Dayspring, not just my moms church

If you know me, you know that I live life out loud, in Technicolor, with neon flashing lights highlighting the hallways of my world. Exclamation points excitedly punctuating every sentence I speak!  So to say that the quiet, peaceful,eggshell walls of  Dayspring were an obvious match for me, would be a gross misrepresentation; after all, the first time I walked through the doors I was a steadfast atheist with a broken marriage, a drug problem and only came on major holidays to appease my mom.

However, it was in that quiet peace, that I first felt the awe inducing, powerful presence of God, as my oldest son was being reborn into the light of the spirit in a horse trough right outside these walls.

It was here, in the awkward placidity of silent reflection that I learned to sit still in the warmth of His Love.

It was here, in the comforting chiming of the hour, that I was welcomed to join, still reeking of the libations of the previous night.

It was a lingering hug and empathetic smile that ushered me slowly into the Christ centered relationships I have built in these rooms.

It was the phone call placed from an office above the chapel, when I was in the darkest self-inflicted purgatory I had ever been in, that reminded me, “No matter how far down, in the darkest cave I could crawl, Jesus was there.”

It was the benevolence offered when I found myself washed ashore and the continued acceptance, without question or judgement.

It is here and it is now, in the greatest moments of my life, the celebrations joined and recognised.

It is all of you, who see me, who really see me. I once was lost, but here, I am found.

Welcome to worship.

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I’m a SHE, Not an IT!

I don’t feel qualified to write about this. I have not done enough research. I feel like I am failing in this area, but I am driven today to write. To write ferociously and angrily and at the top of my lungs.

I am truly blessed to have so many women in my life. These women are at all stages of life, come from many backgrounds, have varying degrees of intelligence, monitory standing and clout. They are black and white and hispanic. They are young and old, big and small, happy and mad. I love them, deeply, and so I am pained.

In JUST the last week, here are some of the narratives I have heard; (I am paraphrasing for anonymity sake)

“I can’t help it. He says to jump and I jump.” – After losing a bed in one of the few group homes for women in this area.

“He told me that if he was my husband, he would grab my hair and pull me down.”  – Then the man described several graphic sexual acts. During a 12-step meeting.

“If I hadn’t told the police then we would still be a family and my mom wouldn’t hate me.” – In reference to her dad who started abusing her at 4

“I’ve worked with him for a long time. We have a mutually respectful relationship, but when he told me he was attracted to another woman in our office, my feelings were hurt. Why isn’t he attracted to me?’ – Stated by one of the most well-rounded. intelligent women I’ve ever met.

“He asked me what I had done to cause the rape.”

“It’s the only thing I’m good for.”

And from my own bank of thoughts, feelings and experiences, after receiving a picture of a “friends” genitalia, “I’m so sorry, ” he said, “I just couldn’t help myself. I was looking at your pictures (on FB, all super g-rated, mostly with my husband and son) and just had to send you this.”

I’m completely broken. My heart is shattered into a thousand pieces. I have no idea how to respond appropriately to any of this. I found myself scream crying on the phone with one of my best friends husbands yesterday, begging him to tell me why.

Why do men, even ones I have so much respect for, still view women as objects for possession? Why do I sometimes believe that I am only worth what I look like?  Why did Lady Gaga get called fat? Why can’t I seem to shake this feeling that we are doomed to stay in this current state of patriarchy? And how do I fight against it?

I broke yesterday when I found out about a man who was in authority over a venerable woman recently, who is now dating her. I have known this man to do the same thing before, repent from that behavior and ask for forgiveness, and yet, here we are again.

A few hours later I found myself across the table from a beautiful, young sex worker who is truly convinced that her only value is sex, even though she hates the very thought of it.

Then even further into my day I sat in a room full of ladies who are working hard to stay sober and the issue of men arises, yet again.

I cried myself to sleep last night, scooted over as far on my side fo the bed as I could reach. Afraid to be touched at the notion that I might just crumble. unjustifiably angry at my husband for being a man and knowing these men. My level of trust diminished and I found myself questioning everyone and everything.

