Faith is not Baby-steppable

Hello, dear readers.  Today, in WilmingtonFAVS.com, this prayer was published. It is about the freefall of faith, the fear of a hard landing. I hope you are blessed today in some outrageous way, knowing that you have a Father to catch you when you fall.

http://wilmingtonfavs.com/blogs/jana-greene/freefall-into-the-fathers-hand-a-faith-not-baby-stepped

The Geometry of Marriage

I really do!
I really do!

By: Jana Greene

“Did you lose the bet?”

It was a man’s voice. I was sifting through birthday cards at the drugstore, and it took a moment for me to realize he was speaking to me.

“Excuse me?” I said politely.

“Did you lose the bet with your husband?” He nodded at me, looking at the words on my t-shirt.

Emblazoned in simple, black lettering on the front of the pink shirt: I love my husband.

“Nope,” I said, laughing a little. “I just really do.”

He shrugged and walked away.

Another time, I had a nurse who was taking my blood pressure say, “That’s an interesting shirt. What does it say on the back?” He was thinking maybe that there was a snarky retort on the reverse…a zinger.

“Nothing,” I replied. “I just love my husband.”

“Huh.”

I’d bought the pink t-shirt it at a  bookstore several years ago when My Beloved and I were newlyweds. I had never been in love in the all-encompassing way that I loved him, and had never really expected to be. That head-over-heels-ness was for other people, I’d thought.

But God had other, better plans.

It’s the second marriage for each of us; not quite a May-December union, but possibly a June-September one, in that we were older and – if not wiser – more in tuned with God.

We actually did meet in church, and there was chemistry right away. But there was sanity, too – and that was a new wrinkle in relationships on my part.

As we fell in love more deeply, it became apparent that we were meant to be married. But because we had both failed at our previous marriages,  we decided to do something differently. We made a conscious and verbal decision not to make our marriage about ourselves – or even about each other. Making marriage about the other person is like making salvation about religion. It’s the relationship that really matters.

From the very start, we agreed to consider our marriage as a triangle of sorts, with God sitting at the top and he and I on the bottom corners, looking up. The “circle of trust” may be important, but the Triangle of Marriage keeps us in check.

In the years since My Beloved married me, reality has moved in and made itself at home, as is inevitable.  With the blending of three teen daughters came epic drama in the household. With reality came  economic ups and downs, health issues and challenges of getting older.  We are two very imperfect people, in love with each other and with God. And sometimes we disagree, and have to check our positions in the triangle of relationship and remember who is in the Highest Place of honor.

So, come to think of it….maybe I do wear the t-shirt because I lost a bet.

I happily and gratefully lost a bet with God. Before marrying my husband.  I had staked my understanding of the future on my own past failure in marriage. I couldn’t make it work, so I was doomed to be alone (or worse, repeat the cycle).

But God had other, better plans that are not dependent on my failures or successes.

There – at the top of the Triangle – He gives our marriage chemistry, sanity and loads of grace when reality makes itself at home.  In the all-encompassing way that only God can love us, he emblazoned it in simple, black lettering in the pages of His Word:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16.

We are His Beloveds, and He is head-over-heels for us.

Sweeping off the Crumbs (or: It’s a NEW day!)

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By: Jana Greene

The house is dark and quiet. It is five o’clock in the morning and I’ve been up for hours now, with a belly unable to digest the cookies I ate during a late-night bender and a mind unwilling to forgive myself  for going on the binge at all. As a matter of fact, I’d like to use a picture of the cookies for this blog post, but they are all gone – nothing but a sad, empty package and a chocolate fallout of crumbs on the carpet.
They were generic Oreos, a very poor substitute for the real thing. I remember thinking it would be easy to only eat a few, because they were an inferior product, but no. I just kept consuming because the consuming itself was a comfort, and it had been a hard day. I would promise myself just one more, and then promise myself just ONE more after that. After a while, I didn’t even taste the cookies – that’s the crazy part. Just hand to mouth, mindless motion and quasi-momentary satisfaction. As if faux-Oreo cream could smudge out all the challenges of the day. After a while, I stopped believing my own promises.
No harm done, short of raising triglycerides and adding more fluff to my frame.
And a helping of very non-generic grade regret this very early morning.

