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.
At the end of this month I will somehow have five years of sobriety! What a whirlwind it has been! I feel like I have been and still am on a tour through all of the things Jessica needs to improve about herself. What can I say? When you spend the most important years of your life in a bottle you just don’t learn to do life, much less respond to it.
At this stage of the game, I know I have to find some financial security for myself. I am making financial security priority number one. I have been focusing my job search on higher education in Memphis and in the not too far away cities though there is a part of me that would like to be back on a coast. I know that staying in Memphis would be the best decision financially, but I also know one should never put all of their eggs in one basket. I am also looking at a few other career options outside of higher education…both in Memphis and outside of Memphis.
I guess it is just time to do some adulting. I have five years of sobriety, but I still have trouble handling stress and it has changed the type of jobs I go after. I often find myself comparing myself to a hurricane…. I definitely feel as though I am one. I roar into the office in the morning, wreak havoc all day, then roar out in the evening to the gym. To be frank, I pretty much do this everywhere I go. I expend a lot of energy that could be used elsewhere. Someone said I should try flipping my schedule – working out in the morning and doing yoga in the evening. I don’t know… I have very unstable blood sugar so I am not sure how that would affect things, but I might try it once I land a new job.
One of the bigger elephants in the room is the fact that I cannot seem to find a way to be happy. Every city I have lived in had something I hated about it. Every church I have attended had something I hated about it. Every job I have held had something I hated about it. One could argue and possibly win the notion that everything I have ever been a part of had something wrong with it. It has always been after I have left a place or an institution that I could really appreciate it for what it was and continues to be. And so after five years of sobriety, I have to ask the question, is it me? The answer is most likely yes. So then what? I guess I must get to the adulting. Find a career I don’t mind doing that will pay me a living wage and afford me the time off I need to do the traveling I want to do and start enjoying life for what it is instead of what it could be.
For some strange reason “Happy” always seems to be in the future with me, but the problem is if “Happy” is always in the future, then it is never in my present and I cannot experience it. That whole life on life’s terms thing in AA is my lesson right now. I have to do life on life’s terms, be grateful for what I do have and find a way to enjoy the blessings I have been given. How this works out in my day-to-day hurricane lifestyle… I do not know, but this is to be my lesson for year five of sobriety! I guess, in part, I just realize my age and realize that I am far more emotionally stable than I have ever been (I know it doesn’t sound like it) and I want to capitalize on the gratitude I do have and enjoy every experience I can. To do this, I have to find a way to calm down and stop complaining!
I don’t know if I will be staying in Memphis or moving somewhere else, but I do know that I have my work cut out for me in the year ahead. I am looking forward to getting back on my feet financially and I am looking forward to enjoying all of the new experiences this year will bring.
"If you want to find happiness, find gratitude." - Steve Maraboli
They say if March comes in like a lion that it will go out like a lamb. Is the same true for years? Let’s just say 2017 roared in and all but brought me to a complete standstill. For starters I had to say goodbye to the sweetest and fiercest cuddlebug I’ve ever known. Rosie, the toy stealing Boston, became very ill very quickly and had to be put down given her age. She needed a very invasive surgery that brought no guarantees so my roommate did the right thing by escorting her to the big park in the sky. The day she left us I contracted what I am calling a stress response. I have a neck and back trauma from flying off an overpass about a decade ago. I believe my stress reactivated this whiplash so to speak and I found myself in constant pulsating sharp pain in the lower back part of my neck on the left side of my body. I also had limited mobility and I stayed this way for about a week to ten days. As soon as I was back to normal physically and mentally, my car overheated while I was driving home from seeing a friend. The red light started flashing and an alarm started going off which I am told was meant to make me pull over, which I did not. I saw no steam so I figured I would continue driving. It turns out my radiator was blown and I had to spend a pretty chunk of money on a new one, however, my coolant light was still flashing. Going on my neighbor and roommates advice I put coolant in with the motor running and found that the small leak I was eventually going to get fixed had turned into a shower under my car. No Wonder. I had put about three bottles of coolant in the radiator and people kept asking me if there was a spot under my car and there wasn’t and there never would have been since it only showered coolant while the engine was running. And back to the mechanic I went only to find out that I had two leaks and needed to replace the rest of the components of my coolant system. My main hope now is that the transmission will last long enough for me to get my debt paid off so I can buy a new car and I know what I want when that time comes… if that time comes, God willing.
