Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"Things were different then. All is different now. I tried to explain...somehow" (PJ)

“Things were different then. All is different now. I tried to explain…somehow” (Lyrics from "Hard to Imagine" by Pearl Jam)

This was me…20 years ago.

Back then, I was what you would categorize a “dead head”. However, I’m not sure how much truth there is in that label. I went on tour when the money allowed. I liked the music. However, there were things I loved more than the music. I loved the feeling of community. I loved the traveling. I loved the scene. I thought I loved the substance-related “extracurriculars”. I loved the scene. I loved the guy I was dating, so much so that I married him 7 years later. So yes, a dead head I suppose…but, at heart, I was way more.

The night I met that guy, I was wearing a Pearl Jam T-shirt ---the one with the girl on the front and the crayons on the back.  I really had gotten into the Dead’s music, but more than that I had gotten into substances and specifically (unfortunately) the ones that surrounded that scene. Prior to that time though, it was that cassette tape that got worn out on my stereo at home and in the cassette deck in my car.  I couldn’t get enough. I did an acting class assignment focused on the song “Jeremy”. I created a piece of art involving PJ song lyrics. I loved music and had found a band that sang what my soul seemed to feel, and that alone was enough to alter my mood. The first time I heard “Once”…the first time I heard Ed sing “Once upon a time I could love myself”, it was like my emotions were cracked open. Every song on “Ten” was my language. I had never heard anything like it and I was hooked.

I was a girl who LOVED music. LOVED. I can’t remember a time when music did not speak directly to me or for me. I always had songs that represented moments in my life…but this, this new stuff ---“Ten”, Pearl Jam, THIS was a soundtrack.

I wore out that cassette, then bought Vs., Vitalogy, No Code, a bootleg…but as things in life change, my life became more focused on those “extracurriculars” and the scene at Dead shows. That guy…he had seen Pearl Jam live, just before we met. I had never seen them and had always wished for the day when I did get a chance to hear them live. It probably would have been more easy than I made it to see a Pearl Jam show. However, when you don’t know yourself, when you’ve lost yourself in those “extracurriculars”, you’re more likely to go along with what seems good in relationship with others...and, to you at the time. My guy, the friends I had…well, PJ just wasn’t the focus and other music interests just kind of wedged out not only my listening to Pearl Jam, but also to that part of me that I could connect to when listening to their music.

Was this all about Pearl Jam, seriously? No, of course not, but, as I said, I tend to think of my life in more of a soundtrack form sometimes. That time of rocking out to Pearl Jam was meaningful. I have memories of just playing one of their albums and feeling better, just knowing someone else possibly had thoughts and feelings like I did.  This, for me, was more about identity…it was about knowing (or not knowing as the case was) who I am.  I just didn’t then…I couldn’t. Addiction blocks you from knowing who you are and Whose you are.

I never stopped loving Pearl Jam’s music…

Life had just taken a lot of detours for me, not all bad, and the soundtracks changed.

I was given the gift of sobriety. Divorce happened. A bad relationship. I reconnected with God and connected with a church. Soundtracks were different for everything.

The journey of learning who I was and Who I belonged to was now well underway.

This is me now…at 40, on my birthday, at my first Pearl Jam show.

Sometimes on the journey, a person gets weary.  We go through seasons and some aren’t always great. I knew God loved me and I knew I loved Him. Loving myself…this was a work in progress. More recent detours, including relocating to Chicago and losing both my parents shortly after led to some rough times within the space of many positive, fun, happy times.

Pearl Jam was peripherally on my grid…”Backspacer” had me checking them out again but their music was intermixed with an eclectic collection of music on a beat up Ipod. Then, one day in March this year, I was in a low place and, bored at home, decided to check out Netflix. I stumbled upon PJ20, which I was aware existed, but again…peripherally.  I watched it and it instantly took me back 20 years. I cried as I watched a movie about a group of guys who made amazing music and loved people.

