I was told that this year is going to be full of a lot of things that don’t make sense. It is ringing true. The new job I was so happy to obtain has brought a new set of challenges in that this office really likes to drink! The office has a nice café in the center that not only includes coffees and teas, but also vodka, wine, champagne and a bevy of beers. My coworkers are big on happy hours and routinely take the last hour of the day to congregate in the café and pour their drink of choice while talking about all the drinking they do when they are not at work. I don’t usually go to these “happy hours” which has me singled out as the new girl who doesn’t like the people in the office. I don’t know why I am so weirded out by it. I have been in plenty of offices where alcohol and drugs were around… maybe it is the whole Memphis thing that has me feeling extra introverted. I’m back in that muck of what I once was and I don’t know how to escape it. My friends in LA wouldn’t even know what to do with me right now… I’m such a shadow of the person I was when I lived out west.
Maybe I am in one of those middle of the night moments I read about for the umpteenth time in my favorite book, Calm My Anxious Heart. I find this book to be similar to the Bible and The Big Book in that every time I read it, I glean something new. The author, Linda Dillow, talks about the night before God parted the Red Sea. She speaks on how the Israelites were most likely freaking out… they were pegged in against the Red Sea with no where to run to, no where to go… so all they could do was listen and wait for their death. She speaks of a little phrase found in the Bible with immense impact… “All that night the LORD drove the sea back…” God didn’t perform His miracle in daylight; He chose to perform the miracle in the middle of the night, in complete darkness, while no one was watching. The entire night the Israelites had no idea their God was overcoming what was overcoming them. Quite an interesting thought to ponder. I don’t know why I am back in Memphis or why I have a job with a kitchen full of liquor for happy hours or why I am back to feeling more alone than ever. None of it makes sense, but like I said – none of it is supposed to so maybe I am exactly where I need to be… Maybe it will all make sense at some point. I was told that it would after certain things fall away from my life and new things emerge… Maybe while I am sitting here dealing with loneliness, fear, anxiety and a general desire to leave planet earth… God is working on my behalf in ways I can’t know, touch or see at the moment. I can say that I am putting my program to work in this situation just like I did in the last situation. I am making sure I get to meetings, making sure I make time for things I enjoy like walking (it clears my head) and I am keeping busy. I recently joined the media team at that church that makes me feel so uncomfortable. This church does live, broadcast and web feeds so the opportunity for learning is huge. I am currently training for a position in the control room and as much as I dread showing up, I find that I have a blast once I am there. I often think it is crazy that a timid, shy and anxiety filled me would find enjoyment in speaking engagements, live show production and other similar things that scare most other people. I just like the energy of making something happen and truth be told I am somehow good at it too. I just have to get ME out of the way.
Another thought from this book is the creation of an Anxiety Box. Not unsimilar to what a lot of people refer to as a prayer box, only instead of prayers, you place all the longings, desires and dreams that keep you awake at night and steal your joy during the day – into this box. You hand them over to your creator and you allow Him to deal with them. Just like in sobriety, sometimes you find yourself handing over these joy killers all day every day. I know I have been deeply depressed. A lot of my dreams seem to be dying as each year passes, at least they are dying in my own mind. This marks another major lesson for me this year. It was impressed upon my by my higher power (Jesus) that I need to stop making assumptions (jumping to conclusions) about how my life is going to go. I have it in my head that I am going to get to a point where I simply cannot go on… I guess I have it in my mind that I am going to stay single, never amount to anything, become homeless yet again and just have to jump off a bridge and become fish food. It is a reoccurring and dominating thought in my inner life… It just seems that everything in my life is moving me toward this end. This would be one of those moments where you think Sweet Jesus would appear and tell me how much He loves me, but no… He told me that I have to stop jumping to conclusions about my life, my abilities, about everything. And there is truth here. I will not lie. No one takes me out of the game more than myself because I tend to decide ahead of time how things are going to go, how people are going to perceive me and whether or not I will be successful or liked or whatever. I’ve always had this assumption that I am not wanted, not good enough, not smart enough, not fast enough, not pretty enough, not thin enough, not fat enough… just not enough, just not wanted. Somehow everyone else on the planet makes the grade and I don’t. This is such a deeply ingrained part of me that I make assumptions based on this thought pattern all the time and I rarely realize I am doing it. All I can do right now is pray to be made aware of when I am jumping to a conclusion or making an assumption that I should not make. It probably comes from some survival skill that is way too strong from early life trauma and while it serves a place in certain situations; it cannot continue to reign supreme in my life.
