The definition of corral is to gather together and confine. Synonyms include capture, collect, enclose, lock up and shut in – in other words trap. This might explain why I feel so trapped these days. God spoke to me recently and He told me I was being corralled into a very tight space so He can direct me to the right pasture. His words, not mine. His thought, not mine. I am a Taurus through and through and trying to corral a Taurus is like trying to corral the most stubborn and aggressive bull on the planet, but I do like that word ‘pasture’.
I feel like I am on a rotating merry go round of phases of corralling. In Phase 1 I am cocky and fighting back non-stop. In Phase 2 I realize I am trapped and I start freaking out and trying to find a way to escape. In Phase 3 I am teary-eyed and weary with a willingness to relent, give-in and give-up. There is a Phase 4 – the phase in which one has waved their white flag, fully given up and accepted their new reality. In other words – they have stopped kicking and screaming allowing the Rancher to open the gate to a new and uncharted pasture – a pasture created especially for the individual walking into it. A pasture that will be well – liked. Unfortunately, I am stuck rotating relentlessly in and out of phases 1, 2 & 3.
I cannot stay where I am, but I don’t necessarily want to leave either. I need a career and not just a job, but Jacksonville doesn’t exactly offer what I am looking for. It can, but those positions are not numerous and are usually given to the friend of a friend, which I am not. It sounds weird, but I like the trees here. I also really starting to appreciate the church I attend and I really love my involvement in CR, the close proximity to the beach and the weather! What I really like is that I feel like I can be used here, that I can have a voice here. I didn’t feel this way in Los Angeles. I couldn’t relate to many of the actors and entertainers I encountered there. I can relate to people here and I think the feeling that I can be used combined with all the other things I like about Jax is what is making me want to stay.
The thing is I don’t have anyone to rely on – it is just me versus the world and if I don’t make some sort of move soon – the world is going to win. It is only a matter of time before something gives and I am ruined. This is why I keep rotating through phases 1, 2 & 3 of corralling. There is a large part of me that wants to stay in Jacksonville, but when I look at the larger picture financially along with the type of jobs available in Jacksonville – I feel that I am most likely facing another move. On the one hand, I know that wherever God leads, it will be good, but on the other hand, I want to take control and stay. I feel as though I need to choose between where I want to live and having the job I want. I am just conflicted. In the past when God wanted to move me, He made it abundantly clear and I was ready for it. This time I am not ready, not very willing and not very clear. It is more of a general knowledge that if I want a job like A, B or C – I will most likely have to move somewhere else to get it. As I said earlier, Jacksonville has these jobs, but they are rare and given to friends, not strangers. Of course, something could give and also force me to give up and just get another job – a much better paying one, but still another j-o-b and stay in Jacksonville.
The number one thing I need to do right now is stay open to what God wants to do and trust that He will direct my path just like He directed me away from the Kansas City opportunity. I need to stop fearing that I am going to make the wrong decision and start trusting that if I do consider a misstep, that God will course correct like He always does. I seriously want to get a tattoo that reads “Stay Gypsy” “Stay in His Wind” on my forearm so I can read it all day every day. I need these phrases written everywhere to remind myself to stay connected to His Wind and not necessarily this world. And like they say – if you are trying to hold on to something, you probably need to let it go.
And of course the one giant elephant in this conversation that has not been broached is the fact that when one is being corralled, one is most certainly going to be doing the exact opposite of what one wants to do – otherwise it wouldn’t be called corralling. Do you think the sheep want to go into the pen? No, they don’t. They want to stay out in the field even though there is no grass left for them to eat and they run everywhere except where the Rancher is trying to get them “Bahhhhing” all the way until they finally collapse from exhaustion and go in their pen only to find that the Rancher was corralling them so he could get them into a new pasture full of lush green grass and rolling hills for their delight. The key for the sheep is yielding to and trusting their rancher and it is the same for you and me. There is a reason Jesus is referred to as the Great Shepherd and it has nothing to do with the literal act of herding sheep.
“Sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of faith.” - Margaret Shepard
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.
