The drive back home was riddled with blinding rainstorms and interstate standstills so I had plenty of time to think back to life in Los Angeles and life in Jacksonville… The people I met, the things I learned, the growth that took place. As I look back over the last five years there are definitely some people who stand out in my mind. Some of these people are like Kirsten, Liz, and Tracy who became my close friends and made life fun. Liz was my adventure pal. We scaled a waterfall, paddle boarded and kayaked our way through various marinas and hiked our way through various mountain ranges during my time in Los Angeles. I hope to start an annual girls adventure vacay with some of my LA friends and some of my Jacksonville friends soon. I have so much more to see and experience and I want to make travel a top priority once I have the debt paid off and am back in my own place. Kirsten, Larissa, Nora & Lauren were my Mosaic friends. I met them all in a life group. On my first visit I knew I’d found friends and we became just that close friends doing life together. I miss having that in my life, but I am hopeful I will have some ladies to do life with again soon.
Someone I probably have not mentioned at all on this blog is a man named Joel. He was a producer at a church I went to for a while prior to making Mosaic my home church. I was freshly sober and scared of everything and somehow got put on the production team of this church to basically run the services. By that, I mean I ran the ever so important Macbook that ran the pre and post house music, the pre and post screen loops, the worship lyrics, the teaching screens, the videos… the only thing I did not run was the lights and sound, but I learned how to do that too… well, the lights at least. When I say I was scared of everything, I mean I really was scared of everything and everyone. I had no idea how to do anything without alcohol and I walked around looking like a deer in headlights to everyone I encountered. People were always asking me if I was okay and I always gave a very unsure “yeah”. Joel had the task of taking this deer in headlights girl and making her into someone who could run church services like a pro and that is exactly what he did. I remember the first time I was up to run point and he, being very smart, did not tell me. Instead, he let me figure it out when I heard him praying for me in our pre-service prayer. I had no time to freak out or get upset or think anything really. The only thing I could do was quickly go over what I needed to do and just do it and I did.
This experience came in handy shortly thereafter when I was working with a filmmaker on a live non-profit show that featured celebrity guests. One day I showed up a tad late at our downtown show location and the first words out of her mouth were “good you’re wearing something nice. The host cancelled. You’re it.” And just as before, I did not have time to freak out and I relied on my previous experience to ask the questions I needed to ask and memorized what I needed to memorize and about 45 minutes later, after introducing myself to the celebrity guest and getting some information from him – I took the stage and played host for the evening. It was so much fun! I got to welcome the audience, introduce the guest and occasionally remind everyone why we were all there – for a charity called Kids Need to Read. It was a great evening and we had a great time and more importantly I had a great time doing something I never thought I would ever do! I’m an introvert after all, but I have realized that doing what I never thought I would do has been the name of the game for this deer in headlights girl.
After leaving Los Angeles, I got involved in Celebrate Recovery and soon found myself back on a stage. This time I was giving my alcohol testimony and I did it for a few CR’s in the Jacksonville area. The more I get on stage, the more comfortable I become. I have learned the hard way that the only way to get over something that scares you is to do that very thing you fear. Now, I give other people advice on how to overcome their fears and I routinely put those with public speaking fear on the spot because it is the only way anyone can ever over come that fear. My next move is to get my teaching/preaching feet wet either in CR or in a Women’s Ministry, but I guess I need a CR or a church home for that.
Actually, my CR leaders Jay and Karen in Florida also had a big impact on my growth over the last couple of years. Looking back I now know the reason I was led to Celebrate Recovery – I needed a lot of healing. I needed to learn to love myself. I needed to learn how to make healthy choices and healthy decisions and healthy boundaries. I needed to raise my self-respect and my self worth and that is exactly what I did. I also was able to get my ministry feet wet by learning to become the women’s share group leader. Jay and Karen are also the ones who got me onto the testimony circuit and provided feedback so I could get better at speaking in public. I also needed to learn to love others, but I think that comes with being comfortable with yourself and understanding who and what you are.
