Unfortunately, the car saga I spoke of last month was not over. My check engine light came on a week after the 2nd shop fixed what the first shop broke, but wouldn’t you know that there was more that needed to be fixed. My belt started making a rather embarrassing high pitched squeal so I took it back over to Bell’s Automotive. Unfortunately, Bell’s was super busy or super unorganized and after two attempts to bring in my car to get it fixed and having to listen to a song and dance about the repair industry I decided to take my chances on a third shop and I am glad I did. I called All Pro Automotive and they were able to see me the same day so I drove over with a choking engine. Earlier in the day a smoke cloud the size of Texas came out of my tail pipe, which is one of the reasons I decided to check out another shop. Bell’s wanted to give me a new sensor, but I knew that giant smoke clouds and hesitating engines meant something else was happening under my hood. Would you believe that wonderful Monument Road Tire and Service forgot to put the PVC Pipe in my Upper Intake, which caused a vacuum situation where air and oil was being sucked out of my engine at an insane rate! What’s more worrisome is that Bell’s did not pick up on the fact that my Upper Intake was actually on wrong, which is why I am glad I took it to All Pro Automotive. I have been driving all over Jacksonville for over three weeks and I am happy to report that my car is finally back to normal. If I have any more car issues, I will be taking my business to All Pro Automotive.
So while I was going through all of this car trouble with a very limited access to cash or credit cards, I was continuing my search for a church home here in Jacksonville. I am about halfway through my list of churches to visit and getting more and more impatient everyday. I miss my church in Los Angeles and I miss my friends even more. I do not yet have a community here and while I am a part of the quiet revolution I also relish my social time and have a giant need for community and a sense of belonging. It was during one of these church visits that God shot me one between the eyes. I believe I was in a week - long period of really seeking God’s will because I am honestly confused about how things are going here in Jax. I know God led me here and I know that the why has nothing to do with my day job, but you would think He would still have something nice in mind, right? Well, as has happened many a time before, I was seeking God for a very specific situation and He had an entirely different topic in mind. The preacher at RiverTown was speaking on spiritual family trees and how important it is for each of us to be intentional in how we impact the people who have been placed in our lives. I think Tim Tebow said it best when he said, “…you’re either leading people somewhere good or you’re leading people somewhere bad… Where are you leading the people in your life? …Is their life better or worse for having known you?” Ultimately, the pastor at RiverTown was speaking on the importance of leading people in the direction of Jesus Christ and the importance of creating our own spiritual family trees and it was in this sermon that God finally spoke to me, but it was not about my dire situation. He simply asked me a question that has haunted me ever since. He asked, “Why are you acting like a rookie, when you’re a veteran of the faith?”
Later that same day, God reminded me that whenever I have had spurts of sobriety in my life, I have always moved towards ministry. I mean that thought could probably encompass another entire blog or two, but for now I am just going to focus on the fact that when I am the real me and not the drunk me, Christian ministry becomes a major part of my life. In my first bout of sobriety I was a high school girls Bible Study leader and mission tripper. In my 2nd bout of sobriety I was a 1st grade Sunday school teacher and a regular volunteer with the Urban ministry at the church I was attending at the time. My third and final bout of sobriety has had me working in church service production along side the pastor and worship leader and now I am finding my way into Celebrate Recovery and am looking to go through a CR step program so I can lead others to the same freedom I have found. I really feel like God is calling me up and out. I feel like He thinks I have enough sobriety at this point to step back into my destiny (which apparently involves ministry) and it starts with taking on a more leadership role with the people in my life, the programs I am involved in and whatever church I make my home. For me this means putting the focus on the people around me instead of myself. It also means being aware of how my words and actions impact how others view me and in turn how others view God.
