Resurrecting the Bakery – a blog revival

Beggars

By: Jana Greene

Hello, dear readers.

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged; the longest span of time in the six year history of The Beggar’s Bakery.  In the interim, I began another blog, “So She Laughed Anyway,” which takes on issues with a humorous bent. I think I’ve only posted three posts to it. It has been a dry season, writing-wise.

But here in a difficult place, I find myself needing to write again. And I think I need to do so often, as writing things down seems to relocate my thoughts to a better, less scary, neighborhood. The challenge to myself is to write a blog post every day, for 60 days. I am prayerful that God gives me material with which to work, but chances are good some of the posts might be drivel. If I go off the rails, please be patient with me. I will get my mojo back at some point.

What has been happening since last we met? A lot. A whole lot.

Over the past two years especially, my heart has been in religion deconstruction mode. In crisis with my health, I came face to face with the issue of trying to relegate the personal Jesus I know with the dogma of the Church Proper, and Jesus came out on top. I questioned everything I’d ever been taught, took a historical and contextual look at the Bible, and prayed that the very Spirit of God would reveal truth to me. I plan on touching on this process in the days to come. Much like any worthwhile endeavor, the process has not been linear. In reconstructing my entire faith, I feel like I might be able to tell others “where to find bread” again. But it won’t be white-washed and it won’t be fundamentalist Christianity. It will be Truth.

The aforementioned illness is a trifecta of health issues that are slowly causing me to lose mobility, and constantly causing me pain. Every day. Pain, in one form or another. I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, POTs, and Mast Cell Activation Disease, severe and recurrent migraines, along with lots of other disorders and diseases. I just call it “Alphabet Soup Disorder” to save time. Lots of acronyms. Some of my genes are mutated, I am only grateful that neither of my children seems to have inherited these issues.

So, suffice to say, I am home a lot. I am by myself a lot. This necessity has proven to be both a benefit and a curse. It’s a sticky wicket, because the more isolated I become, the more depressed I get, and the more depressed I become, the less I want to physically be with my friends, because sick people can be a real drag.

There are two of me these days.  There is the sick me, who seems to be taking over some days. She is whiny, sad, hopeless, and in horrible pain; and there is the REAL me, who loves to laugh, be silly, encourage people, and travel. The real me is clawing her way back, but it seems that each time I gain a little foothold on the side of the wellness cliff, another boulder comes tumbling down. Sounds dramatic, right? Well, it feels dramatic.

It’s been a dramatic year for my family. A very difficult time. Yet I still haven’t taken a drink, and for that I am proud and very grateful.

I’ve begun a new hobby recently that has been a stepping stone to writing again. I’ve discovered abstract art, and the therapy of painting. A pretty good gauge of my mental health is the amount of paint on my person. The days I am up to my elbows in acrylics are the days that I started off sad and scared, and in some degree of physical and mental pain – and ended up creating something colorful that cheers me.

So, I am setting a goal to blog every day for two months, but I’m not going to set it in stone. I am fantastic at setting unrealistic expectations of myself. I’m going to try to write here or at SoSheLaughedAnyway.com each day, even when nothing I have to say is earth-shattering. I need to get back in the habit, even if not one single person reads my stuff.

There will be “brain droppings” (as the late, great George Carlin called random musings) about recovery, chronic illness, spiritual growth, and the general absurdity of life; and literally God only knows what else.

There will be posts with what some might consider controversial subject matter. There will be potty words. There will be transparency about my relationship with God, which looks almost nothing like it used to, but in a good way. There will be randomness.

Oh, so much randomness.

If you’re one of the 1,950 subscribers to The Beggar’s Bakery, I am so grateful for you. Thanks for sticking around. ❤ Please consider following “So She Laughed Anyway” on WordPress as well.

If you’re new, welcome to the jungle!

My goal is simple: Do life honestly, and share the journey.

God bless us, every one.

 

A Prayer for the Hallway – Faith in the in-between

 

casa-ceramica-optical-illusion-tiles-1-1

By: Jana Greene

Lots of people say that starting a thing is the hardest part, but I beg to differ. To me, the hardest part is when you’ve done all the things to put yourself on the right track, but it seems forces are conspiring against you.

Paranoid? Maybe. True? Certainly.

When you’ve changed your lifestyle to a healthy one, but have hardly lost an ounce over the course of weeks. I don’t know about you, but it was my intention to have a window opened to me when I said goodbye to pleasures like sugar and carbs. When I’m stuck in limbo, my Inner Jana really just wants to say, “Well, screw it! I tried! Back to the Haagen Dazs!”

And in matters much more important…

When you’ve chosen to step out in faith but doors are not exactly opening up to you.

When you are expecting God to part the Red Sea but He isn’t making a way for you like you’d trusted. He is doing it some other way – even though you clearly instructed Him to please come through.

Getting started isn’t always the hardest thing. Sometimes the hardest thing is to KEEP going.

Here’s another thing a lot of people say:

“When God closes a door, he opens a window.” To which I’d like to add – “but it’s HELL in the hallway!”

The hallway is the perfect place for giver-uppers to give up; trust me, I know.

In the hallway, the light is often busted. You cannot see a way out, no matter where you turn. Where’s that window again, God?

In the hallway, our hearts hurt. It’s a lonely, unforgiving place. It can easily feel like no one even knows you’re missing.

In the hallway, you feel vulnerable, like Eve when she discovered she was naked. Just you and your Maker in this strange place of neither here-nor-there.

It seems like the long hallway will never end at times. You walk and walk, and the hall just stretches ahead like a mirage. I mean, sometimes it REALLY just goes on and on.

The hallway seems like a TERRIBLE place to rest! Right beyond a locked door and with no other exits clearly marked. But “rest” is what we are supposed to do in the damn Hallway, I think.

The hallway can be a purgatory-esque place of extreme anxiety building and extreme faith building, in that order.

Here’s the thing about hallways, though. They always lead to somewhere.

Some of the longest, darkest hallways I’ve had to camp in on have been great places to wait it out and wait on God. Not COMFORTABLE places, mind you. But pretty good incubators for learning to truly trust, even when you cannot imagine what the future holds.

When I went through a divorce in the early 2000’s, I experienced a stint in one of the loneliest hallways of all time. Formerly a mom who worked from home, I had to go out and get four part-time jobs to care and feed for my kids. We had nobody else. For a period of a couple of years, I stayed in “fight or flight” mode, to the extent that I’m pretty sure I crashed my spiritual hard drive. I had shut a door that badly needed shutting, only to find that my circumstances got more difficult before they got any better (and they did.)

When I quit drinking, deciding to quit was not the hardest part. The hardest part was on Day 11 and 105 – random times when I’m just minding my own sober business and the shit hits the fan and I’m caught unaware by the drama. The only thing that got me through sober was the faith result of spending untold time in the hallway.

And now, with my janky health problems and chronic “I’m not sure what I want to do when I grow up” (I’m nearly 50…) state, I find myself in yet another corridor, waiting for God to open my window and trusting that when He does, it won’t be on the 21st floor.

I’m preaching to myself as well as anyone else! I’m struggling, ya’ll. That’s why I’m writing about this phenomenon, hoping to pull myself AND you up with the hope that God is indeed working on things, even when nothing changes on the surface.

Had I not sat in that lonely place of in-between for so long, I wouldn’t have known how to survive life on life’s terms. The Hallway isn’t really a Hell, but a changing room.

A portal to accepting GRACE.

I will keep pressing through the hallway if you will!

Until we come out the other side, please join me in this prayer. ❤

Dear Papa God,

I feel like I’m in between. In between things and people and places. I’m ready for the glorious answers to prayer, but I know that you ONLY have my best interest at heart and have wonderful things stored up for me just beyond the open window. Thank you for changing things in your perfect time, instead of my time – which is seen through such a limited scope. Help us to be patient in the hallways, when we feel lonely, lost, scared, or anxious. Thanks for camping out in the hallways WITH us. What a wonderful thing for a Father to do. Holy Spirit, instill in me the faith to keep on keepin’ on, every day, with assurance that YOU are faithful.

Amen.

 

When we got Nothin’, we Still have Hope

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By: Jana Greene

“You haven’t posted to The Beggar’s Bakery in a while…”

“The Beggar’s Bakery hasn’t gotten any new likes.”

“It’s been a while since your readers have heard from you.”

