Finding Rest

I found the words this morning! So, I am going to go with it, with very little editing… so I hope this all makes sense. I guess the coolest thing I’ve found about studying the word trust is that it keeps leading me to new words.

This morning the word was REST.

First of all… here is what I’ve learned about what it means to trust God…

He is a place of refuge, and (in) Him we are surrounded by His protection and embraced by His compassion. Trusting Him means: to lean on Him, to rely on Him, to hold onto Him, to flee to Him for protection, to stay, to hope, to expect, to be patient, and to linger in expectation… and wait.

It also has a lot to do with being on the inside. Examples are:

to be firm (in), to confide (in), to have confidence (in), to be secure (in), to seek refuge (in), to feel safe (in), to have assurance (in), to abide (in) and to find rest (in).

This morning finding rest in Him was what I decided to focus on because it relates to surrender…

My struggles with surrender have very LITTLE to do with “lack of trust” in God, but have everything to do with what I am accustomed to; which is ME being in charge.

That’s my former way of life.

I spent DECADES as an unbeliever, so the fact of the matter is… I spent decades trying to play God. I was seated on the throne, and I remained there until my imaginary kingdom was in ruins, and I was as close as I ever want to be to… death from alcohol.

Anyway, I feel really good right now because I know it just takes time.

When I call myself an alcoholic it feels really weird. I don’t drink anymore, nor do I have any desire to. But… as they say… alcoholism is but a symptom. In truth, alcohol is just ONE of things that I’ve been addicted to, chased, followed or even worshiped. False gods.

My life was FULL of them; Alcohol, drugs, money, success, shopping, and the love of a man… to name a few.

I won’t say that I sat on this imaginary throne feeling all-powerful, because I had very LITTLE power. I just didn’t know any better. I lived a life run by self-will, and I sought anything and everything that I thought would fill that huge void, make me happy, and fix my life.

Page 62 of the A.A. big book states “…the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot” and that is truer and true. I ran rampant!

Not until I had no other options… and was completely and utterly hopeless, did I look to God. But, He did exactly what He promises to do. He was there for me, and He led me out of that dark pit. Even after decades of rebellion.

So… what does this have to do with today? Well… what I discovered recently was that although I have great passion for writing and photography, those are “extras”. They are His blessings, and I cannot REST in those things, nor can I look to them to be the source of my happiness and security.

This is something that I was feeling inside, so it might not be so obvious to anyone else. But the fact of the matter is, what is happening inside of us is THE most important thing.

I began pursuing something and… without really realizing it… I was leaving God behind. I put something else FIRST. I ended up feeling irritable, confused, a little lost… and depressed. I knew something was wrong. Everything was bugging me. My camera was not good enough. I couldn’t find the right things to take pictures of, I was tired of trees and birds, yada yada yada. That’s one reason I was so happy to go to my sister’s house for a week. I needed to regroup.

Anyway… I realized what was wrong, admitted my problem, took a U-turn, and there He was. Waiting for me to return so that He could shower me with His love and surround me with His grace. How sweet is that?!

Everything is just as it should be today. And I came across a great quote that I want to keep close to me from here on out:

Everywhere the King is King, there is the Kingdom.

That’s so easy to remember, and a great reminder for me to stay OFF of that throne.

I need to surrender daily, and simply allow the King to be King. In HIS kingdom is where I am content, loved and full of joy…

…and it is where I find my REST.

Today is a good day, and God is GREAT!!!

Success is not what I’ve done compared with what others have done. Success is what I’ve done compared with what God has called me to do. Lecrae Moore, Unashamed

This doesn’t mean I’ve given up on my art. No way!! I’ve just put it back into it’s proper place in my priorities.

In This Moment (Trust)

Separating topics is not easy. Not on the blog, anyway. I did some tinkering and there is no logical way to do it. I think that going to regular A.A. meetings (and looking to be of service) was the real STEP that I needed to take, and I’m doing that. At least I’m gaining clarity!

Anyway, it’s been four whole days since I started studying the word TRUST, and I want to share my first day. I chose Psalm 40, verse 4.

Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie!

What REALLY struck (and amazed) me were verses 1-3.

I waited patiently for the Lord; He inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.

Can I relate to that?!? He pulled me from the PIT of alcoholism, made my steps secure, and put a new song in my mouth? Yes! Yes indeed. As I said… this word study started off with a beautiful bang. A great reminder of what He’s already done for me. I have a renewed sense of gratitude these days!

I SEE now- how easy it is to get distracted. Thinking TOO much about what’s next, and losing sight of what’s GREAT… TODAY, right NOW!!

Love always, laugh often, and enjoy every moment.

Walking My Walk

So… I guess this would be the portion of my blog where I share about my walk, and where I’m at; the My Journey section. Maybe I over-complicated the whole thing by trying to explain it. I do that sometimes. In time it will all make sense. The main thing I want to do is properly categorize.

I hope to organize this “hodgepodge of a blog” and it ain’t easyEventually I will nail it.

