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
What Up Folks! So far 2016 is looking a lot like 2015 only with less sweetness because I gave up extraneous sugar for this 21 day fasting thing. I surprisingly did not have a hard time without my fix of fro-yo every weekend. I did, however, find it hard to not buy any sweets at the grocery store, which is why I am glad I kicked the sugar as my way of participating in a fast. It is easy to break promises I make to myself; it is harder to break promises I make to God. I can actually recall myself tooling down the frozen isle scoping out some new fro-yo only to remember “oh wait, this is a God promise. CRAP!” and I tooled on along down the isle and out of frozen land. While I have not officially lost any weight yet, my stomach is flatter and this improvement is all I need to keep extraneous sugar kicked out of my life!
On another front, I can say that my excitement for church is coming back! I have no idea how either. All I know is that once I finally relented and started going to the church that I felt God was constantly re-routing me to – something changed on the inside. I have found that I wake up excited on Sunday mornings even though my situation has not changed. I still go to church alone, sit alone, leave alone and go home to hang out alone, but I have an excitement that I cannot understand, an excitement beyond all understanding if you will. This is something I have been wrestling with while in Jacksonville. I have told God that I don’t like not having the excitement I had in LA. I told Him I want to enjoy my Sundays again, I want that excitement back, I want Sundays to be legendary again. Somehow the excitement is back and I am very grateful for it. I guess it lets me know that I can have joy in the middle of what was a situation that brought nothing but disappointment and tears. That’s definitely something, a God something, a Philippians 4:11-13 something. I also changed where I sit. I like to be in the middle of the action so I sit down front now regardless of when I arrive. I used to relent and go up the stairs and found that it interfered with my participation in service. They have these usher/bouncer dudes all over the place and I just make them find me a seat as close to the front as possible. I mean it is their job so why not let them be of service.
I am also trying to dig deeper in my Celebrate Recovery involvement. While I have been a facilitator/leader for the ladies share group at the beaches, I have only been fulfilling the role in the small group session itself. This past month I have been digging deeper in that I have been focusing on building better relationships with the women who come to the beaches CR. Instead of talking to friends at the café afterwards, I am focusing on talking to some of the ladies in the group, trying to get more of a feel for where they are in life, where they are mentally and where they are spiritually. I want to be an encourager, a cheer leader, an ear, and a guide for these ladies in their own battles and the only way to do this is to spend time with them and so far I am loving what I am learning.
I have had that Live Love Lead book by Brian Houston for a while now, but just recently started to read it. I came home from the grocery store on Saturday and felt a prompting to go to the beach. Due to the cold weather I hadn’t been in about a month and it was a sweet 67 degrees and already 3pm so I decided to head to the closest beach for some relaxation. As I was leaving I felt the nudge to pick up Brian’s book so I grabbed it with no intention of actually reading it. Once I got to the beach I was glad to see some soft sand and nestled in to watch the waves roll in and out. I find their rhythm hypnotizing and healing. The waves do something for me that I cannot do for myself and after my recent vacation I found that the sound of the waves can be just as beneficial and so I took out the book and started reading. I got through the introduction and the first two chapters and feel that God was trying to re-confirm His plans for me, my ministry calling and His promise in the verse He has gave me last year. (Joel 2:25)
Life has just been hard and it is getting harder. The pressure is on at a level that I have never experienced. I know I have to make a move, but the move I want to make and the move that is most likely going to be available are not the same. To make matters worse, I am conflicted about staying in Jacksonville. In Los Angeles I had everything I wanted, but felt that something was off, that I wasn’t supposed to stay and that prompting turned into busted fire hydrant pressure. Here in Jacksonville, I have nothing that I want, but feel complete peace and have absolutely no prompting to do anything except focus on the tasks I feel God has given me like this blog, the new video series, a possible memoir and continuing with ministry leadership training. It is so strange especially since I know that I have to make a career change due to impending financial ruin. Jacksonville does not seem to offer the career options I am looking for and I feel very conflicted about leaving and more frankly I don’t even know if I can leave at this point. You could say that just like I relented on the church I felt God leading me attend, I am ready to relent on Jacksonville and so I tell God daily – If you want me here – then plant me. If not, then move me. But whatever You do, do it quickly - One thing I am looking forward to is the job hunt being over! I need to focus on the video series and I cannot do that if I am spending an hour a night job hunting. That hour should be creating time if not resting and relaxation time. I can’t keep going on all cylinders all day and all night, especially with a job that drains ones soul like mine does. To be frank, I need a minute and some fun to boot.