Such are the multitude of notices I’m getting that remind me I haven’t blogged in a while.

I’M SORRY, FACEBOOK OVERLORDS. I GOT NOTHIN’.

For six months, I’ve been writing a book about recovery. It hasn’t left any time and / or creative juice residue with which to write other things. Writing a book is stressful, but not nearly as stressful as surviving all the things that become material for the book. Right now, things are tough.

The book is all about the fierceness of the recovery life, whether that recovery be from drugs and alcohol or shitty childhoods, or bad relationships, or poor self-image. It is in fact titled “FIERCE Recovery.” But I am not feeling particularly fierce these days, you see.

I think maybe I am fierce in the same way as my fat house cat, who has delusions of grandeur that he is a big, scary panther, when in reality he is scared of the vacuum cleaner. We love him dearly, so he gets to live out his fantasy and we all pretend that he is super badass.

I AM fierce. I am strong.  But sometimes I’m delusional about what that means. Any thread of self-glory in those statements is being unraveled like a sweater. I’m naked underneath, but the thread keeps being pulled. Part of my fierceness is being exposed as vulnerability. Vulnerability can dangerous, but no more so dangerous than we are to ourselves when he hurt. Depression is a bitch.

But still, we have hope, because it’s a gift that is not the enemy’s to take. It’s not even OURS to withhold from ourselves.

I think my own personal free fall began with the death of a dear friend’s daughter from a heroin overdose. She was not just a friend’s daughter, but a young woman who I’d watched grow up alongside my kids and struggle with drugs. I had the distinct honor to “mentor” this girl for many of her recovery years, and came to love her.

My city is the “opiate capital” of the East Coast. Overdoses are commonplace. People are dying – mothers, fathers, daughters, sons. It is becoming “normal” to hear that someone I know directly or indirectly owe their lives to Narcan now.  Every day I hear of another overdose death, and every single time it brings my heart back to the girl who didn’t mean to die, but didn’t know how to live without her drug.

In other news, the suicide rate is skyrocketing. We were all sad to hear of Chef Anthony Bourdain’s passing, but how much more devastating are the lives lost in our own friend and family circles? People I love very much are being hospitalized for depression. Beautiful human beings are considering taking their own lives, choosing a permanent “solution’ to temporary problems. (Note: ALL problems here on planet Earth are temporary! It’s a universal law that things ALWAYS get better!)

Its as if two of the four horses of the apocalypse – suicide and drugs  – have decided to trample the human race under sharp, deadly hooves. We are all so tired.

But we cannot ourselves afford to tire of pulling each other out of the way, when people are hurting so badly.  But damn, it’s overwhelming.

Maybe it’s not so important that I fit the definition of FIERCE.  Perhaps I don’t need to feel like I have all the answers before I feel worthy to write a blog that says “I’m struggling. You?”

Maybe FIERCE is simply keeping the faith anyway. Maybe ‘fierce’ is just not drinking, and instead writing all of your janky and desperate thoughts and publishing them to a blog that other people might be able to relate to.

Maybe that’s why I’m supposed to write this piece because Facebook wouldn’t get off my back. Maybe we all need reminding that there is hope.

So long has we have a shred of hope, we cannot count ourselves spiritually bankrupt. Sometimes a direct hit right in the delusions of grandeur can shake hopelessness loose and release our inner Big Scary Panthers. Those badasses are all about survival.

The world would be a different place if people understood that they are precious to a loving God, who adores them just the way they are. Still a difficult place, but not a hopeless one.

That means you. He loves YOU.

“I got nothin'” has, in prior times of struggle, been enough for God to work with. Empty of all suggestions to make to God in order for things to work out the “right” way, we just ‘are.’ We stand in need of the one thing we cannot ourselves manufacture – HOPE. We are empty of answers, and desperate for his intervention.

If I’ve got nothin’, my hands are free to pull others up off the ground. They are free to hold tight to God’s promises.

So if you are reading this and your heart is despondent, just know that you’re not alone.

I won’t drink if you won’t!

I won’t give up, if you don’t!

Please don’t lose hope – you are loved.

Vulnerability is okay. We can be badasses in need of help. That’s not an oxymoron!

Take my hand and I’ll pull you out from under the stampeding horses.

And then when you can get on your feet,  YOU take someone else by the hand and pull them out, too.

Because when we got nothin’, that is everything.

Romans 5:4-5 [Full Chapter]

“There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!” – (MSG)

 

If you are overwhelmed, please reach out for help!

SUBSTANCE ABUSE AND MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES ADMINISTRATION

1-800-662-HELP (4357)

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE

1-800-273-8255

NATIONAL ALLIANCE ON MENTAL HEALTH

1-800-950-NAMI (6264)

 

 

 

The Beggar’s Bakery is Six Years Old!

six

By: Jana Greene

Holy cow! It just dawned on me that this blog is six years old today. I remember the first week I started writing, 45 people (all friends and family) followed it. I was positively astounded that 45 people would care to read what I had to say. Even though some of them were related to me. 😉

Six years later, I’m astounded that nearly 2,000 people follow this blog. I finally feel like the training wheels are coming off, and it’s a beautiful feeling of gratitude and adventure.

From the (now) cringe-worthy first posts, to the gut-spilling TMI special editions, one thing is responsible for keeping it going:

YOU.

I cannot thank you enough for your readership, your comments, your sweet messages. I’m grateful and humbled by it all.

There are some really, really big changes and news in the coming weeks, and I can’t wait to share it with each of you! I have to keep a lid on it for right now, but stay tuned!

To celebrate the birthday of the blog, I welcome your input going forward.

What content do you most enjoy reading? The main categories are:

Spirituality

Addiction recovery

Marriage / family

Humor

Grace

Feel free to comment and let me know!

And again, thank you for following me.

You guys are the BEST.

Blessed are Those who Hunger for Social Justice and Spit out the Subterfuge (Part IIII of The Beatitude Series)

Justice.jpg

By: Jana Greene

I gave birth to liberal children.

There, it’s out now (Haha! Whew! What a relief to just SAY it, and put it out there into the UNIVERSE!)

I’m kidding of course. I am very, VERY proud of the strong, young women grew up to be. Nearly everyone in the world could be labeled ‘liberal,’ some ‘conservative,’ but most fall in the spectrum in between.

Labels. Labels. Labels. Oh how we just LOVE labeling people. And the act of doing so is SO not of God.

For the record (and all labeling purposes) I am a moderate – and a moderate with libertarian leanings at that. I apologize to no one. Let’s just get those nasty ‘ol labels out of the way and God bless America and all that.

It bothers me less and less that my kids’ lean to the left, because the older I get, the more I understand how social justice matters to GOD.

Here are the complicated instructions I gave my kids growing up: “Form your own ideas based on what you know, and grow up to CARE about people are treated.”

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that they did.

Here’s my honest account of social justice (and those who supposedly hunger and thirst for righteousness):

To this white, middle-aged woman, I used to think of social justice as a phase of American history in which there were blatant abuses and  involuntary segregation and horrible injustices done to people for no other reason than they had more melanin in their skin tone than others. But thank GOD, a man named Martin Luther King came and was the fairest, true-ist man in all the land, and he and his brave and peaceful soldiers of equality rid the world of social injustice so that we could all live in a world where everyone was equal and valued as such. The end.

(I didn’t say it was accurate, I said it was what we were taught. At my particular high school, the black kids were the popular kids, so I had no other perspective to view it from. It was certainly not applicable to every black child in America.

Here’s the thing: We all believe fundamentally that we are right. But statistically, we cannot POSSIBLY all be right all the time. Where are you wrong? I’m wrong about a lot of things.

And as I said, it was the history through the eyes of a white, middle-aged white woman who was educated in ’80’s era Texas and who then – and now – have multitudes of dear friends of every race, color, and creed.

As evidenced by our current political and socioeconomic climate, it ain’t over, obviously. And there is no way of getting around it – liberally or conservatively – it is an issue important to our fully-just Father.  I cannot fathom a subject more near and dear to his heart than how his children treat eachother.

It’s easy to resort to quoting the Bible verses we’ve all come to know (and be kind of confused by:) “Blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness,  because it is they who will be satisfied!” Matthew 5:6 (NIV)

or, as The Message translates the verse: You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.”

Oh, THIS. Yes, the eating and drinking  analogy. Now , THAT’ll preach!