Over the past month, my life came to a slow crawl. I was having a harder and harder time getting up in the morning and was having a very hard time staying awake at work. My workouts became smaller and smaller until they consisted of nothing more than relaxation yoga. I was beat and I did not know why. I had no symptoms except for extreme fatigue. It’s crazy how sickness can creep up on us. I never once thought something might be wrong. I just assumed I was depressed, that it was my fault, that I hadn’t been sleeping well or eating well, that I had gained weight and that I am just dealing with unwanted feelings or extreme loneliness. I just kept reasoning my fatigue away until it stopped me in my tracks. I spent three days in bed and on the third day it dawned on me that something must be wrong and so I went to an urgent care facility and found that I had a bacterial infection. Had I not gone to the doctor, I would have only gotten worse no matter how much I rested.
During this time of barely living, my rear view mirror hopped off my windshield again. I knew I needed to do something about it, but it was kind of nice just driving down the road, only concerned with what was ahead and not worrying about the guy in the truck behind me. My attention was on the road in front of me and I was driving peacefully. It occurred to me that this is how we are supposed to drive our lives, but many of us drive constantly looking in the rear view mirror. We’re in front of it, we’ve moved around it, we’ve driven past it, but it still holds our attention.
While driving without my rear view mirror one sunny afternoon, it dawned on me that Jesus never meant for us to be concerned with what’s in our rear view mirror. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying we are not supposed to deal with what’s in our past. What I am saying is that God never meant for us to obsess on it, contemplate it and bring it into our present over and over again. I say this because if you look at how Jesus dealt with people in the Bible, He was the exact same with every person no matter what had happened to them or what they had done. His words were same every time. He simply said “Follow Me”. It is a small sentence with life changing implications. When He said “Follow Me” He was saying listen to my words, read my words, make my words and my deeds the center of your life and do as I do, speak as I do, love as I do, strive every day to be more like Me. Follow Me.
Jesus never condemned anyone no matter who they were or what they had become. He simply said Follow Me. Make Me your role model. Jesus never mentioned anyone’s past, instead He called everyone forward. I heard a sermon not too long ago where the pastor on stage, said that the devil calls you to your past so he can condemn you in your defeat, but the spirit of Christ always calls you forward to a better you and a better life. Christ might make you aware of something He doesn’t want you doing because He wants better for you, but He never condemns. The devil condemns us, fellow humans condemn us, but God never condemns any of us because He always sees what we can become if we Follow Him.
The funny thing is most of us walk around condemning ourselves over and over and over again for things that don’t even exist in God’s mind. He let them go a long time ago. He is only focused on where He is taking us; we are the ones focused on where we have been. I know that I keep pointing back to a decision I made several years ago where I adamantly refused to move in the direction God wanted me to and to this day I often wonder if that one decision ruined my entire life. Thoughts like what if that was a once in a lifetime opportunity and now God will only let me wallow in crappy jobs? What if my husband was in that city and I didn’t get to meet him so now I am going to be alone? What if that career was going to be a launching pad for me to have a larger ministry and now I am going to die with a burning desire in my heart that was never fulfilled? The problem with these kind of thoughts is that they totally disregard that the fact that Jesus always calls us forward and that if we follow Him to the best of our ability learning and growing as we walk through life with Him, He always leads us somewhere good. He is not about condemnation, He is not concerned with our past – He is only concerned with where He is taking us because His plans for us never change. Whatever He started in us, He will complete – if we follow Him and allow Him to work in and through our lives. I know I have come full circle and find myself rather exhausted thinking it’s time to call it, that I’ve missed my opportunities, that I can’t possibly attain the vision I keep seeing for my life… But Jesus is looking at me saying “Jessica, I created that vision for you. I know how to get you there. Just keep following Me.”