I emailed my sponsor about my decision to dive back into A.A. and to start making myself more available to be of service (which I guess you could call re-committing). I just love her! Her reply was right on point…

“We can preach a better sermon with our lives than our mouths.”

One thing I failed to mention in my last post is that ALL of the meetings I’ve been attending these past six months are not your typical A.A. meetings. That information probably helps to make sense of my thoughts.

Monday night recovery is actually a class at my church, and it’s taught by our pastor (who has about 35+ years of sobriety).

Thursday and Saturday, my meetings are both through Overcomer’s Outreach, which is a Christian 12 step support group. We practice the twelve steps, but we also read Scripture… talk about Jesus… and share with the group about where we are in our lives.

We also go out to eat a lot.

It is for any and all addictions or compulsive behaviors, and Al-anon… so pretty much anyone who wants to recovery from anything. I would highly recommend this program.

My sponsor has tried to tell me (a few times actually) that it would be “most helpful” if I was to get back into regular meetings, because those are the meetings that need more light. I guess I’ve been looking at it through my self-seeking lens… which told me that I only want to attend meetings that fill me up.

Feeling stuck lately made me realize that my involvement in the program isn’t to sit around and soak it all in. You have to give it away. That’s the whole purpose of step 12; to get OUT of myself and share all that stuff I’ve been soaking in. Wring out the sponge, so to speak.

Anyway- I made it to a regular meeting this afternoon and got to see lots of old peeps, took over the phone list commitment, and got some information about being on a panel that visits hospitals and institutions.

So… things are moving along today. I know I’m going in the right direction because a little teeny cloud of guilt that’s been hanging over my head has suddenly dissipated.

Amazing.

Life is good, and God is great!!

A Bit of Humility?

Awhile back I received a private message from someone about my blog. In the message, they mentioned something about my attachment to religion. Believe it or not, the very first thought I had was:

“RELIGION!?! I’m not attached to religion! I have a relationship with God!”

I didn’t reply to the message with that thought, but it’s exactly what came to mind. Where on earth does my blog say that I am attached to religion? If you were to review my posts all the way back to day one, I would bet a dollar that you would rarely- if ever– find the word religion. Not that I intentionally omit it, mind you, it’s just a word that I don’t use very often. Or even think of really.

So… today is actually the perfect day for this post. It is the seven month anniversary of my baptism. Alright, so maybe THAT sounds religious. Anyway, my point is that today is a good day to share what I’ve been learning this past week- which will also explain more about my desire to separate topics on the blog. Sobriety and MY walk with God…

I’m not afraid to admit my mistakes. Optimism is a real blessing when it comes to recognizing my wrong thinking. I become excited (and grateful) that I’m fortunate enough to be learning lessons, because that is growth! And I learn a little more about humility, and sometimes even humiliation… but that’s OK. I’ve seen far worse things than that!

What I’m being led to these days is that my thoughts on how to approach others who want to recover has been a bit off. It seems as though I was right in feeling that I wasn’t quite ready, because it appears that I was NOT! I’ve done a little more rewording in my big book reading, and how it applies to ME, step 12, and my approach toward others:

“Because of my own drinking experience, I can be uniquely useful to other alcoholics.

I CANNOT start out as an evangelist or reformer.

Tell the other person exactly what happened to ME. Stress the spiritual feature freely. If the person be agnostic or atheist, make it emphatic that they do not have to agree with MY conception of God. They can choose any conception they like, provided it makes since to THEM.

The main thing is that they be willing to believe in a Power greater than themselves, and that they live by spiritual principles.

Use everyday language to describe spiritual principles. There is no use arousing any prejudice they may have against certain theological terms and conceptions about which they may already be confused.

Don’t raise such issues, no matter what your own convictions are!”

Being stuck in your alcoholism (or any addiction) is sometimes referred to as being in the pit. And I know that this is true, because I’ve been there. A few times!

A friend of mine uses the phrase “going down into the trenches” for working with other alcoholics, and it actually works as the perfect analogy for what came to me the other night; so here it is…

Someone is down in the pit. I am standing up above the pit, on safe ground, and they are calling up to me for help. The way I was headed with my original thoughts was to call down to them: “Seek God!! Pray!! He can help you if you let Him… but first you must believe!”

If you’ve followed my posts awhile, I think you might see that this has been my mindset… and BOY does it sound silly now… as I write this. What would REALLY benefit them is if I was to go down into that trench (pit) with them, listen and get to know them, tell them about MY experiences in the pit… and then show them the steps that led ME out, and will lead THEM out if they are willing to take those steps.

My job is not to preach, it is to help.

God never forces Himself on anyone, nor does He expect me to. We are His body, and I am confident that He would prefer that I forgo any thoughts about preaching, and get my butt down there, in that trench, and help get that person out!

So… that explains my reasons for wanting to separate the topics. When I talk about recovery, I want to teach myself how to speak of it correctly…

…which is without prejudice.

