An Answer to Prayer
I am not going to lie. Life can get really hard at times. Life can be really unfair. Life can beat you up, tear you down and leave you wondering why God even bothers to keep you alive. I recently found myself asking this exact same question. If I look back on my life, there have been several “death scenes” where I could have easily made an exit. I survived heart surgery at one year of age and countless surgeries afterwards. I have survived a tornado or two that killed neighbors living a couple streets away. I have walked away from a car accident that should have at least maimed me if not killed me; actually I’ve walked away from two of those. I have successfully stayed on top of Melanoma for going on seven years at this point and don’t even ask me about those seriously drunk nights when I apparently drove home without being able to actually sit up in my car. There’s also that potassium deficiency that dominated the last couple of years of my life thanks to my idiotic consumption of a bottle of vodka a day.
With a track record like this, it is easy to wonder why I am still alive and breathing. Granted, there is still time for me to make something of my life, but that does not negate the fact that I have been kept alive and it must have been for a reason. When I made this inquiry to God, I only received one sentence and it is this: you are the answer to someone else’s prayer.
As I chewed on this fact, I asked God to help me create a list of all the people currently in my life for whom I could have been an answer to prayer. The list was enlightening to say the least. What’s even more awesome is that the list is not complete. There are people I have yet to meet that I am already a scheduled answer to their prayer. I guess that’s what we all are whether we realize it or not. Every single person on this planet is an answer to someone else’s prayer. The question then becomes are we acting like it?
Getting Rid of the Clutter
“Don't own so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire.”
You find me this month in the beginning stages of downsizing. I know you must be thinking how can you be downsizing when you rent a room? Well, I am moving into a much smaller room later this month in a more prime location. I may be giving up a little bit of space and a tad amount of privacy, but I am gaining central air conditioning, a nice large patio and a fully equipped kitchen I share with only one other individual. Not to mention the fact that I will be right down the street from a large park where I like to jog. Looking at the mess that is my room, I have no idea how I even managed to get all of my belongings into my car the first time around, but I will most definitely not be taking all of them with me to my next dwelling.
I guess you can say that I’ve been clearing away the clutter from my life as well. This past month has brought a lot of acceptance on my part. Accepting where I am in life and my part in it all. Accepting that my choosing to stay on a path of destruction might have made me miss out on some of the very things I desperately wish were a part of my life and accepting the cold hard fact that it might be too late for some of those things at this point. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but through this acceptance I have been able to relinquish some of the control I foolishly hold onto. It’s so strange how the things I nonchalantly ask God for are the very things He provides, but when it comes to the things I cannot let go of and continue to pray, beg and plead for… He doesn’t even touch. I guess He is waiting for me to leave them in His hands and by leave He must mean give to Him, relinquish all control and go on about my business… Something I don’t do very well. If you think about it, it is practically impossible to do anything with something someone keeps taking back and messing with. It's like a spreadsheet you spent hours formatting only to find that someone else logged in and managed to delete half of your painstaking work.
I guess it makes sense that I shouldn’t have to keep checking in on my God and making sure He knows what He’s supposed to be doing on my behalf. I guess I should stop rearranging all the prayers in my prayer box each week. Yes, I do that. I guess I need to learn that age-old lesson that says if you truly want to see God work, then you have to truly let go of the situation. So when I say I have been getting rid of the clutter, I mean I have been practicing giving God the control He deserves. He definitely led me to California and He definitely placed me in the right part of LA for my first year. He also led me to a job, that while it is very taxing on me, I am around some very amazing people that treat me extremely well and not many people can say the same. He also lead me to a church with people who have been willing to put up with me while I was scraping through my first stages of sobriety and now He has lead me to a great new dwelling for year two of life in LA. When I say I am getting rid of the clutter, I mean I am letting go of bad habits. I am letting go of fear and letting go of control and taking steps to simplify my life and my time and loving every minute of the person I am slowly becoming. Besides, life is too short to deal with the ramifications of a cluttered soul.