Unfortunately, the car saga I spoke of last month was not over. My check engine light came on a week after the 2nd shop fixed what the first shop broke, but wouldn’t you know that there was more that needed to be fixed. My belt started making a rather embarrassing high pitched squeal so I took it back over to Bell’s Automotive. Unfortunately, Bell’s was super busy or super unorganized and after two attempts to bring in my car to get it fixed and having to listen to a song and dance about the repair industry I decided to take my chances on a third shop and I am glad I did. I called All Pro Automotive and they were able to see me the same day so I drove over with a choking engine. Earlier in the day a smoke cloud the size of Texas came out of my tail pipe, which is one of the reasons I decided to check out another shop. Bell’s wanted to give me a new sensor, but I knew that giant smoke clouds and hesitating engines meant something else was happening under my hood. Would you believe that wonderful Monument Road Tire and Service forgot to put the PVC Pipe in my Upper Intake, which caused a vacuum situation where air and oil was being sucked out of my engine at an insane rate! What’s more worrisome is that Bell’s did not pick up on the fact that my Upper Intake was actually on wrong, which is why I am glad I took it to All Pro Automotive. I have been driving all over Jacksonville for over three weeks and I am happy to report that my car is finally back to normal. If I have any more car issues, I will be taking my business to All Pro Automotive.
So while I was going through all of this car trouble with a very limited access to cash or credit cards, I was continuing my search for a church home here in Jacksonville. I am about halfway through my list of churches to visit and getting more and more impatient everyday. I miss my church in Los Angeles and I miss my friends even more. I do not yet have a community here and while I am a part of the quiet revolution I also relish my social time and have a giant need for community and a sense of belonging. It was during one of these church visits that God shot me one between the eyes. I believe I was in a week - long period of really seeking God’s will because I am honestly confused about how things are going here in Jax. I know God led me here and I know that the why has nothing to do with my day job, but you would think He would still have something nice in mind, right? Well, as has happened many a time before, I was seeking God for a very specific situation and He had an entirely different topic in mind. The preacher at RiverTown was speaking on spiritual family trees and how important it is for each of us to be intentional in how we impact the people who have been placed in our lives. I think Tim Tebow said it best when he said, “…you’re either leading people somewhere good or you’re leading people somewhere bad… Where are you leading the people in your life? …Is their life better or worse for having known you?” Ultimately, the pastor at RiverTown was speaking on the importance of leading people in the direction of Jesus Christ and the importance of creating our own spiritual family trees and it was in this sermon that God finally spoke to me, but it was not about my dire situation. He simply asked me a question that has haunted me ever since. He asked, “Why are you acting like a rookie, when you’re a veteran of the faith?”
Later that same day, God reminded me that whenever I have had spurts of sobriety in my life, I have always moved towards ministry. I mean that thought could probably encompass another entire blog or two, but for now I am just going to focus on the fact that when I am the real me and not the drunk me, Christian ministry becomes a major part of my life. In my first bout of sobriety I was a high school girls Bible Study leader and mission tripper. In my 2nd bout of sobriety I was a 1st grade Sunday school teacher and a regular volunteer with the Urban ministry at the church I was attending at the time. My third and final bout of sobriety has had me working in church service production along side the pastor and worship leader and now I am finding my way into Celebrate Recovery and am looking to go through a CR step program so I can lead others to the same freedom I have found. I really feel like God is calling me up and out. I feel like He thinks I have enough sobriety at this point to step back into my destiny (which apparently involves ministry) and it starts with taking on a more leadership role with the people in my life, the programs I am involved in and whatever church I make my home. For me this means putting the focus on the people around me instead of myself. It also means being aware of how my words and actions impact how others view me and in turn how others view God.
Not everyone is called to ministry or even lay ministry for that matter, but each of us does have a responsibility to the people God has placed in our lives. If you think about it, we’re all looking at someone who is at the level we are about to step into. Take a church body for example: the ministry leaders are looking at the pastor; the Bible study leaders are looking at the ministry leaders; the Bible study participants are looking at the Bible study leaders and church volunteers; regular church attendees are looking at the church volunteers and the Bible study participants; the non-regular church attendees and looking at the regular church attendees and the once, twice or never church goers are looking at the non-regular attendees and thinking ‘I really need to start going more like Jenny does.’ So in all actuality, we all have someone looking up from where they are at to where we are. So, I am going to ask all of you: Is God calling you to step up your game for Him? If so, what does stepping up for Christ look like for you? Does it mean becoming more involved in your church? Being more strategic with the impact you have on those around you? Maybe it means giving something up that is confusing and distorting the message you are trying to send…
I 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.