So as I said in my previous post, my two main resolutions were financial based and fitness based. Both have been blown out of the water. I had one credit card paid off and was making head way on the other, but those are both back up at the top of their limits thanks to Christmas and my lovely car. Then there’s the fact that I have restarted workouts, but am having issues with my upper body. I am finding it very easy to reactivate my injury and weights are just not in the cards right now. Though, I am finding it possible to slowly ramp up yoga practice. So you know there’s some light.
This past week I became very angry regarding a co-worker who is now my boss. I don’t have any hate for this individual and I do wish her the best in life – I just wish her life didn’t have to intersect with mine. We share an office and she literally goes out of her way every day to remind me that she loves everyone in the office except me. I have no idea what I did to her but she has been hateful toward me from day one. This hate drama and the fact that I really need to get out of this job and the fact that I am very unhappy doing this job are starting to take a toll on me. I just can’t seem to shrug it off and enjoy my day to the best of my ability anymore. I am beginning to get stuck in an I hate my life mode at work. It seems that this holding pen I am in just keeps getting smaller. Every time I think I understand the act of corralling I somehow find myself in a smaller space with even less to breathe. Being someone who has been touched my cancer and being someone who has stiff armed cancer for going on ten years now, I know that we are not guaranteed tomorrow and that we should each make the most of the time we have on Earth. And I actually think that it is this “life is too short to not enjoy it” mentality that is getting the best of me right now. I haven’t been happy in Florida. I don’t have a community here. My job doesn’t provide what I need on a social, mental, emotional or financial level. Yes, there are some good things to point out like my living situation, my involvement in Celebrate Recovery and getting to love on Rosie and now Lilly. But, I am at a boiling point. I say all of this to share that this past week in a moment of extreme anger (sitting at my desk and going off on everyone inside my head) my entire upper back and left side of my neck re-clinched and back to pain and immobility I went. This would be the moment that I realized that my neck and upper back pain and stiffness are in fact a response to stress.
I have shared previously that I am trying to follow the adrenal body type plan in an effort to curb the effect of stress on my mind, body and soul. It speaks volumes that I can now literally stress myself into immobility and pain. I have to find a way to deal with the daily stress of life before I literally stop my own heart. Yes, I am a yogi. Yes, I know I should know how to calm and center myself. Yes, I am a Christian and I should have the peace of Jesus. But I was also an alcoholic for like 16 years so I never really learned how to deal with life, in fact, my way of dealing with life whether good or bad was to drink. It’s like putting a band-aid on a wound that requires stitches. Yes, you are covering it up, but it is never going to heal properly. That’s what my drinking did for me. Yes, I could get through some really traumatic events like losing my dad and facing my own cancer, but I never learned how to handle life on life’s terms and so while I appear to function appropriately and wisely, I am for all intensive purposes, a raging toddler on the inside.
So maybe my new New Year’s Resolution for 2017 should be to learn how to ride the wave of life without letting it steal my inner joy. Well, you know how it goes… We tell God our plans and He smiles and nods and then He finds a way to tell us His plans… His plans tend to prevail. I know that much.
In Memory of Rosie, the toy stealing Boston who was as fierce as she was sweet. Her humans miss her very much.
A Rerouted Life
Well, California, if it makes you feel any better, I too am in what feels like a burn season. I lost the job I have been trying to get rid of, had a biopsy done, got rear-ended by a dude in surgery scrubs who wasn’t paying attention and may now loose my car to the wonderful state of Florida who has all the laws it doesn’t need and none of the laws it does need. As we all know you can kill people and get away with it here in Florida, but to make it easier for killers, crazies and terrorists, the great state of Florida allows anyone to buy a gun with no wait and no background check. Anywho, that’s a soapbox for another day. Life can just sweep you off your feet in the worst way possible and that is what it is doing to me right now.
I was able to get another job within two weeks, but the job is still low pay. I believe it is going to average out to about $20 more a pay check so I guess I can say that I did move up, albeit a very tiny step in the right direction. The good news is that I have good benefits and much more time off. My work days are shorter, I get more holidays and I have a shut down at Thanksgiving and Christmas which means I will be able to go home and see my family. For those of you who haven’t caught on yet, I am now in the field of higher education. This is a career field I have been thinking about because it is historically good for women, has longevity, great benefits and depending on the university and department within the university – there is ample time off that you don’t get unless you are in education or entertainment production. All of which are pluses in my book. So while I may still be in a monetary pinch, I am seeing this as a launching pad sort of opportunity. I will be learning the ins and outs of a controller’s office and in a few years I can either jump to an internal opening or jump to another university and they have those everywhere! So it is not all doom and gloom for this gypsy heart lady.