But I do know this; my God did not create a victim, he created a warrior. He built these men in His image and I believe that they too can be redeemed. I believe that their minds can and will be renewed. I know that I can be the voice in a dark, quiet place that shepherds hurting women to the light. Lord, let me be your Kingdom come, let this light shine, let women, created equally and perfectly in your image be sanctified, adored and loved. Let these men be mighty, powerful men of God that set this wrong right, let them pioneer a movement of change. Let it start here, now, today.

I also know that I am not alone. I am continually surrounded by women who sharpen the dull points, who point me in the direction of Love and who remind me that God is in all.

I am not qualified to write about this, but how in the world can I not?

 

 

I Bought Two Bottles of Wine

As I walked down the wine aisle in my local grocery store last week, I was mesmerized by the fancy bottles, the elaborate graphic art and the witty names.  I thought to myself, “As if people need a reason to be drawn in!”

Hours earlier, after a text exchange with a couple my husband and I are looking forward to getting to know better, I found myself slowly taking in the huge selection in front of me.  The question had arisen, “What can I bring to dinner?” And the typical, “Let’s really get to know each other,” answer, “Wine!”

“Perfect!” I texted, then inquired with a few friends as to which wines were acceptable, naturally assuming that Franzia in a box was not. I’m no wine pairing expert because, well, the three dollar bottle of wine that gave me enough courage to head over to the East Side for crack, paired best with McDonald’s and regret!

I received suitable answers and decided it best not to go alone. I wasn’t sure why, but I needed the buffer. I’d love to tell you that it was some spiritual high road, that I was being cautious of my recovery or that I was following the direction of my sponsor, but honestly, I wanted someone to hand the alcohol off to in case I ran into one fo my friends from the 12-step program I attend.  Believe me when I say this, you ALWAYS run into someone else in recovery in the most inopportune times!

I pried my son out of bed (it was 2pm, by the way) and told him I needed to by wine for a dinner party and didn’t want to go alone. My son, who regularly tells the joke that I am allergic to alcohol; breaking out in handcuffs, jumped right up, no questions asked and joined me in the car.  I cannot help but imagine that if I had told him we were going for cheese or almond milk he would’ve begrudgingly gone, but for this errand, he felt the weight and protected something dear to him; my sobriety.

When we got into the car I explained that we were going to a new friends house and they must not realize that we don’t imbibe. We made a few jokes and stared at the wine for what seemed like an hour. I thought it best to purchase based on humor rather than suggestion. We went with a red that had the same name as my business and a white that also gave nod to it.

This isn’t the first time that I’ve bought alcohol since I’ve been in recovery, I give it as a gift regularly to friends and family, but this ended up being the most comical. A few hours before we were to arrive for dinner my new friend texted, “I just remembered that you don’t drink!” She insisted that I just bring myself and my husband, but the wine was already purchased and the laughter already begun.

I have always felt like it would be a fun to write a manual for “normies” (that’s what us 12-steppers call people who can drink with impunity) that have friends who are in recovery. It would go something like this:

  1. My recovery is not so fragile that you can’t drink in front of me. It’s actually worse if you don’t because then I feel like your changing your routine for my recovery and people had to change their routines for my addiction so much that I don’t want that to be a thing anymore.
  2. It doesn’t bother me that you drink, I just can’t. No. Not even one. One for me is a death wish, for reasons that someone who drinks normally may never understand.
  3. Yes, I have plenty of fun. As a matter of fact, I have more fun now than I ever did drinking. I am full of life and spirit now and was only drowning myself with alcohol.
  4. I’ll be happy to bring wine to the dinner party but I refuse to bring crack. That’s where I draw the line! 😉

There would be plenty more. Maybe someday I’ll put it all in one place, but for today, this story will have to suffice.

And yes, I did feel a bit empowered. Not one time that night did I think a drink looked good and I forged, what I foresee as being, a long, fruitful friendship.

 

The Boy That Got Away

The anxiety built up in me as soon as I pulled up & saw him. I started to uncontrollably shake, my jaw tighten into a clench, I wanted to scream but my voice was so shaky I could hardly get the words out, “Hey, can I show you something?”