Overall, I do have a good start to the new year. Eating is going better thanks again to the fasting thing at church. I am delving deeper into ministry leadership, looking for a better paying job, making an effort to venture out more via local Meetup groups and in a few weeks I will be participating in a small group and the women’s ministry stuff for the spring semester at my church. All of these are in my goals for 2016 and to quote my calendar for the month of February…
I am seeking, I am striving, I am in it with all my heart – Vincent Van Gogh
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!
November, the month of Giving Thanks, Creating Families and most importantly the month of Jessica getting her groove back!
In case you are not aware – World Adoption Day is November 9th. Hank Fortner, one of my Mosaic pastors started Adopttogether.org, a non-profit focused on helping beat the number one barrier to families looking to adopt – MONEY. There are a lot of families out there that want to adopt, but simply don’t have $10K, $20K, $30K or even $40K sitting around to make the adoption happen. This is where Adopttogether.org comes in and helps secure funding for families wanting to adopt through crowdfunding. World Adoption Day is a day of celebration for both parents and kids who won big when adoption changed their lives. World Adoption Day is also a day of awareness for adoption so please join us on Monday November 9th by posting a selfie with a smiley on your hand to spread awareness or to celebrate your own adoption story or that of a friend.
Halloween marks a year since I left Los Angeles and Thanksgiving marks a year since I have seen my mother and brother. I am excited to be able to spend Thanksgiving weekend with them at the beach this year! We will be catching up while we enjoy the views from our beach-front balcony on Florida’s gulf coast. I am very happy for this opportunity as I want very badly to be able to spend more time with them as well as a host of other people, but my finances are just in the way at the moment.
As I have mentioned previously, I now feel that I came to a much-needed standstill here in Jacksonville. It appears that I needed to slow down and take some time to heal internally, which is what has happened. From Celebrate Recovery to Redeemed Esteem to many other confirmations God has laid in my lap over this past year – it appears I just needed a lot of internal healing and I now feel that I am beginning to come back to life. My focus is returning, my productivity is returning and my overall energy is returning. One could argue that I am beginning to dream again!
I would also like to note that this might have something to do with a recent change in my morning prayer! In addition to praying the lyrics of Hillsong’s “I Surrender”, I have started asking God to help me release my potential each and every day to the point that when I reach the end of this life, that I would not have an ounce of my God-given potential left. It’s a bold prayer that I am not only praying for myself, but also for my mother and brother who are also dreamers with dreams in their hearts. For it has come to my attention that one of my biggest problems is my inability to release my potential. In other words, my inability to take the God-given dreams in my heart, put them on paper and then transform them into reality. I have the paper part down; it’s the whole transforming dreams into reality that seems to have had me stuck for far too long. And it looks like this new prayer might be working!
To kick off November, I will be sharing my first full testimony at the Mandarin area CR on the 6th and am very excited for this opportunity. I didn’t have a 20 minute testimony written upon the invitation, but I recalled a piece of advice I read from Seth MacFarlane that echoes countless other successful people both in entertainment and in ministry – that thought is this – when opportunity knocks, don’t hesitate, just say yes and figure out the how later!
I am also moving forward with a new project that God placed on my heart during Hillsong weekend here in Jax. I am calling it Hillsong weekend because I went to Hillsong Nights on Saturday and went and heard global founder, Brian Houston speak at Celebration on Sunday morning. He spoke on dreams and dreamers and God breathed a new project into my soul that very day. I have been reluctant to start work on it because as with anything God gives you – it is bigger than I am and I don’t feel I can do it all alone, but I am not meant to – I am meant to create it piece by piece with my Creator. It’s not supposed to be my thing, it’s supposed to be Our thing! I have the outline for the steps that need to be taken and am working on step one for the remainder of this year. I am really excited and really terrified, but I think all creators feel this way when embarking on a new project so I guess I am in good company.
I am also ready to get back in gear career-wise. I know I cannot stay at my current employer as the money nor the interest is there so I am back on the hunt for a good opportunity, but this time around I have a confidence in myself, my passion and my abilities that I did not have previously. It definitely changes the opportunities I look at and how I approach them and with any luck I will be in a new and better situation soon! With any luck I will begin to see a little of that restoration from Joel 2:25, the life verse God has given me which reads “… He will restore all the years the locusts ate away…” which I am taking to mean that God plans on restoring all of the things I missed out on while I was caught up in my addiction, depression and self-torture and I for one, can’t wait to see what He is going to do! Er’ I can’t wait to see what We’re going to do!
