I’m not sure if God is moving me slightly out of my comfort zone, or if he just keeps changing where “comfortable” abides in me, but He has been manifesting His love in the wildest ways lately. Like standing under a blackening sky, I find myself a bit afraid of the darkness in the world until….Look! A tiny star appears, and then another, and another. He keeps bringing points of undeniable light all around me until I am so surrounded by his obvious love, and the darkness is overpowered. I just keep bumping into light and love, utterly grateful.
One of the areas becoming new to me is praying aloud with others. Strangers. I am perfectly comfortable writing to God, writing about God, writing with the Holy Spirit guiding me. But verbally, I am not eloquent in the least. I stumble over my words and stutter in…
Years ago, a friend had given me a gift certificate for a pedicure at a local nail salon. Andrew, a nice gentleman from Vietnam, would do the dirty work – my feet were a mess. First he ran a very warm foot bath and instructed me to relax while enjoying the gentle jets.
But I was not relaxed; I became more nervous as he lined up the implements of pedicures by the side of the tub: lotions and oils, pumice stones and cuticle sticks. After a while, he lifted one foot at a time and placed it on a towel on his knee.
I’d never had a pedicure, and it was a humbling experience so far. I was so embarrassed.
Living near the beach, I had become accustomed to staying either barefoot, or in a pair of well-worn leather sandals, and the soles of my feet were…
As I approach the 15th anniversary of my continuous sobriety from alcohol, new opportunities are rising up. To tell you the truth, I’m a little scared and intimidated. And excited. Of course, I’m excited too.
God is always working on the good for those who call Him savior. He’s always brewing up, stirring up, putting things in motion.
The whole analogy as a New Year being like a re-birth is so cliche I hesitate to use it. But Abba gave me a little vision earlier this week, so as cliche as the Baby New Year thing is, I think it applies. Maybe it will encourage you to keep pushing toward what our Father is calling you into in 2016.
Hurricane Andrew made landfall on the Floridian coast the exact hour I gave birth to my Firstborn. I know this because while I was laboring to bring her into the world with no drugs whatsoever, my “focal point” was a tiny television set propped on a TV stand high on the hospital wall (this was way before flat-screen sets.)
Everyone was watching the news on August 24, 1992. Andrew came ashore as a Category 5 hurricane when it struck Dade County, Florida. We lived far from the danger in North Carolina, but the country was riveted to the powerful landfall.
I’d been ushered into the delivery room in a big rush and the nurses who had prepped the room had been watching the news had not had time enough to even turn the volume down.
My baby was coming, and she was coming fast.
Here’s what I remember, in a flurry of surreal-ness…an audio-soup of words from the doctor, encouragement from my husband, instructions from nurses, the voice of The Weather Guy, and – most importantly – what I would come to recognize as that intuition of Mother Instinct:
OhmyGod, there is NO WAY this being is going to exit my body in the manner expected, THISISIMPOSSIBLE, I cannot believe this is how babies are born and we haven’t gone extinct as a species! **Screaming, blinding, severing pain**
You’re further along than we thought! Eight centimeters already! Almost there!
FOCUS ON THE TV. In childbirth class, they told us to KEEP A FOCAL POINT. Pant, pant, pant.
…”Ladies and Gentleman, here we see the eye wall nearly making landfall. Take precautions. This is a dangerous storm…”
You can DO this! Breathe!
I can’t I can’t I CAN’T! You don’t understand I CANNOT.
You CAN! You ARE!
I cannot blink, transfixed on my Focal Point. The Weatherman cuts to live feed of Homestead, but the storm is at such a chaotic frenzy, I cannot tell what I’m looking at. The driving winds and rain make everything blurry.
Not long now!
Focal point, PANT, PANT, PUSH. Focal point, PANT, PANT. PUSHHHHH.
…”It’s official. The storm has made landfall. Here we see the eye intensifying as the storm….”
Here she comes!
Searing excruciating pain, pressure.
Good job, Mama!
…“We urge you to stay indoors, many buildings have lost their roofing…”
JESUS, HELP ME!
One more push! She is coming!
AUUGGHHHHRRRRRR! **I give it EVERYTHING!**
A RUSH. In the physical realm, in the spiritual realm! She was immediately the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. I remember being amazed that a human being just exited my BODY.
THERE SHE IS. MY DAUGHTER!
