The Corral Effect Part 1
The definition of corral is to gather together and confine. Synonyms include capture, collect, enclose, lock up and shut in – in other words trap. This might explain why I feel so trapped these days. God spoke to me recently and He told me I was being corralled into a very tight space so He can direct me to the right pasture. His words, not mine. His thought, not mine. I am a Taurus through and through and trying to corral a Taurus is like trying to corral the most stubborn and aggressive bull on the planet, but I do like that word ‘pasture’.
I feel like I am on a rotating merry go round of phases of corralling. In Phase 1 I am cocky and fighting back non-stop. In Phase 2 I realize I am trapped and I start freaking out and trying to find a way to escape. In Phase 3 I am teary-eyed and weary with a willingness to relent, give-in and give-up. There is a Phase 4 – the phase in which one has waved their white flag, fully given up and accepted their new reality. In other words – they have stopped kicking and screaming allowing the Rancher to open the gate to a new and uncharted pasture – a pasture created especially for the individual walking into it. A pasture that will be well – liked. Unfortunately, I am stuck rotating relentlessly in and out of phases 1, 2 & 3.
I cannot stay where I am, but I don’t necessarily want to leave either. I need a career and not just a job, but Jacksonville doesn’t exactly offer what I am looking for. It can, but those positions are not numerous and are usually given to the friend of a friend, which I am not. It sounds weird, but I like the trees here. I also really starting to appreciate the church I attend and I really love my involvement in CR, the close proximity to the beach and the weather! What I really like is that I feel like I can be used here, that I can have a voice here. I didn’t feel this way in Los Angeles. I couldn’t relate to many of the actors and entertainers I encountered there. I can relate to people here and I think the feeling that I can be used combined with all the other things I like about Jax is what is making me want to stay.
The thing is I don’t have anyone to rely on – it is just me versus the world and if I don’t make some sort of move soon – the world is going to win. It is only a matter of time before something gives and I am ruined. This is why I keep rotating through phases 1, 2 & 3 of corralling. There is a large part of me that wants to stay in Jacksonville, but when I look at the larger picture financially along with the type of jobs available in Jacksonville – I feel that I am most likely facing another move. On the one hand, I know that wherever God leads, it will be good, but on the other hand, I want to take control and stay. I feel as though I need to choose between where I want to live and having the job I want. I am just conflicted. In the past when God wanted to move me, He made it abundantly clear and I was ready for it. This time I am not ready, not very willing and not very clear. It is more of a general knowledge that if I want a job like A, B or C – I will most likely have to move somewhere else to get it. As I said earlier, Jacksonville has these jobs, but they are rare and given to friends, not strangers. Of course, something could give and also force me to give up and just get another job – a much better paying one, but still another j-o-b and stay in Jacksonville.
The number one thing I need to do right now is stay open to what God wants to do and trust that He will direct my path just like He directed me away from the Kansas City opportunity. I need to stop fearing that I am going to make the wrong decision and start trusting that if I do consider a misstep, that God will course correct like He always does. I seriously want to get a tattoo that reads “Stay Gypsy” “Stay in His Wind” on my forearm so I can read it all day every day. I need these phrases written everywhere to remind myself to stay connected to His Wind and not necessarily this world. And like they say – if you are trying to hold on to something, you probably need to let it go.
And of course the one giant elephant in this conversation that has not been broached is the fact that when one is being corralled, one is most certainly going to be doing the exact opposite of what one wants to do – otherwise it wouldn’t be called corralling. Do you think the sheep want to go into the pen? No, they don’t. They want to stay out in the field even though there is no grass left for them to eat and they run everywhere except where the Rancher is trying to get them “Bahhhhing” all the way until they finally collapse from exhaustion and go in their pen only to find that the Rancher was corralling them so he could get them into a new pasture full of lush green grass and rolling hills for their delight. The key for the sheep is yielding to and trusting their rancher and it is the same for you and me. There is a reason Jesus is referred to as the Great Shepherd and it has nothing to do with the literal act of herding sheep.
“Sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of faith.” - Margaret Shepard
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.
I recently had the opportunity to share a bare bones version of my testimony at a local Celebrate Recovery anniversary party. I didn’t realize how much of a story I actually had until I tried putting my story on paper. I spent the following week trying to cut it down to the time frame I had been given and it was tough because everything I’ve ever been through seemed pertinent. Anywho, since August brings my 3rd Sober Birthday I thought I would share my bare bones testimony with all of you:
Hi! My name is Jessica and I am a grateful believer in Jesus Christ who struggles with alcohol, anxiety, and self-worth.
When I write I like to have angle to work with and my angle for this testimony came from a song called Broken Vessels: “Oh I can see you now, Oh I can see the love in your eyes, Laying yourself down, Raising up the Broken to Life.” Because this is exactly what Jesus is doing for me!