I hope all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and don’t forget to reach out to any singles, widows or flat broke folks that might be spending the holiday alone unless you invite them to spend it with you!
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.
As I write this blog, I am in the middle of saying my goodbyes to the friends that became my family here in Los Angeles. I sure have had some amazing adventures here in the City of Angels. Hiking, standup paddle boarding and kayaking became a part of my life here. I can say I have sat on the top of a mountain, scaled a waterfall and learned to rock climb thanks to my adventures in LA. While there will not be any mountains to climb in my new city, I know there are new adventures awaiting my arrival in Northeast Florida.
I recently wrote out a list of all of the things I want out of life. I labeled this list Dreams: Having a partner in life in the form of an athletic, good looking, outdoorsy, faithful, spirit yielding man; having a broad platform as a writer/speaker/blogger for Christ; Having a ministry or three; having a family/Adoption; Owning my own home; Being financially stable; Staying Cancer Free. I shortly thereafter wrote another list and labeled it Reality: obtain and keep a nice job that is easy and gives me enough money to not live pay check to pay check; Get involved in a church; Get my non-profit off the ground; Write and publish some books; cultivate my painting; adopt some fur babies; if financially able – host international students.
I later realized that the Dreams list represents what I perceive to be in God’s realm of responsibility and that the Reality list represents what I perceive to be in my realm of responsibility. It hit me that I still don’t really trust God. I guess there is a reason that Jeremiah 29:11 is my favorite verse. For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you, to give you a hope and a future. I even wrote it on a huge painting (displayed above) and as you can see, this painting reveals that I need to work on writing with paintbrushes.
In a recent sermon, Erwin McManus recently stated that if we knew what all God was standing in between for us, we’d all instantly die of heart attacks. The real reality is that neither list is in my control. I have to learn trust God and I am having to trust Him more than ever with this upcoming move. I am in the worst financial state of my life. I have a car that has been giving me reason to doubt its ability to take me across the country and I will only have two months to make it in this new city to which God has called me. I was so consumed with fear over my decision to move that I could not sleep. My heart was pounding out of my chest and I was up walking around and telling God that I could not handle this move. That He was asking too much of me. That this was more than I could bear.
Erwin spoke earlier that day on how God meets us where we are and is always willing and happy to do so. Erwin was recounting a scene from the life of Doubting Thomas. Jesus had just died and been raised form the dead and there were many witnesses. Thomas, however, refused to believe the reports that Jesus had been raised from the dead. Thomas said he would only believe if he could put his hand in Jesus’ side where the spear had pierced Him and put his fingers in the holes of Jesus’ hands where the nails had been driven. The part of the story that really hit me was that God did not get mad at Thomas. He just showed up in all His glory, but with the spear hole in His side and the nail holes in His hands so that Thomas could realize that His God was not dead.
In a similar fashion, God met me and my fear the very next day. I woke up to an email from a woman named Grace, with a company I had been in contact with regarding an open position. I have an interview scheduled three weeks out for my first week in my new city. It calmed my soul for a day or two. Then I started freaking out again and God gave me another interview. I may not know if either of these interviews will turn into a job offer, but I do know that God is meeting me where I am and saying I have you in the palm of my hand. This is my will for you so don’t make yourself sick over this move. In fact, I have already gone before you and given you a nice place to stay. The rent may scare you, but I already have that handled too. God has also allowed me to know at least one of the whys for this move. You see my current company is in trouble and a new GM has been hired and due to God giving me favor with one important person in this company, I have the inside scoop on what is about to happen and let me tell you – had I not put in my notice when I did there’s a good chance I would have ended up stranded in LA without a way to get home and no money to pay rent. This move across the country might seem crazy, it might seem drastic, it might seem not well thought out, but this move is my saving grace. Louie Giglio once said that God loves Chaos. I think he is right.
I honestly do not know what is going to happen over these last two months of 2014. I will either obtain a job or I will be packing up again and heading back to Tennessee to spend some time with my mom while I pay off debt. The one thing I do know is that I am 100% in God’s hand and in His plan for my life so I now sleep fine at night knowing that whatever happens, wherever I end up – God’s Got Me and He definitely has a plan for my life or He wouldn’t be catapulting me back across the country to save me from what I could not see coming.
Change, my friends, is the name of the game. God has been gently making me aware of why nothing seems to be happening for me here in bright, sunny California. I mentioned in a previous post that I have been pondering the idea that my sobriety might have been why I was led here and that since I am now sober, my time here might be up. Over the past few months, God has been making this more and more clear to me and I believe I know where He wants me too.