Then silence. She didn’t cry, she didn’t move. In that moment, I summoned what would become MANY a “mom prayer.” It was simply, please Jesus…please. My Spirit made utterances that my mind couldn’t comprehend, and where there were gaps in-between, Holy Spirit intervened.
There is nearly no sound in the room. The Weather Man is silent. I only hear the wind and rain from the television set.
And then her tiny cry. Music to my ears! And her wriggling little body placed on my belly. Angels are present in the room now, I swear to you. I feel their presence welcoming my daughter.
It was as if God whispered in my ear, “You can take your eyes off the storm now. LOOK! Look at her. Nothing else matters!”
My Focal Point has changed entirely, and for life.
The entire labor was three hours long, start to finish. It seemed MUCH longer, I can assure you. And there were some complications for my daughter and I. I nearly stroked out during the birth, the toxemia was not immediately relieved upon delivery as expected. She was three weeks early and had to have a little extra attention from the pediatricians.
Life is always more complicated than you hope.
But, ya’ll. The new life that came into the world as a result of the pain and pushing and impossibility…
Pain. WHAT pain? Have you seen my baby? She is a MIRACLE!
I wanted to tell everyone, “Hey, I know you THINK you know what love is, but let me tell you…..to have a baby is to REALLY know.”
Bringing it back around to the current day – 2015 has kind of a gestation year for me. I’ve kind of had my eye on the storm. It didn’t start – nor is it exiting – in quite the way I expected.
But the impossible is going to come into being. I’m claiming it. Because God is always working on the good for those who call Him savior. He’s always brewing up, stirring up, putting things in motion.
We are living in crazy, radical, extreme times. The storm is intensifying…can you feel it? Spiritually, our world is spinning in what amounts to far beyond a Category 5 storm.
Take precautions. This is a dangerous world. Yet, even in the chaotic frenzy, God is unchanged. People need to know that He is a worthy Focal Point.
Jesus is coming back, and He’s coming back fast.
My prayer for the new year is “HOLY SPIRIT, MAKE LANDFALL!”
Yep, I’m a little scared and intimidated by new opportunities. Things like public speaking and possibly giving my testimony to a national TV audience. Out of my comfort zone, just a tad. I’m giving it EVERYTHING.
I want to say to the world, “Hey, I know you think you know what love is, but to be redeemed in Christ is to REALLY know. Your Creator LOVES YOU just exactly where you are, even in the eye of the storm.”
Please pray with me that God’s voice will rise above the audio-soup of chaos in 2016, and that the hurting ones will receive it.
This piece ran in last winter’s edition of In Recovery Magazine.
I pray it blesses you, and as always – feel free to share the link.
By: Jana Greene
In the Twelve Steps of Recovery, my Higher Power gave to me . . .
There is something cool about the number “twelve.” It makes me think of the number of recovery steps; a dozen fresh, hot doughnuts; the number of beloved disciples of Jesus; and the Twelve Days of Christmas (even though that never made much sense to me – having little appreciation for a Partridge in a Pear Tree or Lords a-Leapin’).
But I do have all the appreciation in the world for addiction recovery. In my twelfth year of active recovery and in celebration of the Twelve Steps, I composed a “Twelve Days of Christmas” redux.
In the First Step of Recovery, Higher Power gave to me – a serving of humility.
Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable.
It was difficult to admit that I had zero power over a silly substance – alcohol – truly humiliating, but in the best way possible. I had to learn how to bite off one single day at a time without drinking, then another and another – in complete surrender to God. I continue to approach sobriety this way.
One of my favorite places in the whole world are the mountains of North Carolina. They aren’t sharp and pointy like the Rockies, demanding awe of their majesty. Rather, they are vast and rolling and a thousand shades of blue and purple – those Blue Ridge Mountains. And some of our favorite places to visit are not at the tops of mountains, but in the valleys or ‘gaps.’ Surrounded on all sides by massive, ancient mountains, it always gives me pause.
Little towns named for the gaps they settled in always have the most dramatic names: Deep Gap. Windy Gap. Air Billows Gap. Smoky Gap. And my favorite, Roaring Gap.
It’s called “Roaring Gap” and not “Whispering Gap” because when the winds pick up between the mountains around it, it roars.
Today I was privileged to pray for a dear friend whom I love very much. She is in a difficult situation in which there will be no easy resolution. She is scared, of course. Her anxiety is palpable, and I don’t know what magic words to tell her that will make things instantly better.
She is encountering a ‘gap’ in her life, and she just needs someone to stand in it with her, to bridge her reality with the answered prayer on the other side.