The ministry side of life is going strong. I am taking on some more responsibility in my Celebrate Recovery home group. Aside from leading the ladies share group, I will be doing more talking in large group, co-leading a fall step-study and getting my teaching feet wet by providing the training portion of the CR leadership meetings. I love my Friday nights with my ladies and am excited to learn and grow as a Celebrate Recovery ministry leader.
Now that I know I will be remaining in Jacksonville for a while, I need to pick a church home. I feel like I am repeating my Los Angeles days all over again. I started out at a church where I felt something was off, but I ignored the feeling and tried everything I could to find a place to belong. After a year long battle, I stepped away from church #1 and started visiting a couple other churches and one of them became home, my tribe and my life for the remainder of my time in Los Angeles. I seem to be doing the exact same thing on the other side of the country. I picked a church and made it home even though I felt something was off, tried everything I could to find a place t belong, but in the end I find myself stepping away. I guess I am hoping that what happened in Los Angeles will happen here in Jacksonville, that I will find my Mosaic here on the east coast.
While I don’t know what is going to happen with my car at this moment, I do have peace about the situation. The insurance company is doing everything they can to help me, but in the end, if the bumper comes off and the body shop reports frame damage, I will loose my car. I have fought and fought to keep my car, but it hit me the other night, that this might be one of those saving grace moments. If my transmission or some other major repair was suddenly needed, I might not be able to afford to fix the car and I cannot finance a car right now so I would be in serious trouble. Perhaps, I am losing my car and getting a little cash to buy another one (emphasis on little cash which is the issue) because something is about to go wrong with the car I am fighting so hard to keep. I can’t see what lies ahead, but Jesus can and He might have orchestrated the whole rear-ending event to save me from something I cannot see. In sobriety they tell you that you that your life is like an onion. Our lives, our emotions, our attitudes, our opinions, our perceptions and our actions form the layers around the core of the onion and it is in recovery that we begin the process of peeling back those layers to get to the core of who we really are. I feel that I have been peeling back the layers of surrender these past few weeks. The idea of surrender is a huge component of the 12 steps, but the day-to-day surrender takes on new meaning when you begin to realize that you really don’t have much control when it comes to anything except your response to every day life. If you are like me and like to have everything done a certain way and in a certain time frame then you have even more of a struggle with the daily letting go and truly letting God.
Everything good is grace and everything bad is the stuff Jesus holds your hand through until we get to abide in His arms. It is hard to take a step back and surrender to a life event, but it is what is required. We like to think that we have all the answers, but many times it is our decisions and our will that gets us into the tight spots in life. We thought we were right, we thought we had the plan, but then something happens to shake everything up and we get rerouted and more often than not, we look back and say thank you Jesus for rerouting me out of that disaster! In order to get rerouted we had to come to a moment of surrender that we did not like and move in a direction we did not want or anticipate, but that decision to let go and move in the direction God was apparently moving, is what rescued us.
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.
What Up Folks! So far 2016 is looking a lot like 2015 only with less sweetness because I gave up extraneous sugar for this 21 day fasting thing. I surprisingly did not have a hard time without my fix of fro-yo every weekend. I did, however, find it hard to not buy any sweets at the grocery store, which is why I am glad I kicked the sugar as my way of participating in a fast. It is easy to break promises I make to myself; it is harder to break promises I make to God. I can actually recall myself tooling down the frozen isle scoping out some new fro-yo only to remember “oh wait, this is a God promise. CRAP!” and I tooled on along down the isle and out of frozen land. While I have not officially lost any weight yet, my stomach is flatter and this improvement is all I need to keep extraneous sugar kicked out of my life!