Possibly the only good thing about insomnia is that it gives me time to talk to God without so many distractions. In the frenetic pace of daily life, I get distracted easily. I pray for my family and friends, and that God will reveal His will for me for the upcoming day it to me in such a way that I won’t wonder if it is He who is sending it or just a figment of a belly full of late night cookies and some random clues. Because I can mix up the two, sometimes.

I feel my Heavenly Father nearby – the unmistakable primal presence of His – and He brings to mind one of my favorite Psalms as I pray.
“ For His anger lasts only a short time. But His favor is for life. Crying may last for a night, but joy comes with the new day.” – Psalms 30:5
A day’s trouble lasts a day, unless I invite it to stay longer. Sorrows may last through the night, but JOY comes in the morning. God says it right there: we are not designed to dread each new day, chasing after comfort in a mindless motion of quasi-momentarily satisfaction. We are made to anticipate joy in the morning, every new morning. Our mistakes from yesterday fading like yesterday’s bellyache. Forgiving benders and binges, even extending that forgiveness toward ourselves – sweeping up the crumbs and moving on.
Perhaps my anger at myself should only last a short time. Maybe there is no need for regret.
It’s now 5:30 a.m. in the Greene house and all is still dark and quiet. Even this early, God has made a thousand promises to me – offering grace, acceptance, forgiveness and love. Those are promises that all the cookies and clues in the world can’t make. His favor is for life!
This day looks pretty….promising.

Gimme Shelter – a venue for amazing grace

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By: Jana Greene

I have an addictive personality. That’s usually a bad thing, especially with substances, drink (and chocolate) but not always.

Over a decade ago, I had an encounter with Jesus like no other I’d ever experienced. I would like to say that it happened in a beautiful cathedral or in a peaceful mountain valley or by the roaring ocean. But no. It occurred on my dirty 5’x5’ dirty bathroom floor at 2:00 a.m. with my head bowed against the toilet seat.

I felt dead inside, and I knew that I was dying on the outside as well. I had known Jesus from the time I was twelve, but had not walked along side him for many years. I didn’t really need to, you see. I had it ALL under control. There were small, still whispers and glaring neon signs as I passed through on my way to  the valley of the shadow that is alcoholism, but I could usually drink them away. Not anymore.

Taking a drink would momentarily stop the shakes but would cause immediate retching. I had consumed so much alcohol on a daily (well, nightly) basis that my body required it now, and rejected it too.  Here, lying on the bathroom tile, I crawled over to lock the door so that my children wouldn’twalk in to see their mother this way.

My beautiful children. I hated myself more in that moment than ever before, because my daughters didn’t deserve this kind of mom. Even my deep love for them couldn’t get me sober. My declining health wasn’t enough motivation either. And I certainly was powerless to stop drinking, as every single day for two years I’d promised myself that I would simply NOT drink today. What can get me well? I asked God, from the cold bathroom floor.

But God was in another place. He had to be, didn’t he? He had tons of Good Christians to hang out with instead. The church-goers, the teetolers. The ones like me, who know Him but have pushed him away in favor of some pursuit, addiction or selfishness…why would He want to be present with us?

But between great wracking sobs and heaves, the room spinning like a mad carousel, I vaguely remembered reading something in the Bible years ago about God meeting you where you are.

“God,” I cried. “Oh, God. I’m calling you. I’m so sorry I’ve turned my back on you. I’m asking you to be with me and help me. Father….meet me here.” More wailing. More puking and crying. “You said you would” I whispered hoarsely. ” I remember.”

“Father! Come sit here on the floor with me, please. Please don’t leave me alone!”

I crawled over to make room for God…this God who fashioned the universe but was not too busy or big  to come sit on a dirty bathroom floor with his broken child. I felt His presence stronger than I had ever felt it before. In my sickness, I lay down with my head in the lap of Jesus and He comforted me. I knew He was there just as tangibly as any human being could have been; more so. He met me there.

“Come close to God, and God will come close to you,” said Jesus’ brother James, in the Bible. “Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.” For me, my loyalty had been divided between God and alcohol addiction. I didn’t want my Father to have to compete for my life any more.