On a positive note, I have taken myself back off the Caramello bars! LOL! I am back on a decent schedule that allows time for the things I need and while I am still enjoying some chocolatey sweets, I am choosing healthy, low sugar options instead. I guess choice by choice I am making decisions that prove to myself that I am worth it. In life, just as in sobriety, we sometimes find that we have to find simple ways to override our brains. Our brains are designed to retain system balance and system balance doesn’t always mean keeping us alive and healthy. This tidbit is one of the best things I learned from my first sponsor. Just because the brain wants to restore a perceived imbalance doesn’t mean you should follow its impulse. It will reach for the easiest and fastest way to achieve its end, which usually means walking down a bad road. The same is true in life.
I’ve been talking a lot about the recent journey I have been on, but I have good reason. I’ve been thinking about it a lot because I find myself back at the start. I returned home five years to the day I left and I am somehow right back at that starting point. My creativity is flowing and my desire to return to LA is stronger than ever! I feel like I have trampled my away around a gigantic circle and now I find myself where I started, completely unsure of what to do next.
I know I had to leave Los Angeles when I did in order to experience more personal growth and receive some much needed healing. I am not saying in any way shape form or fashion that my decision to leave was wrong. It was not. The strange thing, that I am trying to digest and figure out what to do with, is after this five-year journey of growth, healing and transformation… I now find myself right back to where I was at the beginning. Even though I did do the impossible last go around, in terms of moving across the country with a mountain of debt and my sheer will to succeed, I cannot do anything right now. I am more strapped than I ever have been, closer to financial disaster than I ever have been and then there’s the whole car issue… Hercules might make it back to Los Angeles, but he cannot pass inspection and so I have to ask what was all of this for? Why have I been plopped back down at the starting line? And what the hell am I supposed to do about it?
I have been doing a lot of meditating as of late. I’ve shared that I have always had some sight so to speak and I have been working on focusing that sight and one of the ways one maintains a clear channel is to meditate so one can quiet the chatter and hear the Voice that counts.
You know how sometimes you just know something and don’t even know how you know it? I have had that too lately. Along with meditation, I have been doing a lot of praying and sometimes begging for clarity. I have a list of things I am to accomplish for the end of 2017 and most of them don’t make since to me, but they are what came through while listening for that Voice that doesn’t belong to me. That Voice told me that as I move forward, He would move me forward. And I believe that has happened or is happening. As I have stepped out in faith and completed some of these steps, new steps have appeared for the first half of 2018. I will tell you this, the steps I am completing right now are easy; the steps for the first half of 2018 are not. But I am willing.
I guess I say all of this to tell myself that if God is pouring into my life then He must have a reason. As I sit here right now on the brink of financial ruin, wondering if either of my lifelines will come through in time and if I should even do what I am thinking of doing… I am just in one of those moments where I cannot see an inch in front of my face and nothing makes sense. Why go through the spiritual journey just to end up defeated? Why am I creatively coming back to life at a time when I cannot make anything happen much less fund any projects? Why have I been brought back to the starting point? I can’t answer any of these questions. All I can do is complete each task on the list and keep on completing the tasks. It is like I am experiencing that staircase Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about. As I take one step, the next step appears out of nowhere. I have often spoken about how I need to learn to live my life as if I am trekking up a mountain. I never have any problem figuring out where to go when I am exploring… I let the spirit inside (who is mighty curious) guide me. I never wonder if I should take this side trail or if I should duck under that rope and head down the cliff to enjoy an amazing view… I just do it. I have literally hit a wall of rock on some of my explorations and you know what? I scaled those walls. I can say that some of the best trails I have ever been on were the trails we got lost on or encountered something we weren’t prepared for, but we figured it out and we always found a sweet reward in the form of a hidden pool or creek or view. I don’t know why I can’t translate who I am on a trail to who I am in life. Maybe that’s what I am beginning to do right now. Maybe what feels like utter defeat is actually my learning to treat life like one of the many trails I have explored.