Not to be all “dramatic”, but I remembered myself at an age when I thought I was kind of cool. I remembered some things about myself that I liked then and those things I let go of for the sake of believing I was “pleasing others and/or myself” along the way. I remembered my dream of wanting to play guitar and being told I probably couldn’t because my fingers didn’t quite reach across the fret board. I remembered my love of traveling to see concerts and the times I would talk to God about missing having people in my life who shared the same interests. I wanted all of it back. So while dealing with a pretty gnarly back injury, I started exploring some of those things I about myself I had put aside.

I found out about Pearl Jam coming to Chicago, too late to get tickets through public sale but they were playing on my 40th and I knew this was special. I had to go. At the time, I didn’t realize there was a network of people who loved some of the same things I did and would have helped me get a ticket. So after debating for a couple of weeks, I got my tickets through a broker so there would be a guarantee of a birthday show.

I also bought a guitar, started learning to play, and am currently in the process of trying to learn “Inside Job”.

On accident one day, I found the “Pearl Jam at Wrigley” FB group and things really took off from there. I met, well virtually met, so many amazing people who just really cared about others having a great experience at PJ shows and connecting with each other. They talked of music. They talked of touring. They talked of love and of community. It was like I had been given a chance to do this touring thing over, SOBER, knowing God, and being with people who loved music and each other. God had known the desire of my heart and, though I had stopped actually praying about it or talking to Him about it, He gave it to me.

I was asked the other day whether I had posted my thoughts about the show on 7/19/13 at Wrigley by someone who was interested in them. I said I was "still processing" and these things have all been part of that processing.

To say the show was completely freaking amazing would be a vast understatement. To see a band care so much about their fans that they:

1.     Tell them personally that they wanted to work with them as a team to ensure safety for all.
2.     Evacuate people who were in harm’s way.
3.     Tell the crowd to “trust” them, that there would be a show….and follow through on their word.
4.     To sacrifice their own profit to break curfew and play their hearts out until 2:00am exactly.

….was overwhelming.

I met some of the loveliest people at this show. People I had met virtually and was now meeting in person. I was able to really connect to many people who shared this common interest with me and it was awesome.

The show itself…spectacular. From what I understand from other Jammers, among the best. New songs debuted, old songs blown out, one of my favorites…”Life Wasted”…played just 5 days after I had tattoo’d lyrics from the song on my wrist to celebrate 12 years sober.  I cried, and laughed, and sung until I lost my voice, and sat in awe as I thanked God.

To many reading this, if people read it, they will not understand and may even misunderstand or believe that I am overstating it…or they just may think I’m weird.  They won’t get it and I’m okay with that because I get it…for the first time in years. Is Pearl Jam the cause of my change in being ok with me?…No, that honor belongs to God. However, I do believe that God redeemed this part of my life. I get to tour again with a band I never stopped loving!!! With people who like the same music I do and won’t feel dragged to a show!!! 

Through reconnecting with Pearl Jam’s music, I have been reconnected with a part of me I had thought long gone. I reconnected with my identity as the rocker I once was. I reconnected with dreams I put on a shelf thinking I would never pull them down again.  I’m coming into much more of me, who I am.

I like me…haha!!

Pearl Jam: thank you for continuing to be the most amazing band on the planet! Thank you for writing music with some of the most intelligent lyrics that have ever touched my soul! Thank you for loving your fans! Thank you that you still connect with us!

Jammers: Thank you for welcoming me into the party with you! Thank you for being awesome and fun and loving!  You are, quite simply, fantastic. See you in Hartford and Seattle!!!

God: Most of all, I thank You, that 20 years later, I find myself listening to this soundtrack and “Released” from what has previously held me back. Thank You for giving me a community of people who share the same interests! Thank You that you care about even this type of detail. Thank You that I am Yours and that I can know who I am! You are everything!

So that's it, these are my thoughts. I thought those lyrics from the Pearl Jam song "Hard to Imagine" were the most fitting...