Not everyone is called to ministry or even lay ministry for that matter, but each of us does have a responsibility to the people God has placed in our lives. If you think about it, we’re all looking at someone who is at the level we are about to step into. Take a church body for example: the ministry leaders are looking at the pastor; the Bible study leaders are looking at the ministry leaders; the Bible study participants are looking at the Bible study leaders and church volunteers; regular church attendees are looking at the church volunteers and the Bible study participants; the non-regular church attendees and looking at the regular church attendees and the once, twice or never church goers are looking at the non-regular attendees and thinking ‘I really need to start going more like Jenny does.’ So in all actuality, we all have someone looking up from where they are at to where we are. So, I am going to ask all of you: Is God calling you to step up your game for Him? If so, what does stepping up for Christ look like for you? Does it mean becoming more involved in your church? Being more strategic with the impact you have on those around you? Maybe it means giving something up that is confusing and distorting the message you are trying to send…
I turned 2 on August 26th. I have officially been clean and sober for two years. While I still have cravings and yearnings of times gone by, I can most certainly say that I do not have any desire to go back to the life I used to live. I cannot even imagine being that person again. When the cravings and yearnings come for that so called simpler time, I am immediately reminded of my inability to control my drinking and who that drinking made me become and the yearnings disappear.
What seems like an easy answer is often times nothing of the sort. More often than not, easy answers lead to even more trouble and don’t actually do anything to help one out. The way I see it, the use of drugs and alcohol is a self-induced mirage. Dude has a bad day, Dude goes to bar to blow off some steam, Dude forgets about how stressed out he is for a few hours, Dude crashes into bed, Dude wakes up and is stressed beyond belief all over again. Another example of this self-induced mirage is a woman getting over a heart break by going to the clubs and getting smashed out of her mind and going home with someone she won’t even remember, she forgets everything for a few hours, but come morning she is sneaking out of an apartment and trying to figure out where she is and how to get home and the heartbreak and loneliness return a few minutes later. Both scenarios are culturally accepted ways to deal with heartbreak and stress; the problem is that neither of them actually solves anything. They are easy, temporary bandages that take us farther down the rabbit hole. Only problem is that we don’t recognize our being in the hole until we find ourselves stuck at the bottom.
We as a society love self-induced mirages. We are all about distraction instead of answers. Don’t get me wrong, it is good to take a break from life and get into a good movie or go out and dance the night away. The question at large is the intent behind these and other distraction actions. Are you desperate for a distraction from feelings and thoughts you don’t want to feel or think or are you just allowing yourself a needed break? There is a giant difference and unfortunately, you often need a clear heart and a clear mind to tell the difference between the two.
The real answers to our unwanted thoughts and feelings involve facing them head on, sitting with them, getting comfortable with them and learning how to accept them as a part of life. Once we are no longer afraid of these feelings, their power lessens and we are able to navigate around them in a healthier way. Many of the greats say that if you feel lonely – you should do something for someone else; if you feel alone – you should become a part of something of significance; if you feel not worthy – you should lift someone else up; if you feel heartbroken – you should find a way to help mend someone else’s heart. The only distraction God has ordained is our focus on Him, his Goodness and His fierce love for each of us. For it is by focusing on Him and the giving of ourselves to causes that provoke positive change in our world that we receive healing. It all starts with a relationship with Jesus and a few good friends who are speaking truth into your life. If you don’t have either of these, then I suggest starting that relationship and getting involved in a good church or faith-based community. After this, I encourage finding a few more ways to connect. If you like hiking – join a hiking group. If you like painting – go to some painting classes to find others who enjoy your craft. If you love animals – volunteer for a local shelter or rescue group. In other words, get a grounding group of people around you, belong to a community and make sure you are involved in something that makes you come alive. And lastly, when those unwanted thoughts and feelings rear their ugly heads, share them with your grounding group of friends and be willing to let them carry you through when needed.
Happy Labor Day from a quiet cove in Malibu:
There are times in life where everything seems so unfair. Whether it is treatment from co-workers or so-called friends, an inability to build a community around one’s self or a constant financial struggle. Life can, at times, seem very unfair.