It was him. It was the young man whose pictures had uploaded to my iCloud the day after my sweet little business had been broken into for the third time in as many weeks. Technology had pinned the culprit, but we had yet to find his whereabouts.

But there he was. Back at the scene of the crime, using the very electric outlet that had offered him the hidden key that gave him admission to his jackpot. He was there & I was confronting him.

“Yeah, I guess. What is it?” He mumbled, apprehensive about our interaction.

As I turned his image to face him, I stated the obvious, “It the selfies of you that uploaded to my cloud after you robbed my business.”

The look on his precious, sixteen-year-old face said it all. It said, “This is all I know.”

He denied breaking in, he offered up a thousand excuses as to why he had my stolen property & some from the business I share a building with. He had clearly dealt with the police on more than one occasion. This was not his first rodeo.

After positively identifying him & confiscating all of the electronics that were on him, he rode away, in flip flops on a freezing Thursday morning. 

My heart sank, but I couldn’t quite tell you why. Part of me wanted quick justice, handed down by the police that I felt completely betrayed by. Part of me wanted him to come back, apologize, tell me his life story & hug it out in a series of confessions on & tears. Part of me wanted to chase him down, give him a piece of my mind & explain that I understood but it still hurt. My jumbled thoughts went mostly unchallenged throughout the day. I was torn.

A few days later the detective, who I’m sure was happy to oblige after a plethora of justifiably angry phone calls in the previous weeks, called to let me know that some of the electronics found on this young man were, in fact, identified as some taken during the burglaries. He also told me the long list of burdens that have since been laid on my heart to carry like the weight I can only assume that Jesus carries for us.

He is sixteen. He hasn’t been enrolled in school for three years. His father is twelve years into a twenty year prison sentence. He lives with his grandmother because his mother is isn’t “in the picture” much. His uncle, who is also sixteen, had been arrested the previous week for an armed robbery. The facts are bleak & give a sorted, sorry look into the life of a young man, who I am sure, just doesn’t know any better. 

The odds are not ever in his favor. Statistically he is doomed. The record would show, that he is headed for a long life of crime & punishment. 

But that is not the story I am choosing to believe. I have seen mightier miracles preformed in less desirable circumstances. I have witnessed lives changed & bonds broken. I KNOW that God can swiftly work in the lives of murderous killers, slaying Christians through the Holy Lands & use them to build up His kingdom. I believe in healing, for this little guy, for you, for me. 

I’m praying today, hard & heavy, that he would have a road to Damascus revolutionary conversion. May his life be marked by this very moment. May he find the peace of the Lord today. Lord, let the hounds of Heaven fiercely pursue his heart, finding him now, to bring him closely to your side. 

I believe. 

The Story I Hate to Tell

This is not a feel good story. This won’t give you the warm fuzzy’s or make you cry in a good way. This is the story I hate to tell. 

About 3 months ago I got a phone call from an old friend of mine. We were pretty close in high school; both a little weird, both a little crazy & both always down for a little trouble. He was new to our school so he was a clean slate. He didn’t know my past & I didn’t know his & neither of us cared much. We had fun together. When you’re 16 that’s all that matters.

I was surprised to hear from him. We were friends on The Book of Faces, with the occasional nod, poke or prod, but there hadn’t been much engagement in a decade or so. I am always so grateful for social media because although the link my be weak, it is still there. 

So he called. It was late, but I was so happy to hear his voice, I stayed up past my bedtime to reminisce. I wanted to know all about his travels, his life, his great loves, if he still listened to good music & where he got all his tattoos. I was ready for him to spill it, but he cut right to the chase, “You look so happy. Are you really as happy as you seem?”

“I am. The happiest I’ve ever been. My life isn’t perfect, but it’s amazing.”

“And you’re sober, like, completely clean & sober?”

“3 years & counting. What’s up, man?” I could tell he wanted to know my secret.

“How are you doing it?”

This is a question I get asked a lot. How could a person with such a wrecked past, who gave up everything they loved for a thing that gripped them so tightly, who had nothing & no one; how could that person rebuild, not just a life without drugs & alcohol, but a meaningful, wonderful life? It seems impossible!