Peace, Love, and Rock and Roll

Saturday, December 8, 2012


I had many conversations with my father the last year of his life. Conversations about God. Conversations about family. Conversations about work. In fact, I probably had more conversations with him that last year, than in the previous 5 years combined. There were days we just sat in silence. There were days we walked around the halls of his hospital floor. In the midst of his ridiculous jokes and teasing of the nursing staff, I remember looking at my dad most days and sensing his sadness and discouragement over what the cancer was doing to his body, to his spirit, to his life. I remember much of that last year with sadness for him, but I also remember it with gratitude for the opportunity given to me by God for reconciliation and restoration of this relationship.

While there isn't need for much detail here, I will say that my father had high levels of anxiety, thus high levels of anger. That said, I grew up fearing my dad and his wrath...and the beatings. Let me be clear here. I loved my father. He was a funny, charismatic, highly intelligent man who provided for his wife and family. But, of course, he wasn't perfect. His anger needed an outlet and most days when it did, the outlet was me. 

As a result, I grew up believing there was something inherently wrong with me. That there had to be something about me that would drive a person to behave that way toward me. It became part of my identity and impacted my belief systems and my relationship with others. It affected my relationship with my father. Long after the beatings had ceased, I continued to feel very distanced from him emotionally and continued to create the distance. In essence, I had questioned my father's love for me my entire life up through that last year of his life, and my overall lovability with others. Thankfully, sobriety gave me a way to begin the process of forgiving my dad, learning who my Heavenly Father was, and learning who I was or could become.  I began taking steps forward toward relationship with my dad and, though there were many steps backward, God had begun the restoration of the relationship.

The last few days of my dad's life were intense. He had found out within the prior week or so that he would never be able to return to his teaching job which was the majority of his identity. My mom and I were praying for his salvation, but I wasn't sure my father had made a decision about God. My dad gave up and, shortly after, declined rapidly. 

They were preparing him for hospice, when I arrived one mid-morning at the hospital. I relieved my mother and brother so they could take care of some things. My father had been unconscious on pain medication all morning and was out cold when I showed up in his room. I sat in silence for maybe 5 to 10 minutes as he lay there.  Suddenly, my father sat straight up in his bed. This man, who had not been conscious, let alone lucid, said something to me. Though, the phrasing/order of his words may have differed slightly, the message was as clear as day and as urgent as I could ever remember him speaking to me. "Emily, I love you. it's' important you know, I love you. You need to know. I love you". I told my dad I knew he loved me and I loved him too. He laid back down, just as quickly as he had sat up, and was again unconscious under the influence of pain killers and sedatives.

These were the last words my father ever said to me, and I believe these were the last words he spoke to anyone. He died in hospice two days later, November 1, 2008.

The impact of those words continued to hit over the next few days and I knew it had to be God speaking through my dad. I had hoped this also meant my father had said yes to a relationship with Jesus and continue to place my hope in this today.  A few years later, in 2011, I had several experiences which confirmed the gift of what had happened that day with my dad and God's hand in it. God had used my dad to share His love with me that day and to once and for all restore the relationship I had with my dad, just before he left this earth. In 2011, in the midst of emotional pain, God used kingdom fathers and kingdom mothers to share similar encounters they had had with the Lord Himself. God used some of these kingdom parents to share His love and their love for me and it brought me tremendous healing. 

I share this story to remind myself that my dad did love me. I share it to remind myself that there was nothing wrong with me, my dad just didn't always react well to his emotions. I share it to remind myself that God loves me. I share it to declare that I am lovable. I share it to say how important knowing the love of the Father is in a person's journey.  I share it to thank God and to thank kingdom fathers and mothers, including my amazing pastors, for showing me, despite all experiences, the real truth. LOVE. CONQUERS. ALL.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Smoke-Free and Wanting the Same for You!!!