This leads to the people that made the most impact on me. The Liz’s, Tonia’s and Tracy’s – the people who like me for me. They think I am funny and intelligent and pretty and a whole lot of fun. I didn’t know anyone could like me without alcohol. I lived most of my life under the oppression of extreme social anxiety and it was not until I got sober, learned to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations and started making sober friends that I found true friendships that showed me things I never knew about my self. I do belong and I do have a place in this world and there are people who cherish me for me. I guess this is the biggest lesson I have learned because it is the lesson that freed me from trying to be anyone except me.
I do not know what lies ahead for me, but I do know that I can handle whatever is coming my way. Right now I am focusing on job hunting and once I land a job I can start making a place for myself while I get back on my financial feet. I always wanted to leave Memphis and never come back, but maybe I wanted to leave because of what I needed to learn.
"We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls." - Anais Nin
They say if March comes in like a lion that it will go out like a lamb. Is the same true for years? Let’s just say 2017 roared in and all but brought me to a complete standstill. For starters I had to say goodbye to the sweetest and fiercest cuddlebug I’ve ever known. Rosie, the toy stealing Boston, became very ill very quickly and had to be put down given her age. She needed a very invasive surgery that brought no guarantees so my roommate did the right thing by escorting her to the big park in the sky. The day she left us I contracted what I am calling a stress response. I have a neck and back trauma from flying off an overpass about a decade ago. I believe my stress reactivated this whiplash so to speak and I found myself in constant pulsating sharp pain in the lower back part of my neck on the left side of my body. I also had limited mobility and I stayed this way for about a week to ten days. As soon as I was back to normal physically and mentally, my car overheated while I was driving home from seeing a friend. The red light started flashing and an alarm started going off which I am told was meant to make me pull over, which I did not. I saw no steam so I figured I would continue driving. It turns out my radiator was blown and I had to spend a pretty chunk of money on a new one, however, my coolant light was still flashing. Going on my neighbor and roommates advice I put coolant in with the motor running and found that the small leak I was eventually going to get fixed had turned into a shower under my car. No Wonder. I had put about three bottles of coolant in the radiator and people kept asking me if there was a spot under my car and there wasn’t and there never would have been since it only showered coolant while the engine was running. And back to the mechanic I went only to find out that I had two leaks and needed to replace the rest of the components of my coolant system. My main hope now is that the transmission will last long enough for me to get my debt paid off so I can buy a new car and I know what I want when that time comes… if that time comes, God willing.
So as I said in my previous post, my two main resolutions were financial based and fitness based. Both have been blown out of the water. I had one credit card paid off and was making head way on the other, but those are both back up at the top of their limits thanks to Christmas and my lovely car. Then there’s the fact that I have restarted workouts, but am having issues with my upper body. I am finding it very easy to reactivate my injury and weights are just not in the cards right now. Though, I am finding it possible to slowly ramp up yoga practice. So you know there’s some light.
This past week I became very angry regarding a co-worker who is now my boss. I don’t have any hate for this individual and I do wish her the best in life – I just wish her life didn’t have to intersect with mine. We share an office and she literally goes out of her way every day to remind me that she loves everyone in the office except me. I have no idea what I did to her but she has been hateful toward me from day one. This hate drama and the fact that I really need to get out of this job and the fact that I am very unhappy doing this job are starting to take a toll on me. I just can’t seem to shrug it off and enjoy my day to the best of my ability anymore. I am beginning to get stuck in an I hate my life mode at work. It seems that this holding pen I am in just keeps getting smaller. Every time I think I understand the act of corralling I somehow find myself in a smaller space with even less to breathe. Being someone who has been touched my cancer and being someone who has stiff armed cancer for going on ten years now, I know that we are not guaranteed tomorrow and that we should each make the most of the time we have on Earth. And I actually think that it is this “life is too short to not enjoy it” mentality that is getting the best of me right now. I haven’t been happy in Florida. I don’t have a community here. My job doesn’t provide what I need on a social, mental, emotional or financial level. Yes, there are some good things to point out like my living situation, my involvement in Celebrate Recovery and getting to love on Rosie and now Lilly. But, I am at a boiling point. I say all of this to share that this past week in a moment of extreme anger (sitting at my desk and going off on everyone inside my head) my entire upper back and left side of my neck re-clinched and back to pain and immobility I went. This would be the moment that I realized that my neck and upper back pain and stiffness are in fact a response to stress.
