The story of Easter brings many messages and applications when you dive deep into the actual events of the days leading up to Christianity’s main event. One such message hit me last night on Good Friday. I was watching the Good Friday live stream of Mosaic from the comfort of my living room and a line jumped out at me: “Jesus was still the victor while He was suffering”.
In our society to suffer is often times looked at as a punishment or as an attribute to the life of one ill equipped or in other words… a loser. If you are winning at life then you are happy, have everything you want and are in optimal health, right? Those of us that have been around a bit know that suffering is a natural part of life. At some point, we are going to go through a season that we don’t want to be in whether it is a job where we are belittled everyday, a family member that tries to constantly sabotage our efforts or a health condition that changes our daily living habits. Maybe you’re the only single person in your circle or maybe you just can’t find a circle and you feel lost and alone.
I, for one, am dealing with aloneness and worth issues stemming from a set of current circumstances in my life. Are these circumstances permanent? Most likely the answer is no, but being able to navigate the unfun seasons without letting it rip you of your worth can be difficult. This is just one of the life applications we can glean from Easter.
Jesus also had a horrible set of circumstances He had to walk through while He was still the Victor. He was betrayed by a close friend and handed over to Roman soldiers who stripped Him of His clothes, repeatedly beat Him, hurled insults at Him and taunted Him as the King of the Jews. These Roman soldiers could easily be present day bullies who live to demean, insult and ridicule others. These soldiers even went as far as to crown Jesus with thorns and nail Him to a cross for His unbelievably slow and painful death with a sign adorned to His cross stating He was the King of the Jews. The mockery continued until He breathed His last breath. And it wasn’t just the soldiers who ridiculed Him the entire time it took Him to die… The onlookers and another criminal hanging beside Him joined in spitting, taunting and laughing at Him until He breathed His last breath.
But what did Jesus do during this time of extreme hate and ridicule? He simply uttered the words “Forgive them for they know not what they do”. Jesus knew that He was the victor despite His circumstances. He knew His worth was not tied to what was happening that day. He knew that He was just walking through a moment and that another moment was coming – a moment that would change everything. His ridiculers might have had fun for a while, but a day would come when His ridiculers would see Him in a new light.
The same is true for each of us. We may have to walk through some unpleasant seasons in our lives where someone treats us harshly, doesn’t appreciate our talent or good nature or is just hell bent on ruining our day, but we can still be the victor in these moments. Our self-worth is not determined by who other people think we are; our self worth is determined by who God thinks we are …co-heirs to His throne to be exact.
A couple of excerpts from “So Will I” by Hillsong say it perfectly:
“And as You speak, A hundred billion failures disappear, Where You lost Your life so I could find it here, If You left the grave behind You so will I…...
I can see Your heart, Eight billion different ways, Every precious one, A child You died to save…”
That’s who you and I are. Really. That’s who everyone is, really. A precious one, a child Jesus died to save…
Carrying this knowledge deep in your soul is what allows you to walk through the grey seasons without loosing your worth. It does not mean you walk through muddy waters thinking you are better than everyone else or deserve better and mount up resentments. What it does mean is that you simply go through the muddy waters with the knowledge that you are fiercely loved and cared for and you continue to learn and grow and do your best, trusting God to carry you through the rough parts and asking for guidance along the way.
I have written so many versions of this blog that I am not even sure what number I am at this point. God has been doing a lot of talking and I have been listening for a change.
A couple of months ago I started a frenzied job hunt that resulted in a possible position with a Christian non-profit in Kansas City. As soon as that happened I started questioning whether or not I could actually leave the coast. I also started looking into the reason why I felt like I should be so thankful that an organization across the country felt that I was a qualified top candidate. Why was I risking everything to move across the country to what as might as well be the tundra to my SoCal-Flori skin? The answer was fear. I realized that I was afraid that nothing else would come along. I was afraid that no one else would want to hire me. I was afraid that given my current state of financial crisis I should just take whatever I can get wherever I can get it or else anger God. I was afraid of past so-called mistakes like that job in Nashville I rejected. I was afraid that I was making another mistake by not going for it and I was afraid I was making a mistake by going for it. I was just afraid and while I don’t know much I do know that making a decision based on fear will almost always lead you somewhere you don’t want to be.