It’s like God has taken my dreams and started replacing them with His own. It feels weird. Once, I knew what direction my life needed to take, I began badgering God for a place to land. I know the words ‘badgering God’ don’t sound too smart, but I felt that I needed more direction than ‘leave LA and look for stuff like this…’ And so over the course of a week I would get up each day asking God where He wanted me and I would see a map with a circle over one half of the country. Each day I would ask the same question and each day the circle would get smaller and smaller and smaller until it was over a city. I know of this city, but I have never been there; however, after doing some research, it does meet a lot of my requirements: on the coast, at least medium sized, good weather, lower cost of living, etc. It’s crazy for me to even think of moving right now and I have let God know that it seems financially impossible at the moment so I am leaning on Him for this potential move. I also cannot fathom leaving the friendships I have here, some of which are just beginning to blossom. And then there is Mosaic – I get up each Sunday excited for worship, excited for a brain challenge from Erwin and Hank and I simply cannot fathom finding a place that matches the energy of this faith community I now call home. But more than anything, I know I want to be where God wants me because if I am not where He is, it won’t matter how I position myself; the doors will remain locked.
The real uprooting that is taking place in my life is the ripping out of the belief that I am simply not good enough for anything or anyone that God has planned for me. I guess this has always been an underlying current in my life from sports to career to men to my overall social graces. It started one night when I was looking at myself in the mirror and getting superbly upset and Jesus reminded me of that day I actually saw myself in the reflection of a man’s sunglasses. My entire rib cage was exposed. I had no idea I was that skinny. I never saw it reflected back to me. The mirrors I look into only reflect an overweight and hideous looking person. Then God reminded me about how I tend to get unwanted attention from men. They always have to look me up and down about five times before they start talking and they have to whistle or say something stupid… Jesus reminded me, in that moment, that I cannot see myself correctly. Later that night Jesus tapped me on the shoulder while I was going to sleep and said, “It’s time to deal with this. We have to for what is coming.” I simply replied, “Okay, but You’re gonna have to do it because I cannot even begin to deal with all that encompasses.” Crazy thing is… He is doing just that. He has made me acutely aware of how much I bash myself on a daily basis. I mean every other sentence is nothing but self-degradation whether it be my appearance, my efficiency, or my brain. It wasn’t long before He was cutting me off and by that I mean that internal pulling that makes you stop talking mid-sentence and you’re like yeah sorry and you move on to another topic. At this point, I can’t even get those sentences out of my mouth. I mean I’m even starting to like the way I look in the mirror! That’s a first, people, that’s a first. Jesus is doing exactly as I asked, He’s uprooting this unhealthy and limiting belief from my life and I have absolutely nothing to do with it. It’s just happening. But then again, that’s the God I serve. He never gets angry or frustrated with my incredible humanness. He just meets me where I am, only giving me what I can handle, always calling me to a greater purpose and He never fails to carry me when required.
Perhaps next month, I will be able to share about the new dreams God has placed in my heart. I feel like God has taken the dreams and plans I had on the front burner and replaced them with the dreams I had put on the back burner. I never really got on the whole Tebow bandwagon, but I have been looking into him lately because it appears God might be doing the same with him in that he seems to have also had two very different goals in life and per recent events, God seems very concerned with the one and not so much with the other. I guess time will tell if he stays on his new road or gets diverted back to the NFL. And time will reveal whether I will be starting down my own new road and whether that road is here in LA or in a city on the other side of the country that looks really nice from a Google Maps perspective.
Oh and one more thing! In case you haven’t heard already, November 9th, 2014 is the first ever World Adoption Day!!! Spread the word to adoptive hearts everywhere whether they were adopted, have adopted or are interested in learning more about adoption. World Adoption Day is a global celebration of life and family and we want everyone involved! Go to worldadpotionday.org to find out more!
Last month I shared my inability to create a community around me here in Los Angeles. I also shared how this inability to create a community was eating away at my soul. As it turns out, this simple longing in my soul led me to cling to the only person available to me, My Lord, Jesus.
As everyone and everything appeared to be taken from me, it became clear that I needed to cling to Jesus, that I needed to spend time with Him and ask Him what He wants from me and for me. He did not hesitate to respond.
His main priorities concern the proper care of my spiritual body through spending time in His Word and in prayer, the proper care of my physical body through moderate exercise and healthy eating (something I’ve been struggling with as of late) and of course, my writing.