I have shared previously that I am trying to follow the adrenal body type plan in an effort to curb the effect of stress on my mind, body and soul. It speaks volumes that I can now literally stress myself into immobility and pain. I have to find a way to deal with the daily stress of life before I literally stop my own heart. Yes, I am a yogi. Yes, I know I should know how to calm and center myself. Yes, I am a Christian and I should have the peace of Jesus. But I was also an alcoholic for like 16 years so I never really learned how to deal with life, in fact, my way of dealing with life whether good or bad was to drink. It’s like putting a band-aid on a wound that requires stitches. Yes, you are covering it up, but it is never going to heal properly. That’s what my drinking did for me. Yes, I could get through some really traumatic events like losing my dad and facing my own cancer, but I never learned how to handle life on life’s terms and so while I appear to function appropriately and wisely, I am for all intensive purposes, a raging toddler on the inside.
So maybe my new New Year’s Resolution for 2017 should be to learn how to ride the wave of life without letting it steal my inner joy. Well, you know how it goes… We tell God our plans and He smiles and nods and then He finds a way to tell us His plans… His plans tend to prevail. I know that much.
In Memory of Rosie, the toy stealing Boston who was as fierce as she was sweet. Her humans miss her very much.
New Everything seems to be on my docket for 2017. It’s an everything must go sort of season in my life. For starters, the house where I have been room renting, is going on the market this month and it is being listed at base price to sell quick! Second, my car appears to be on its final leg. I own an Impala and anyone with an Impala from 2000 to 2005 probably knows what I am going through. Actually, most of you have probably already gotten rid of your Impalas. According to the Chevy forums, there is nothing that can be done, unless of course, God reaches down from Heaven and puts a stop to all this crazy coolant system nonsense. Third, after having spent a semester in my new job, I can tell you that I must leave this place! There is no money at this institution and moreover, people in my department haven’t seen a raise in five years! That’s just plain crazy. I do love the holiday shut down and time off structure, but that can be found in other institutions that actually pay their people so ya know… I will be leaving.
Change is everywhere right now and I do not know if I will land on my feet or crash on my butt. The only person I can blame is myself. I left Los Angeles for some financial stability, but the decisions I have made regarding employment have not exactly helped me attain much of anything close to stable. So now I find myself at a dangerous cross roads. I have a decent amount of debt to pay off and am in need of a new car and a new place to live and a new place to work. My brother has been pushing for me to come back home for a year and while he does make sense numerically, I don’t want to move without a job, which would put me in the realm of blowing my savings.
So with all that said, let’s talk New Year resolutions. You do have them right? Mine are simple this year and fall into two categories: Finances and Fitness.
Financially, I need to get the rest of this debt paid off so I can buy a new car! And of course, a house would be nice too! The main way to do this would be through a new and better paying place of employment. I am geographically open, though I would like to move closer to my mom and brother. I would also like to be in an area with a lot of hiking. One doesn’t really hike in Florida. There are tons of trails here, but it is more nature walking so to speak. Plus I haven’t really been able to find a good hiking group or find any outdoors buddies to go exploring with so I have been at a loss in terms of one of my favorite past times. I am a professional when it comes to living on nothing, so the challenge will be to keep living on nothing until the debt is gone. AKA, not buying new things, which is very hard to do once those credit cards start lighting up with zero balances. Self Restraint is needed indeed.