I find myself walking up to a fork in the road. I am not there yet, but I can feel it coming. It has been both a blessed and a cursed year with the curse being extreme financial lacking and it has weakened my resolve. I am exhausted from the strain of not being able to cover my basic needs much less attend outings to which I have been invited. I am also finding that I hate the hectic pace of my current career. I swear I do nothing but bend over and take it in the rear all day long and for absolutely no reason at that. But this is the glory of being in the distribution world…Not.
The fork that I see coming is the decision to stay in the entertainment industry… albeit in a completely different part or jump ship to a stable, slower paced and financially rewarding private sector institution. There are pros and cons to both roads. Road 1 (the industry) has definite advantages for writers: creative environment; networking with agents, actors and producers; and privy to the inside scoop on everything Hollywood. The down side of the industry would be the long hours, high stress and hectic work environments often supporting projects you don’t support or believe in and until you make it past a certain milestone – very not great pay or benefits. Meanwhile, Road 2 (the private institution) has its own pluses and minuses. Pluses would be the slower pace and non-neurotic managers, the better pay, hours and benefits, as well as better job growth and job security and a better possibility of actually supporting that for which you toil. The only minus on this road is the simple fact that I would be out of the creative scope for a majority of my day.
No doubt to many of you it seems like the simplest decision on the planet. Road 2 clearly has more advantages than Road 1, but Road 1 still has my heart or at least some of it.
Considering the fact that I am known for making bad decisions and passing up opportunities like they number the stars in the sky, I have thought about partaking in an experiment of sorts: Do whatever it is that I do not want to do. In other words, if I want to go left – go right. But I struggle with this decision. You see even with all of the hardship I have endured out here in LA, I still feel I am supposed to be here. I still feel that I am right where I am supposed to be; I still feel that it was the right decision – It’s just not making complete sense yet.
And so I continue to make my way towards this fork in the road, hoping with each step, that the decision will somehow be made for me, that perhaps circumstance will force me onto one road versus the other. If not, I will have to decide whether I should go with my gut like I have always done or try something new and do the exact opposite.
TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood
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?
“There was that "in between" phase. The phase between where I was at the time and where I was going. It's a grey zone if you will. A cocoon phase.” - Mastin Kipp
After a fleeting moment of clarity, I find myself back to not knowing which end is up. I am worn out mentally, emotionally and spiritually and I don’t really have any fight left. My current job has become rather stressful, which would normally be something I revel in given that I actually like and hold interest in my daily activities. Unfortunately, my current provider of all things monetary does not hold my interest and that is why this stress is what I refer to as bad stress. I am a simple being. If I want to do it then it is good stress. It doesn’t matter what’s on the line or how much pressure is on me or how many plates of expensive china I’m juggling. If I like it, I want to do it and it is good stress. I love that kind of stress. I’m actually one of those people who prefers running around like a crazed maniac. I am an administrative powerhouse who is fantastic with all those little details, but I also have a creative side that cannot go unfed. The worst part is my personal projects are suffering due to this bad stress. Well, it is more like they are just not happening because I am too exhausted to even think about them.
I just feel lost right now. I have come to terms with one of my biggest regrets (i.e. that job I should have taken two years ago in Nashville). I know that ship is sailed and I know that for whatever reason, I am supposed to be in LA. What I don’t know is when I will find a sense of belonging out here. I miss my friends and family terribly and am in desperate need of a support system. I am kind of a guy in that a lot of my identity comes from my job and I know that when I land in a position closer to one of my passions that some of this need for belonging will subside, but not all of it.
I feel like I am in that cocoon that Mastin is talking about in his post. Or like that age old phrase, “I’m not where I want to be, but I’m not where I used to be.” I’m in the in between and the in between has been okay, but once I hit my six month sobriety mark it was like a light switch went off inside me. I pretty much have my competence and confidence back and as far as I am concerned I am beyond ready to move forward, only I’m not moving forward, at least not that I can see. To say that I have complained to God about this would be an understatement. Unfortunately, the only response I have received has been the following thought: you can’t run from something you can’t see coming.