I do still need an income though. I have had some amazing opportunities slip through my finger tips because I am way too qualified or the person sitting across from me doesn’t understand why I want to work for their company after what I’ve done and where I’ve been! That last part might be more of the reason…. I can say that I have started looking into avenues that I would have never looked into previously so who knows maybe one of them will work out before the burial begins. I guess I just have to keep reminding myself that if God is pouring into me then He must have a reason.
Putting all of my life havoc aside, November is the month of Thanksgiving! I personally strive to make gratitude a part of my daily life. I wake up thanking God for bringing me back (because He did not have to) and I go to bed each night thanking God for His provision, His direction and His protection on my life and the lives of those I hold dear. I used to struggle with insane amounts of depression and anxiety and I spent a great deal of my life in addiction with thoughts of suicide and actions of self-harm as a regular part of my life. Gratitude and its daily practice is one of the many components that have taken me out of those lower vibrations of living. I cannot even allow myself to feel those thoughts, those feelings, those vibrations… If you don’t have a daily practice… I highly recommend you start one by buying a notebook or journal and taking some time each day to write down anything good in your life. I have learned that no matter how bad my situation is… it can always get worse and I am thankful for all that God is keeping me from that I cannot see or have any consciousness of! Another way to ward off pity parties, self-doubt and all around bad vibes is the careful use of music. I am in love with a song called King of My Heart. I particularly love the extended worship versions from institutions like Bethel Music. I even listened to a 17-minute version the other night while walking because I was in such a bad head space over this financial entrapment I am currently walking through. This version includes a spontaneous line of “You never fall off Your throne.” I needed to hear it; I needed to be reminded of it. There are other songs playing in my head right now, but their messages are not what I need to be hearing. Sometimes you just have to turn certain messages off.
I hope everyone reading this has a lovely Thanksgiving. If you don’t have anyone to share the day with – try inviting people over to your place, look for churches that host holiday gatherings (I know Mosaic in LA used to/might still do this), or try being of service with others by helping out at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter – Just don’t be alone. The vibrations you will get from being alone are not worth it. On the flip side, if you have holiday plans – be on the look out for those who might not have anywhere to go… No they will not tell you, but just try and be a little aware of those around you, be willing to invite people you know don’t have family in town or have recently lost family or don’t have good relationships for this time of the year… Be willing to spread a little cheer.
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.
This past month has been one roller coaster after another. I have been swinging from feeling good and happy to feeling miserable, alone and confused. One day I am happy and feeling planted, the next day I am ready to bolt. All of this emotional ping-pong is really starting to take a toll. I am naturally a lower energy individual (don’t even ask me how I played year round competitive soccer for all those years) and now I am a no energy individual. Something just has to give and I am pretty sure it is me.
The highlight of May was going to visit my South Carolina family – my Tennessee family made the trip east so I actually got to see everyone and it was great. I only wish I could have stayed longer. My current employer doesn’t really believe in vacation and the vacation package is pitiful compared to other companies I interviewed with, but those other companies did not hire me so there’s that. Anywho, I got to see my mom and brother and my great aunt and uncle and a host of other people I don’t get to see often and hopefully will be seeing much more often since I am back on the east coast.