On another front, I can say that my excitement for church is coming back! I have no idea how either. All I know is that once I finally relented and started going to the church that I felt God was constantly re-routing me to – something changed on the inside. I have found that I wake up excited on Sunday mornings even though my situation has not changed. I still go to church alone, sit alone, leave alone and go home to hang out alone, but I have an excitement that I cannot understand, an excitement beyond all understanding if you will. This is something I have been wrestling with while in Jacksonville. I have told God that I don’t like not having the excitement I had in LA. I told Him I want to enjoy my Sundays again, I want that excitement back, I want Sundays to be legendary again. Somehow the excitement is back and I am very grateful for it. I guess it lets me know that I can have joy in the middle of what was a situation that brought nothing but disappointment and tears. That’s definitely something, a God something, a Philippians 4:11-13 something. I also changed where I sit. I like to be in the middle of the action so I sit down front now regardless of when I arrive. I used to relent and go up the stairs and found that it interfered with my participation in service. They have these usher/bouncer dudes all over the place and I just make them find me a seat as close to the front as possible. I mean it is their job so why not let them be of service.
I am also trying to dig deeper in my Celebrate Recovery involvement. While I have been a facilitator/leader for the ladies share group at the beaches, I have only been fulfilling the role in the small group session itself. This past month I have been digging deeper in that I have been focusing on building better relationships with the women who come to the beaches CR. Instead of talking to friends at the café afterwards, I am focusing on talking to some of the ladies in the group, trying to get more of a feel for where they are in life, where they are mentally and where they are spiritually. I want to be an encourager, a cheer leader, an ear, and a guide for these ladies in their own battles and the only way to do this is to spend time with them and so far I am loving what I am learning.
I have had that Live Love Lead book by Brian Houston for a while now, but just recently started to read it. I came home from the grocery store on Saturday and felt a prompting to go to the beach. Due to the cold weather I hadn’t been in about a month and it was a sweet 67 degrees and already 3pm so I decided to head to the closest beach for some relaxation. As I was leaving I felt the nudge to pick up Brian’s book so I grabbed it with no intention of actually reading it. Once I got to the beach I was glad to see some soft sand and nestled in to watch the waves roll in and out. I find their rhythm hypnotizing and healing. The waves do something for me that I cannot do for myself and after my recent vacation I found that the sound of the waves can be just as beneficial and so I took out the book and started reading. I got through the introduction and the first two chapters and feel that God was trying to re-confirm His plans for me, my ministry calling and His promise in the verse He has gave me last year. (Joel 2:25)
Life has just been hard and it is getting harder. The pressure is on at a level that I have never experienced. I know I have to make a move, but the move I want to make and the move that is most likely going to be available are not the same. To make matters worse, I am conflicted about staying in Jacksonville. In Los Angeles I had everything I wanted, but felt that something was off, that I wasn’t supposed to stay and that prompting turned into busted fire hydrant pressure. Here in Jacksonville, I have nothing that I want, but feel complete peace and have absolutely no prompting to do anything except focus on the tasks I feel God has given me like this blog, the new video series, a possible memoir and continuing with ministry leadership training. It is so strange especially since I know that I have to make a career change due to impending financial ruin. Jacksonville does not seem to offer the career options I am looking for and I feel very conflicted about leaving and more frankly I don’t even know if I can leave at this point. You could say that just like I relented on the church I felt God leading me attend, I am ready to relent on Jacksonville and so I tell God daily – If you want me here – then plant me. If not, then move me. But whatever You do, do it quickly - One thing I am looking forward to is the job hunt being over! I need to focus on the video series and I cannot do that if I am spending an hour a night job hunting. That hour should be creating time if not resting and relaxation time. I can’t keep going on all cylinders all day and all night, especially with a job that drains ones soul like mine does. To be frank, I need a minute and some fun to boot.
Overall, I do have a good start to the new year. Eating is going better thanks again to the fasting thing at church. I am delving deeper into ministry leadership, looking for a better paying job, making an effort to venture out more via local Meetup groups and in a few weeks I will be participating in a small group and the women’s ministry stuff for the spring semester at my church. All of these are in my goals for 2016 and to quote my calendar for the month of February…
I am seeking, I am striving, I am in it with all my heart – Vincent Van Gogh
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.
Over the past month, my life came to a slow crawl. I was having a harder and harder time getting up in the morning and was having a very hard time staying awake at work. My workouts became smaller and smaller until they consisted of nothing more than relaxation yoga. I was beat and I did not know why. I had no symptoms except for extreme fatigue. It’s crazy how sickness can creep up on us. I never once thought something might be wrong. I just assumed I was depressed, that it was my fault, that I hadn’t been sleeping well or eating well, that I had gained weight and that I am just dealing with unwanted feelings or extreme loneliness. I just kept reasoning my fatigue away until it stopped me in my tracks. I spent three days in bed and on the third day it dawned on me that something must be wrong and so I went to an urgent care facility and found that I had a bacterial infection. Had I not gone to the doctor, I would have only gotten worse no matter how much I rested.