“I want to quit, but now is not a good time”.  “I will quit before I am ___ years old”.  “Maybe if I just try to only smoke a couple a day”.  “I know, I will just smoke on Saturdays”.  “I won’t buy my own cigarettes, I will just bum them off of other people, that way I won’t smoke too much”.  “I can smoke just a couple”.  “I am really stressed out right now, so I am going to have a few but then when the stress passes, I will stop”.
Do any of these statements sound even remotely familiar?  They did to me, but only after years and years of repeatedly trying to quit smoking.   These were my thoughts up until a little under 5 years ago.  In June of 2006, I came down with a really nasty upper respiratory infection.  These were quite frequent for me because I smoked but you could never get me to admit it.  I always blamed stress or diabetes, which I’m sure both played a role, but the smoking always made any infection worse.  This particular infection quickly went into my throat and chest.  Congestion, coughing, and a complete exacerbation of asthma led to prescriptions of antibiotics and steroids.  Though this was not the first time I had to undergo this type of treatment, there was something different stirring.
One night, during the peak of the illness, I was lying in bed.  I had taken my medicine, and I’m sure I used my inhaler, but I could hear crackling in my throat and wheezing in my chest with every breath that I breathed.  I remember thinking, “if this is how I feel at the age of 32, how will I feel at the age of _______”.  I can’t even remember the age I thought of that night, but I remember the fear I felt and the complete powerlessness I felt about smoking.  With the help of God and a recovery community, I had been sober for almost 5 years at that point, why couldn’t I kick this too? 
Many of my friends who had already quit kept telling me, “you’ll know when it’s time, you’ll just know”.  I never really understood that statement….until a few months later.  One would think that after a scare like I had in June of that year that this would have been it, that I would have kicked the habit.  But no…the insanity of addiction, the belief of lies, the powerlessness I felt led to me picking up cigarettes once I stopped feeling sick.  However, God knew what I needed and after that illness, lying to myself about cigarettes was never the same.  I started hearing the lies.  I started recognizing them as lies.  I was able to hear the ridiculousness of the lies.  I finally realized that everything I was telling myself about cigarettes was the same thing I had told myself about all the other “habits” I had let go of when I got sober.  I finally realized I needed to CHOOSE TO BE DONE AND COMBAT THE LIES WITH THE TRUTH. 
Many other people may have had this revelation much sooner than I did….or never picked up this habit in the first place.  I didn’t plan to be a smoker.  I never believed “those people” when I was 17 and 18 that told me I shouldn’t smoke, that I would become addicted, that it was bad for me.  I was in a self-destructive place but denied it.  I thought I was a way cool deadhead hippie who would eventually quit before I got “old”, whatever that meant.  I realized that I didn’t want to be a smoker anymore and needed to just quit once and for all. No patch.  No gum.  No pill.  Just God, exercise, and a ton of gum and wintergreen life savers. 
It would be a total understatement to say that this was not easy.  In fact, it was the hardest of all things I have had to quit.  God’s grace and His help in rejecting lies was essential.  I felt angry and agitated and then hit a depression that measured off the charts.  All of it, I know was an attempt by the enemy to get me to believe more lies so that I would return to smoking.  I started recognizing that anytime I had the thought that “things were bad and one cigarette would lessen _________ feeling….that I could smoke just one” was a total lie and was exactly what I used to tell myself about drinking and other things.  If it was a lie that I could have just one drink, it was certainly a lie that I could have just one cigarette.  God made this very clear to me and I am so thankful that He did.  I had tried quitting seriously over 10 times since the age of 20 and it had never stuck.  This time I was ready and my Heavenly Father helped me to get through the rough period following my last cigarette. 
Though I felt horrible for 2 months, it got better.  My breathing felt better, I became less angry, my mood improved, there were less and less trails of gum wrappers left throughout my job and home.  I was exercising and felt good about myself.  It kept getting better.  Every time I had the thought or craving to smoke and rejected it as a lie, I felt victorious.  I was clinging to God for strength and He was strengthening me.  After the first year, I could barely believe I had made it, but I could no longer picture my life with smoking.  It was a miracle.  It will be 5 years of cigarette-free living for me as of October 1, 2011.  My God is an awesome God.  He” heals all my diseases” (Psalm 103:3).  He “released my feet from the snare” (Psalm 25:15).  He was so good to me that He came and freed me while I was still smoking, instead of waiting for me to figure it out by myself.  This is my God, my Jesus and while in pursuit of God during this time, this was all before I had recommitted to following Him a short time later.
Why do I share this information?  I know how hard it is to quit.  I know that people often judge smokers and don’t understand why we can’t just stop on our own.  I have been there, done that, and God has set me free.  I needed others to support me, to let me vent to them, to share their own stories of quitting with me to encourage me. 
I share this for anyone, if you chose to read this, who is caught in the trap of cigarette addiction or any other addiction for that matter.  I want to see everyone get free.  If God would free me, He would free anyone and that means you!!!  If you are in this place, if you feel you cannot break free, if you feel no one would understand, you are a person I would LOVE TO PRAY FOR ---I WANT TO SEE YOU FREE!!!!! If you feel comfortable enough to message me or to comment, I will pray for you.  God loves you.  He is your deliverer.  He will make you free.
Blessings to you!!!