True justice is the best meal you’ll ever eat?  That goes right alongside drinking of the water that will make you never thirst again. That’s satiation. That’s fullness. That’s true and just satisfaction.

So as I’ve been trying to figure out for weeks how to write this piece, God has given me the word “truth’ over and over.

“Yeah, I get it, God. Truth is part and parcel to justice, and there can be no justice without there being absolute truth. But you see, we here are sorely lacking in thine ultimate truth-o-meter, as we have only our senses with which to mitigate it. Think about it. Most of we humans determine justice by perspective.

The hard part here is determining how we understand justice:

Our own sense of right and wrong (which is subjective).

And our physical senses – what we see here with our gelatinous eyeballs and selective hearing. What we touch, which may vary from person to person. What we taste, which is literally a matter of personal taste; and by what we feel – physically or emotionally.

All these weeks that God has been telling me “write about truth in justice and the blessing therein” I couldn’t complete  writing this piece because I felt something was missing.

I’d been missing the second word he’d told me to write about this morning out of a dead sleep  (and at 2 a.m., thanks, God – your ways are not our ways nor is your timing ours!)

SUBTERFUGE. The key to understanding true just ice is cutting through all of the crap that is subterfuge.

sub·ter·fuge
ˈsəbtərˌfyo͞oj/
noun
noun: subterfuge; plural noun: subterfuges
  1. deceit used in order to achieve one’s goal.
    synonyms: trickery, intrigue, deviousness, deceit, deception, dishonesty, cheating, duplicity, guile, cunning, craftiness, chicanery, pretense, fraud, fraudulence

    “the use of subterfuge by journalists”
    trick, hoax, ruse, wile, ploy, stratagem, artifice, dodge, bluff, pretense, deception, fraud, blind, smokescreen;
    informational, scam
    “a disreputable subterfuge”

There is truth and justice. And then there is subterfuge.  Everything else that is not God’s righteousness is subterfuge. 

The problem being that subterfuge is also highly subjective. What may offend you may not offend me.

But what offends God should offend us all. That’s the hard part because we’ve had so many things chiseled into our minds that God HATES. But God, by his very nature, LOVES.

(Hey, I didn’t claim to answer all the world’s problems, I’m just saying God gave me a word at 2 a.m. and told me to share it, so if ONE single reader has an epiphany through this piece, my work here is done!)

Blessed are those who truly hunger for righteousness; whatever that righteousness looks like to Almighty God, fair in all of his dealings and loving in all of his ways. I think Martin Luther King understood that.

Care about how people are treated, and you cannot go wrong.

Blessed – that state of BEING, not state of FEELING – are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Blessed are we who grow up to be people who CARE about other people.

Only God knows every truth that constitutes every justice. But BLESSED are we who work up a good appetite for the Giver of those Truths – God. He truly satisfies.

It’s not necessarily the “figuring out” what is just and un-just (although we should certainly strive to) but the thirsting for truth and justice that releases His power like no other sense we can manufacture on our own. Maybe we can all start by admitting  “hey, this was my perception growing up.” Maybe it’s really important to listen to one another.

Subterfuge would love to keep us all silent.

Let us selah on this, God.

For a day, and for a lifetime.

 

 

 

 

Letter to my Sister – I love you forever

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KK, you drew this for me when you were four years old, and titled it “Big Sister, Little Sister.” You explained that we were playing ball together. It still hangs in my house to this day. It means the world to me.

By: Jana Greene

Good day, Readers.

I know I am smack-dab in the middle of writing about the Beatitudes, and taking my sweet time about contrary to what I promised because I’ve had a procedure in my head, neck, and shoulders in which 200 ccs (14 very necessary injections) had to be placed in the muscles and over the skull to prevent my migraines, and while seemingly barbaric, it helps my headaches immensely. I’ve been in a lot of pain; pain that is not conducive to creativity. That is why I have not continued the Beatitude Series (I am still working on #4 – the sense of justice – but I had this dream last night and when I woke, I knew I had to write it. So I interrupt this Beatitude Series to write about the dream I just had. It may cause a family shit-storm (if any of my estranged family reads my work), and I sincerely hope not. That is not my intent.

My intent is to tell my sister, who was born when I was 16, that I love her.

KK,

I had a dream about you last night. It isn’t the first that I’ve had about you, but it was by all means the most vivid, I need to share it with you because I felt your actual spirit while in my dream-state.

I’m going to start by telling you the beginning of the dream, because that is the natural set-up to the last scene is the normal way to write it. But we’ve never been normal, and why start now? Besides, the last scene was the one I woke up crying to.

I snuck in the house because my name is officially mud forever and ever amen to that side of the family, for telling the truth.

But you took a risk, although you were angry about it. You’d been crying and I could tell you were equal parts happy to see me and supremely pissed, I could tell because your eyes become particularly green when you are in this state, and the contrast to your gorgeous red hair becomes even more striking.

There was an urgency for me to tell you what I came to say, because other family members were on their way to kick me out, so I took that beautiful face of yours that I’ve been in love with since you were a baby and held it in my hands.

I told you I still love you and think of you every day, even after six or seven years. I told you I was SO proud of the successes you’ve achieved – which are extraordinary by anyone’s estimation. I told you I’m sorry that you don’t like to be hugged anymore and I hope that’s not because of our split – you had graduated from high school, and you loved hugs until then. I explained that I was just trying to stay sober and help other people stay sober by writing honest, not cause a rift. But rifts are sometimes a by-product of honesty.

I told you I’m sorry that my honesty splintered the family, but mostly because the splintering from you and your brother broke my heart anew every day I wake up.

Before that scene, the dream was a mix of Clockwork Orange surrealism and Freudian saturation, as usual.

It ended with our mom saying you got a tattoo, and it was my fault. It was a portrait of someone I didn’t know, and the person in the tattoo had a third eye, the all-seeing eye. She made you have a cover up of that third eye, because it somehow threatened your safety.  She was very upset about it.

And I was very upset by her presence because I know my own mother pretty much deplores me, and I didn’t want to make thing harder on you. I never meant to make things harder on you.

She chased me away and said to never come back. That I was upsetting everyone in the household.

But I got to hold your face in my hand even though you disliked being touch, so it was all worth it.

Earlier in the dream, you avoided me and I followed you room to room. The rooms were all a mess full of naked mannequins and old cell phones (take THAT, Dr. Frued) and I couldn’t find my phone but I kept trying. I needed to tell Bob where I was.

My sister, my first baby,

I know you think that some secrets are better left unsaid. It left you in an unenviable position to choose loyalty between your father and I. After my story came out, I remember you posting that some secrets should remain unsaid. Then you unfriended me, and I couldn’t really blame you. Although in your line of work, I was surprised to hear you give voice to that sentiment, but I understand it was primal.  You don’t get any more primal than that.

And for that, I’m very sorry. But I’m not sorry for writing true (and, truth be told, the extreme sanitized version of events.) I’m only sorry for hurting you and losing you in the process.

But my truth is my truth, and my childhood is part of what made me who I am – anxiety-ridden, feeling responsible for the adults in the house, worrying that my issues were swept under the rug in the name of keeping things nice-nice. I grew up feeling like a mistake that everyone was just trying to make the best of, and I’ve got scars, too. You were a much-wanted baby, I don’t expect you to understand.

Because you were my first baby, my girl, another truth be told.

When you were born, mom went through a hard time, and I hoisted you up on my hip and took you every where I went with my new-found driver’s license. There were rumors that you were mine, and I didn’t discourage them, because to my mind, you were the love of my life and every single thing you did was cause celeb. I simply could not get enough of you, dear one. I’d never known love like that before. So….

I’d love to hold your face in my hands one more time and tell you I’m sorry how all of this has effected you and your brother. I don’t feel that I can safely do that because others would insert themselves in the process and that would be more damaging than healing – on both our parts.

I would tell you I was sorry. I would tell you that I love you, and never stopped, and that I’m so freaking proud of you, but not just for your career accomplishments….for your strength, too.

I love you, always.

The Beggar’s Bakery and Big, Fat Changes

By: Jana Greene

Big, fat changes are on the horizon. I can just feel it. Do you ever sense that change is afoot, yet have no earthly or Heavenly idea what that change may be? It’s 20% exciting and 80% frightening.

When I really trust God, those stats blessedly flip.

Hey, Papa? Help me to trust you ever more.