It was through spending time in His Word, that He has slowly revealed to me what I believe to be a portion of His plan for me. His plan starts with my growing up. He gently told me that I have been an infant Christian for over 15 years and that it is time for some growth. I have found myself back at the very first church I crossed off my list when I started church hunting a few months back. I started going to this church for the sole purpose of spending time with a spiritual friend who happens to attend this church. My intent was to spend time with my friend and endure this church, but this church is where my growth appears to be beginning. To be frankly honest, the plan God has laid before me starts with taking part in several learning and growth opportunities available through this church, which means I will be remaining in LA for quite some time.
This plan also laid out a new career track and I have begun the exhausting work of job hunting. I know I would like to work in a non-profit or ministry related non-profit, but I do not have any further definite direction. I feel like God is taking me all the way back to my beginning. I thought I had already come full circle, but it turns out I wasn’t quite there yet. As each month of sobriety passes, I get a little more clarity on who I am and an equal amount of clarity on how much confusion alcohol brought into my life.
In August, I will be celebrating my second year of sobriety and with this celebration; I am recommitting myself to the AA program. I have to admit that I have not been to a meeting in months. I had to leave my home group due to a bleeding deacon and some issues relating to the male variety. While I have been searching for a new meeting that easily fits into my schedule, there are semi-convenient meetings available and I am just going to have to make one of them my new AA home.
On a recent hike, a friend and I planned on following a local hiking group to a southern Cali waterfall that actually had water. We kept a decent distance until we got lost in our cameras and completely lost sight of the group. Since we were following a group, we did not bother looking at the map at the park entrance so we had to pick a trail and hope for the best. And so we hiked and hiked and hiked until we found a stream. It was easy to tell which way the current was running so we stayed close to this stream and headed up towards its source. We had no idea where we were, but we knew we were headed in the right direction. We followed the stream for over an hour and were about to give up when we heard the sound of rushing water and laughter. We pressed forward and found this stream’s source, a beautiful and somewhat rare, southern California waterfall.
Sometimes, God only reveals which way His current is flowing and leaves it up to us to take on the adventure of following His stream wherever it may lead. It’s what I am doing right now and if you find yourself in a similar circumstance, I hope you will choose to follow the stream because if you don’t – you just might miss the beauty and wonder of a magnificent waterfall.
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.
Speaking of a soul nudging, I had an intense desire to worship on a week night in March. I was just being pulled to the computer so I got some things done, logged into Pandora, clicked on the worship station and let it rip. By the second song, I knew this was not going to be an ordinary worship experience. God had made this appointment because He had something to reveal to me. I have previously shared that I have issues grasping and believing God’s love for me. I can fully believe it for everyone else and often encourage others in His love, but I have always had a hard time accepting it for myself. Alcoholics are known for being hard on themselves and I can say with all certainty that I have this trait. Becoming more and more aware of my lack of joy, I have been praying that God would help me to open up to His love, that He would help me receive it on a daily basis so that I can have the joy that so many other Believers seem to radiate. I don’t feel that I can ever become a light in this world until I am fully able to receive this love and so I have asked Jesus to help me receive it, that His love would become real to me, that it would impact me daily.
This week night worship experience ended up being a dialogue of love from my Heavenly Father to me. Through the songs that played He told me how He already knew every mistake, slip up, wrong turn, absurd plan, stupid word and every disappointment I could ever cause Him and He still deems me worth taking on the worst death in history so that we can walk together through this life and escort me into an eternal life that is beyond what any imagination can fathom – supreme happiness – everything this world started out to be until we intervened.
I am proud to say that since this worship experience, I have noticed a difference in my attitude at work, in the car and during my personal outings. I am nowhere near perfect, but I can tell that God is transforming me into that radiate light I so want to be and it is awesome. If you are reading this and think you are too far-gone to ever make a change like I am making – then by all means read through my earlier posts. I am not a saint and that is exactly why I am thankful for my Savior.
