Boaz and out of love actually made the sun reverse direction to prove His promise to Hezekiah when He added fifteen years to his life. He is still the same God that conquered death and rolled away the stone from His own tomb thereby making it possible for you and me to have a hope and a limitless future. Does anything really seem too hard or impossible for this God of Israel? Is it really impossible for Him to open up an opportunity for you? Is it really impossible for Him to introduce you to the right mate at the right time? Is it really impossible for Him to move you by His supernatural hand? Is it absurd that you should focus on your limited resources when God has limitless resources in the form of divine appointments, moments of favor and mind bowing miracles some of which we have become so accustomed to that we have forgotten that they are miracles?
In my own life I find myself constantly struggling between believing God for the promises He has placed on my heart and crumbling with doubt and uncertainty in complete bleakness and misery. I know God did not place me on this planet to flail around screaming and crying and freaking out, but I sure do find myself doing just that much more often than not. A worried and doubtful heart is not a good thing to have as it leads to confusion and makes it very hard for its owner to accomplish much of anything and I have to say that my life thus far is living proof of the fact. I have to wonder how my life would change if I just stopped doubting and chose to believe the promises God has placed on my heart. I know I’d have a lot more peace and a much better attitude and who knows… things might go better too.
Now, will everything go exactly as I want it to? Probably not, but that is where faith in God’s Timing comes into play. Timing is important. A pastor here in Memphis believes that the Israelites had to spend those forty years in the desert for a reason. This pastor believes that the Israelites needed time to walk with God and by doing so they learned to trust and obey Him and that they needed that trust and obedience when it came time to enter the land of milk and honey God had prepared for them. I too have had some recent experience in the “perfect timing” department. For instance, I recently toyed with the idea of emailing some rabbis in a city where I knew a particular family resided and attended synagogue. About a month later I finally got around to sending that email and would you know that not only did I pick the right rabbi, but a member of that family was in the office when the rabbi opened my email and read it to this person who then jumped on the computer and responded to my email and graciously included his contact information. I’m sorry, but I still find that whole scenario somewhat mind-blowing. Had that particular member of the family not been in the office the exact moment the rabbi read my email I could have gotten lost in a mountain of paperwork or even had my email deleted due to the weirdo factor, but thanks to right timing none of that happened. I believe this to be an example of how God is still in control of time and for good reason too.
So since we are in the season of miracles what with Passover and Easter each celebrating a mind-blowing miracle of their own concerning the redeeming blood of the Sacrificial Lamb… I am kicking doubt to the curb. No more giving power to my doubts by believing them. Instead, I am choosing to believe God and the promises He has placed on my heart no matter what. From now on I am answering my doubts with God’s word and only His word. I am going to be thirty-two soon and I frankly cannot afford to spend another day wondering around confused, worried and defeated because I am allowing my fears to grow stronger than my God.
Happy Passover/Easter to those celebrating and may the miracles involved in each serve as a reminder of the great and awesome power of our God.