I spent the day after Christmas on my front porch. I just sat outside and enjoyed the 79 degree day and the sweet breeze available on the front porch. As I sat there sipping soda (something I don’t normally drink) I felt God enter into a conversation with me. He began with “You know it’s not too late to live out your dream of living on the water? With the right opportunity and your continued financial management, there is no reason why you can’t begin your own beach front bargain hunt in ten years or less. As long as you are either working on or near (within an hour or two) the water you could have your primary residence on the water!” In all honesty, I had forgotten about this life long dream of mine. But God hadn’t forgotten at all, in fact, it never slipped His mind. He really does know my heart better than I do.
I guess I had kind of given up. I am 35, single and in a financial pit in the middle of a financial desert with no help in sight. One unfortunate instance could have me packing up a rental car and heading back to Tennessee in defeat. Those reading my blog on the regular know how hard the move to Jacksonville has been on me. I left a great church and great friends in Los Angeles only to find myself unable to find any sort of community in Jacksonville. I have been straddling two churches and trying to get involved at both and my efforts have frankly been a giant disappointment. No one seems to be interested in knowing me. I do have one friend here that I am very grateful for and we do hang out most weekends, which helps a lot, but my happiness cannot depend on one person and it never should. I need a community and I cannot seem to find one no matter how hard I try, no matter how many groups I join or events I attend. I didn’t have to try in Los Angels – everything just kind of fell into place. Jacksonville has been quite the opposite and my job has been the worst part of it all. I am use to being in a rather mobile position that includes a lot of social interaction, but my current job involves me sitting at a desk all day long and staring into a computer without so much as a peep from my co-workers. YUCK! Of course, I never meant to be in this job this long – it was a till I get myself sorted out and find something good sort of job that somehow has almost lasted a year. The people are bad, the work is bad, the hours are bad and the money is really bad as is the vacation and holidays. I know I am worth so much more. It is just a matter of finding someone else who thinks so at this point. Of course I also want to make sure the next position I take is a better fit for my personality and financial future. I want something I can stick with for a while.
The interesting thing that came out of the KC option was that I found a new appreciation for where I live regardless of how disappointing my daily life. I live in a city on the beach. I can sit with the waves any time I want. I even have a new appreciation for the church I find myself going to these days. While it is no Mosaic, it is a good substitute. I cried through most of the service today. The guy speaking ( don’t know who he was as he forgot to introduce himself) spoke on what happens when the escalator stops and you have to make a move. It was about endings, seasons in life and how sometimes you don’t know what to do, but it doesn’t mean you should stop either. He talked about how many of us feel like we are on plan triple Z when in fact, we are actually on Plan A. If God knows everything, then He knew every decision, mistake and stupid action we were going to make and it is all included in His plan. We didn’t run a million miles in the wrong direction only to miss out on His blessings. As long as we strive to keep Him first in everything we do – we are on plan A. I guess I needed to hear that. I mean if I had said yes to that Nashville job, I would have never gone to Los Angeles and if I hadn’t gone to Los Angeles I would have never gotten sober around the best recovery in the world and I would have never found Mosaic and never been lit on fire by Erwin and Hank and never met the amazing friends who love me for who I am and taught me that I am lovable. Had I never gone to Los Angeles, I would have never learned how to survive the entertainment industry, which taught me so much in life and in work. Had I never gone to Los Angeles, I might not have heard of Celebrate Recovery. Had I not left Los Angeles when I felt called to Jacksonville, I would not have had the time to get involved in CR, become a small group facilitator, write and give my testimony and I wouldn’t have been open to going through the Redeemed Esteem class at Celebration. If I hadn’t said no to Nashville and yes to Los Angeles – I don’t know who I would be right now. Maybe the decisions we look back on as our biggest mistake are actually the best decisions we ever made.