“There was that "in between" phase. The phase between where I was at the time and where I was going. It's a grey zone if you will. A cocoon phase.” - Mastin Kipp
After a fleeting moment of clarity, I find myself back to not knowing which end is up. I am worn out mentally, emotionally and spiritually and I don’t really have any fight left. My current job has become rather stressful, which would normally be something I revel in given that I actually like and hold interest in my daily activities. Unfortunately, my current provider of all things monetary does not hold my interest and that is why this stress is what I refer to as bad stress. I am a simple being. If I want to do it then it is good stress. It doesn’t matter what’s on the line or how much pressure is on me or how many plates of expensive china I’m juggling. If I like it, I want to do it and it is good stress. I love that kind of stress. I’m actually one of those people who prefers running around like a crazed maniac. I am an administrative powerhouse who is fantastic with all those little details, but I also have a creative side that cannot go unfed. The worst part is my personal projects are suffering due to this bad stress. Well, it is more like they are just not happening because I am too exhausted to even think about them.
I just feel lost right now. I have come to terms with one of my biggest regrets (i.e. that job I should have taken two years ago in Nashville). I know that ship is sailed and I know that for whatever reason, I am supposed to be in LA. What I don’t know is when I will find a sense of belonging out here. I miss my friends and family terribly and am in desperate need of a support system. I am kind of a guy in that a lot of my identity comes from my job and I know that when I land in a position closer to one of my passions that some of this need for belonging will subside, but not all of it.
I feel like I am in that cocoon that Mastin is talking about in his post. Or like that age old phrase, “I’m not where I want to be, but I’m not where I used to be.” I’m in the in between and the in between has been okay, but once I hit my six month sobriety mark it was like a light switch went off inside me. I pretty much have my competence and confidence back and as far as I am concerned I am beyond ready to move forward, only I’m not moving forward, at least not that I can see. To say that I have complained to God about this would be an understatement. Unfortunately, the only response I have received has been the following thought: you can’t run from something you can’t see coming.
This thought makes me think of what I’m doing at my church. I find that I love being a part of making a show or service happen. It’s good stress. It’s fun. And I would never in a million years ever have thought that I would ever want to run media for anything, but I got thrown into this while I was still in my screaming into pillows days. In other words, I was so upside down that I didn’t really know what was happening until it was too late. Maybe the same thing is happening again. Maybe God has me upside down all over again so He can place me into a position that I would otherwise turn down. Maybe the only way God can keep me from running from the right thing is to keep me from seeing it in the first place. I may be flying blind, but I have the feeling that I am flying blind in the palm of God’s hand and that changes everything, does it not?
Earlier this month I asked God to help me grasp His love for me. You see, some pretty awesome people that are on some serious Jesus juice surround me and I want to be on it too. They have this passion and peace and joy that is contagious only I can’t seem to catch it. I do know that they all seem to be able to grasp how much God loves them and that is one thing I just cannot seem to accomplish. I will believe it for a few days or on a good week, but then life slaps me in the face again or I make a mistake or something doesn’t go my way and I for some reason assume that God doesn’t approve of me which translates to Him not loving me.
It’s strange that I have always been able to trust God when it comes to keeping me cancer free. (Back-story: I had a melanoma while my father was fighting his losing battle with melanoma. Mine was in the skin which is stage 1; his was everywhere which is stage 4) I recall begging God to just keep it in the skin so I never have to go through what my father went through and I’ve never really worried about it since. I’ve had several moles removed over the past six years with most of them being pre-cancerous. In fact I had another mole removed this month and it was while I was alone in the room waiting for the extraction that a terrifying thought occurred to me. I have a part to play in my having this type of cancer. You see, I’ve always thought the reason it was so easy to trust God with something like cancer was because I had no part in it. It was His deal and therefore He was responsible. The truth is that simply is not the case. While a genetic predisposition to Melanoma does play a huge factor in whether one is susceptible to this disease, so do one’s actions. As a young lady in the south, I did more than my fair share of idiotic sunbathing. Hell, I’d never even use sun block… No, I sir… I had to have the tanning oil that seeped the sunrays into my skin. I was also a heavy tanning bed user and considering that my melanoma was on my foot, I’m pretty sure that what I use to refer to as my “bright, warm coffin” almost actually was just that for me. I mean I even returned to the tanning bed after my father lost his battle with melanoma and after I had a melanoma. I mean my actions were beyond stupid, but God has honored my request nonetheless. I can see His hand in the timing of some of my doctor appointments, in the doctor’s I was lead to who ended up being awesome, proactive caretakers including my brand new California caretaker.