During this time of barely living, my rear view mirror hopped off my windshield again. I knew I needed to do something about it, but it was kind of nice just driving down the road, only concerned with what was ahead and not worrying about the guy in the truck behind me. My attention was on the road in front of me and I was driving peacefully. It occurred to me that this is how we are supposed to drive our lives, but many of us drive constantly looking in the rear view mirror. We’re in front of it, we’ve moved around it, we’ve driven past it, but it still holds our attention.
While driving without my rear view mirror one sunny afternoon, it dawned on me that Jesus never meant for us to be concerned with what’s in our rear view mirror. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying we are not supposed to deal with what’s in our past. What I am saying is that God never meant for us to obsess on it, contemplate it and bring it into our present over and over again. I say this because if you look at how Jesus dealt with people in the Bible, He was the exact same with every person no matter what had happened to them or what they had done. His words were same every time. He simply said “Follow Me”. It is a small sentence with life changing implications. When He said “Follow Me” He was saying listen to my words, read my words, make my words and my deeds the center of your life and do as I do, speak as I do, love as I do, strive every day to be more like Me. Follow Me.
Jesus never condemned anyone no matter who they were or what they had become. He simply said Follow Me. Make Me your role model. Jesus never mentioned anyone’s past, instead He called everyone forward. I heard a sermon not too long ago where the pastor on stage, said that the devil calls you to your past so he can condemn you in your defeat, but the spirit of Christ always calls you forward to a better you and a better life. Christ might make you aware of something He doesn’t want you doing because He wants better for you, but He never condemns. The devil condemns us, fellow humans condemn us, but God never condemns any of us because He always sees what we can become if we Follow Him.
The funny thing is most of us walk around condemning ourselves over and over and over again for things that don’t even exist in God’s mind. He let them go a long time ago. He is only focused on where He is taking us; we are the ones focused on where we have been. I know that I keep pointing back to a decision I made several years ago where I adamantly refused to move in the direction God wanted me to and to this day I often wonder if that one decision ruined my entire life. Thoughts like what if that was a once in a lifetime opportunity and now God will only let me wallow in crappy jobs? What if my husband was in that city and I didn’t get to meet him so now I am going to be alone? What if that career was going to be a launching pad for me to have a larger ministry and now I am going to die with a burning desire in my heart that was never fulfilled? The problem with these kind of thoughts is that they totally disregard that the fact that Jesus always calls us forward and that if we follow Him to the best of our ability learning and growing as we walk through life with Him, He always leads us somewhere good. He is not about condemnation, He is not concerned with our past – He is only concerned with where He is taking us because His plans for us never change. Whatever He started in us, He will complete – if we follow Him and allow Him to work in and through our lives. I know I have come full circle and find myself rather exhausted thinking it’s time to call it, that I’ve missed my opportunities, that I can’t possibly attain the vision I keep seeing for my life… But Jesus is looking at me saying “Jessica, I created that vision for you. I know how to get you there. Just keep following Me.”
When It Rains, It Pours...
“So the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials…” 2nd Peter 2:9
It has been rather stressful to say the least. Word to the wise: If the first word out of a man’s mouth is “I’m not a crook” or “I try to sleep well at night by doing everyone right” guess what? That man is a crook and he is ripping you off.
It all started when I took my car to a repair shop to get yet another coolant leak checked. The shop easily found the leak, but the recommended repairs were around $700.00. This was not great news since I am running on empty and without employment so I looked at my available credit cards and reluctantly decided to make the repairs putting one of my cards near its limit. I was told the job would only take half a day, so I was surprised to find out that the job is “ a big job” and the shop would need my car for another whole day. I called again the following day for these wonderful men to tell me that while they were able to fix the leak, my head gasket blew during testing for more leaks. The only recommended option was a re-manufactured engine, which would cost $4,500.00! Needless to say, I hung up the phone and called my brother. He immediately called bull honky on the situation and told me that if my car was not running hot then there was no feasible way for my head gasket to have just blown. I continued to talk to the men at this repair shop for the next three days. They were adamant that I needed a new engine. I was adamant that they had messed up my engine. It took this guy three days to “find” a shop that would take the job because he claimed no one would do a head job on an engine that had over 100,000 miles on it. I think he was really trying to find someone that he could refer me to that wouldn’t out his shop as having bent the connector to the fuel injector, which is what really happened. I did not need an engine. My actual cost for this additional repair was $294.00 including the tow truck.