Upon my return from my super-mini-vacay I was given the opportunity to interview for a different position in my company. Might I also add that it was my birthday. Had it not been my birthday, I might not have been into the whole ordeal, but I figured since this opportunity came out of nowhere on my birthday – I should go for it. It reminded me of that day long ago at Germantown Baptist Church where my family went up front to join the church and my mom yanked my arm and said “Don’t you dare say you don’t won’t Jesus.” Now don’t get me wrong – I was not against Jesus at that time, but I also had not officially made the decision to follow Him either. That decision would come a couple years later, after falling in the baptismal pool and dunking myself and the choir for good measure as well as some other events not being mentioned at this time. It also reminded me of that lovely day in Nashville when I had the opportunity to coordinate record release parties and artists showcases for some of my now favorite Christian bands and I, having other plans, said no. I also thought about the fact that I have actually had quite a few doors open for me in Jacksonville, but I have been unwilling to walk through them because they did not match what I am looking for – that and they all dealt with numbers, which brings me back to my birthday. I said yes for once and by the end of the workday I was in a 30-day trial with the Marketing department in a job that revolves around numbers, which brings me back to the ping-pong emotional roller coaster I have been on lately.
The main reason I have always shied away from numbers is because they are simply not my strong suit. I am thoroughly capable, but not naturally gifted if you get my drift. And so each day has brought on new challenges as I learn my potentially new position. Some days I leave work feeling like I am getting the hang of everything and other days I leave feeling like there is no way I am going to make it through the 30 day trial. I should pause here and say that being “Upstairs” in this company is a million times better than being “downstairs”. The whole vibe is different. People are nicer, there is more freedom and frankly it runs more like a corporate office, which is the environment I am familiar with. I feel much more comfortable in my new department and generally like all of my co-workers, which is a big plus as well. I have just had to trust God to sustain me. Every morning I tell Him that I am not in my comfort zone and that I need His help to wrap my head around some of these concepts at work. I ask Him to fill in the blanks and help me to be accurate and He has done just that and more.
It hit me the other day that God might be trying to teach me to really rely on Him for situations that are outside my comfort zone and not in my realm of expertise. Just because something does not come natural – does not mean that you cannot ace it. I don’t know what is in store for me down the line, but I am learning to trust God with whatever He brings my way. I am also stepping up at my Celebrate Recovery home group by leading the women’s small group and possibly stepping onto the leadership team. I say possibly because there has been a lot of talk and a whole lot of hesitation, which is fine by me because I have learned the hard way that “when it fits you don’t have to force it.” (Amazing line from the novel “What Doesn’t Kill You” by Virginia DeBerry & Donna Grant) So if this leadership team isn’t in God’s plans – that’s fine – I don’t need the drama and I am just as happy leading the ladies small group.
I am also strangely starting to feel settled here. I cannot explain it, but I was sitting on the front porch last weekend sipping some sparkling grape juice (one of my guilty pleasures) and I just thought “I’m home”. I have no idea where that thought came from. It certainly does not make since. I don’t have friends, my professional life is anything but anchored and I have yet to find a church, but for some reason I feel more content than I ever did in LA where I had it all. I guess time will tell. I am smart enough to know that all it takes is one second to change everything. I don’t know what is in store for me, but the one thing I do know is that I am where I am supposed to be. God led me here to prepare me for something He plans on bestowing upon me so I guess I will have to stick around to find out what.
I am also back on the church hunt. I have about 7 churches left on my list that I need to visit. While I do need to find a church that I like, God nudged me last week and said “Instead of looking for the perfect church for you, why don’t you find a church that you agree with it’s pastor and his vision and help it grow. Leaders don’t belong, they create the belonging.” And that, my friends, has changed my view on all the churches I have visited. While I am still hoping to find a church with a pastor I like and worship that moves me, if it comes down to it – I will go with the one whose vision I want to help make a reality. As of right now there is only one church on my Round 2 list and three on a wildcard list so here’s hoping the last 7 leave no question in my mind as to what church needs to become my next church home.