I feel like I am on a rollercoaster of emotions these days. I have somehow gone from supreme happiness and contentment to the deep seeded need of belonging to a community. I feel more alone than I have ever felt and I do not understand where this feeling is coming from. While it is true that I have had a hard time building a community in Los Angeles, I have also stayed very busy so it has not been a bother until now. For a woman, feeling alone equals feeling unloved and you would think that my Father in Heaven would be very sensitive to me at this time. That He would gently remind me of His love and that He has great plans for me.
Instead, my Heavenly Father is in full on DAD mode. He has made me acutely aware of the fact that while I may feel like He is not taking care of me, He actually is doing that and so much more. It started with my learning of a gentleman who had a car accident very similar to the one I had several years back. The only difference being that I landed upright and he landed upside down. That one difference means I walked away with lesions and a life long case of whip lash, whereas, he has endured multiple surgeries to fix an internal problem that has yet to be fixed. He remains in constant misery, unable to work and lives on the verge of suicide due to excruciating pain from an internal problem that cannot be found much less cured. I could have been him, but I was not. I function normally, have no pain other than the reactivation of whip lash which means I cannot rock climb or do any thrill riding. What a difference in our lives! Favor was definitely bestowed on my indignant soul.
My Heavenly Father went on to remind me of all of the favor He has bestowed upon me in all those paying the bill jobs that I routinely tell Him I could do without. The only reason I even landed my first job was due to the fact that my boss just liked me and felt like I could be a friend and a co-worker. It was a similar situation in the second full-time job I acquired. The woman who was doing the hiring, wanted someone closer to her age that could be an accountable co-worker and friend and that is exactly what I was to her. I also received favor in the form of the president of the company taking a liking to me. This man was a ferocious human being, but when he saw me, his whole demeanor changed. Not once, did he ever accost me like he did everyone else. Moreover, once I had put in my notice to move to Los Angeles, I found out that he only kept me on the payroll for the previous year because he liked me. Work was very slow and there really hadn’t been a need for me at the company, but I was able to keep my job and my paychecks, which allowed me to save money to move to Los Angeles all because favor had been bestowed upon my indignant soul.
Once in Los Angeles, I was able to find a job in what I thought took eons but according to LA locals, I was “so blessed to get a job that quick because it can take up to a year or more to get a job in LA”. Again, a man at my company just took a liking to me from the start. If you ask me, I think I remind him of a younger version of his wife, but he has been on my side since day one and has also managed to get me two raises in a company where no one is getting raises even when they get un-asked for promotions. This last raise is what has finally moved me out of living paycheck to paycheck and allowed me to create a plan to get out of debt over the next year. Even though I tend to see nothing but what is wrong and missing in my life, God has yet again bestowed favor upon my indignant soul.
While I am not completely content with life as I know it, I guess I need to stop complaining and start thanking my Heavenly Father for being my DAD and making sure I have everything I need to live a decent life. Los Angeles is both great and horrible at the same time with the main issue being that I have not found a place to truly belong. It is this inability to belong that has me wondering if I only came LA to get clean and sober. The aloneness I constantly feel is eating away at my soul and it has me thinking about that job in Nashville that I so rudely kicked back to God while screaming “Hell No”. The very unfunny truth is that clean and sober Jessica would absolutely love that job! Go figure, right? I have also been thinking about the fact that if there were one other city in America that has the same self-publishing and writing community as Los Angeles, it would be Nashville. While Nashville has a few too many rednecks and no ocean, it is close to family and boasts a great city where I can afford to buy a single-family home. I guess I can say it is on my radar as a possibility in the next couple of years, but even as I type this, I am reminded of my mother who was bound and determined to get out of Tennessee and back to California – she never made it back because love has a way of happening when you are making other plans.
So here’s to staying up in the air, keeping an open mind, making choices that keep my writing a priority, having a thankful heart instead of a complaining one and most importantly… Here’s to a great summer full of whatever blessings God has in store for this indignant soul.