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Man Who Loved Without Strings Attached

When you know that no words can adequately capture the depths of your feelings or the beauty of the memories you have about a person who has passed, what is the best thing to do when trying to figure out how to express your thoughts? 
In my case, I needed to wait for a few days to share and express my thoughts until I could string some memories and thoughts together of a good friend who passed on September 9th.  (For the purposes of anonymity in this blog post, I will simply refer to this person as” friend”)  I can’t remember the first interaction I had with my friend, but I know that I had known him from the day I was given the gift of sobriety on July 8th, 2001.  My friend sat in a meeting with what seemed like a million years sober to a newcomer such as myself.  I remember him speaking in the meeting through the haze and anger of my newness, but cannot remember the words he spoke.  What I remember is his presence. 
This presence he carried brought comfort and peace to situations.  I had felt it every time I was around him for even just a few minutes.  I was a fearful person when I got sober, but my friend’s presence began to make me feel a little more safe.  He was always there.  I could always count on him to be there.  I knew he would tell me what me what I NEEDED to hear and though the truth hurt sometimes, his love shone through the words and I knew that he had my best interest at heart. 
And he didn’t stop at just being present for the business of recovery…no, this was a man who was invested in relationships!  My friend took the business of recovery seriously, and this showed as he made people his priority.  It was so obvious to those who knew him.  There was never a day that I wondered where I stood with him.  I knew that my friend was there for me 100% and there were no conditions on this relationship.  He didn’t require that I did or said the right things.  He didn’t require perfection or put parameters on my behavior.  When I needed help, he did not hesitate.  There was one occasion where he heard I needed help and all he asked in return was that I pay it forward.  This was truly a man who loved without strings attached. 
My friend shared his heart with those he met, for better or for worse.  His honesty was admirable and his humility was a trait I strove to acquire.   Further adding to this amazing man’s character was that he was totally hysterical, fun and spontaneous, and had one of the meanest games of 1:00am poker of anyone I knew!  During all the fun, he was always quick to show wisdom to those of us who didn’t know much…all the while, laughing and letting us know he was just as human as we were.
 I know that when I came into my recovery, I was a lost little “kid” at 27 years old.  There were many men and women around me, who I am sure would say the same.  In a group where “kids” are many, my friend demonstrated the biggest father’s heart of anyone I had the experience of knowing up to that point.  Not only did he demonstrate this fatherly type of love to me by supporting me, encouraging me, and helping me out of emotional pits, but I watched as he shared his "father’s heart” with anyone and everyone else in need this type of love who crossed his path.  Even after I left my home in Champaign-Urbana, my friend's support consistently remained through my own transition, growing pains, and grieft due to losses I faced after I left.  It meant so very much to me that every time I visited, my friend ALWAYS made time to spend with me.  I am so grateful that I was able to visit with him in July.  It was a bittersweet honor to have been there with him on his last day with us and the sight of his family and closest friends surrounding him will forever be in my memory.
It is so rare to meet men like my friend…I am blessed to have known someone like him in my lifetime.  I have seen written social media comments from many of my friends who have told me how much this man’s encouragement to me has impacted them, and these are people who don’t even know him.  What a great legacy this man has left to the world.   For the rest of my life, I will always talk fondly of this man who loved without strings attached.  Thank you Father God, that you allowed me the privilege to know him.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Gold-Filled Pits

With all the talk, Facebook banter, and inappropriate jokes, rumors, and speculation surrounding the recent death of yet another celebrity struggling with addiction, I felt compelled to put my thoughts into writing and share them.