You have to find your contentment in Jesus, not in the blessing – Joby Martin
Crushes are pointless correct? I mean how many times have you liked someone from a distance only to meet him or her and find that you have absolutely zero chemistry. That if it was between spending thirty minutes trapped in an elevator with this person or fighting off a lion with your bare hands – you’d probably pick fighting the lion to having to spend another painstakingly awkward second with that guy or gal you were crooning over. I only mention this because as I type this post, I am staring into the eyes of a current crush. I have his photo pulled up right beside my doc. He is giving one of those cocky come hither stares that lets the world know that he knows he’s got it. Unfortunately, these are the guys that tend to land on my radar. Christian or not, they leave a lot to be desired in the companion department. They are not good to themselves and they certainly aren’t good to or for anyone else.
So why are you staring at him you ask? Well, the topic of idols came up in a recent small group conversation. While I have not found a church home here in Jacksonville, I am in a ladies small group for the mean time. The discussion centered on the things in our lives that can become idols to us and replace the only idol we should ever have – Jesus Christ. You see an idol is anything that we are waiting on to complete us. Anything that we can put in the sentence that goes something like this: “If I can only have/get/attain __________, then I’ll be happy/set/satisfied. The danger with thinking like this is that there is always going to be something else we want. If we are not careful, a new idol always crops up in our lives and wreaks havoc by stealing the joy from what is and placing the focus on what could be soon thereby keeping us in an unhappy loop that is forever stuck on repeat.
I have a short quiet time each morning where I read a chapter of scripture and pray. In one of my recent morning prayers I popped out these words “… and apparently the idea of a relationship has become an idol to me and I am very sorry for that…” As soon as the words came out of my mouth I felt a jolt within me and I started to cry. I didn’t know a relationship had become an idol in my life until I unknowingly spoke the words in prayer. It is true that I have been struggling since leaving my friends in Los Angeles. I am very lonely here in Jacksonville and I guess my mind has been on a relationship a lot more lately. I am also turning the big 35 this year so I am officially hitting the status of Old Maid/Spinster for Life. I guess that’s what has been really eating away at my soul. My life has not turned out the way I wanted it to and I have no one to blame but myself. It is just what happens when you live for a bottle for 15 years. And there’s that sentence again “If I can just find my partner everything will be better… I will feel like I have someone or something to belong to” Ugh, I really need to shake this need for a significant other. I can want one all I want, but needing one is a problem and I believe that I have crossed over the unhealthy threshold from wanting a partner in life to needing one. I mean how can two days of relaxation turn me into boohoo city? Why do I freak out the second I find myself alone with nothing to do? Why does going to church alone make me want to kick God in the face? Yes, we are creatures designed for community, but community comes in many forms.
Truth be told, we all have that something special that is missing from our lives and we allow it to be the reason we are unhappy, we allow it to steal our joy. … “If I can just buy a nice house I will be happy,”, “If can just afford nice vacations each year I will be happy” or “If I can just get that promotion”, “If I can just work my way into that crowd” , “ If I can just get pregnant”, If I can just… etc, etc, etc to infinity. These sentences are not true. We like to think they are true, but whatever we are hoping for whether it is a partner, a career, a house, a friend or even that cute pair of wedges in the store window– all of these things bring new challenges and I am old enough to know that nothing is ever how we imagined it. I am beginning to realize the old adage is true – if we are not happy with our current circumstances, we will never be happy. Period.
One of the biggest problems with putting our happiness in the future is the simple fact that we never get to enjoy the present and if we don’t enjoy the present – Well then what’s the point? The present is all we have. If we do get to the future we have imagined, we will most likely realize it wasn’t exactly what we thought it would be. It might still be great, but it will not match the fantasy we have built in our heads and so we will begin hoping for something else and the unhappy cycle will keep on repeating until we reach the end of our lives and look back and wonder why we couldn’t enjoy every second we had. We will wonder why we never learned to enjoy our present for what it is – our present. Our gift. We get another day to create something beautiful with God.