God said something else to me recently and it was not sweet or reassuring. The pastor from Celebration Orlando spoke in Jacksonville recently and while I was minding my own business (my antennas were erected) keeping watch on a guy who peeked my interest and partially listening to this dude named Josh tell a story about a conversation he had with his wife, a bomb detonated. The story was something about his wife asking why it had taken this long for him to get an opportunity like the one he was about to embark on (I think he was about to speak at one of the Hillsong locations) and he claims that the Holy Spirit immediately told him that his character could not sustain the platforms he was seeking. This catapulted me out of dreamland and into the reality that this little nugget was for me. Insert frownie face. I immediately wrote that quote down and a few other things and haven’t looked at the page since. I didn’t need to, I know exactly what God was referring to – my inability to not act like a 35 year old going on the terrible twos on a really shouldn’t be regular basis. Ever since that sermon, I have been acutely aware of everything I do that has to change! It’s horrible. I really do have to find a way to ride the wave of life without say throwing the church program down, pouting through worship, refusing to greet anyone and yelling at the traffic guy for trying to direct me around the traffic circle (I’m not stupid!) In other news I might have had a complete melt down at a Christmas Eve service this year and it pretty much included every verbal and nonverbal thing I do that has to stop! I like to blame my little outbursts on being a Scots-Irish Taurus Female who is diabetic and sober and trying to deal with it all, but I guess it is time to put my big girl britches on and stop acting a fool. I have to if I want to step onto the platforms for Christ that I desire.
And with that I give you my 2016 Resolutions. Some of you may find them a bit vague, but for where I am right now, they are exactly what I need to make my focus for 2016:
All in all, I want to appreciate the people, places and things in my life and continue striving toward the dreams God has placed in my heart while staking a claim for my own place in the sun/sand.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
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.
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:
I am a Rom-Com geek if there ever was one. When I say Rom-Com, I am referring to the film genre of Romantic Comedy. In fact, if a movie is not a romantic comedy, then I most likely have not seen it. What can I say? I just love romantic comedies.
If you are not familiar with this genre, I can enlighten you on the main plot points. (Note: men can be leads in this genre, but to simplify things I am using the common female lead) We usually meet the lead character in a low point in her life. She is usually single or in a bad relationship and she is usually battling some sort of career dilemma. She almost always has some character flaws that need to be tweaked as well. More often than not, the lead character will go through a small metamorphosis brought about by an external situation, whether it be a new job, a break-up, the marriage of a friend, the death of someone close, etc. This small change usually brings about a determination to focus on what can be controlled in life, like a career or a long-standing passion that has been ignored. Once the lead character is on this new journey, we see her begin to change on a deeper level as she struggles to make her dream a reality. Sometimes the main character struggles so much, that she wants to give up, but she usually preservers thinking that this undertaking is all that she has left in life.
I pause here because God recently made it very clear to me that this is where I am. I feel lost. I do not see anything changing on the career front or the personal front. And so I have done the one thing I can do, and that is put my writing back on the front burner. I mean, if God keeps telling me that my job is to write and that He will handle everything else; then I should write, right?
I cannot lie and say it has been all roses because it has been anything other than roses. I have not been able to open a door much less a window and I cannot give an answer as to why this is the case. I am trying to count my blessings, but I am facing the grim fact that I might be spending a very hot summer in a condo without air conditioning. I have been tossing around the idea of getting my own place, but after crunching numbers, I have come to realize that I can actually afford to be in the exact neighborhood I want to be in provided that I wait one year and pay off all of my debt. Insert sad face here.