I don’t know why so much scripture describes “peace in the valley” because in between mountains can be an anxious place. Unless, I suppose, you can rest in the gap with full faith that those mountains will move.
Many of my friends right now have fallen from ‘mountaintop’ experiences and are just hurting. They cannot see a way out of the roaring, all-encompassing gaps. I pray for them, but it doesn’t seem like enough to do.
I was raised Baptist and often heard people refer to intercessory prayer as “standing in the gap” for someone. This morning, as I prayed what I felt were insufficient prayers, God reminded me of what it means to “stand in the gap” in prayer for others by giving me a visual.
(He does that for me sometimes. It is literally as if the Almighty is saying, “Dang, girl. Do I have to DRAW YOU A PICTURE!?”
Yes, Papa. Sometimes you do.)
I saw myself in a mountainous gap, worried for a friend. But I wasn’t standing.
In the vision, I am sitting cross-legged in a beautiful mountain valley and imploring God to please help my sister in need. And then I look around me and try to find routes through the foliage. I wring my hands and close my eyes, and ask the Father again for resolution. Then I start wondering what the dimensions of this gap are. Hmmm. I wonder where God IS already?
Then I look behind me and there stands my sister-in-need. She is standing upright, but just barely. She is crying into her hands and trying to keep her balance, wavering on her feet.
She just needs me to stand with her. She needs me to stop trying to figure out how to fix her problem, and just to stand with her, help hold her up, and implore God on her behalf. She is too tired and weak to do it on her own.
I like to ‘fix’ people and situations, you see. Maybe you do too. Or maybe you feel your prayers are insufficient.
If you have a prayer language, use it. Think of your friend and her needs and her heart, and let the words flow, echo off the mountains they are facing.
(If you don’t have a prayer language, ask God to give you one. It’s not as spooky as it sounds and is incredibly intimate. He wants to fill you with those words you cannot even understand!)
If your sister is sad, hunker down and be sad with her. But prayerful always. God can fix what she is going through.
God doesn’t expect us to survey the gap…or question WHY is this gap here? Who left the gate open?
He just expects us to stand in it. He expects us to stand firm on the promise that He is still at the helm. However much we love our suffering friends, He loves them infinitely more.
Fill that gap with prayerful petition to Christ on behalf of your sister. One day, her struggle will be behind her like one of those endless and beautiful ancient ridges of blue mountains.
And just stand there, even in the roaring.
Lord God Almighty,
So many of my friends are hurting. Their spirits are wounded, and they are standing, but just barely. Help me to stand with them. Give me the words in this otherworldly language to plead their cases before you. Waste not ONE BIT of their struggle, but lend them comfort in the midst of it. Hold them, Abba. Douse them in your Love. Remind them that you are faithful.
“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.” – (The Great) Erma Bombeck
By: Jana Greene
Once upon a time, there was a girl who wanted to do a lot of things. But while she was waiting until she had time to do them, she did other things. She became a woman who did lots of important life work:
She became a mother and raised children.
She fell in love and got married.
She wrote a lot of poetry read a lot of books.
She even wrote a few.
She held several full-time jobs at one time or another.
She served in church.
Pretty standard fare.
Then, one by one, many of the manifestations of importance in her life grew up and moved on, fell away, or got too messy to maintain.
As things left, she sought new things to do. But she couldn’t remember what her inner little girl had dreamt of doing in the first place, when she finally had the time to consider it.
The messed up part of her says “Bah! All of it was frivolous and time-wasting. Better you don’t remember those dreams. And especially don’t ACT on the ones you do remember. Time is precious, don’t waste it.”
But her truest identity as Daughter of the King won’t be shushed for exactly that reason….time is precious.
Now, in midlife, she is finding that she has been considering God from a place of paralysis….so afraid to do the wrong thing, she does nothing at all.
“What if I fail?” She asks. “I’m too old to start over.”
Take action, God says. I will bless it if it’s the right thing, and if you are wavering and need to be corrected, I will restore gently. Either you win or you learn, but operate from a place of Love and move. Step out.
Time is only finite, but here’s the thing….it bends to the Creator.
In the tenderest places in her soul – the ones where the King keeps as storehouse for that crazy Grace of His – He keeps reminding her of the truth.
That she is kin to The Dream-Maker Himself, and is more than free to ask Him for new dreams. He delights in His children!
That she is still on a mission, with the benefit of experience to move forward expecting great things.