There’s also a reason Jesus Christ should be the only occupant of our mantle. He is the only person that will never fail us, never leave us and always sustain us. If we are looking for satisfaction outside of Him, we’ll never find it. It doesn’t exist apart from Him. Making Him our focus, living a life pleasing to Him, being an example of His love to others and leading others to Him – that is where real happiness exists. You just have to clear your mantle and make Jesus your focal point. This is how you learn to be content, like Paul, no matter what your current circumstance might be.
So what does all this mean? Well for me, it means I need to make Jesus and the vision He has given me for ministry my focal point and I need to leave the man out of the picture. Whether God has someone in mind for me is irrelevant because that man does not deserve the pressure of being my only source of happiness and the same can be said for any friends that enter my life. Only one person can take that kind of pressure and only one person ever should – Jesus Christ.
I have been praying the words of an older song from Hillsong titled “I Surrender”. I just found myself singing this song non-stop and realized there must be a reason this song is staying on my heart. Reality is this: God needed take over because I was unraveling. I was lonely, I was upset and I was becoming more impatient every day. I needed God to step in and give me direction. And so I decided to stop asking God for anything and instead I just began praying the words of the song – Lord, Have Your way in me! Have Your way in my every minute of my every day, Have your way in my thoughts, my words, my actions, my interactions. Help me to know how to honor you at work and in my daily life. Lord, Have Your way in me!
Funny thing is the moment I made Jesus my focal point by inviting Him to have His way in me, a lot of the character changes I’ve been writing about over the past year just sorta started happening all on their own….
I feel like I am in the middle of an uprooting. Just how much of an uprooting I do not yet know, but I am definitely being pulled up and out to something, someone and somewhere new. Over the past month I have had some mind bursting revelations in regards to promptings. It seems that I may have been confusing certain promptings for panic attacks or crazy and unfounded fears.
It all started a few weeks ago. I started having intense panic while driving to church. My muscles would tighten, my breath would shorten and my mind would desperately search for the “why”. Nothing was causing this reaction. There was not any beliefs or bad thoughts or fears. It all just seemed irrational. It got to the point that when I would step back into my car afterwards that my mind would utter “Whew. I got in, I got out and they didn’t get me.” Who is “they”? I wasn’t sure and I did not know why this was happening. This same strange phenomenon was also happening at a mission class I was involved in at this same church and it was beginning to happen at my long-time home AA group. The question as to why remained.
I can recall having panic attacks prior to my decent into alcohol absurdity so my natural inclination was to think that I was right back to my starting point and had to figure out how to handle this panic without alcohol. The problem was that I only had this phenomenon in certain situations. So, why these situations? I for one did not have an answer.
Here is where it gets interesting. One night God was pulling me to the computer to write. He does this often. It is a particular pulling in my soul and I know exactly what it is when I feel it. The only other time I have felt something similar was that day in the hospital when my soul was set on fire and I knew I had to kick everybody out because it was time for my family to say goodbye to my father. That fire in my soul feeling was not instantly understood. I remember just knowing that it was now, it was urgent, it was time to say goodbye. I did not understand it, but I had to act. I have only experienced this one other time in my life and that also centered on an earthly departing. It was in the recalling of these experiences that a key piece of information hit my brain. All of these promptings centered in that area near the heart that I refer to as my soul-self. Anyone who has experienced these soul promptings knows that you just can’t put these experiences into words. They are not readily explainable, but you somehow know what they heed and in that moment you realize that you really are much more than this existence.
That key piece of information was this: These so-called panic attacks center in the soul. The same place I get pulled to sit down in front of the computer and the same place that got lit on fire that day it was time to say goodbye. In this same instance my mind went back to the previous “panic attacks” and I realized that every place I had experienced this phenomenon something very bad ended up happening to me. It was in this moment that I realized these are not panic attacks. These are warnings. God, Himself is sounding the warning alarms in my soul and my body is responding. The tightening of my muscles which make it hard to drive and walk, the shortness of breath, the inexplicable uneasiness in my soul pulling me up and out of the situation – trying to prevent me from even being in the situation. I am not having panic attacks, people. My soul’s alarm is sounding because impending doom is ahead if I continue in these situations!