I can say that I do have a decent day job with a laid-back company that has the high-class problem of growing by leaps and bounds. This company also allows for flexibility as long as I am getting my job done and that is a major plus too. I know there are many more pluses in my life, but this whole not being fulfilled at work and wanting my own place and needing to make more friends and not being in a relationship and turning 34 in a couple of weeks and watching my chance to have my own family fade away and missing the family that claim me as their own and wanting a reason to be 2800 miles away other than the fact that I like it better than the South… all of it has really had me beat down this past month. There were days I did not even get out of bed. I was just in a deep depression. Nothing in my life makes sense and on top of that, I have felt that I am in an answerless season. A season where I just have to trust that everything I am doing right now is going to lead me somewhere good.
During a recent bawling session, my Creator finally spoke. His words were few, but they were powerful. My Creator, the ultimate screenwriter, simply wanted to remind me that I have not arrived at the twist. No, I am not talking about Chubby Checkers. I am talking about the twist in plot that comes in every Romantic Comedy on the market. You see just after loosing hope for the upteenth time and somehow finding a way to continue in some form an existence, the lead character encounters a twist of fate. This twist of fate usually happens after the lead character has cleaned up some of her character flaws and started chasing whatever dream is in her heart. This twist of fate can come in the form of a person, an opportunity or both. The main thing you need to know about this twist of fate, this chance meeting, this divine appointment… is that it changes everything and instantly connects all of the dots.
God was revealing my place in the movie that is my life. He was letting me know that once I arrive at the twist, everything will make sense. And I have to say that judging by my own decisions (the decision to get clean and sober, the decision to come back to God, the decision to make my writing a priority, the decision to be more aware of my attitude and make a moment by moment effort to be a light to those around me) all of these personal transformations point to one thing – the twist is on the horizon. I know where I am in the script of my own romantic comedy and I have a peace and a joy that I cannot even explain. Might I dare say, that I am HAPPY.
So the question I leave you with is where are you in your life script? Wherever you believe you are, please do not forget that while you cannot control everything that happens, you can control the overall theme, tone and message of the script that is your life.
In continuation from last month, I need to ask what does it mean to act like you are the answer to someone else’s prayer? How do we break that down into bite size pieces that are small enough to apply to our lives? I guess I can start by stating what it does not look like. I know it does not look like complaining about the lack of or perceived lack of planning at my church or giving the worship leader the coldest shoulder I could muster this morning or coolly responding to someone who was just trying to make small talk before service. What can I say? I was having a moment.
Anywho, when I think about what it means to act like I am the answer to someone else’s prayers, I am reminded of a short message given by the very person I spent all morning complaining about. Coincidence? I think not. The message regarded Being Your Best For God and was the central theme of a production meeting held earlier this year. In this meeting, our worship leader spoke about how God wants to work in us, with us and through us. By working in us, God wants to challenge us to be on a continual path of improvement with ourselves, the responsibilities He has handed us and the people He places in our lives. And yes, this includes, those pesky horn honkers on Wilshire, that co-worker who makes your skin crawl and that obnoxious new friend of your best friend. Our end goal being, of course, to love our neighbors as ourselves just as Jesus demonstrated. Once God is able to work in us, He can start working with us to build His Kingdom. He has a role for each of us to play and has therefore, equipped each of us with a unique set of abilities and interests. It is as we begin working with God that He is able to show Himself to others through us. Instead of living in a world of me, we begin to live in a world of we and as a result we begin to treat others with kindness and respect. We begin to change and so do the people around us ... in that they don't seem so bothersome anymore. What's really happening is that we have stopped being a part of the problem and started becoming a part of the solution.
Yes, we are all still going to have our moments, but the goal is to have less “me moments” and more “we moments”. More smiles, more kindness, more generosity: these are the ingredients of a much happier you and a much happier world. So I end with asking what is God stirring up in you? What is your first step? Do you need to become more reliable? Do you need to be more proactive with the responsibilities God has handed you? Do you simply need to be more welcoming to the people that cross your path? Whatever it is that God is stirring up in you, I challenge you to improve in that area and see what God does as a result. One thing I do know is this: He works in you to change you for the better so that He can work with you and through you to … well, answer prayers, yours included.
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?