New Year, New Life?
Well, it seems as though 2014 is going to be another year full of change. I say this due to the fact that my current landlord gave me notice the day after returning from Christmas vacation. This has to be the absolute worst time to have to dig up two months worth of rent, but I trust that everything will work out – at least most of me does. I recall that when I first found out – a whole four days ago – I got excited because whenever I have been placed in an almost impossible situation that could be my “end” it is these times that God tends to do some amazing things. In my life, at least, it seems to be His calling card. Impossible situation that should destroy me usually means God is about to do something major and it always involves major change too. So I am trying to stay excited and not dwell on the whole what if I don’t find a place in time scenario.
Apart from that chaos, I am transitioning to a new volunteer position at my local church due to several reasons that will remain with me just in case anyone from the church reads this blog. Oh, all right, I’ll tell you this much: it is similar to my living situation only there was never an actual notice given. All in all, I think it is best because I continually butt horns with someone involved in my old position and I frankly don’t need any additional stress, in fact, that’s the one cup I can say is abundantly overflowing these days.
As far as work goes, I am still employed by the Encoding House and have been promised an end of year bonus (would seriously come in handy if it came this week) and a decent pay increase. Even so, I am still looking for a new position that is closer to my industry career goals and am hopeful that wherever I land house-wise, will be convenient to wherever I land career-wise.
As for 2014, I do have some resolutions:
Set 1 = resolutions that can be measured and accomplished
1) Finish paying off my debt and don’t restack it
2) Set up sole proprietorship
3) Set up social media for said company
4) Make my writing a priority again
Set 2 = resolutions that are easier said than done and measured by others
1) Do my best in all situations regardless of how I feel
2) Keep God first
3) Make the best of things instead of the worst of things
4) Obedience, Obedience, Obedience
Obedience is not a word people are into these days. Nobody wants to be obedient anymore. It is a My world, My life, My Decision, My want, my need, my whatever. We don’t want to even consider the fact that we really aren’t the ones in control or that Someone Else might know better and I am just as bad as all of you.
During one of my focused quiet times where I worship, meditate, read God’s word and plead for Him to talk to me – I asked why He always seems to give immediate answers when it comes my sobriety and my tithing, but stays silent on all IMPORTANT matters. His response was unwelcome and completely silenced me and it was this: I lead; you obey. It’s not your world, It’s MINE. I mean how do you respond to that? You don’t.
God is teaching my Taurus butt to obey because it is His world and He is my Creator and Sustainer and He does know better than you and I ever could, yet you and I constantly try to rewrite the plan and try to explain why it would be better our way. How He puts up with us I will never know, but I am glad He does. Heck, these days He doesn’t even get mad at me. He just touches me on the shoulder and says “Really?” and I just stand there like a two year old who just got caught with her hand in the cookie jar, glancing from jar to parent waiting to see if this is a reprimand situation, a go-to-your-room situation or a get-the-belt situation. I recall reading an interview from Zachary Levi’s earlier days when He was much more apt to speak on his faith. In this interview he mentions asking God why things weren’t moving forward with his acting career. God’s answer, he said, was that God needed to know that He could trust Zac with the blessings He was ready to give him. That he (Zac) had some changes to make in his personal life before such blessings could be bestowed. I believe this to be true for all of us. God is just trying to prepare you and me for the awesomeness He has in store, but before He can bless us, He has to know that He can trust us with His blessings, that we are ready and equipped for proper action and this is where most of us fall short – we get mad when things aren’t going the way we want them to and fail to ready ourselves for the blessings that God has set aside for each of us. How sad indeed. So, to make a long post even longer, I guess you can say that my main goal for 2014 is to make sure God knows that I am finally ready to be readied because the last thing I want to do in Heaven is go through all of the gifts God wanted to give me, but couldn’t.
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!
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?
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.