One of those things is this: I think it may be time to change the name of this blog / ministry from “The Beggar’s Bakery” to something else….I’m not sure what just yet.

The blog has been my ‘home’ for five years now; it’s my ‘baby.’ But it may be time to change the baby’s name.

The Grace Gospel has got me thinking (and un-thinking about religiosity both.) It’s ruined me, really. In the best possible way.

I no longer relate to the beggar I was the hour I first I believed. I don’t have to beg for God to love me – Jesus sealed the deal and it is finished.

I’m learning to operate in the finished work of the cross. It’s a journey, admittedly. It just seems too good to be true!

But it IS good.

It IS true.

As I prayerfully consider what to re-name it (the content will stay the same, unless / until God tells me different) I welcome suggestions and ideas from you Readers. Even keywords might prove helpful.

Big, fat changes can be scary, but they can also be the catalyst for some really awesome things. I just have to trust.

Thanks, friends.

Why a Chip isn’t ‘just a Chip’

By: Jana Greene

Greetings, readers – I want to wish each of you a very happy new year!

Earlier this week, something earth-shattering happened. I attended my 12-step home group and picked up my 16 year chip. Sixteen years! I didn’t even know they made chips in that denomination, but alas, here it is. It’s made of metal, even. Isn’t it beautiful?

16

To others, it may look like a regular token, but it’s actually much more than that. In the 16 years I’ve been in recovery from alcoholism, I cherish picking up every single one each year. From the blue, plastic surrender chip that began the whole journey, to all of  the AA and Celebrate Recovery chips collected in between. You might wonder – what’s the big deal about a little chip?

Let me just boast about my weakness for a moment:

A chip represents an entire 365-day span of time in which I felt every single one of my pesky feelings without reaching for a drink.

It’s a keepsake that reminds me to boast on my weakness, because God’s grace is enough; it’s all I need. HIS strength comes into its own in my weakness.

It commemorates another entire trip around the sun in which my craziness did not defeat my sobriety. And my craziness can be very persistent, believe you me.

It is a tangible totem of what the Grace of Almighty God looks like.

It’s a little, round harbinger of possibility. I made it another year without picking up. I can do it again.

It’s a metal manifestation of tribal-ness. Picking up a chip is cause for rounding applause from others in the meeting (who are also feeling every pesky feeling and understand, but are doing it one day at a time, too.)

It’s a trophy for devil-slaying. And no, I don’t think I’m being a drama queen by making that statement. Seriously, ya’ll.

It’s a souvenir of a life led a little more manageably.

It is a reminder that God is still in the miracle business, because in some of the tougher years, I held on by the skin of my teeth.

What might appear to be a silly little token is so much more.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 [Full Chapter]

“Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.”

I may have wanted to drink several times over the past year, but as I hold this chip in the palm of my hand, I’m so glad I didn’t. I’m so glad that I asked God for help. I’m especially grateful that I have learned not just how to ask for help, but to ACCEPT it, as well.

It’s a big deal because it represents hope and accomplishment and another solid year of learning, and lurching, and learning again. A year of (largely) moving in a forward direction.

I am praising God for this little chip that’s not JUST a chip. Grateful.

And grateful to share these musings with you, dear readers.

God bless us, every one.

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Self Care in the New Year

butterfly

This week, I would love to explore the oft-overlooked issue of Self-Care, and what it really means to care for yourself in the tenderest way. I welcome all comments, as I’d love to start a conversation about how God figures in  your journey. Taking care of yourself isn’t just for those in recovery – I think all of us struggle with it at times. Women especially – the mothers and grandmothers and caretakers – are often expected to put their needs last. It may not be an audible and clear message, but the societal expectations buoy it up all the same. When we don’t self-care, we have nothing to pour out. God bless you in this new year!

 

By: Jana Greene

Have you ever just gotten lazy about something? Like really taking care of yourself – Mind, body and soul?

This time of year, we are all thinking about priorities. That’s all New Year’s resolutions are, right? Putting priority on one healthier endeavor and maybe letting other, less healthy habits slip down a notch or two.

For me, going to 12 Step meetings is my re-boot.

When I say I don’t have time to go, I’m suggesting to myself that I’m not worth making the time.

When I say I’m too sick or tired to go, I am opting out of an experience that may not heal my body, but will certainly be a salve to my soul.

When I want to hide away under my duvet cover and eat a box of Thin Mints instead of going to a meeting, well …. that should be a big, red flag.

I was raised with the notion that you don’t want to think too highly of yourself, and I get that. I understand why that is a slippery slope – God is God and I am not. I’m not talking about being self-righteous or pious. Any righteousness I might have certainly doesn’t stem from my own actions, but by the willingness to surrender my will to God’s. That’s not what I’m talking about at all.

I’m talking about how easy it is find your own heart and mind and spirit on the bottom rung of the priority ladder. You may not even notice the slippage happening. You may have been too busy caring for everyone else to see it. You may have stacked up box after box of codependency to reach your top priorities. Without a basis of loving self-care, it will topple and take you with it.

I’m terrible at self-care, true self-care. I’m really good at showing myself love by giving into it’s appetites. Isn’t that what care is about? If I want a cookie, I want the box. If I want to treat myself to something on Amazon, 10 things end up in my basket. Stay up late to watch “Call the Midwife” on Netflix? ALL NIGHT LONG.

Somewhere my psyche learned to equate moderation with deprivation.

If one is good, twelve is better. Except for that’s hardly ever true.

“Self-Care” that makes you feel awful afterward is not self-care. This may seem rudimentary, but this morning as I write this post, it’s kind of an epiphany to me.

I’ve gotten lazy with self-care, cheapening it. Worse, when someone I love needs help or care, I’ve got only a dry well to draw from.

This January 3rd, I will celebrate 16 years of consecutive sobriety. For my Recovery’s Sweet Sixteen, I’m going back to the basics. Because that’s where I find God most of the time. Like most teenagers, my recovery often likes to think it knows everything. But oh how wrong that mindset is!

I still have SO much to learn!

So, as we enter a New Year, I’m going to try to take better care of myself and re-arrange the rungs on the priority ladder. If you’ve forgotten how to truly self-care, join me on the intentional journey to care for yourself. Take time to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and write out some self-care statements. Here are mine:

I will seek out one-on-one time with my Heavenly Father. That doesn’t mean carving out an Instagram-worthy devotional time, but authentic conversation with God. (Authentic conversation means listening, too. I forget that.)

I will not apologize for showing myself the same level of kindness as I would a friend, or even a stranger.

I will not call myself names, deriding myself for being ‘so stupid,’ for example. Even when just kept in the confines of own mind, putting myself down takes a toll.

I will make the time and effort to make at least one Celebrate Recovery per week. I will ask God to help me out of the rut of making excuses to avoid going. At the meetings, I will LISTEN and learn, and love on my tribe.

I will make a sincere effort to consider that moderation and deprivation are not the same thing. I need Holy Help on this one, because it is ingrained very deeply. Honestly, it stems from a place of fear, of being without. And that isn’t what faith in the Lord looks like. It’s what trusting in only this world looks like.

I will get up and walk at least once every day. Jesus, walk with me and talk with me as I strive to make the changes my physical health so badly needs implemented.

I will listen to my body, and try to heed what it’s telling me. I have limitations that I’ve been fighting against for years. Maybe it’s time for acceptance.

I will maintain boundaries to protect my sobriety.

I will become more intuitive about what I REALLY need, and feed myself that which cares for it best. The Word of God. Spending time with friends. Investing in my marriage. Bringing my anxiety straight to Jesus instead of rolling around in it first.

I will give myself permission to enjoy life. And I will rely on God to help me do that. All evidence points to doom in the worldly estimation, but all truth says that He has already got this. He’s GOT it, already.

I will make the cup of tea the right way, not the microwave way.

Take the bubble bath.

Enjoy the funny cat memes.

Sometimes self-care is so simple.

Father God, praise to you for my sobriety, and for my tribe of recovery warriors. Thank you for friends and readers, and family. In this new year, reveal yourself to us in our ordinary days and through extraordinary circumstances. We need to feel your presence. Help us to actually BELIEVE that we are worth the care, the way YOU say we are worth caring for.

Amen.

The “Seven Little Action Words” Blog Series

EstherBy: Jana Greene

Leaning.
Falling.
Listening.
Risking.
Trusting.
Rising.
Living.