This thought makes me think of what I’m doing at my church. I find that I love being a part of making a show or service happen. It’s good stress. It’s fun. And I would never in a million years ever have thought that I would ever want to run media for anything, but I got thrown into this while I was still in my screaming into pillows days. In other words, I was so upside down that I didn’t really know what was happening until it was too late. Maybe the same thing is happening again. Maybe God has me upside down all over again so He can place me into a position that I would otherwise turn down. Maybe the only way God can keep me from running from the right thing is to keep me from seeing it in the first place. I may be flying blind, but I have the feeling that I am flying blind in the palm of God’s hand and that changes everything, does it not?
Earlier this month I asked God to help me grasp His love for me. You see, some pretty awesome people that are on some serious Jesus juice surround me and I want to be on it too. They have this passion and peace and joy that is contagious only I can’t seem to catch it. I do know that they all seem to be able to grasp how much God loves them and that is one thing I just cannot seem to accomplish. I will believe it for a few days or on a good week, but then life slaps me in the face again or I make a mistake or something doesn’t go my way and I for some reason assume that God doesn’t approve of me which translates to Him not loving me.
It’s strange that I have always been able to trust God when it comes to keeping me cancer free. (Back-story: I had a melanoma while my father was fighting his losing battle with melanoma. Mine was in the skin which is stage 1; his was everywhere which is stage 4) I recall begging God to just keep it in the skin so I never have to go through what my father went through and I’ve never really worried about it since. I’ve had several moles removed over the past six years with most of them being pre-cancerous. In fact I had another mole removed this month and it was while I was alone in the room waiting for the extraction that a terrifying thought occurred to me. I have a part to play in my having this type of cancer. You see, I’ve always thought the reason it was so easy to trust God with something like cancer was because I had no part in it. It was His deal and therefore He was responsible. The truth is that simply is not the case. While a genetic predisposition to Melanoma does play a huge factor in whether one is susceptible to this disease, so do one’s actions. As a young lady in the south, I did more than my fair share of idiotic sunbathing. Hell, I’d never even use sun block… No, I sir… I had to have the tanning oil that seeped the sunrays into my skin. I was also a heavy tanning bed user and considering that my melanoma was on my foot, I’m pretty sure that what I use to refer to as my “bright, warm coffin” almost actually was just that for me. I mean I even returned to the tanning bed after my father lost his battle with melanoma and after I had a melanoma. I mean my actions were beyond stupid, but God has honored my request nonetheless. I can see His hand in the timing of some of my doctor appointments, in the doctor’s I was lead to who ended up being awesome, proactive caretakers including my brand new California caretaker.
It hit me in that exam room, that God has been keeping me alive and keeping this persistent melanoma from going past my skin for six years. I also thought about my many car accidents, all of which, I am extremely lucky to have walked away from much less walked away unharmed. Those accidents were 100% my doing, God had nothing to do with those and yet He kept me alive through all of them. Then I remembered how I almost died when I was a year old due to a heart valve that wouldn’t close. I just stopped breathing and if my neighbor had not been home to rush me to the hospital, I would have died. I recalled how I endured several high-risk surgeries and practically spent the first few years of my life in a hospital in Nashville. My mother says it got to the point, that if I saw anyone who resembled a doctor or a nurse, I would just start screaming. They were trying to help me, but the only thing I knew was that when they came, it hurt.
Believe it or not, the list actually continues. Some items on the list are all my doing and some are half mine and half God’s and only one is just God’s. The fact is that regardless of whether I was at fault, God still had His hand on me, He was still carrying me through and He has had more than several chances to get rid of me, but He has chosen to keep me around. He must think I am worth something. He must have a plan for me. He must love me.
So I asked Him to help me slowly chew on this as it was going to be a long digestion. God is showing me a lot of love right now through the people He has placed in my life. People that love me right where I am and are patient with me as I continue to learn to navigate this world sober and I can truly say I have never experienced anything like it before. I can actually see His hand in everything that is happening in my life. Why I landed where I landed in LA, the people I have come to know, the jobs and internships I have held, the purpose of my current responsibilities… the dots are starting to connect.