Earlier this month I asked God to help me grasp His love for me. You see, some pretty awesome people that are on some serious Jesus juice surround me and I want to be on it too. They have this passion and peace and joy that is contagious only I can’t seem to catch it. I do know that they all seem to be able to grasp how much God loves them and that is one thing I just cannot seem to accomplish. I will believe it for a few days or on a good week, but then life slaps me in the face again or I make a mistake or something doesn’t go my way and I for some reason assume that God doesn’t approve of me which translates to Him not loving me.
It’s strange that I have always been able to trust God when it comes to keeping me cancer free. (Back-story: I had a melanoma while my father was fighting his losing battle with melanoma. Mine was in the skin which is stage 1; his was everywhere which is stage 4) I recall begging God to just keep it in the skin so I never have to go through what my father went through and I’ve never really worried about it since. I’ve had several moles removed over the past six years with most of them being pre-cancerous. In fact I had another mole removed this month and it was while I was alone in the room waiting for the extraction that a terrifying thought occurred to me. I have a part to play in my having this type of cancer. You see, I’ve always thought the reason it was so easy to trust God with something like cancer was because I had no part in it. It was His deal and therefore He was responsible. The truth is that simply is not the case. While a genetic predisposition to Melanoma does play a huge factor in whether one is susceptible to this disease, so do one’s actions. As a young lady in the south, I did more than my fair share of idiotic sunbathing. Hell, I’d never even use sun block… No, I sir… I had to have the tanning oil that seeped the sunrays into my skin. I was also a heavy tanning bed user and considering that my melanoma was on my foot, I’m pretty sure that what I use to refer to as my “bright, warm coffin” almost actually was just that for me. I mean I even returned to the tanning bed after my father lost his battle with melanoma and after I had a melanoma. I mean my actions were beyond stupid, but God has honored my request nonetheless. I can see His hand in the timing of some of my doctor appointments, in the doctor’s I was lead to who ended up being awesome, proactive caretakers including my brand new California caretaker.
It hit me in that exam room, that God has been keeping me alive and keeping this persistent melanoma from going past my skin for six years. I also thought about my many car accidents, all of which, I am extremely lucky to have walked away from much less walked away unharmed. Those accidents were 100% my doing, God had nothing to do with those and yet He kept me alive through all of them. Then I remembered how I almost died when I was a year old due to a heart valve that wouldn’t close. I just stopped breathing and if my neighbor had not been home to rush me to the hospital, I would have died. I recalled how I endured several high-risk surgeries and practically spent the first few years of my life in a hospital in Nashville. My mother says it got to the point, that if I saw anyone who resembled a doctor or a nurse, I would just start screaming. They were trying to help me, but the only thing I knew was that when they came, it hurt.
Believe it or not, the list actually continues. Some items on the list are all my doing and some are half mine and half God’s and only one is just God’s. The fact is that regardless of whether I was at fault, God still had His hand on me, He was still carrying me through and He has had more than several chances to get rid of me, but He has chosen to keep me around. He must think I am worth something. He must have a plan for me. He must love me.
So I asked Him to help me slowly chew on this as it was going to be a long digestion. God is showing me a lot of love right now through the people He has placed in my life. People that love me right where I am and are patient with me as I continue to learn to navigate this world sober and I can truly say I have never experienced anything like it before. I can actually see His hand in everything that is happening in my life. Why I landed where I landed in LA, the people I have come to know, the jobs and internships I have held, the purpose of my current responsibilities… the dots are starting to connect.
Six months ago today, I surrendered the one thing I thought was my everything. On that day, I thought God was being mean and punishing me and wanting to take away the one thing that always got me through, but it turns out He was intervening on my behalf because He knew that if I stayed on that road, I wouldn’t be alive to write this post. When it comes down to it, we can be some dumb, defiant, stubborn, and greedy people and if we are honest with ourselves, we find that God works in spite of us much more than He works with us. However, He continuously chooses to intervene on our behalf… and if that’s not love, I don’t know what is.
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.
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.