It hit me in that exam room, that God has been keeping me alive and keeping this persistent melanoma from going past my skin for six years. I also thought about my many car accidents, all of which, I am extremely lucky to have walked away from much less walked away unharmed. Those accidents were 100% my doing, God had nothing to do with those and yet He kept me alive through all of them. Then I remembered how I almost died when I was a year old due to a heart valve that wouldn’t close. I just stopped breathing and if my neighbor had not been home to rush me to the hospital, I would have died. I recalled how I endured several high-risk surgeries and practically spent the first few years of my life in a hospital in Nashville. My mother says it got to the point, that if I saw anyone who resembled a doctor or a nurse, I would just start screaming. They were trying to help me, but the only thing I knew was that when they came, it hurt.
Believe it or not, the list actually continues. Some items on the list are all my doing and some are half mine and half God’s and only one is just God’s. The fact is that regardless of whether I was at fault, God still had His hand on me, He was still carrying me through and He has had more than several chances to get rid of me, but He has chosen to keep me around. He must think I am worth something. He must have a plan for me. He must love me.
So I asked Him to help me slowly chew on this as it was going to be a long digestion. God is showing me a lot of love right now through the people He has placed in my life. People that love me right where I am and are patient with me as I continue to learn to navigate this world sober and I can truly say I have never experienced anything like it before. I can actually see His hand in everything that is happening in my life. Why I landed where I landed in LA, the people I have come to know, the jobs and internships I have held, the purpose of my current responsibilities… the dots are starting to connect.
Six months ago today, I surrendered the one thing I thought was my everything. On that day, I thought God was being mean and punishing me and wanting to take away the one thing that always got me through, but it turns out He was intervening on my behalf because He knew that if I stayed on that road, I wouldn’t be alive to write this post. When it comes down to it, we can be some dumb, defiant, stubborn, and greedy people and if we are honest with ourselves, we find that God works in spite of us much more than He works with us. However, He continuously chooses to intervene on our behalf… and if that’s not love, I don’t know what is.
“Walk out of any doorway, feel your way, feel your way like the day before.
Maybe you'll find direction,
Around some corner where it's been waiting to meet you.”
Lyrics from Box of Rain, Grateful Dead
Have you ever been in a situation where you were so sure it was going to work out only to find yourself slapped in the face with calamity, disaster or even worse, humiliation? Have you ever had a person enter your life that you thought was the answer to a problem only to have them spit in your face and call you crazy? Have you ever landed a great job only to get settled in to find that the writing on the wall screams not your cup of tea? Well, that’s just God taking you in a different direction.
I’ve had a string of these situations recently and I find myself in the middle of such a situation right now. It’s not fun being unsettled, especially when the writing is so clearly written on the wall and you have yet to uncover your next destination as well as the how and when of your arrival. It’s like being stuck in two worlds. You know you aren’t staying where you are and you have some clues to where you are going, but the exact destination and route are still unknown. It’s all God leading you in a different direction.
I was recently handed a job that was a literal lifesaver in that I was about a month away from being homeless when I got hired. I was very excited to find that not only was I able to stay in California, but I also had a pretty easy job with awesome co-workers, kick-ass bosses and a general laid back, easy going vibe of an office. All in all, it was a good fit… well, all except for the fact that it is nowhere near my life’s passion. I knew when I took the job that it was not a forever kind of deal, but I had no idea the honeymoon was going to end so quickly! These past couple of weeks I have become very aware of how tired and drained I am at the end of the day and the general disinterest in all things pertaining to my job doesn’t help either. Moreover, God is staring to nudge me in terms of reminding me of why I came to California in the first place. He’s starting to build a fire under me regarding my writing. I told my God that I needed a day job that excites and energizes me if I was going to get my writing groove back. I also spewed something along the lines of this tired and annoyed shadow of a human being is hanging on to her sobriety by a thread and now You’re nudging me to get back to writing? When and how was that going to happen?