Six months ago today, I surrendered the one thing I thought was my everything. On that day, I thought God was being mean and punishing me and wanting to take away the one thing that always got me through, but it turns out He was intervening on my behalf because He knew that if I stayed on that road, I wouldn’t be alive to write this post. When it comes down to it, we can be some dumb, defiant, stubborn, and greedy people and if we are honest with ourselves, we find that God works in spite of us much more than He works with us. However, He continuously chooses to intervene on our behalf… and if that’s not love, I don’t know what is.
“Walk out of any doorway, feel your way, feel your way like the day before.
Maybe you'll find direction,
Around some corner where it's been waiting to meet you.”
Lyrics from Box of Rain, Grateful Dead
Have you ever been in a situation where you were so sure it was going to work out only to find yourself slapped in the face with calamity, disaster or even worse, humiliation? Have you ever had a person enter your life that you thought was the answer to a problem only to have them spit in your face and call you crazy? Have you ever landed a great job only to get settled in to find that the writing on the wall screams not your cup of tea? Well, that’s just God taking you in a different direction.
I’ve had a string of these situations recently and I find myself in the middle of such a situation right now. It’s not fun being unsettled, especially when the writing is so clearly written on the wall and you have yet to uncover your next destination as well as the how and when of your arrival. It’s like being stuck in two worlds. You know you aren’t staying where you are and you have some clues to where you are going, but the exact destination and route are still unknown. It’s all God leading you in a different direction.
I was recently handed a job that was a literal lifesaver in that I was about a month away from being homeless when I got hired. I was very excited to find that not only was I able to stay in California, but I also had a pretty easy job with awesome co-workers, kick-ass bosses and a general laid back, easy going vibe of an office. All in all, it was a good fit… well, all except for the fact that it is nowhere near my life’s passion. I knew when I took the job that it was not a forever kind of deal, but I had no idea the honeymoon was going to end so quickly! These past couple of weeks I have become very aware of how tired and drained I am at the end of the day and the general disinterest in all things pertaining to my job doesn’t help either. Moreover, God is staring to nudge me in terms of reminding me of why I came to California in the first place. He’s starting to build a fire under me regarding my writing. I told my God that I needed a day job that excites and energizes me if I was going to get my writing groove back. I also spewed something along the lines of this tired and annoyed shadow of a human being is hanging on to her sobriety by a thread and now You’re nudging me to get back to writing? When and how was that going to happen?
For all I know I’m just having trouble adjusting to working full time and you know – being fully aware of it. Luckily, I remembered something Mastin Kipp said in one of his classes… that confusion precedes clarity… so I’ve been hanging on to that invisible thread, and trusting God to show me whether it’s me or the situation and what my next steps should be and then something amazing happened. For starters a nocturnal owl perched in the room next to mine confirming my search for new digs…. Mind you I’m not sure where I should search for digs at this point as I also started hearing things at work about how the company was going to be changing over the next year. As it turns out, almost everything I love about the company will soon be non-existent. The people I love are moving to a different location, the laid back atmosphere is being replaced with an annoying high security ambience and the one thing I’ve always said I’d never partake in is becoming a part of my job duties. Well, how’s that for some giant and completely legible writing on the wall! I told my God I was beginning to feel like I was being shooed out of a town without any money or transportation to take me on to the next town. I then began to become acutely aware of the fact that the work I do in an internship capacity always energizes and excites me no matter how drained I am and that I needed to pay attention to that particular piece of information. It also dawned on me that I happen to hold a volunteer position in a different component of the same field. Light Bulbs Flashing! So not only was the writing on the wall as clear as day, but I finally had a clue as to what direction I needed to move towards. It’s all such an emotional whirlwind: this whole being where I am, while trying to figure out how to get to where God’s taking me. I like the people I work with and there are perks to my job, but it just isn’t my final destination. This job is more of a layover in that it is keeping me in place so I won’t miss the plane that is about to pull into the gate.
Sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t and we can’t take it personally, we just have to realize that God may be taking us somewhere else. The next time something or someone doesn’t pan out, ask God what that was about… I’m sure He’ll tell you that it was just Him leading you in a different and better direction.