This worship experience has also redefined my goals for this year. First and foremost, I am striving to love Jesus by living my life in such a way that it leads others to Him. A second goal is to stay sober, which has not really been an issue as of late. This, however, is due to the fact that I tend to only hang out with people who either do not partake in alcoholic beverages or I only accept invitations where it is unlikely that alcohol will be a focal point. I know that I will have to branch out at some point, but until then I am happy to just be enjoying the sober life. Lastly, God has reminded me of something He told me a few years back: My job is to write; His job is everything else. Insert eye roll or dumb face or whatever you would like because these are the ways I usually respond to this comment from my Creator. It just does not compute in my brain. How can I only carry the writing and God carry everything else? It seems like a deal anybody with even a quarter of a brain would jump on but, I am one of those beings who seems compelled to make everything more complicated. Nevertheless, I am complying and what I am finding is that as I make my writing a priority, interesting things start to happen around me. For instance, the more energy I put into my writing, the clearer I become on what I want out of my daytime career. I also have some doors opening in terms or new writing groups, critique groups and info-panels that directly correlate to my own business plan. Hmm, maybe I should listen to my Creator more often! It’s a horrible statement, but it is true. So often in life, we earnestly seek God’s advice, but as soon as He gives it, we tend to shrug and go make another mistake that makes more sense to us. Somehow, He still loves us through it all and even patiently holds our hand while trying to keep us from walking directly into and/or climbing over the bumper rails He’s so kindly placed on our paths.
The winds of change are still blowing through my life at this moment and I know I am headed for a major career change, but I also know that this change will usher in a new era in my life. I feel a resurrection of sorts is on its way – Whoever said it is not about the destination; it is about the journey was right. Destinations change and often times you find that once you arrive, it is not at all what you had in mind so you might as well savor every moment and let the destination find you. Besides, if it weren’t for the journey, how would you ever know where you belong?
Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.
I feel like I am in the middle of an uprooting. Just how much of an uprooting I do not yet know, but I am definitely being pulled up and out to something, someone and somewhere new. Over the past month I have had some mind bursting revelations in regards to promptings. It seems that I may have been confusing certain promptings for panic attacks or crazy and unfounded fears.
It all started a few weeks ago. I started having intense panic while driving to church. My muscles would tighten, my breath would shorten and my mind would desperately search for the “why”. Nothing was causing this reaction. There was not any beliefs or bad thoughts or fears. It all just seemed irrational. It got to the point that when I would step back into my car afterwards that my mind would utter “Whew. I got in, I got out and they didn’t get me.” Who is “they”? I wasn’t sure and I did not know why this was happening. This same strange phenomenon was also happening at a mission class I was involved in at this same church and it was beginning to happen at my long-time home AA group. The question as to why remained.
I can recall having panic attacks prior to my decent into alcohol absurdity so my natural inclination was to think that I was right back to my starting point and had to figure out how to handle this panic without alcohol. The problem was that I only had this phenomenon in certain situations. So, why these situations? I for one did not have an answer.
Here is where it gets interesting. One night God was pulling me to the computer to write. He does this often. It is a particular pulling in my soul and I know exactly what it is when I feel it. The only other time I have felt something similar was that day in the hospital when my soul was set on fire and I knew I had to kick everybody out because it was time for my family to say goodbye to my father. That fire in my soul feeling was not instantly understood. I remember just knowing that it was now, it was urgent, it was time to say goodbye. I did not understand it, but I had to act. I have only experienced this one other time in my life and that also centered on an earthly departing. It was in the recalling of these experiences that a key piece of information hit my brain. All of these promptings centered in that area near the heart that I refer to as my soul-self. Anyone who has experienced these soul promptings knows that you just can’t put these experiences into words. They are not readily explainable, but you somehow know what they heed and in that moment you realize that you really are much more than this existence.
That key piece of information was this: These so-called panic attacks center in the soul. The same place I get pulled to sit down in front of the computer and the same place that got lit on fire that day it was time to say goodbye. In this same instance my mind went back to the previous “panic attacks” and I realized that every place I had experienced this phenomenon something very bad ended up happening to me. It was in this moment that I realized these are not panic attacks. These are warnings. God, Himself is sounding the warning alarms in my soul and my body is responding. The tightening of my muscles which make it hard to drive and walk, the shortness of breath, the inexplicable uneasiness in my soul pulling me up and out of the situation – trying to prevent me from even being in the situation. I am not having panic attacks, people. My soul’s alarm is sounding because impending doom is ahead if I continue in these situations!
Now I don’t know about you, but that is what I call a mind-bending revelation. All I can do at this point is acknowledge and heed these warnings and see where they lead me. As a result of this new information, I am taking a step back from my current church and from my AA meeting. These two places and the people in them have been my LA home for the past year and a half, but I am heeding the warning and letting go. I know you have to be willing to let go of what does not completely serve you in order to receive what does, but that does not make the letting go any easier. So here’s to seeing where this Wind is blowing as I march into the month known for its changing of the seasons.