The second category is fitness. I am not necessarily trying to loose weight, but I do want to be healthy! I need to get back to eating mostly fruits and vegetables and zero sweets. I am trying to follow the adrenal body plan which means I need to add in protein. I have toyed with the idea of bringing seafood back into my diet, but I just don’t feel right about it. I mean if I can talk to it, I shouldn’t eat it. Right? I also need to up my morning and evening workouts. I do yoga every morning, but I need to start getting up earlier so I can get more time in on the mat and I need to be doing an hour of cardio and/or strength in evening when at home. Once my debt is paid off, I would like to join a gym or program where I can be taken through a series of exercises. I just do better with someone telling me what to do and making me do it when it comes to workouts. I am good at doing the workout, but I am also good at making every excuse as to why I don’t need to give 110% or why I need to do the beginner version or the low impact version or ya know whatever. I have decided to take a picture of myself on the first and last day of 2017 to further motivate me to eat healthy and keep up with the workouts. Perhaps I’ll share my results with you this time next year.
I guess I do have a third category in terms of New Year resolutions, but I feel that it is going to have to take a back seat until I am in a new job. The third category would, of course, be my creative endeavors. I have a few ideas that involve a second blog that is topic focused for 12 steppers and a YouTube channel and I do want to get back into my writing. Since this is more dependent on the first two resolutions getting off the ground, I will dub this a bonus resolution, which in turn gives me more motivation to make the first two resolutions happen.
I wish all of you a Happy, Prosperous and Adventurous New Year!
Looking back at this past year leaves a bad taste in my mouth. While this past year has brought a lot of personal growth to my life; it has also left a lot of projects and goals undone. I think the last time I had any fun – I was in Los Angeles. Geez, has it really been that long since I had a good laugh, danced the night away and enjoyed a night out on the town with a crazy group of friends? But then I think that perhaps I had to have these past two years of isolation in order to obtain the growth necessary to see those undone projects through to completion. Perhaps I am just feeling the changes coming in the new year or perhaps I am ready for those changes to take form. Unfortunately, I am one of those people who have to be pushed to the point of jumping off a bridge in order to be willing to make a necessary change in my life.
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” - Anaïs Nin
And blossom I must or it is the end of the road for this lady. I just can’t live with the financial stress anymore. I just can’t live waiting for the last nail to shoot down from the sky and destroy me. I just can’t keep enduring needing so many things and living with the fact that I cannot have any of them. I just can’t live with the fact that there is absolutely no reason for my life to be as painful as it is, for I am the only person holding myself back.
And blossom I must so that I can put myself in a position to get a new phone, a new laptop, a new car and an actual place of my own. Heck, it would be nice to host the holidays at my place. Never mind the fact, that I am too terrified to live alone and not sure if I will be able to maintain sobriety when I have no one to answer to, but still, it would be nice for my mom and brother to come visit me for once.
And blossom I must to give myself a chance at a decent life while there is still some time to play catch up in this grand game. I am not asking for much, a nice townhouse in a nice area of a nice city, a car that always starts and enough cash to keep up with the days trends for as long as I am on this planet. I have already let go of the other things I wanted but haven’t yet been able to grasp.
And blossom I must for the simple fact that my mom deserves to have some financial help from her kids at this point, because friends and family deserve birthday and Christmas presents for a change, because I deserve a whole hell of a lot more than I’ve allowed myself.
And blossom I must for the dreams in my heart and the plans in my head, for the speeches to be given and the books waiting to be written, for the filming and painting and all the things that need to be created…
And blossom I must for God did not put me here to flounder, but to flourish and to enjoy His creations as well as my own.
And blossom I must.
Here’s to a Happy, Healthy and Productive 2017!
Well, California, if it makes you feel any better, I too am in what feels like a burn season. I lost the job I have been trying to get rid of, had a biopsy done, got rear-ended by a dude in surgery scrubs who wasn’t paying attention and may now loose my car to the wonderful state of Florida who has all the laws it doesn’t need and none of the laws it does need. As we all know you can kill people and get away with it here in Florida, but to make it easier for killers, crazies and terrorists, the great state of Florida allows anyone to buy a gun with no wait and no background check. Anywho, that’s a soapbox for another day. Life can just sweep you off your feet in the worst way possible and that is what it is doing to me right now.