The last few weeks have been pretty squirrely for me and my family. We had been prayerful about a number of things, hoping they would just change already. And for a long time, nothing changed.  It was if God were purposefully being silent, and it seemed a little spiteful. I forget sometimes that He works ALL things to the good, not just the things on my “Honey Do” God list.

While divine appointments were happening behind the scenes, I made a regular appointment to meet with some divine people in my church. Depression was creeping in like unholy Kudzu, and I know these believers, so strong in faith that they seem tethered to this world only by a cleat of love, would machete that shit right out. I am not being profane – that’s what depression feels like. It’s gotta go.

We met, and they listened. Words that began with a sputter started flowing, as did the tears. I know that in that brief time where two or more of us were gathered in Jesus’ name, powers of darkness were bound, joy was released, and trust was installed. I am ever so grateful that I have a place to go where I am embraced not for my potential as a Christian, but for the person whom Abba truly sees me as. I don’t really have to try so hard. But sometimes I still do. I am learning.

The silence – what I had interpreted as God’s silence – was His quiet machinery doused in the oil of Holy Spirit (that’s why there wasn’t a ruckus going on where I could sense it.) As cogs and wheels turn in a direction that is favorable to us – His most beloved creation – I started thinking about writing again.

When will I learn? He is always forever working things for my good. He is not out to punish me or remind me where I fall short. He is never, ever spiteful. His ways, so much higher than my own, are not subject to human limitation.

In the past few weeks, I have blogged nary a word, but all the while God was instilling words into my spirit. Seven, to be precise.

Leaning. Falling. Listening. Risking. Trusting. Rising. Living. One word for each day of the week; one word for each action I’m currently being asked to undertake. I’ve no idea what ideas it will manifest. I only know I am supposed to write a series about each of the words over the next week.

What will the Creator of the Universe reveal to my puny little brain? More than it can hold, as it pours over into the spirit. And hopefully, into your spirit, too. I have much more use for spiritual truth these days than nuggets of academic matter.

In your squirreliest hour, He is working all things for your good, behind the scenes. Quietly.

Viral Spiral: A dozen thoughts on ‘going viral’

long-spiral-staircase

By: Jana Greene

In 2014, I received a totally unexpected gift. In February, I wrote a blog post that truly went “viral.” My blog had been up and running two years at that point, and I wasn’t expecting it.

I’d written the piece (“Skewer the Stigma“) on the fly in a 20-minute span. It somehow took flight across the world and ultimately ended up landing in the hands of a quarter of a million people. No one is more surprised about that than me.

I had written it, posted it, and left it alone. But within a few hours, I started receiving email notifications that readers were leaving comments. Like 100 of them – surpassing my normal total daily readership and confounding the mess out of me.

Naturally, I assumed someone had passed out on her keyboard whilst looking at addiction recovery sites, and the multitude of visits were caused by her forehead landing on the “refresh” button repeatedly. It was the only logical explanation.

At 15,000 hits, I was convinced it was a cruel joke of some sort. Those pesky hackers.

But no, for some reason, the article  was truly going ‘viral.’ Something about it resonated with people enough to pass it along. And as a writer, that is really the most you can hope for – to hit the note that resonates with others.

I had wondered what it would feel like to have so many visitors…to have a blog post go viral. Strangely, the experience taught me more about myself than my readers.

Through the experience of going viral, I learned:

1) To pray for favor.

In many ways it was a post like every other. It wasn’t – in my estimation –  better or worse than anything else in the previous 180 blog posts on The Beggar’s Bakery. But I did specifically ask God for favor when I posted it. Now this is where it gets tricky, because while God’s favor is everything, I would subsequently pray favor over all of my posts and gleaned a little pearl of wisdom. I became willing to accept that God’s favor does not “look like” ours. He may favor you with two readers whose lives are forever changed by your words. His favor may look like 1,000,000 hits. Or He may favor you by revealing something to YOU in your own words that you never would have recognized any other way, even in a post that never makes it online. Prospering spiritually is so much richer than prospering in numbers. Speaking of numbers…..

2)  That numbers do not validate me.

I’m not really a “numbers girl” normally. I’m a Words Girl. I have this crazy, innate aversion to numbers, whether they be accessorized with mathematical symbols or dollar signs. But there is nothing like obsessively checking the stats of a blog post to muddy the blogging waters with numbers. 250,000 hits? That’s crazy talk. I must be legit now, right? Numbers that climb ever-higher may feel validating, but they really whip up insecurities. In many ways, blog stats are like alcoholic beverages to me: One is too many and a thousand not enough. When have I “arrived?” The stats and numbers do not hold that answer. Higher numbers often equal higher anxiety. Not a good thing for folks like me whose OCD feeds off of getting “one more hit.”

3) To stake my claim.

People are going to think you are crazy, or wrong. Or crazy wrong. The same vulnerability that makes your writing authentic opens you up to all kinds of criticism. I will never forget the first really negative comment that posted as a comment. The reader was very angry, taking exception with my statement that alcoholics and addicts get well with help from God. “What about atheists? What about them, huh? You must recant! You can’t make blanket statements like that!”  To which I replied, “Oh but I can. And I did. And I will.” At first, it hurt my feelings, but then it gave me an opportunity to learn how to stand firm.

My blog is my reality; my point of view. It is what works for me. I’m not going for a PC award, and I refuse to water down my message to appease readers. You can be both kind and firm. The experience taught me to strike my own authentic stance, and hold it. With hundreds of thousands of blogs out there, any reader who insists I change the content can, well … move along, little doggy.

4) To consider my work realistically.

Even when I write something I’m sure will get tons of traffic, very few posts actually do. I am neither the best nor the worst blogger out there is cyberspace. Going viral taught me to ride the wave without expecting a medal for surfing. Just enjoy the ride.

5) To pray for my readers.

This one should have been a foregone conclusion, but I had to learn to do it. Prayer takes a normal, natural article into a supernatural force to be reckoned with. I will never know where my messages ripple. Asking God to use it for his purposes assures me that even if a post only makes one person smile, or say “Aye carumba! I totally know how this feels!” it was worth writing and posting.

6) To blog honest or not blog at all.

When the post first started going viral, I fought the urge to go back in to WordPress and “perfect” it. Perhaps I shouldn’t have admitted this. Maybe I could take that out. But I try not to censor myself a whole bunch. I usually edit a piece several times before it goes up, but I try to keep the editing to grammar and spelling, and leave the truth raw and bare. It’s the only way, really, to share experience, strength and hope authentically.

7) Confidence to (self) publish my first book.

How many times did I say to myself, “I have a book in me”? Before this experience, I didn’t honestly think it would ever come out. But we all have books ‘in’ us – several. God spurred me to actually write that book – and self-publish it – in a two-week span after “Skewer the Stigma” went viral. God had told my spirit several months before: “Before you walked with me, your story was your story. When it became your testimony, it belongs to others, too.” I pray that the book falls supernaturally into the hands of those who might need some hope regarding addiction recovery. Going viral helped boost me in the direction to share it, just because I felt more confident. That was the only variable that had changed. I didn’t write the book to make money (which is a good thing, since I didn’t) but to share a story. You have one, too.

8) To expect viral posts to spread like … a virus.

It kind of picks up a life of it’s own. It becomes – as it should – more about the message and less about the author. It becomes out of your control in an epic way, in a manner that makes it impossible to track. I discovered that no, I really don’t crave fame. I’m proud of the piece and grateful to Abba for allowing me to share it in such a huge way. But getting my name “out there” was strangely anti-climatic. I became very ‘meh’ about it, very quickly. It just doesn’t satisfy the way you imagine it would. Only God can satisfy that wholly, that perfectly.

9) That I may have peaked, cyber-wise.

I may never go this way again. The heady, surreal nature of going viral is so fleeting. How to recreate it? That’s where faith comes in. God will give me the words he wants me to spread, and hopefully he will help me filter the words I shouldn’t spread. I cannot ‘recreate it’ nor should I try.

There are far, far better things ahead than what we leave behind, as C.S. Lewis said.

Or as is written in Ecclesiastes… to everything there is a season (turn, turn, turn…)

10) Not to bastardize my craft.

When I began blogging, I felt like such an amateur writer. Then a post went viral and I felt legit. And then after things calmed down, I worried after my worth as a writer again. I was causing myself so much drama in figuring out my place in the blogosphere! Nothing I’ve written since has gone bananas, and it may never happen again. And I’m okay with that. Now, I still sometimes wonder how it would feel to be a legitimate writer, for real and for true. And then God reminds me that it’s my job to write, and to skip the labeling, and get over myself. To just write already, and let the flow happen. A real, legitimate writer would just keep writing. It’s that simple.