That day was twelve years ago this month. I have been sober by His grace (one day at a time) since my encounter with Jesus on the bathroom floor all that time ago. Recovery is sometimes a cathedral-like experience and sometimes a gritty challenge. It is at times peaceful like a mountain valley and at others, as clamoring as a roaring ocean. It is messy work, always.

But Jesus still meets me where I am, in all of those places. He is so good, I tell you. I still have an addictive personality, but these days my addiction is God’s Grace. I cannot get enough of it, and I cannot tell enough people about it.

Redeemed and alive, inside and out. Sheltered by amazing grace.

In the Twelfth Year of Recovery, My Father Gave to me….

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By: Jana Greene

There is something cool about the number twelve. It makes me think of the famous recovery“steps”,  fresh, hot doughnuts – and the beloved disciples of Jesus – not necessarily in that order.  It also brings to mind the song about the twelve Days of Christmas that just passed; the lyrics of the song I never really understood, having little appreciation for Lords a’ Leaping or partridges in pear trees.

But I have all the appreciation in the world for addiction recovery, so in honor of God and His making the past 12 years possible (joy-filled, even!) I wrote a little redux. I pray it blesses you, and I look forward to living sober for my lifetime with the Father’s graceone single day at a time.

In the first year of recovery, My Father gave to me – a helping of humility.

Step 1: I admitted that I was powerless over alcohol and compulsive behaviors, that my life had become unmanageable. It was hard to admit I had zero power over a silly substance, really humiliating, actually…but in the best way possible. I had to learn how to bite off one without drinking day as it came, and then another and another – in complete surrender to God. I still approach sobriety that way.

“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” – Proverbs 11:2

In the second year of recovery, My Father gave to me – reckless, steady love, and a helping of humility.

If you don’t think you deserve to be loved, it is a hard thing to accept. But true love doesn’t come because we deserve it at all; it comes when we can’t possibly deserve it. God’s love is reckless in nature, and He wants us to learn how to love one another similarly.

“In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.” – John 12:26

In the third year of recovery, My Father gave to me –hope for a future; reckless, steady love and a helping of humility.

Oh, the mess I’d made of things. Surely I’d used up all of the favor I could reasonably be shown. Blessedly, God is not reasonable in promising hope and favor for the faithful!

“I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” – Jeremiah 29:11

In the fourth year of recovery, My father gave to me – grace through massive changes; hope for a future; reckless, steady love and a helping of humility.

Now I had some major decisions to make about my life. Some of my choices were good and healthy at this stage, and some were not good at all. Through trial and error, and floundering effort – I just didn’t drink. And I tried really trusting in the Highest Power instead of my own barometer.

“God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
He’s all I’ve got left.” – Lamentations 3:22

In the fifth year of recovery, My father gave to me – fine clarity!

Grace through massive changes, hope for a future; reckless, steady love and a helping of humility.

Life keeps happening, and without a numbing agent. Not everything that light is cast upon shows up in a rosy light. Acknowledging character defects became a priority, and remains one. By necessity. The learning curve is constant, but God loves me right where I am today. He is so awesome that way.

“But if you think that leaves you on the high ground where you can point your finger at others, think again. Every time you criticize someone, you condemn yourself. It takes one to know one. Judgmental criticism of others is a well-known way of escaping detection in your own crimes and misdemeanors. But God isn’t so easily diverted. He sees right through all such smoke screens and holds you to what you’ve done.” – Romans 2:1-2

In the sixth year of recovery, My Father gave to me – mercy overflowing; fine clarity!

 Grace through massive changes; hope for a future; reckless, steady love and a helping of humility.

When I humbly request that God remove my shortcomings, the space gets filled up with much better stuff. Love, grace, joy and mercy. (Step 7, for those who are wondering). This was a time that God stormed the shores of my life with people to love me (think the beaches of Normandy!) It still amazes me that He sends just the right people into your life with such care and mercy.

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” – John 13:34

 

In the seventh year of recovery, My Father gave to me – coping skills for living; mercy overflowing; fine clarity!

Grace through massive changes; hope for a future; reckless, steady love and a helping of humility.

Not easy living, mind you….but complete life. That is how I cope: bring it to the Highest Power. He is always available when help is needed. When I struggle to stay sober, he goes to the mat to fight for and with me.

God is a safe place to hide,
ready to help when we need him.
We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom,
courageous in sea storm and earthquake,
Before the rush and roar of oceans,
the tremors that shift mountains.