That this season is a time for exploring and listening, not being plagued with identity crisis. Satan is the author of confusion and the enemy of clarity.
That she is not ‘past her prime’ and done with her purpose until she stops asking “What’s next, Papa?” He placed the dreams in her heart for a purpose in every life stage.
That even though the world has gone mad, God keeps her full of Grace on every occasion. He does not finance her life in a deficit.
That it’s not too late. It’s never too late!
Do the things, Daughter! Do them with joy.
I have come that you have life to the FULL.
Once upon a time there was a woman approaching 50 years of age, and God gave her a little extra time to figure out who she really is.
In this new season, she is grateful for that.
Time is finite. Lord Jesus, help me to make my portion count. Let me use up everything you give me, every bit of talent.
Another creative genius, another casualty to drugs. On this occasion, Scott Weiland – front man for Stone Temple Pilots – breathed his last on December 3rd. Sadly, his family had already been in mourning for years.
As usual, there is almost a tone of glorification in the reverberations of his passing. He was a creative giant, so the natural progression of his ‘going down in a blaze of glory’ is sort of a sick, societal expectation.
Sex, drugs and Rock n’ Roll, right? Right?
Not at the expense of living.
Not if death is the consequence. The price is too high.
According to his ex-wife Mary Forsberg Weiland, the musician claimed atheism as his belief system (or lack thereof) but I counter with the assertion that he served the little “g” god of addiction, perhaps without knowing it.
What a greedy god addiction is! It promises glorification of self while taking a razor to self, and making you too numb to notice it’s happening.
But it’s happening every day. We are losing music and art all the time.
Addiction can be a religion all its own. There is ritual sacrifice involved. But death does NOT have to be the natural progression of an addicted life.
Or as Mary says, “Let’s choose to make this the first time we don’t glorify this tragedy with talk of rock and roll and the demons that, by the way, don’t have to come with it.”
I’m not a Stone Temple Pilot fan per se, but I’m posting today just to encourage you to read Mary’s letter, which was published in Rolling Stone and has been widely shared. In it, she implores us all not to glorify his death, but instead to recognize addiction for what it really is – a void-maker.
Don’t celebrate the demons. They only ever bring loss and death to the cultural landscape and to the families who grieve.
“…But at some point, someone needs to step up and point out that yes, this will happen again – because as a society we almost encourage it. We read awful show reviews, watch videos of artists falling down, unable to recall their lyrics streaming on a teleprompter just a few feet away. And then we click ‘add to cart’ because what actually belongs in a hospital is now considered art.”
Today I melted Godiva chocolate chips in the microwave, threw in a little vanilla extract and a can of sweetened condensed milk. I don’t know exactly what happened. I unintentionally made fudge, I guess.
I’m not proud of this.
I have been putting out Christmas decorations all day, all by myself. I am a brand new empty-nester, and there isn’t anyone to help me decorate in the spirit of family tradition. I guess that makes me a little sad.
I’m supposed to be eating healthier, and I WAS eating healthier since this morning when I made myself a green smoothie for breakfast. Green smoothies make you feel invincible, like if you literally cram enough spinach in your almond milk and bananas, you can leap tall buildings in a single bound. In reality, it does help you go to the bathroom, which can be no less impressive.
Anyway, I smugly sipped on my green smoothie all morning, giving myself mental high fives for being such a HEALTH NUT for drinking one shake. I was on my way to a slimmer, healthier, more attractive, less jiggly ME and this shake would so satiate me that I will give carbs in all their delicious varieties wide berth for the rest of the day.
And then I opened the pantry and saw a little can with this happy little cow’s face. She looks like she just took a lot of really effective drugs, but no …. she has been dipping into the sweetened condensed milk, and I’ll tell you how I know.
Because sweetened condensed milk tastes like hopes and dreams.
The next thing I know, I am standing at the kitchen sink crying a little about my empty nest and consoling myself with the same sweet nectar that makes Elsie the Cow look like she just won the lottery on the label. I’d dip the spoon into the melted Godiva chocolate…consider the lonely affair of putting up lights by myself and cry just a little……dip the spoon into the sweetened condensed milk…..feel my eyes go back in my head in rapt pleasure.
Lather, rinse, repeat. Until I have a really bad chocolate goatee and a sugar rush to end all sugar rushes.
“MAKE THE FUDGE,” one part of my brain implored. “You can save face if you just make fudge!” So I did, to avoid eating the whole gooey mess with my fingers. Fudge is a very acceptable thing to make at Christmas time, right?