11) Nifty stats are not my friend.

Oh my heavens, the detail available! There are numbers, and even color-coded maps of the countries whose residents read it!  India. Saudi Arabia. France? Ooo la LA! Such neat accoutrements – they must be tools for success, no?

No. Stats take a creative, open, spiritual soul out of the lush garden, and make her a neurotic, over-analyzing, nut-job in the dry desert. And that about sums up my experience with fancy statistics.

12) Going viral is kind of neato-keen for a while, but not essential.

Our Father in Heaven is not interested in the numbers games, but we humans love to count pats on the back. Pair numbers with technology and you have the virtual world in your fingertips and a real world that hasn’t been touched at all. Algorithms and marketing (I did absolutely none with the one post that went viral) do not determine the “success” of a blog post.

Sometimes I post a blog that gets hit ten times. I am so grateful for my readership, no matter the size. Sometimes I will just be having a day that sucks, and I’m not feeling spiritual at all, and my feelings need a place to go –  so I jot my grumpy words down. And once in a while, a reader will comment that they, too, are having a sucky day and not feeling spiritual at all, but it was a comfort to know that their circumstances were not sucking in a vacuum – that we are all intertwined, somehow. Chin up! You are never alone!

Because we are all intertwined, somehow. And no one is more surprised about that than me – every time it happens. As a writer, that is really the most you can hope for – to hit the note that resonates with others.

God controls the ripples, the currents, and who consumes the words. In all of the great Cyberland, we share our words as experience, and it comes back to us joy. And that is something to get infectiously viral about.

A real gift.

Stinking Thinking: The Soundtrack

Shut up the squawking, already!
Shut up the squawking, already!

By: Jana Greene

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2

Too much noise.

The world is just full of too much noise. The past few months have simply overwhelmed me, good things and bad things, both.  Graduations, illnesses, a new job, family issues, children leaving the nest, new pets entering the nest….a reorganization of priorities made necessary because of that creeping, wonderful, awful thing called “change.”

Getting used to the “new normal” is hard when “normal” won’t stay static long enough to catch my breath. I’m really struggling with a bit of depression lately, low-level sadness and a feeling of being overwhelmed.

You know what used to really help me unwind? A glass of wine. It’s hard to believe its been nearly thirteen years since I’ve had a glass of wine. Of course, its been twenty since a drink actually relaxed me; there, toward the end, it nearly killed me. I am glad it doesn’t control me anymore.

But still, after all this time – and a life so blessed it is virtually unrecognizable from pre-sobriety days – my mind still sometimes thinks that “one glass of wine” would do the trick!  It parrots the same garbage that made me so sick years ago.

I’m on to it, though. In the recovery world, it is the soundtrack of “Stinking Thinking” (or stinkin’ thinkin’, if you are from the South.) I know what it looks,  feels, smells and tastes like. And this is it.

1)      That one drink would just help me unwind….

Never, ever have I had one drink. Or one of anything else, for that matter; unless it is one pint of  Häagen-Dazs ice cream*. Because eating more than one pint at one sitting is just gluttony!

Sometimes, and I’m just being honest, I just want all the noise and anxiety to stop. For five minutes. The five minutes a drink afforded me cost me hours and days of spiraling, and the occasional blackout. The parroting stinking thinking soundtrack forgets about that little detail. Hardly worth it.

2)      Its been over a dozen years! Maybe I’m  cured ….

This is a sneaky one because it adds pride to the already-convoluted mix, as if the length of my sobriety insures against future alcohol abuse. Danger! Danger!

I have known people with extraordinary “”time” relapse, and instantly be transported back to the depths of despair afforded by addiction, or worse. There is no cure for alcoholism. Not taking the first drink is the best insurance there is.

There was a time I could not imagine going 24 hours without a drink. It is not ‘living in the past’ to remember what that was like. It is essential that I remember that.

The fact that I still – when really struggling with life on life’s terms – obsess about drinking as a relaxation technique, confirms that I am, in fact, an alcoholic. I will never be able to drink normally. And to try could very likely be the death of me (and very nearly was.)

3)    It wasn’t that bad, my drinking…

Except that it was; it was awful. Again, remembering the reality is key. I did not have a fun, rosy, Nicolas Sparks-type romance with alcohol. I had a dysfunctional, co-dependent, Stephen King-type relationship with alcohol.

It’s best to remember that it made me a person I really don’t like at all. Not to mention I turned yellow and became very sick. The self-loathing was worse than any other symptom.

4)      I shouldn’t have admitted to the world that I am an alcoholic…

Well, the proverbial cat is out of the bag now! It jumped out of the bag back on January 3rd of 2001.

At my lowest – when my thinking is the most stinking, I have actually wished that  I’d never told a soul about my secret, because if nobody knew – I could just resume having the “one” glass of wine or random margarita and be like everybody else. See? Doesn’t that make perfect sense?

Lather, rinse, repeat…(see # 1) This is why it is called the “Cycle of Addiction.”

5)    I REALLY shouldn’t have blogged about it…

Ah, the blogosphere. Nobody forces anyone to blog, of course.  But having a passion for writing and recovery, I found that a Force was compelling me to do it anyway.

With the miracle of technology via The Blog, not only is the cat out of the bag, but it is circling the globe on a uni-cycle.

In the beginning, writing a recovery blog was very difficult, because it required such rigorous honesty. I wanted to become involved in recovery ministry and share my experience, faith and hope openly. And because living life in open-book format makes for vulnerability.

Ironically,  vulnerability contributes to accountability. More than once, that accountability has kept me from relapsing.

6) I will never “get there”…

This one is true. I will never have it all together, because then I would have nothing to learn. And this recovery thing is all about learning. Boy howdy….is it ever about learning. When I’ve learned all that God intends for me to learn, He will take me home.

Until then, I will depend on Him to help me navigate the noise. When I’m overwhelmed, I will go ahead and feel it, and acknowledge that change is inevitable. Sometimes, my mind is wrong about things, squawking when it should be listening. I’m going to try extra-hard to take that into consideration when depression creeps in.

I’ll write about that wonderful, awful thing called “change” when it happens (which is constantly), spending every thought generously on paper. You know, since its already out there. I’ll own my crazy, ask for Divine help with my anxiety,  and let the guilt of the past go.

Change is what brings the good stuff, too…the stuff I don’t want to be too numbed out to feel. Because stinking thinking kept under wraps only rots and festers. Change is what brings all that is good and acceptable and perfect.

And a life so blessed deserves to be truly lived, transformed by the renewal of my mind…noise and all.

*I would totally eat more than one pint of  Häagen-Dazs in one sitting if nobody were watching and it wasn’t so expensive.

But it’s the SUPER BOWL: an alcoholic looks at “special occasions”

Hi, dear readers! I’m sharing my Redemption Feast blog post from today’s WilmingtonFAVS.com about drinking and ‘special occasions’.  Please feel free to share the link with those you might know who are involved in / seeking recovery, and God bless!

http://wilmingtonfavs.com/blogs/jana-greene/but-its-super-bowl-sunday-an-alcoholic-looks-at-special-occasions-part-1

Merry-go-Prophesy: Mayans will be Mayans, but no man knows

Merry

By: Jana Greene

My seventeen-year-old daughter made an interesting comment about the supposed Mayan Doomsday prophesy:  “If the Mayans were so smart, why didn’t they see the Spaniards coming?”

When I was her age, the Social Studies teacher made our class watch a 1983 movie about post-nuclear war life called “The Day After”. I had my first anxiety attack that same afternoon, because sooner or later this is very likely to happen and how can everybody just carry on living normally after KNOWING that this was likely to happen? I wanted to stand under a street lamp with a sign warning everyone that THE END IS NEAR! I had nightmares for years, and my walk with the Lord suffered from neglect because I was too busy wringing my hands to fold them in prayer.

But the world kept spinning like a crazy merry-go-round anyway, and I had to learn to hold on.

Oh how we humans like to believe that SOMEBODY on earth has a clue about our future! Maybe not the crazy Hale-Bopp Comet chasers (remember them?) or Pat Robertson or the paranoid Doomsday Preppers, but SOMEBODY.