Whether you have or haven’t battled it, have or haven’t suffered while a family member, friend, or loved one battles it, or whether it is an issue you care or don’t care about, addiction is a horrible, frustrating, and tragic disease that kills all those who are unable to break free from it.  In a world where independence and pulling yourself up from your own bootstraps are often valued over admitting powerlessness and seeking help, perhaps it is confusing or even a little scary, to people who have not had any direct or indirect exposure to this disease, why the addict just can’t seem to stop on their own.

Many, many years ago, I didn’t understand the seriousness or the dangers of this disease.  I was writing letters to the editor on teenage alcohol use, speaking to elementary school students with my high school’s peer leadership program, swearing that I would not be a drinker like a close family member.  It’s cunning and baffling how the disease of addiction works.  The disease didn’t care what I was doing to take a stand against it.  It didn’t care that I wanted to prevent it from harming others.  And it certainly didn’t care that I did not want to turn out to have the problems my family member had.  Addiction, and I am including alcoholism in the use of this word, does not discriminate.  It doesn’t care who you are, where you come from, what you do for a living, what your childhood was like, or how much money you have or don’t have.  This disease lies to its victim by telling he/she they don’t have the disease.  People with the disease of addiction are laughed at, shamed, and yelled at for having the disease.  To add to the disgrace of having this disease, many of its victims are the center of jokes after dying from the disease.

Again, addiction didn’t care about my determination not to have it.  By the age of 14, I had started drinking.  By the age of 17, my addiction had started and it took hold of me for the next 10 years of my life.  It didn’t discriminate because I was in college or getting my master’s degree.  In fact, those things were used by my addiction to rationalize why I couldn’t possibly have a problem.  It was by the sheer grace, love and mercy of the all-loving, almighty Father God that I was rescued from the pit the disease had dug for me and thrown me into.  God wanted me back and I was willing to cooperate so that He could pull me up, dust me off, and heal me up. 

Unfortunately, many do not make it out alive.  I have lost friends to this disease.  I have seen them battle and battle and battle, only to lose.  I don’t know why some of us make it and some of us don’t.  What I do know is what is discussed in 12 step recovery programs: we have a spiritual malady that can only be remedied with a spiritual solution.  The solution is our relationship with God.  Ephesians 6:12 says “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  Many of us discuss the general concept of disease being from the enemy and this can also be applied to the disease of addiction.  It is another stronghold, a trap, a prison in the form of sickness that the enemy uses to keep people from truly knowing God and walking in their callings and destinies. 

Tonight, I was watching a TV program where a family was chronicling their 21-year-old son’s battle with heroin addiction.  Sadly, the son lost his battle to the disease just 9 days after his 21st birthday.  As the parents discussed the son’s repeatedly-stated desire to get sober, they quoted their son as saying that the heroin was “like satan in [his] veins and [he] was a slave to it”.  This a pretty clear picture of the nature of addiction and it really spoke to the point that the only way out of the pit is being lifted up by God.  As I heard these parents quote their son, I immediately thought of Colossians 2:19 in the Message which states that Christ puts us together in one piece and his breath and blood flow through us.  When we come to know Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior, believe that we have been crucified and raised with him, and can walk in that the truth that we are new creations, knowing our freedom is the result.  “Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor 3:17).  I am free from addiction because the Spirit of the Lord is in me and the very breath and blood of Jesus are flowing through me, as I belong to him. 