I was able to get another job within two weeks, but the job is still low pay. I believe it is going to average out to about $20 more a pay check so I guess I can say that I did move up, albeit a very tiny step in the right direction. The good news is that I have good benefits and much more time off. My work days are shorter, I get more holidays and I have a shut down at Thanksgiving and Christmas which means I will be able to go home and see my family. For those of you who haven’t caught on yet, I am now in the field of higher education. This is a career field I have been thinking about because it is historically good for women, has longevity, great benefits and depending on the university and department within the university – there is ample time off that you don’t get unless you are in education or entertainment production. All of which are pluses in my book. So while I may still be in a monetary pinch, I am seeing this as a launching pad sort of opportunity. I will be learning the ins and outs of a controller’s office and in a few years I can either jump to an internal opening or jump to another university and they have those everywhere! So it is not all doom and gloom for this gypsy heart lady.
The ministry side of life is going strong. I am taking on some more responsibility in my Celebrate Recovery home group. Aside from leading the ladies share group, I will be doing more talking in large group, co-leading a fall step-study and getting my teaching feet wet by providing the training portion of the CR leadership meetings. I love my Friday nights with my ladies and am excited to learn and grow as a Celebrate Recovery ministry leader.
Now that I know I will be remaining in Jacksonville for a while, I need to pick a church home. I feel like I am repeating my Los Angeles days all over again. I started out at a church where I felt something was off, but I ignored the feeling and tried everything I could to find a place to belong. After a year long battle, I stepped away from church #1 and started visiting a couple other churches and one of them became home, my tribe and my life for the remainder of my time in Los Angeles. I seem to be doing the exact same thing on the other side of the country. I picked a church and made it home even though I felt something was off, tried everything I could to find a place t belong, but in the end I find myself stepping away. I guess I am hoping that what happened in Los Angeles will happen here in Jacksonville, that I will find my Mosaic here on the east coast.
While I don’t know what is going to happen with my car at this moment, I do have peace about the situation. The insurance company is doing everything they can to help me, but in the end, if the bumper comes off and the body shop reports frame damage, I will loose my car. I have fought and fought to keep my car, but it hit me the other night, that this might be one of those saving grace moments. If my transmission or some other major repair was suddenly needed, I might not be able to afford to fix the car and I cannot finance a car right now so I would be in serious trouble. Perhaps, I am losing my car and getting a little cash to buy another one (emphasis on little cash which is the issue) because something is about to go wrong with the car I am fighting so hard to keep. I can’t see what lies ahead, but Jesus can and He might have orchestrated the whole rear-ending event to save me from something I cannot see. In sobriety they tell you that you that your life is like an onion. Our lives, our emotions, our attitudes, our opinions, our perceptions and our actions form the layers around the core of the onion and it is in recovery that we begin the process of peeling back those layers to get to the core of who we really are. I feel that I have been peeling back the layers of surrender these past few weeks. The idea of surrender is a huge component of the 12 steps, but the day-to-day surrender takes on new meaning when you begin to realize that you really don’t have much control when it comes to anything except your response to every day life. If you are like me and like to have everything done a certain way and in a certain time frame then you have even more of a struggle with the daily letting go and truly letting God.
Everything good is grace and everything bad is the stuff Jesus holds your hand through until we get to abide in His arms. It is hard to take a step back and surrender to a life event, but it is what is required. We like to think that we have all the answers, but many times it is our decisions and our will that gets us into the tight spots in life. We thought we were right, we thought we had the plan, but then something happens to shake everything up and we get rerouted and more often than not, we look back and say thank you Jesus for rerouting me out of that disaster! In order to get rerouted we had to come to a moment of surrender that we did not like and move in a direction we did not want or anticipate, but that decision to let go and move in the direction God was apparently moving, is what rescued us.