If the world really ended this month, I would mostly carry on as I am now.The priorities are getting to know the God that I will spend eternity with, loving people to the best of my ability and letting them know that this planet we call home is NOT ‘all there is’.

I would probably eat more chocolate if I knew the end was near – a LOT more chocolate, watch the sunset from the North End more often, finish the My Name is Earl collection I (selfishly) got my husband for Christmas last year. I would spend more time laughing in general, because so much of life is absurd.

Ironically, it has always been on the bottom-end of my bucket list to learn all of the words to REM’s “It’s the End of the World as we Know it” and not just sing out the words “that’s great, it starts with an earthquake”, “Lenny Bruce”  and “Leonard Bernstein”. (Who IS ‘Lenny Bruce’, anyway?) But really, if we only have eight days to live, I could die without knowing the lyrics and be okay with it.

The truth is that life on this planet will end one day, that life as we know it is already over because it changes every day. The only future I am secured is life in Christ, but really – that’s the only life that matters. The merry-go-round will stop and let us off where we are meant to be.

The Bible says that nobody knows when that will occur. We really can’t see the “Spaniards” coming in advance, we just have to learn how to hold on.

But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,[fbut only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” – Matthew 24:36-44 (NIV)

Buckle up – its a wild ride!

The Flu or Something Like It

By: Jana Greene

It wasn’t the flu.

It couldn’t have been, because my husband had gotten a flu shot and he got  sick before me. The flu shot, heralded as viral kryptonite, was supposed to prevent just such an incidence as this….this plague upon the Greene Residence.

Of course there are two schools of thought on the flu shot.

Team Flu Shot, which consists of people wearing lab coats and the government (completely trustworthy, right?) insists that you MUST have the flu shot. If you don’t, you are a biological renegade, careless with your own health but worse, a phlem-ridden public nuisance volunteering to spread disease.

Team Never Been Sicker is comprised of people who have had the shot and soon thereafter became gravely ill. These folks complete every sentence pertaining to the shot with, “No, really….I’ve never been sicker!” People in this category will also tell you (with a far-away look in the eye, remembering the horror) that they will  never get another shot.. Because if you have every symptom of the legit flu, it is The Flu to you whether or not you’ve been immunized against it.

So, maybe it wasn’t the flu that my husband and I had, but it was a relative, at least. If it approached a talent agency about becoming a Flu Impersonator, it would get hired on the spot and paid top-dollar. It was a dead-ringer.

My Beloved and I lay next to each other for a week – two people madly in love with one another in bed – barely touching and saying things like, “please don’t touch me, even my hair hurts” through stuffed, red noses.

Hours became days. Bedside tables became crowded with wadded up tissues and cups sticky with Thera-flu residue. The days became a solid week, and then ten days of Imposter Flu…misery. And then, a tiny ray of hope in the form of a lapse in the constant headache.

We are starting to crawl out from under it, this monster bug.  A few days ago, I logged onto this blog and realized that I have not written since October!  What? How can that be? But there it was – bigger than Dallas – the calendar on the right-hand side of this page that chronicles blog entries with November empty.  Time flies when you are incapacitated.

So, I’m sending apologies to the blogosphere for missing out on the entire month of November (so far) and looking forward to doing some writing in earnest to make up the difference. God snuck in some inspiration for new articles in between bouts of fever and nausea, and I’m looking forward to digging in to His Word and His work, and venturing out into the world again.  Mister and Mrs. Never Been Sicker were down for a count, but not out of the game!

The plague is lifted, may the words soon follow!

Southern-Fried: Thoughts on Knowing Better

By: Jana Greene

Today, I reminded about showing compassion to those who may not “deserve” it.  I made a dumb mistake, you see.

It’s the blisters that are reminding me. Or maybe the skin on my nose and shoulders that has turned the deep crimson hue of a good Merlot. I have a bad sunburn, and all I want to do for the moment is wrap up in soft sheets and whine about the pain.  Maybe even moan a little. And eat chocolate.

What… You never heard that chocolate has healing properties?

I am nearly forty-four years of age. I know better. I’ve been a fair-skinned red-head all of my life, and this is not the first time I’ve been severely sunburned.

The other day, my Beloved and I took a day-trip to the beach and we only intended to stay for an hour or two.

But as if by some act of divine mercy, we found a spot on the shore that was nearly deserted (by at least twenty feet on either side) and the sky was a wide blue with nary a cloud to block the glorious rays of the sun! A breeze from the ocean blew gently and cool (but warm for October) against us, making us forget that…hey,  there are no clouds to block the sun.

We had even remembered to put up the beach umbrella!

Not that we stayed under it for very long.

When we did get warm-ish sitting under the wide blue sky, we walked down to the water – holding hands. And although the ocean was a bit chilly at first, the initial “yikes!” gave way to a cooling ahhhhhhh until we were neck deep and free-floating.

On an October day, no less!

We swam until we were tired and then walked back to the beach chairs in the sun, enjoying the sensation of water evaporating off of our skin. Conversation, laughter, sunshine, water. And then again. And then again.

Until we – satiated and out of cold beverages – headed home.

And then, over the next few hours, our bodies turning burgundy, thought “Hmmm. Maybe we should have used sunblock.”  We did think about it a few times.

But it’s OCTOBER, my mind protested stubbornly. As  if one cannot possibly get sunburned in the fall, the way one cannot possibly wear white after Labor Day.  My mind, which felt increasingly  like an egg fried underneath my crimson scalp relented. Excuses, excuses…and then a painful consequence. And now the moaning.

You did this to yourself.

Wandering  through Wal-Mart later on a quest for aloe lotion, I see the stares from people thinking, Well, she should know better. Or worse…..Tourist!

Judging is easy….the smug realization that whatever painful, blistering circumstance a person might be in – they brought it on themselves.  I’m getting better at not judging, but sometimes it’s still a challenge. Because when we see homelessness, addiction, a pregnant teenager or even celebrities who struggle with consequences – sometimes our first thoughts are not of compassion:

You know, that could have been avoided.

Don’t you know better?

That was a dumb mistake.

And while all of these things are possibly true, the resulting pain is still pitiful. God may shake his head with frustration over us – the stubborn ones – but he still gathers us up in soft sheets of compassion. He expects us – as if by His divine mercy – to do the same. Even when one’s mistake is out there  for all the world to see. No excuses necessary….just love.

Ouch.

Yeah…..Especially then.

Redemption Feast Blog – Letter to my Disease

I invite you, dear readers, to visit http://wilmingtonfavs.com/blogs/jana-greene/letter-to-my-disease to see the Wilmington Faith and Values site that I also write for.  My blog there (usually updated a few times per week) is called “Redemption Feast”.

God bless you and yours today, and as always – please feel free to share the link with anyone whom you feel might benefit from it.  Have a great day!

Kinked Links and God’s Messy, Knotted up Favorites

By: Jana Greene

Having just finished a fantastic book that talked about – among many other things – whether Christians should “keep it real” with the world, I felt as though I should blog about my entanglement. Not because it’s so interesting that a middle-aged woman would get so worked up about what amounts to normal, first-world problems, but because I wanted to share a vision that God is giving me to deal with feeling this way. (Spoiler: it isn’t His magically making things perfect….that miracle is for the next world, not this one).

When I went to bed last night, my More Spiritual Self was kinked up.

After instigating a mild argument with my husband, I had tried to sleep. When that failed, I tried to pray. Fitfully, I asked God would He please give me a break here?  I know we are not supposed to let the sun go down on our anger, but I am clearly in the right!

That small, still voice didn’t chastise me anymore. Still, I quit trying to pray because I was so out-of-sorts and jumbled up, I couldn’t tell where one request started and another whiny demand ended.  Frustrated, I tossed and turned all night. Tomorrow will be better, I told myself.

But this morning, nothing in my closet fit me – The Fat Fairy neglected to visit me during the night to relieve the body-issue angst that is the hallmark of my Selfish Self. (If she would only come and take my fat away while I was sleeping and leave money in it’s place, it would solve TWO problems simultaneously!) All day, worry entangled me. Issues big and small (and all out of my control) tormented me and I walked around in a cloud of menopausal grump.

By noon, I had myself so knotted up with stress that I broke out in tears at Costco while waiting to purchase toilet paper and cat food. The check-out girl was very friendly, in a “I’ve no idea what to do about this” way, which made me cry harder because I felt sorry for her. She didn’t tell me to have a nice day.