However, it can be quite difficult to walk in this truth by ourselves, especially because, as stated earlier, addiction is a disease that tells the addict they don’t have it.  This is where other believers, especially those who have also been set free, can assist in speaking God’s truth over and over again to the person struggling.  More important, is ensuring that the person struggling has heard the gospel of good news and has opportunities to say yes to the One who will save them both in this life and eternally.  Sharing Jesus with others, shining our light into darkness, proclaiming that he has come to set the captives free, providing love, encouragement and community to others is what a hurting a broken world needs.  I didn’t need to hear that I was garbage when I was drinking and using. I knew that already.  What I needed to hear was that there was hope and I thank my Father in Heaven that I did. What a hurting family needs to hear is the hope of Jesus, that he is the comfort in their grief, and that he will bind up their broken hearts not the jokes and bashing that have followed deaths of people with this issue.

Imagine what could be if those struggling with addiction met Jesus and were able to walk into their destiny, instead of being met with stigma and criticism.  Imagine if the media focused on the gold in celebrities instead of their dirt.  Imagine a world where we, as believers, filled up the enemy-dug pits with gold so full that there was no room at the bottom for people...they would be forced to rise to the top!!!

I am so grateful to have been rescued from this horrible stronghold.  I am grateful that people spoke God's gold into my pit so that I could be lifted out of it.  My prayer is that I would improve in my ability to share and demonstrate the love, mercy, and healing that Jesus has so freely given to me that I may be able to fill other people's pits with gold.    

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Changing my alignment...

Written 4/20/11

Just what does one do to fill up their time when they are not working an 8 to 5 job?  Well, if you are anything like me, you will certainly find things to fill it up pretty quickly.  I can say, with relief, that I am enjoying not having to set an alarm for 5:30am, only to hit snooze until 6am, still exhausted from a restless sleep.  However, I am still setting an alarm…most days…in order to pursue the things that I am passionate about, that bring me a sense of fulfillment, that allow me to align myself more and more with who God says I am.

I have the privilege of being part of one of the most amazing churches!  After a dinner tonight with 3 amazing women of God, I continue to see confirmation of the reasons I was brought to Chicago.  Talking with them about ministry, about pursuing God, and about fighting for destinies corporately and personally further fanned the flame of passion stirring in me to see all that God will do with me, with my friends, with my church, with this city, etc.  I get the privilege of investing my time and my energy into many different things at this church and I am so grateful for every opportunity to do so.

Approximately 6 to 8 months ago, I started seeing (or rather, frantically tried to turn the channel so as not to see) a rash of horror/thriller/enemy-centered movies come out.  Quite honestly, this upset me greatly.  I found myself in my kitchen one day talking to God about it and tearfully expressing to Him that I didn’t understand why these movies were so popular.  I was angry that the enemy was using dirty and counterfeited tactics through media to trick people into believing that these dark themes would be somehow entertaining.  I cried out to God saying that I didn’t understand why movies glorifying Him weren’t more popular than anything else.  I started talking about it with friends, and specifically one filmmaker friend of mine who had already been developing ideas for a revival-focused film.  Today, I am honored to be able to assist him in doing some of his PR/promotional work.  I get the honor of putting my energy where my mouth is where God is concerned and I get to help a good friend with a great documentary that will glorify my Heavenly Father and ignite revival fires.

I used to write when I was young….all the time….songs, short stories, poetry.  I loved writing.  It released me from my feelings and allowed me to be creative.  When I was 13 or 14, I would sit at my dad’s typewriter in his office and start my autobiography.  I probably started it a couple of times on a couple of occasions before throwing out the crumpled up start to my story, telling myself that no one would want to read the autobiography of a teenager who had never really done anything.  Then, I started my pursuit of substances and stopped most of my creative outlets altogether, telling myself I wasn’t talented.  I shut it all down, period.  When I came to Chicago, I had the belief that I had absolutely, positively no creative talent.  This was incredibly frustrating as I came from a family full of artists and was a member of one of a church FULL many, many creatives.  I received a couple of prophetic words about 7 or so months after being here regarding me writing books/programs….however, I shut the idea of this being true down thinking “I’m not a writer, I’m not creative”.  The stirring was there, and I believe now that the stirring is from God.  There is a reason that I wanted to write all the time as a kid and very recently, I have found myself drawn again to writing.  As I sit here and type this, my soul resonates with even the mere act of putting words to my thoughts and feelings.  That all said, two days prior to my decision to leave my job, I was at a friend’s house.  This friend is an amazing musician and she was playing a riff on her guitar that spoke to my spirit.  I heard a sentence in my head that fit with the music and it did not leave my head that night.  My friend emailed me the riff and the next day, I wrote the first song I had written since I was about 8 or 9 years old…a worship song.  Additionally, I had been in talks with another friend/former colleague of mine, who had seen one other piece of writing I had done at the beginning of this year, before I left my job.  These talks focused on the possibility of us writing a book together.  I am so excited and amazed to say that the decision has been made and that this possibility is now a “let’s do this thing” 