I told him the solution that I found. Ultimately I found a strong, unshakeable bond with my Creator through the 12-steps. It took some work, surrender, mowing over, sowing new seeds, being refined by fire & eventually just turning everything over to God. I had not rebuilt this beautiful life, God had. 

My friend scoffed, he had tried the 12-steps. He had trusted that it would work & he had found some peace for some time, but who wants to continually work towards happiness, shouldn’t it just come after a time? He gave a list of reasons he was different than me. He was too smart, too unique, too…to infinity. 

I once was in his shoes, so I got it. I can’t sell this stuff to him, he would need to come to this one on his own. So we bid farewell & I told him to call anytime. 

He died yesterday. He lost his battle with this disease. I wish I could tell you that he is the first of my friends to pass away due to a drug overdose, but he is actually the latest of over 10. 

My heart breaks. I KNOW the pain he was in before he died. Not physical pain, but the kind of pain that makes your stomach hurt. The kind of pain that makes you want to die. The kind of pain that leads you back down the path to ultimate demise. 

Say a prayer tonight. Last night it was my friend, tonight there will be more. As we lament about all the celebrities that 2016 has taken, please don’t forget about the addicts who’s lives are claimed every day.

Stay Gold, my friend. 

It’s Hard for Me to Say

It’s hard for me to say that I am pretty, even though I’ve been told that I am by people who I trust and love.

It’s hard for me to say that I am a fierce warrior, even though I know my story and know I’ve overcome.

It’s hard for me to say that I am a strong leader, even though the power reflected in my employees would clearly point in that direction.

It’s hard for me to say that I am a good wife, even though my husband constantly reminds me that I am.

It’s hard for me to say that I am a good mother, even though if you met my son’s you would see how awesome they are.

It is also hard for me to say that I am an addict, a liar, a thief, a cheat, a prostitute, a crackhead, a sexually abused child, even though if I am being honest about my past those words are there.

It’s becoming increasingly hard for me to say I’m a Christian, even though my love for Jesus and my faith in God grow substantially with each passing day.

These things, these words, these labels are what society has chosen for me and some of these, I have made for myself.  I cannot deny the hard truth that I almost killed myself and everyone I love with my addiction. I cannot deny it, because it happened and to deny it would mean to deny that I am not only a survivor, I am also redeemed in the eyes of my creator. I am saved, loved, forgiven.

So, although these things may be hard for me to say, I can look you in the eyes today and own these things, all of them, the good and the bad.  I can say that I am a beautiful woman of God, who has sold her body and soul for crack. I can say that I am a good mother who left her child alone or in the care of others to go get high. I can say that I have excelled at the art of marriage, even though I once failed miserably at it.

I am new, and that, is not hard for me to say.

The First Boy I Ever Loved

In February of 1998 I met him. He was the picture of perfection. Beautiful blonde hair, a perfectly shaped head, deep blue eyes, pinky toes that curled up around the toe next to it, the softest skin I had ever felt and the sweetest smell.  He was intoxicating, so I called him Moon Shine.  I was absolutely, incomprehensibly, unmistakably destroyed that first moment I laid eyes on my baby boy.

From that time on he has shaken me to my core. He has been the cause of sleepless nights, of broken hearts, of tears of shame at the lack of my own parenting skills. He has introduced me to the part of myself that I thought was lost and he has loved me like no one else. I’ll never be able to describe in words the level of pride I feel when I am with him, yet the profound knowledge that it has so little to do with me. He is the first boy I ever loved and he owns the kings share of my heart.

He was unexpected, to say the least and I was in no position to raise him. I was still a child myself. Pregnant at 18, I hardly had a handle on reality or keeping myself alive, much less the duty of rearing another human. I was scared and unsure, but I knew from very early in my pregnancy that I was smitten. I sat many a night, alone in my room at my parents house, rocking in the chair my mother had rocked me in, holding my belly, weeping, promising this tiny, little man, that I would always love him.  I have always held fast to that promise.