But on the way home from Costco, I had a random memory about a short exchange between my daughter and I earlier.  When I had taken her to school that morning, I complimented her on her outfit (which really was lovely) and she held out her necklace for me to see and said, “It’s my favorite.”

I also remembered that it was the same gold-toned necklace with beads and feathers on it  that sat on our kitchen table for a week, knotted up in a ball. My daughter had gotten it tangled up at the bottom of a bag and asked me to unravel it, which I’d tried to do several times.

“You should really take better care of your stuff,” I had told her, when she’d given it to me and asked me to fix it.

And each time I would try to untangle it, the frustration mounted. Within minutes of not being able to tell where one link started and another began, I’d leave the project out of sorts, the necklace jumbled up worse than before. She’s just going to have to throw it out…it’s unsalvageable.

As a last resort,  I enlisted the help of my husband, who patiently untangled the entire chain and left it for my daughter to find on the kitchen table. He didn’t fuss at her for letting it get that way, he just solved the problem behind the scenes.  Which brings me back to today, when she wore her favorite piece of jewelry restored to it’s former glory.

I’m trying to untangle my chain, I realized. I’m knotted in a ball and don’t even know what to pray for.

“Perhaps,” said my More Spiritual Self. “You should give the big ball of it to God and let him untangle it.” And my Selfish Self, after reeling from the sting that my husband would be God in this analogy, had to concur that I have to bring my anxiety, pain and restlessness while I am still frustrated. Nothing is unsalvageable to God, but when I try to untangle myself, I make the knot bigger. He will be untangling  my messes  all the days of my life, but I have to leave it on the kitchen table, so to speak – and not as a last resort.

Sometimes I fail to take my issues to Him because I know He has every right to say, “You should take better care of your stuff” and I’m afraid He will.

But He never does, He just loves.

I’d like to say that VOILA! I am in a fantastic mood now that I had an epiphany, but I’m trying to “keep it real” here.  I can tell you that this afternoon, I’m not crying anymore and that when I got home from Costco, I broke down and changed into sweatpants with an elastic waistband. I texted my awesome husband that I love him twice today and I am still sober, which doesn’t seem like it should be a big deal after eleven and a half years of not drinking, but trust me – sometimes it still is. All of these things (yes, even elastic waistbands!) are blessings.

And God is still on the throne and loves us even though we are messy, knotted-up things.

We’re His favorites.

I’m ALL in! A Reintroduction to the Beggar’s Bakery

Hello, and pleased to meet you – or meet you again!  Today I’m re-posting the first piece from The Beggar’s Bakery as a reintroduction.  God bless you, and thanks for your readership!

By:  Jana Greene

Welcome to my little piece of Real(ity)Estate on the web! It took a long time for me to create one; I could not imagine anyone would read it.  (I hope it turns out that I’m wrong, but if not – I get LOTS of writing practice!)

I also hope that you might take something away from it each day.  I am going to try my level best to keep it real (probably too real at times).

So what you should you know about me?

There are the usual stats and facts:

I am happily married to Bob Greene, whom I don’t write about in the public forum often at the risk of sounding like I’m bragging.  He really is – cliché not withstanding – my best friend, and I’m so glad to be doing this crazy life with him. We have been married over five years and have blended a family that contains three teenaged daughters; two mine, one his. (Yes, they all live with us, and yes….He IS practically  a Saint!)  The blending is harder and sweeter and more challenging  and more rewarding than I could have imagined.

I gave birth to two daughters, now 16 and 19, and I  mother my lovely stepdaughter (nearly 20) when she lets me.  They are my heart walking around outside of my body, if my own heart chose to drive me absolutely crazy (which it has on occasion). I love them fiercely and will try to respect their respective privacies here, although you can expect a good many pieces about my frustrations as I learn to let them go. If they get bored enough, they might read this one day, in which case I have TONS of chores for them to do.

I’ve worked at insurance and real estate agencies, mortgage companies, law offices, and as a day-care teacher. As a single mother I worked several at a time – including a hardware store paint-slinger and as a part-time hotel maid.  All were character building.  But I’ve been a writer – legit or not – since I could hold a crayon.

I am imperfect all the way.  As a writer,  I use the forbidden “three dots”…too often and cannot bear to part with the text-forbidden smiley faces 🙂 and sometimes use run-on sentences because I think they convey stream-of-consciousness better and yes, I know all of these are against the Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style” guidelines.  I have written for a small  local paper,and although I couldn’t make a living at it, it was the best job I ever had.  Also, I have a terrible “wordi-ness” problem, but I’m working on it.  Sort-of.  I write for the selfish reason that it helps me productively process the pain and pleasure in life when I pour words onto a page.  And for the selfless reason that I cannot help anyone else find the “Bread of Life” if I don’t show them where I found it.

Because, all of these things I tell you about me, are true, but none define me.  I am a Christian and a beggar.  That is my most accurate self-description.

Over eleven years ago, I came to the end of myself and all of my delusions of put-together-ness, which is to say – I got sober.  If you know me even casually, you know I am an alcoholic. I haven’t had a drink in that long, but I am still – forever – in recovery, something that keeps me humble and coming back for more of what got me clean in the first place.  Every single day. I keep it “out there” because there is somebody, somewhere who is hiding bottles and drinking that “two” beers just to stop the shaking and who is so, so, ashamed. I know shame.  Or maybe he/she is addicted to drugs, or porn, or the approval of others –  it’s all the same to your soul – or cannot seem to find a reason to wake up in the morning.  I can’t tell you how to fix it, but I can tell you who can.  I can tell you that I 100% expected to die during that hard time, and sometimes would have considered it a relief. I still have bad days (that “One Day at a Time” thing…) but I have the clarity to enjoy the GOOD ones, of which there are many.  Faith and humor are key.  Oh, and boundaries, on occasion.

One Day at a time, by the Grace of God. Even if I might have bad days, or whine a little.  You know, just to keep it real!

One beggar showing another beggar where she found food. When I couldn’t love myself enough to lift myself up, I crawled back to Jesus, and He  said “You look hungry… come to the table!”  Redemption is the best feast ever.

All posts are copyrighted.   Feel free to share a link to this blog and let me know who you are sharing it with, please 🙂

Time Management

By:  Jana Greene

There is a commercial on television recently in which a husband asks his wife, “Honey, can I quit my job and start a blog?” and it comes on frequently.  I’ve no idea what it is advertising, because I always feel a little squirmy when I see it and forget to pay attention to the product.  Inevitably, it runs when my husband and I are cuddled up watching NCIS or the 20th special showing on Avatar on FX.

I quit my job and started this blog.  Although that was not my intention when I put in my 2-weeks notice.  I meant to take a little time to get healthier and reassess my goals and maybe do a little writing between interviews for a new, less stressful position.  But two days after my last day of work, I broke my leg and had a metal plate, pins and screws surgically implanted so that I could walk again.  This unforseen accident serendipitously allowed for more writing time than I expected.  I would, I avowed, write a book – which is at the top of my bucket list anyway, so why not knock it out?

Except – as I mentioned – I started this blog.   And I love writing for the blog!  I’m walking again, so I’m enjoying all of the domestic things I was too tired to do when I was working fulltime – cooking, cleaning, a little reading, spending time with my family.  And I’m blogging, sometimes for hours.  The days fly by at warp speed, and the days are good.  Because I’m walking again, it is getting to be time to seek financially gainful employment, not just spiritually fulfilling purpose.  I’m so grateful that I’ve had this block of time to focus on just writing.

So, I might not be posting  for The Beggar’s Bakery every single day.  I’d like to concentrate a little on writing an actual book.  I’m not that swell with time management;  if I’m going to do it, I have to make it priority.

Please sign up to receive new posts via email, if you’d like.  And check back often.  I will try to post at least every few days!

A big, fat THANK YOU to everyone who reads The Beggar’s Bakery.  The biggest, fattest thanks for my Most Excellent Husband, who believes in my writing; who believes in me, period.  It’s so cool to be married to my best friend and have his unwavering support.  I have to pinch myself most days to be sure it is all real; that I’ve gotten to write every day, that  my husband encourages me to blog honest, that my friends cheer me on even though I sometimes embarrass myself, and that God just keeps showing me such grace in recovery and in life.

I can’t wait to see where God  takes me next, and to share it here.

God bless!