Jacob-wrestling God fights for us,
God-of-Angel-Armies protects us.” – Psalm 46:1

In the eighth year of recovery, My Father gave to mepermission to be happy; coping skills for living; mercy overflowing; fine clarity!

Grace through massive changes;  hope for a future; reckless, steady love and a helping of humility.

I love the Serenity Prayer, especially the little-known end of the Reinhold Niebuhr poem because it helps me differentiate between having joy and being happy. We all are on a quest for happiness, but sometimes reasonably happy is enough.

Trusting that You will make all things right,

If I surrender to Your will,

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,

And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Amen. And AMEN!

In the ninth year of recovery, My Father gave to me – comfort in His Presence, permission to be happy; coping skills for living; mercy overflowing; fine clarity!

 Grace through massive changes;  hope for a future; reckless, steady love and a helping of humility.

And what of the “joy” thing? It comes only from His presence, which is the most tangible when I am still and quiet; when I stop trying so hard to anticipate what He is communicating to me before my heart has a chance to have a good listen. This is sincerely a work in progress! Recovery itself is work, in progress. But there is nothing sweeter than His presence.

“Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” – Psalm 46:10

In the tenth year of recovery, My Father gave to me – acceptance through surrender; comfort in His Presence; permission to be happy; coping skills for living; mercy overflowing; fine clarity!

Grace through massive changes;  hope for a future; reckless, steady love and a helping of humility.

The only formula I know that works is:  constant, daily surrender to God + hard work you often don’t feel like doing + helping others = forward moving recovery. Sometimes it inches and sometimes it races, but giving it all to the Father is key. I am still one drink away from repeating my old, self-destructive patterns. Accountability in a group is important. Step 10: We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”– 1 Corinthians 10:12

In the eleventh day of recovery, My Father gave to me – a better perspective. comfort in His Presence; permission to be happy; coping skills for living; mercy overflowing; fine clarity!

 Grace through massive changes;  hope for a future; reckless, steady love and a helping of humility.

The human condition: assuming victory over one area of struggle only to have temptation rear its ugly head or have another struggle knock me down. It seems to happen when I least expect it and nothing I do seems right; I have a long way to go, and so much yet to learn. But when I let God pick me up, I can see a little better than when I’m wallowing around in the pit. The view just isn’t that good from there. His righteousness makes up for my weaknesses.

“God sets things right. He also makes it possible for us to live in his rightness.” – Romans 3:26

In the twelfth year of recovery, My Father is giving me – a way to pay it forward. a better perspective. Comfort in His Presence; permission to be happy; coping skills for living; mercy overflowing; fine clarity!

Grace through massive changes; hope for a future; reckless, steady love and a helping of humility.

When I was active in my disease, everything revolved around drinking. Hiding my secret was my first priority. Now – a dozen years after starting this journey – I cannot keep quiet about addiction recovery because I was lost, you see. And now I’m found.

What drinking left room for are peace, comfort, healthy relationships. A second chance to be the mother my daughters deserve and the wife my husband should have. I have to write about it, talk about it and  tell other broken people with secrets that I am broken too, but that God actually prefers to use broken people over the ones who think they have it all together. Or….as Step 12 states: Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

“That’s why we live with such good cheer. You won’t see us drooping our heads or dragging our feet! Cramped conditions here don’t get us down. They only remind us of the spacious living conditions ahead. It’s what we trust in but don’t yet see that keeps us going. Do you suppose a few ruts in the road or rocks in the path are going to stop us? When the time comes, we’ll be plenty ready to exchange exile for homecoming.” – 2 Corinthians 5:7

I am so grateful to God, because He is the Author and Finisher of my faith and my recovery. Without Him, I never would have made it a day without alcohol (and for many years didn’t.) With Him, I have hope for the future renewed every day, because it is fresh every morning and comes like my sobriety – one day at a time in full measure as I need it.

In the (first) 12 years of recovery, My Father gave to me:

A way to pay it forward

Better perspective

Acceptance through surrender

Comfort in His Presence

Permission to be happy

Coping skills for living

Mercy overflowing…

FINE CLARITY!

Grace through massive changes

Hope for the future

Reckless, steady love

And

A helping of humility.