I haven’t been the best mom, he has seen things that most kids don’t. He grew up fast and has learned to smile, even when times are hard. He has seen me roll in and out of recovery and has watched the devastating falls of an addict.  Through it all, he has always been loyal, always kept his chin up and always shone like the brightest star in the sky. He is, as I have called him for years, my tug boat, pulling the mother ship into the safe harbor from choppy, wild waters.

Tomorrow I watch him walk across the first in a series of stages, this one, at his high school. I cannot even begin to tell you the gamut of emotions I feel.  They are something like, but far beyond, pride, love, joy, admiration and relief. I feel all caught up in this moment and wanted, no, needed to burst forth in shouting from the mountain tops, “This is my boy! This is my champion! This is my hero!”

Congratulations my precious little boy. You are forever my main squeeze, the apple of my eye and my very first love!

Jesus with a Cheeseburger

Often enough I find myself in the weirdest of situations. Situations most people don’t or would never dare find themselves in, doing odd things, in tastless places with the “dregs” of society.

Dregs; what even does that mean? It’s a term used to incite fear, coined by a high priced attorney to describe the criminal who victimized her client. A term used to motivate progress away and apart from these types. A word, never used in a positive way, to describe “those people.”A category I fall into.

I was once, and not that long ago, a torn up, worn down, useless, hopeless, drug addict. Full of hate and fear and pain. I sold myself, my possesions and my soul for the next high. I was unconcerned with the people I was hurting and was begging for death each day. To say I was the “dregs of society” would be a gross understatement. I was beyond dregs. I was beyond society.

I don’t tell you this to bring pity or pride. I tell you this because I know that I went through this darkest of times to become uniquely qualified to serve others who are currently drowning in the mire of their situation.

There is somehow and unspoken code that is communicated through this service. One that says, “You are loved so completely by your creator!” whilst handing over a cheeseburger. Or “You are wholly seen by The Lord and he is rejoicing in You!” on the car ride to the bail bondsman. “My daughter, my Love, my precious child, I am holding you next to me.” during the hard conversation being had through the visitation glass at county. “I am waiting for you, anxiously!” as she steps out of my car and disappears into the night. “I am covering you.” standing eye to eye with a mostly naked woman in the dressing room of a strip club.

I find myself here and there often, sharing the love of Christ with a cheeseburger, a car ride, a conversation or a hug. Sometimes that love is shared simply with eye contact because we all know, that is regularly avoided.

I challenge you to find a way, albeit, uncofortable, unsavory, unlikey. Nothing like the text book style of ministry, I challenge you to find the well and go there. Find the stonethrowers and stop them. Buy a meal and share it. Just be Jesus with a cheeseburger.

“I’m Never Writing Again!”

cross this out“I’m never writing again!” I cried out with tears in my eyes and a whimper in my voice. “I also deleted Facebook off my phone and I’m done getting on it!”

My husband is rarely surprised by my dramatics, but still always actively participates in helping me come to a quick resolution.  He has learned that listening with a sympathetic ear, then quickly redirecting whatever lie it is that I’m believing, is the best approach to the circus I drag to town on the crazy train.

“She’s better than me.  Her writing is so raw. She quoted scripture and cussed in the same paragraph. I’ll never be this good and I can’t take the embarrassment of it all. I quit!”

Ronnie wrapped his arms around me and let me cry it out.  He assured me that my writing is good, that people can relate to it and that I’ve just got to keep writing. I wiped away my tears and nodded my head, but damnit…I was done.

I thought about this all day, wondering if I should announce my departure from the podium, no, that’s so dramatic and attention seeking.  Maybe I would just go silent, no, that’s not what God called me to do. Ahhh! I should take a class and read material from more writers that I want to sound like! Wait!  That’s inauthentic.

I was spinning my wheels…did you hear it too? was spinning MY wheels, as if this calling was somehow meant for me. As if I was in control. As if I had a say in the whole thing.I had made this thing all about me and, quite frankly, it was mostly made up. All the thoughts in my head were swimming around, festering, giving each other high fives, breeding, pumping each other up, all the while sending me off the emotional cliff, headed for writer suicide!  I was doomed!