You see I have been switching back and forth between two very different lives since I was nine years old. I grew up in church. I had a good family. I lived in a nice house in a nice part of town. I sang in the choir, I taught Sunday School, I went on mission trips, I led bible studies and I helped make the first Passion Conference happen. I did a lot in a few short and widely separated years of sobriety.
However, the majority of my life went more like a nightmare. I grew up with extreme social anxiety and had a hard time connecting to anyone. BUT, I quickly found that I could do anything and be anyone as long as I had alcohol in my system. My first drink was at nine years old. Nothing special, just a stolen beer shared between two best friends. It would be years later before I would have another alcoholic drink. I was 16 and made a new friend who introduced me to wine coolers. High school quickly became a blur as I routinely opted for spiked coffee in the morning, spiked soda at lunch and whatever I could get my hands on after school. I had a horrible relationship with my parents. I cursed them out daily and was out all hours of the night. My parents had no idea what to do with me. It was normal for me to drink until I blacked out and I did so every night of every weekend. My social anxiety made me dependent on alcohol, which brought a lot of depression so I was also a cutter for most of my teenage years. I hated myself, I hated my life and I only felt free when I was in the oblivion alcohol brought me.
As I mentioned earlier, I had bouts of sobriety that were broken by that lie alcoholics like to tell themselves. “I can control it this time. I just need a little release. Everybody else gets to let loose. One drink won’t kill me.” And down the rabbit hole I went faster than the previous time. Only now I was working and supporting myself. I was in Human Resources of all careers and I had found a new best friend in wine. Most of the time I was sober during the day, but I started drinking the second I was home. I longed for the weekends so I could go on benders and I got increasingly irritated with my co-workers, family members and friends due to my constant craving for oblivion. It got to the point that I was consuming multiple bottles of wine a night, often drinking until I vomited or passed out.
I eventually had another stint of sobriety that lasted about two years. It was all adrenaline and zero anything else and so I fell back into the arms of alcohol and told myself I would change my life once I left Memphis and I did just that – but it was not on my terms.
A few years later, I found myself living in a roach infested rented room in Los Angeles. By this time I was drinking a large bottle of Vodka a day and popping migraine pills to ease the suffering of my vodka based diet. I could barely walk to the mailbox because my muscles were so weak, including my heart, which palpitated non-stop. For the first time in my life, alcohol was not working. I could no longer reach oblivion. I needed something else, something stronger – and considering the state I was in – that something would have killed me.
I was at a very dangerous cross roads when God intervened in my life one last time. I had been seeking His help with a job. During a day of prayer and fasting I had a vision that scared the crap out of me. It turns out that Jesus loves me, but He was ready to let me die if I did not hand over the alcohol once and for all. I cried out – But it’s my Everything. Jesus replied, Exactly. Realizing that I had finally pushed God past His point of no return, I surrendered the one thing I had that made everything else okay and entered into a very reluctant sober state. I entered the rooms of AA in Los Angeles and I found a new home. After about 6 months of screaming into pillows and being afraid to even try going to the grocery store - something just changed. I started feeling more comfortable. Los Angeles taught me a lot. The Recovery out there is top notch and I needed to hear every word that was spoken. My favorite being “you’ve been upside down for so long that you have no idea what right side up feels like. Of course you feel upside down right now – it’s because You’ve finally turned right side up. Give it a minute.” And he was right! I also learned to like myself in Hollywood of all places. I made friends that liked me for who I am. My LA tribe helped me realize that I am funny, pretty, sweet, fun to be around and deserving of the best in life. After I got called to leave LA and found myself in Jacksonville, FL – I felt God nudge me to attend Celebrate Recovery instead of AA. I did not understand this at all. AA had saved my life. I live and breathe the AA logic in my soul. It keeps me from doing stupid things. But, I decided to follow God’s prompting and visited CR and I absolutely hated it. I felt so weird. I was a newbie all over again, but my AA logic quickly spit out the “Shut up and Show Up for 90 days” and so I did.
The first CR I went to, wasn’t my cup of tea so I sought a different one and met a super sweet woman and so I came back and I kept coming back here at the Beaches CR every Friday night. I have found that Celebrate Recovery offers me an atmosphere of love and acceptance where I can work on the root issues that cause my insane desire for escape. Thanks to CR I am staying sober while learning how to ground myself in God’s truth. I am learning to see myself the way God see’s me. I am learning how to serve, I am learning how to lead and I am learning how to deal with those unwanted emotions that usually make me bolt in every direction except the right one. I can say that after working the steps, I mean really, honestly working the steps, I no longer feel the need for alcohol. Sometimes I may want it, sometimes I may think about one drink, but I immediately tell myself that it cannot happen. I know where that one drink leads. For me it leads to my death. It really is that simple.