For all I know I’m just having trouble adjusting to working full time and you know – being fully aware of it. Luckily, I remembered something Mastin Kipp said in one of his classes… that confusion precedes clarity… so I’ve been hanging on to that invisible thread, and trusting God to show me whether it’s me or the situation and what my next steps should be and then something amazing happened. For starters a nocturnal owl perched in the room next to mine confirming my search for new digs…. Mind you I’m not sure where I should search for digs at this point as I also started hearing things at work about how the company was going to be changing over the next year. As it turns out, almost everything I love about the company will soon be non-existent. The people I love are moving to a different location, the laid back atmosphere is being replaced with an annoying high security ambience and the one thing I’ve always said I’d never partake in is becoming a part of my job duties. Well, how’s that for some giant and completely legible writing on the wall! I told my God I was beginning to feel like I was being shooed out of a town without any money or transportation to take me on to the next town. I then began to become acutely aware of the fact that the work I do in an internship capacity always energizes and excites me no matter how drained I am and that I needed to pay attention to that particular piece of information. It also dawned on me that I happen to hold a volunteer position in a different component of the same field. Light Bulbs Flashing! So not only was the writing on the wall as clear as day, but I finally had a clue as to what direction I needed to move towards. It’s all such an emotional whirlwind: this whole being where I am, while trying to figure out how to get to where God’s taking me. I like the people I work with and there are perks to my job, but it just isn’t my final destination. This job is more of a layover in that it is keeping me in place so I won’t miss the plane that is about to pull into the gate.
Sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t and we can’t take it personally, we just have to realize that God may be taking us somewhere else. The next time something or someone doesn’t pan out, ask God what that was about… I’m sure He’ll tell you that it was just Him leading you in a different and better direction.
Happiness, hit her, like a train on a track
Stuck still, coming towards her, no turning back
-- “Dog Days Are Over” by Florence Welch & Isabella Summers
This year has brought a lot of necessary change as well as some mighty useful life lessons. After three years of wrestling with whether or not I should move to Los Angeles, I shifted into gear and drove across the country and landed in the San Fernando Valley. I quickly became accustomed to the LA area traffic windows, pedestrians and the unfortunate parking situation that is known as the City of Beverly Hills. I mean what is there not to love about this town? It is beautiful here and it usually boasts awesome weather to boot. While I wish I could say this journey has been all smiles and no frowns, I would be lying. I recall that in one of my resolutions from last year I stated that I felt God might have some intentions that were not on my radar and He did.
Enter Life Lesson #1: For reasons beyond my understanding at that time, God deemed it necessary that I get clean and sober and stay that way. After taking a couple of classes with Mastin Kipp (you can find him over at The Daily Love) I came to realize that my lack of sobriety was the one thing keeping everything from falling into place. It became clear to me that God was holding the key to my being able to stay in LA and that the only way He would hand over that key was if I handed Him my alcohol – something I wasn’t willing to do, but under the circumstances I had no choice. As the fog cleared and I started feeling feelings I’d never really felt before ( aka loneliness) I stumbled upon …
Life Lesson #2: I found my Creator and Sustainer and He wasn’t mad at me nor did He want to punish me; quite the contrary, He wanted to love me and prepare me for the gifts He still plans on giving me. As I continued on my sober journey and took a second class with Mastin, I came to realize…
Life Lesson #3 … that my fear of not being good enough is the root to every problem I have, including the alcohol. I learned that I continually sabotage myself by subconsciously seeking out people, places and things that reinforce my status of “fuck-up” or “black sheep” or “not good enough”. I learned that I have continually put myself in situations where I either didn’t have a chance to shine or never could shine so that I could keep my comfort status. I apparently decided that I’d rather amount to nothing and never achieve anything than face the fear of finding out if I am indeed good enough for myself, my family, my friends, much less a good man and the lovely masses.