Now I don’t know about you, but that is what I call a mind-bending revelation. All I can do at this point is acknowledge and heed these warnings and see where they lead me. As a result of this new information, I am taking a step back from my current church and from my AA meeting. These two places and the people in them have been my LA home for the past year and a half, but I am heeding the warning and letting go. I know you have to be willing to let go of what does not completely serve you in order to receive what does, but that does not make the letting go any easier. So here’s to seeing where this Wind is blowing as I march into the month known for its changing of the seasons.
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.
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!
This past month I made it to one year of sobriety for the third time. This trip on the carousel has definitely been different in that I brought absolutely nothing to the table other than a willingness to change. I have to say that my life is remarkably different and that I am becoming a believer in the notion that there is magic in the twelve steps.
Prior to quitting this time around, I now realize that I was walking up to a very dangerous fork in the road that would have cost me my life. Now while I’m not the tiniest of ladies, I’m not a big girl either, yet I was consuming a large bottle of vodka a day, sometimes two large bottles of wine, but mainly the vodka. Why I thought this was normal behavior I will never know. Anyways, my days were spent consuming vast amounts of vodka followed by popping migraine pills. I began to spend more and more time in bed. Not only was I completely dehydrated and malnourished but my drinking also made my potassium plummet and I suffered from constant heart palpitations and muscle spasms. This once runner and soccer player could now barely walk down the hall, much less down the street. Any sort of physical exertion was just out of the question. Frankly, I was at the point where I was about to exchange the long time love of my life for a harder and faster fix and it would have killed me due to my weakened state.
I guess I can say that I never really decided to get clean. It was more like I was out of options. I had no money and I couldn’t get a job to save my life. God had me cornered and I began to desperately seek His help, but the only response He kept giving me was to give up alcohol. I told Him that I didn’t understand because my seeking was for a job. I told Him that He did not understand what He was asking of me. I told Him that alcohol had nothing to do with my problems. I also told Him that alcohol is the love of my life, that it is my everything. He refused to budge. It would be months before I would realize why getting sober was the key to everything else unfolding in my life, much less the fact that it was the key to me staying alive.
And so I very reluctantly, quit drinking. It was horrible. Oh my God, was it horrible. I literally did nothing, but scream into a pillow for the first sixty days. I did not realize how dependent I was until I no longer had my magic potion in my cup. I was scared of everyone and everything. I was paralyzed with fear and mundane tasks brought about serious panic attacks to the point that I was retreating from places more than I was going to them. I was literally a dear caught in headlights for the first three to four months of my sobriety.
It was during this time, that God placed me into a church. Mind you, I had previously made a solemn vow to never be a part of a church again, to never get close to any Christians ever again and to certainly never ever get close to any pastors ever again. God obviously had other plans and decided that my being completely upside down was the perfect time to place me into a new church. He knew that by the time I realized that I had become an integral part of a church again that it would be too late and He was right. I also have to hand it to these people as they have done a good job caring for the crazed lunatic that is/was myself though I do keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. I do keep wondering why they haven’t thrown me away yet and wondering when they finally will, but this is one of my character defects and I am working on changing these thoughts as I come to terms with the events that created them.
As I sit here typing on this last day of August, I can say that life is very different in a very good way. Yes, I have my list of character defects, but I am aware of them. I no longer crave alcohol either. I do still spin, but I am starting to catch myself earlier and earlier and am able to stop that spinning almost immediately. I am told that this is the program of Alcoholics Anonymous in action. I am told that my ability to catch my spin before I actually spin out of control and do something stupid is proof that the AA program works. I am learning how to deal with life, something I apparently never really learned and I thankfully, no longer resemble a deer caught in headlights. I guess you can say I am getting my chutzpah back. I have great friends and really good, solid people around me; people that really do care and I know that I am loved. I am in the process of obtaining a new career position and have plans to begin publishing some of my fiction works in the next year or two. I guess the biggest difference is that all of these struggles have walked me across that bridge to where God is my everything and for this I am most grateful.