It’s a really bad place up there.  Exhausting. Lonely. Dark. There is very little truth conceived there and the demons that lurk there are evil ones, waiting for their hot bed, waiting to destroy me, ready to kill. It’s moldy and seething.  It’s the rotting flesh of my own pity. The place my confidence goes to die. It’s God-less there…or is it?

I believe that no place is God-less. I believe that the fear we live in is simply the privacy fence that we look through, seeing the green pastures ahead, but too afraid of the barbed wire we imagine is lining the top. I KNOW that God exists in crack houses and dirty motel rooms.  I know he follows his people into war. I know that he sits bed side during failed suicide attempts. I know.

So how in the hell could I deny that he was here, in this the ugliest of sins, envy? I couldn’t. He was there and I intended to seek his counseling, because I was dangling my feet right over that ledge, posted and ready to jump head first into the abyss.

“God. Help. Save me from this. I don’t want to be jealous.  I don’t want to be self-loathing. I don’t want to toss-away the passion you have given me. Help.”

He heard me.  I knew what I needed to do.

I picked up the phone and dialed her number.  What the world was I thinking? Was I really about to do this? Hopefully she won’t answer. She answered. I confessed. I was free.

The truth we shared was beautiful. I confessed my jealousy. I told her about my emotional breakdown. I murdered the demon that I had carried with me all day long. And you’d never guess, but she had felt the same way. Turns out, she isn’t super confident about her writing. She’s a little embarrassed each time she hits Post. We also talked about how rare it is that people are vulnerable enough to call and talk about what ails them, usually resorting to something far less attractive and far more damaging.

At the end of our conversation she thanked me for calling and told me I was a great writer. She reminded me that God used TWELVE disciples and a messiah to deliver one message. I and she are just two of the voices carrying the same message. The message that there is hope, that God does save and that although every voice is different, each is valuable.

“I’m never writing again!” quickly evolved into, “I think I’ll write about this!” And I’m glad I did. Today that monster didn’t win!

The Fear and Freedom of Taking the Plunge

cliff jumping

These last couple of weeks have been crazy ’round these parts.  There are a lot of changes going on in my business.  All good ones, but changes none-the-less, and change, even when it is good, can be scary.

On Sunday I went to Tonkawa Falls with a group of friends. We were quite the crew. My husband, my AA sponsor, one of my employees and a girl who I’ve been helping while she’s transitioning out of the strip clubs into a healthier lifestyle. All very different.  All very much alike.

At one point, all of us ladies made the climb to the top of the falls to check things out. We had noticed a group of boys sliding down the waterfall, then climbing back up and we needed to investigate further, so we did.  When we got up there we got the 411. If you sat in just the right spot, the current would usher you down the slippery rocks and into the icy, bubbling brew below. We all kind of laughed and talked about the dangers of it all and how, surely, we would hit our heads if we dared, so we watched, one, then two, then eventually several teenage boys tumble over, unharmed.

“Kinda looks like fun!” My employee remarked.

And it did!  After a few minutes of encouragement from the rest of us, she sat down, shivering and scared and she launched off!  feet first, screaming the whole way, into the water below, alive!  It. Was. Glorious!!!

One by one I watched my girlfriends fly that day!  After the falls, they mustered up the courage to leap from the highest peak.

It dawned on me that over the last couple of weeks I had witnessed so pretty awesome plunges.  We had a wonderful young lady staying with us through her final month of college and just the day before she walked the stage with a degree in business.  The once homeless, exotic dancer decided to finally turn in those stilettos and glitter body lotion and left today for a year-long program that helps women who have been sexually exploited. I jumped in with both feet and bought a $12,ooo juicer for my juice bar (that was scary) and my husband left his job to pursue something more fitting for him.

These actions were all different, and yet the fear and intimidation felt as we crossed the platform to that degree, got in the car to go get help, turned in that 2 week notice and entered in that credit card information, THAT was all the same. And for that we had each other.

The other similarity is the freedom we each felt as we realized that making those decisions and running full speed ahead, even though we were sweating bullets the whole way, was totally worth it.  We had done it and it was good!

Whatever cliff you are facing today or may be looking at tomorrow, because the cliffs will always rise, just know that you are not alone. Whether it is the hypothetical plunge or the 20 foot drop, be still and know.