I find myself in total awe at the fact that the stirrings and dreams I had long ago have come back to the surface, that God cares and listens to my cries out to him in my kitchen, and that He knew the right church in which to place me to ensure that I would continue seeking and walking into the plans He has for my life.  As the Holy Spirit helps me to become more like Jesus, my desires and hopes continue to change.  Proverbs 19:21 says "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails. Though I had seen and taken certain paths in my life, God has used those to lead me to Him, to conform my will to be more like His, and to guide me more and more into who I am becoming for His ultimate purposes.  For this, I am truly grateful.

There is more to this type of a journey for me, however…the “doing” versus “being” and the balance between the two with Him at the center, and this is something with which I have historically struggled.  To be continued in another blog post….

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Journey Begins...

This is the start of keeping a journal, diary, blog, or whatever comes out at, what I feel is, a nudging from God.  I believe He is pushing me in the direction of writing about how my journey of a faith-walk unfolds.  I have been walking with Jesus for a while now, but this is yet another new step because I made a decision and this month it was completed.  By the world’s standards, the choice was “stupid” or foolish.  The choice was impractical and didn’t make sense.  The choice was to leave a well-paying job and start a new chapter….

I started working at this job over two and a half years ago and it is the job that brought me to this city.  Without going into great detail about history (after all this is my walk of faith not my journey into the past) the job was not fulfilling for me.  That said, I stayed.  I persevered.  I fought through days and situations at this job that, for most, may have otherwise resulted in possible expletive-filled, emotionally charged exits.  I stayed.  I persevered.  I fought.  During the course of my employment, both my parents and both my cats died.  I was promoted twice.  I said goodbye to a boss for whom I had worked for six years at two different jobs.  And through it all, I continued to develop my relationship with God and to seek His plan for my life.  I would be remiss not to say that this job was God’s gift to me for as long as I have had it.  Not only was it a generous way for me to more than make my ends meet, but I have learned many, many things about myself, about leadership, and about who He is in the midst of challenging and painful situations.  I learned that I can walk through so much, provided I ground myself in who He is.  I learned that I am so much stronger than I ever gave myself credit for.  I learned that my administrative gifts were valued by people.  Above all, I learned that this was not the job for me and that money does not mean everything….that I do have a purpose and though I am not fully sure what it is, I do know that God is sure and He will lead me to it because it is part of His plan.  He will lead me into fulfillment in His purposes. 

So…I have stepped out in faith, yet again.  It looks different this time as compared with the previous experience of leaving a job without having another one.  This time, I don’t have my parents as a “fall back plan”.  This time, it is just me and God.  Granted, I do have a good savings, but it is not a limitless supply.  I have a mortgage and a car payment and human fears about bills.  But I have a God who is so much bigger than any fear I will ever have.  I am willing to give up anything for Him, because He gave up everything for me.  Obviously it would be great to keep my house and my car and not have to get a roommate, but I am willing to do what it takes to follow Him, whatever that looks like.  So this is the introduction to what will be a new journey of faith for me. 

God, I invite you to do as you will with me during this period and to strengthen me with your love, joy, and peace, should the journey get rough.  Help me to be honest in my days of writing.  Comfort me and continue to confirm that I am no longer an orphan.  Show me what it really means to be Fathered by You, the Father of all.