So for 2013 I only have one resolution and that is to reinforce the positive in my life, which in turn allows me to face my fear of not being good enough on every level possible. This means putting myself in situations where I have responsibility so I can start changing that comfort status of mine. God, being several steps ahead, already has things set in motion. I have a new job where I am learning how to handle studio assets and accounts, a volunteer position where I am learning how to handle the media portion of a church service and an internship where I will be handling a live show or two come spring. I am also reinstating my writer status and have three projects to kick me off. Reinforcing the positive also entails spending time with quality people that have good hearts and good minds and are supportive in nature and you know actually give more than a flying hoot when it comes to my world.
Happiness does indeed sometimes hit like a freight train, especially for those like myself who fear anything that is actually good for us. I define happiness as a change that you don’t want or fear because you don’t realize that it sets the stage for all the things you want to come into your life. For me, sobriety hit me like a freight train. I hated it. It turned my comfy, miserable world upside down and made me realize what was actually keeping me in a deadly holding pattern. It also set the stage for me to uproot my greatest fear from my life and thereby make it possible for all the things I have secretly wished for to finally make an appearance in my life. So as we start this New Year, my only question for you is what is your freight train? What change do you need to make? I cannot promise it will be an easy ride, but I can promise it will most definitely be worth it.
Trust in the Trenches
Once a tissue box, now a prayer box.
They say that Jesus loves you. What about me? - Jewel
Oh, the T-word… I spoke about it last month, but it is has been a serious struggle for me this month. Yes, the word I am referring to is TRUST. I have to say that I have been in and out of church my entire life, but I don’t think I ever grasped the real, everyday concept of trusting God. I guess in a way, I have always had other people to rely on in the event I got myself in any sort of physical or financial strain, whereas, now I do not. While it is important to trust God for a roof over my head rather than a park bench, which is a reality that is extremely too close for comfort at this moment in time, my main concern is my seemingly inability to trust that God really does love me.
A Christian man at one of the meetings I attend always asks me why I’m having such a problem because as a Christian the twelve steps should come easy to me. This made me think about the things I easily trust God with versus the things I have a hard time handing over to Him and leaving in His care. What I found is the things I have absolutely nothing to do with are easy to hand over, but the things that I play a part in are the things I keep taking back. As it turns out, I have a serious trust problem. I mean the Bible doesn’t say our works makes us righteous; it says our TRUST makes us righteous. Never mind the fact that my inability to trust states that I have more control than my Creator and Sustainer. I mean come on! Yes, the choices I make and the actions I take do have consequences, but if I am honestly doing the best that I can and seeking God’s will daily, does God not honor that effort and add His touch to the situation? Did I not write about this last month?
I guess I should add that I am having a problem seeing myself as a person of worth and value which is why I am having a hard time grasping the reality of God’s love for me. All of my self-sabotaging ways are a result of this deep inner feeling that somehow, some way I’m just not good enough, but God has an entirely different view. God created me to be a blessing and not a curse. He created me for a specific purpose and has a specific plan for the contributions I will make to this world. I’ve been trying to force myself into agreement with God’s view of myself and getting absolutely nowhere except for Discouragementville. Then I heard God whisper that I am trying to make a leap where I need not make one. All I need to do is be willing to accept that what He says about me is true. If I am willing to accept that what He says about me is true then I can be willing to act like what He says about me is true and as I act like what He says about me is true I will eventually become His truth. I will become all that He says I am. I just have to be willing to accept His truth, which allows me to act on His truth, which will at some point down the road make me His truth. AWESOME.
I’ve started praying the following prayer each morning: Lord, help me to trust You. To believe that you really do love me and to know that what You send me is good. Because sometimes the best presents arrive in the ugliest wrapping paper.