There was a good week where I was thinking that it was game over Jessica. I could not afford $4,500 in repairs, but I also had to fix my car. I was in a major mess; I knew I was being taken advantage of, but I did not have the proof or the knowledge to combat my offender and I was terrified. Then God dinged me yet again with the phrase “you haven’t asked me to turn this around for you yet”. God, as usual, was right. I had been praying all the way through this ordeal for the techs working on my car, but I had just accepted the situation as is and assumed I was doomed. Just like I just accepted the fact that I was feeling all of that fear and anxiety last month and would continue to do so until I started a new step study. While sharing in Celebrate Recovery, God made me acutely aware that I hadn’t asked Him to remove the fear and anxiety that was plaguing me and in the very same second He removed it from my life. I’ve been back to the real Jessica ever since. This time I took heed and immediately apologized to God for accepting this current situation as is and asked for His help, for Him to turn this situation around and He did. At my brother’s advice, I called some other machine shops in the area and a man at Automotive Block Head and Welder agreed that there was no way my head gasket had blown and referred me to Bell’s Automotive, which is the BBB shop that found out what was really wrong with my car. I do plan to confront Monument Road Tire and Service now that I know they bent my connector while putting my engine back together. While I am not entirely out of the storm yet, the rain has stopped and the clouds are thinning. I have some 2nd interviews lined up and I hope to accept an offer very soon which will allow me to finally exhale and turn my focus onto the reason God brought me to Jacksonville in the first place.
A Look Back...
I spent Christmas of 2014 alone and it gave me some time to look back on some of my most notable regrets. While I never thought I’d be turning 35 without a career, a husband, a house or any children – this appears to be on the agenda for 2015. Going through Christmas alone was actually good because I realized that being alone is not as bad I once thought. I enjoyed Christmas cookies, some phone calls from friends and family and some really good holiday movies. Being alone at the holidays did not kill me – it actually did quite the opposite – it gave me back some of the power I had lost somewhere along the way.
They say you should never compare yourself to others, but I find it to be a tall order. Most of my friends made better choices in life and as a result are enjoying a soaring career, motherhood and all the things that come with that good life. I, on the other hand, seem to have developed a knack for changing both career and scenery every three years. Instead of enjoying the good life, I’m wondering what will become of me, how I will be taken care of and if I will ever feel like I belong anywhere. It was these questions that made me take yet another look back at some of my most notable regrets, only this time, I did not regret the choices I made. You see I simply was not ready. If you’re not ready – guess what? You’re just not ready. Had I accepted that dream job in the Christian music industry, I would have sabotaged it and still ended up penniless in Los Angeles. I needed to go to LA, I needed to get a taste of the industry and I needed to be brought to my knees and I needed to get sober. I also laughed in the face of a few great men that I now would give anything to have someone like them come across my path. We’re talking good-looking, Godly, athletic, sweet and amazing men that I just wasn’t ready to meet. They were ready to make an impact on this planet, get married and start families whereas I couldn’t see past running in circles. Had I forced myself to settle down I would probably have ended up divorced with major wreckage in my quake. These guys were and are amazing men, but I wasn’t the woman I needed to be when I knew them.
I guess you can say that 2014 has brought me to terms with the woman I have been and made me ready for the woman I am to be. I do regret not being ready, BUT, I do not regret the choices I have made. Those choices, strange as they may be, are what led to who I am today. Without them – I just wouldn’t be.
My resolutions for 2015 are short, simple and as follows:
1) Continue my venture into Celebrate Recovery and go through their Step Program (more on this next month)
2) Pay off my debt and keep it off this time. (my wandering ways were not meant to hold debt)
3) Stay Gypsy! (aka Stay in His Wind Always)
My Life Verses for 2015 are as follows:
A) Jeremiah 29:11 - For I know the plans I have for you... plans to prosper you, to give you a hope and a future.
B) Joel 2:25 - I will restore the years that the locusts ate away.
Wishing all of you a happy and joyous 2015!