My, Oh My, Oh My, it has certainly been a tough go of things here in sunny Florida. I recently had someone ask me “What is God trying to teach you?” I was explaining the never-ending circle of masochistic doom that I seem to keep finding myself in. The cities change, the regions change, the jobs change, but the circumstances always seem to be the same. Why oh why do I keep ending up in a crap job at a crap company with crap pay? How come no matter what I try to do, I always end up with the short end of the stick? This is when this lady asked me “What do you think God is trying to teach you?”
Well, let’s see, my temper came to mind and I am really working on it these days. In the latest installment of Jessica, The Beach and that book Live, Love, Lead I got a healthy kick in the arse about striving to live each day, in each circumstance, to all people as a witness of God’s love, compassion, mercy and strength. I am actually making progress, for the most part. I really got to a point where I had to ask myself how can I find some peace in all of my chaos and the answer for me was music. I already start my day with yoga and an intention to enjoy my day, but now I have added “to be a good witness” to my daily intention. After yoga, I enjoy a brief quiet time and/or worship time and then I am off to the races and I am usually racing hard as I am somehow always late to everything. It is the one thing that is a constant in my life. I just live on Island Time and I don’t know what else to say. I went through the music I have been listening to and decided that I need to reconnect with my hippie – gypsy groove and added a bunch of music to my daily commute. I picked music that makes me feel calm, happy, joyful and just plain groovy. I find that it helps me to lessen my death grip on my stirring wheel and my life. Why I keep such a tight grip on my life I don’t know – It’s not like I have helped it along or anything, which brings me to the second thing I am learning.
Sometimes it’s about what you learn from a shift in perspective. I recently awoke in the night with the knowledge that I had to catch the Mosaic live stream the next day and so I did. It had been a while since I was able to catch a live stream as I can only catch the 12 Noon or 5pm services with the three-hour time difference. I was all excited to hear Erwin or Hank, but I soon found I would be hearing from a guy named Joe. I was like what is this joker gonna tell me? Where’s Erwin? Where’s Hank? But as it would turn out, that Joker named Joe would speak into my life that day and change everything. I have really been missing my LA friends lately and reminiscing about life in Los Angeles and even contemplating trying to go back even though for whatever reason God ripped me out of that city. Joe said something that really rattled my cage. He asked us if we had ever had a time in our lives where everything was just good? A time where we were happy, doing well, but felt as if something was missing for some reason. I was like yes – that would be my time in Los Angeles. Anywho, Joe went on to drop some bombs in my world. One being that the only way to live the satisfied life is to never be satisfied, to never be okay with being okay, to always want to experience more, create more, help more, etc. His words were that if you are satisfied, then you should be dead because you have fulfilled your purpose on Earth! Another bomb being that the satisfied life can actually keep us from living the extraordinary life because to live an extraordinary life, you must let go of the satisfied life. Maybe that’s what is happening to me. I could have stayed in LA and enjoyed my church, my friends, my fast-paced life and never had time to slow down and get some much needing healing, never had time to step onto a recovery ministry leadership team, never had time to learn some much needed lessons because I would have kept choosing my friends and outdoor adventures over the growth classes and Celebrate Recovery meetings. One last bomb Mr. Joe the Joker (err Joe Smith) dropped was that God never gives step-by-step or turn-by-turn directions because He trusts that if we spend enough time with Him that we will turn when He tells us to turn. I have experience with turning when God says turn – it is how I got to Los Angeles and it’s how I arrived in Jacksonville. I guess I am just really hurting right now and desperately needing a new job and a community around me here in Jax, which brings me back to the beginning. When this lady asked me “What is God trying to teach you?”’ It hit me that if I ever want to get out of this cycle of disdain and despair then I’d better learn the lesson quick so that pasture gate can open. Otherwise, I will live out my life in the tiny bull pin God has me in forever waiting for the gate to open and wondering why it won’t.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I am in the process of learning a lesson that has been 16 years in the making. I am calming my butt down, finding meaning in the mundane and everyday existence, becoming that person that changes the thermostat in a positive way instead of a negative way and putting my focus on serving others, sharing love and kindness and being a more accurate witness of the God I claim to love so much. It’s spring. Everything is in bloom and I am too.
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.
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….