Of course the other lesson I am learning is READ YOUR BOOKS!

Blessings-

Humility is the mother of giants. One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak. G.K. Chesterton

The Valiant Blogger Award

HALL OF VALOR

Liz of Daily Warriors  created, and nominated me for the Valiant Blogger Award.

Thank you so much Liz!

The Valiant Blogger Award is for the blogger who is brave and courageous. It is dedicated to someone who, despite being faced with the most difficult obstacles in life, chooses to fight on and never give up. It is for the lionhearted, one who faces fears and challenges, who has become an inspiration to others along the way.

RULES:
1. Post the award on your blog (Done).
2. Provide a link to the Hall of Valor (See above).
3. In 200 words or less, share about the greatest challenge in your life and HOW you got through it (See below).
4. Give one piece of advice to people who are struggling with something in their life (Look to God).
5. Thank the person who nominated you, nominate a new blogger for the award, and make sure to let the blogger you chose for the award know that you nominated them (See below).

The greatest challenge in my life, and HOW I got through it.

I’m honored to accept this award, and grateful that I have this opportunity to write about my biggest struggle: Alcoholism Belief, and HOW I got through it.

My blog is filled with my story- in several long versions, and to narrow it down to 200 words (or at least ONE post) is something I’ve been wanting to do. A challenge, mind you, but challenge accepted.

I’ll never forget what someone said to me at the beginning of my journey:

“There is only ONE thing that you need to change about yourself, and that is EVERYTHING.”

Alcoholism is a symptom, and recovery takes work. The bottom line is that I had a spiritual malady. I had no belief.

Having reached the point where I knew that I needed a power greater than myself, and after forty years of living life with no belief, I finally sought God. It feels strange to say that I had to seek Him, because He doesn’t hide. WE hide.

Coming to believe, for ME, was work. Besides prayer, I spent a lot of time learning about God- by reading Scripture, and countless books by Christian writers. Philip Yancey, for one, because he is straight forward, honest, and unafraid to talk about his struggles and doubts- and he works through those in his writing. I totally relate, because I too have found that writing is my best tool for working through all of my struggles.

What I’ve learned is that things of the world, can mold, bend, warp and shape you. The more you listen to, believe in, or act certain ways, the bigger these ways GROW. I’ve learned that I need to call out, and put a halt to MY ways (Surrender) – and turn to His ways. And this makes complete sense to me because MY ways almost killed me.

The advice that I’ll share came from another friend in recovery:

“ALL things and people will inevitably let you down, or leave you at some point. What you must find, believe in, trust, and surrender to, is the ONE thing that is constant; never changes, never lets you down, and never leaves you… and that is God- your Higher Power.”

And… as they say in the program: May you find Him now.

Thanks again Liz. I’m sorry it took awhile to write the post, but I needed to have a clear head. I tend to think that what I’ve learned since I came to believe is what I need to share, but I’ve discovered that just coming to believe is a struggle in itself…for so many.

I nominate Rick Christensen, for one- because his presence here has been a real blessing. He’s like a roaming display of God’s amazing grace. Always encouraging. In addition, each and every blogger who reads or stumbles on this post- who bravely shares the tales of their struggles and victories.

You are all valiant in my book.

 

2016 Reflections

What a year! My cousin posted on Facebook that she was tired of hearing people talk about how bad 2016 has been—so she listed all of the good things that happened in her life throughout the year.

It’s been one helluva year, that’s for sure! I have to say it’s been a good helluva year though. First and foremost; I got sober!

2015 was insane. If I had to count, I’d say I had about seven relapses that year. And then 2016 was my major turning point. Everything started to make sense, and life changed.

I have a very LONG way to go to rebuild anything that shows outwardly—but that’s OK. I’ve had a lot and I’ve had a little—and I have the same amount of joy no matter what!

I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:12-13

I have two Bible verses that sum up my life this year. That’s one.

So, for starters—the reflection photo is my driveway today, after the rain. The tree by the wash was reflecting in a small puddle. I thought it was cool. Something different. Second of all, I have to end this year by saying something about my friend Gil. I just love him!! For TWO YEARS that man has listened to me, prayed for me, encouraged me, and most important—I believe—has always said that he loves me- no matter what. And that God loves me no matter what. That’s something I found hard to grasp at first.

He is a husband, father… AND a Los Angeles Fireman. All of that, and he still finds time to help people—like me. He even drove out of his way on August 14th to be present at my baptism. That was HUGE.

Anyway… I just wanted to take time and say thank you to him. He’ll read this eventually.

I’m so excited about starting a new year, and I’m so grateful for discovering joy in writing and photography, and to be able to share these things with you all.

…and I love this little blogging community, and I’m so happy to be a part of it!

So, yeah… 2016 was pretty darn cool.

Oh, and the other Bible verse that sums up my life lessons this year…

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2 of course!

One paragraph sums up everything I wrote in 15 chapters!

—blessings