The other part of my brain said, “NO! STOP! Your green smoothie was all for naught if you don’t stop mainlining sweetened condensed milk like a sugar fiend. THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU”RE DOING. Remember how fat you felt at the Christmas party last night? Green smoothies didn’t get you that way. THIS BEHAVIOR makes you feel miserable”
That particular part of my brain got super dissed today. I made the fudge. I licked the spoon. AND the bowl.
I washed away all the evidence in the sink, but I’m blogging about it here because I need to be honest. Although I wouldn’t call it a binge exactly, I WAS temporarily possessed by a cartoon cow on a label and gave in to my baser, fudgier instincts.
And I need to be accountable, right?
Tomorrow is a brand new day with green smoothie possibilities galore. Thank God for second helpings, er….second chances.
They come from all walks of life and every background.
The people you meet at Christmas.
They love, hate, dread or excitedly anticipate Christmas. They are us, full of the spirit or full of ourselves.
Here is sampling of the Five people you might meet at Christmastime:
“My ornaments are so last year.”
Stuff, stuff and more stuff. Black Friday? Not for these guys and gals. Why wait when you can blacken Thanksgiving evening? Christmas is packages, boxes and bags. So much to DO! Genuine givers they may be, but the baby Jesus gets a little lost in the shuffle of shopping and wrapping. In the extravagance of perfectly decking the halls, it is easy to forget that the son of God was born in a simple stable surrounded by livestock. It’s very easy to forget when retailers break out the red and green before the Labor…
As I approach fifteen years of continuous sobriety from alcohol (still, always, one day at a time and glory to God) I find myself in a pensive mood…going through old writings from earlier recovery and taking a deeper look into the challenges and triumphs of a life where my drug of choice doesn’t call the shots.
This is a journal entry from my 22nd month of sobriety.
Although YouTube didn’t exist at the time (or if it did, I surely didn’t know it) I’ve added some adorable videos to illustrate each point.
Just for fun (because recovery IS fun!)
I pray it blesses you today. As always, feel free to share the link.
God bless us, every one.
I just love elephants.
Before the first elephant had been brought into America, legend says that the gentleman importing it tried to describe the animal to his community. If you’ve never seen an elephant, it would be hard to picture one in your head from someone else’s description.
People simply could not comprehend that such a thing existed before they saw it themselves. I just couldn’t imagine a recovery life existed.
I have 22 months of sobriety today – exactly as long as it takes a mother elephant to gestate and deliver a brand new elephant into the world.
Yes, recovery is like a baby elephant.
It needs it’s unit to survive, others of its tribe. It has a tendency to wander, but must not separate from the herd for it’s own safety.
There are threats to its very life, but staying with it’s tribe helps ensure it will grow up healthy and strong.
It requires nursing and attention. Not giving it adequate care increases the chances that it will follow in its brethern’s deep footsteps… the “Elephant in the Living Room” that I walked around and pretended wasn’t there in active disease. That elephant’s name is Denial. It left piles of shit for me to clean up or step over.
It tried to trample my dreams of writing. Of hoping. Of living.
It comes into the world larger-than-life, and keeps growing: Recovery must take up a lot of space in my life, that’s just the nature of countering the disease. Go big or go home.
Before you know it you’ll have the brawn and tusks and wisdom to live life on life’s terms.
It is a little clumsy and awkward at times: Who cares? We all stumble! It’s all part of learning.
The more you stand back up, the more balance you invite, and the steadier you get on your feet.
It’s playful: The thing I didn’t expect about sobriety is that it is FUN. It likes to be silly and whimsical. Alcohol deadened my playfulness, and stifled my big personality. Recovery meetings are sometimes somber affairs, but they shouldn’t be only somber.
Being clean and sober is a special opportunity to channel your inner youngster – the one you tried so hard to numb.
It is sensitive and tender: Elephants are one of the only animals that cry actual tears. From my expertise (which consists completely of watching a lot of nature documentaries) the mighty beasts are very sentimental.
They are very emotional, especially when SET FREE from a lifetime of bondage!
It is also STRONG and able: A healthy one can come up against almost any obstacle and display appropriate assertiveness to protect it.
Yep. Recovery is a lot like a baby elephant.
Before we experienced recovery, people tried to describe it to us. But if you’ve never endeavored on the road yourself, it might be hard to picture it from someone else’s description.
Can you comprehend that such a thing exists?
Oh, and your new recovery is also full of surprises …