There is no going back, there is only pressing forward to the life that Jesus is calling me to lead and excitement about where He is taking me. He has given me a new vision for my life, which is the old vision I started out with years ago before alcohol took over my life. The good news is that the last 15 years have not phased God one bit. His plans for me have not changed. He still sees me as the same person I was before all of this mess started. This past year He gave me a verse that has been spoken in this room by others – Joel 2:25 - …He will restore the years the locusts ate away… – thanks to AA and Celebrate Recovery I get to live a life of freedom today and I get to be excited about the restoration of all the things the locusts ate away in my life while I was deep in my addiction, my depression and my self-torture.
AA Saved My Life. Celebrate Recovery is teaching me how to live and accept the new life that has been freely given. If you’re new – keep coming back! Keep doing the next right thing! Get a sponsor, get an accountability partner and Work the steps! Make yourself available to others! Surround yourself with the right people – people who have what you want, people that are grounded in God’s truth! Lean into Jesus and you too can sing that song with gratitude knowing that you are one of the broken God has raised to a new and awesome life. Thanks for letting me share.
And I really am excited for all that is to come! The vision God has given me seems so unattainable and so unreachable, but that’s also the fun part – I cannot remember who said this – Louie, Erwin, Russ or maybe they’ve all said it at one time or another – God never gives you something you can do without Him – I just have to be willing and God will take my willingness and make something awesome out of it. Like this blog, for instance, the readership has slowly been rising since the day I started it and I will keep writing until the day people stop reading it.
I am also working on some full-length (main speaker) versions of my testimony as I might soon have the opportunity to share with some other nearby Celebrate Recovery groups. Not to mention that I am delving into the Advanced Leadership training materials as I continue to develop my ministry leadership skills.
Looking back, I believe God had to take me out of LA so I could slow down and figure out where my life was going. My LA life was very hectic and due to the location of my work it made it very hard for me to be involved in after work activities. I MISS LA A LOT, but it is clear God brought me to Jacksonville so I could slow down long enough to truly change direction.
August 26th, I will be celebrating 3 whole years of sobriety: Three whole years of a different way of living; Three whole years of a better way of living; Three whole years of feeling my feelings; Three whole years of facing my fears; Three whole years of being the real Jessica. Three whole years of being someone I am proud of, someone my family is proud of and someone I know Jesus is proud of. Three whole years of better decisions, better relationships and better impact on those around me. Whoever said Sobriety is boring, uneventful and unattractive - doesn’t know Sobriety.
In The Middle
As I approach the end of this year, I am hopeful for many changes in the year to come. Namely, my job, my place of residence (I want my own pad!) and I really need to show some people currently in my life, the door. Just because someone has a good heart, does not mean you have to keep that person around. Good heart or not, if they drive you insane to the point that you want to set them on fire – perhaps you need to let their good heart be good to someone else.
They say the only way to change where you are at, is to change the actions that got you there in the first place. A lot of people like to use this line, but they never stop to think what it actually means. It means going against your own grain, it means doing the exact opposite of whatever your instinct might be, it means not being you – at least that’s how it feels. This uncomfortable existence of going against my own grain has been the bulk of my reality for 2013. I am beginning to think that getting sober was the easy part in that all of things I was evading with the alcohol are coming to light in a succession similar to that of a hundred clowns exiting a Beetle. It’s fast, it’s quick and it’s confusing. Walking through this new circus, I feel like I am doing more damage in sobriety than I did while drinking. The good news is that I am starting to have fleeting moments of feeling like myself again – albeit a different version of myself and I am hopeful for a complete resurrection in the year to come. They say that as long as you stay in the program, things will get better and I am counting on this testimony from those who have already been here and done this and have moved on to a life they couldn’t even dream of having, yet they do.
I must apologize as this post is not well put together, but neither am I at the moment. I actually thought about not even posting anything at all. The only thing I can say is that whatever changes are flowing into my life – I am ready and I hope to be able to share them with you soon. I am going to try to have a better plan for this blog next year, but I do still want my life and the lessons I learn to drive its direction. Maybe that is the issue I am facing this month. Maybe I am in the middle of a lesson right now and having not yet learned it, I cannot yet share its wisdom.
But I can share this morsel of truth: If there is one thing you do this holiday season, make it this – do something nice for someone else, hell, go a step further and do it anonymously and then do it again! You will be the one with the present in the end. I don’t know much folks, but I do know this to be true: it is only by helping others, that we truly help ourselves.
To you and yours… May you have a wonderfully Happy New Year!
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.
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.