My Conversation with God (Part 1)…

I am so afraid my Lord, more afraid than I have ever been in my entire life.

Be still, and know that I am God, He said. You need not worry, for I know the plans I have for you. 

But I thought my plans were to help those who have fallen into the hellish pit of depression and addiction, like the one I fell into years ago that you so miraculously rescued me from, the pit that stole me from my family for way too long. If that is not a part of your plan for my life, why did you allow us to suffer so?

It is not I who caused your suffering, He said.

I only want good things for you. Suffering comes from a place of evil. And sometimes of your own free will. It is the devil who comes to steal, kill and destroy. It is with his temptations and lies that many of my children suffer.

But also, I have given you freedom to choose. And choices have consequences. I didn’t cause your pain, but use it as a lesson. I want you to obey my commandments and have an abundant life.

The curse you felt was not of my doing, He said. 

But, do you not see it was I who answered your prayer when you cried out in despair in those final days of suffering? Did I not give your weak and weary body the strength to crawl out of bed, call for help and carry you away before the eyes of your children were tainted with such a memory? 

Yes Lord, you gave me the strength. I was lost without you. And through my anguish you saw the sincerity of my heart, that I didn’t want to scar my children with a visual of my despicable state. You spared them of that, and for that I am forever grateful. I felt so afraid during those dark days, so alone and as if the nightmare would never end.

Fear not, for I am with you. I will never leave you, He said.

I know, I said. You have always been there for me, in all of my troubles, and many are they. But I don’t understand why now? We have overcome so many obstacles in our lives, and finally have a chance for new beginnings, endless possibilities, and now this?

Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes it is not for you to understand, He said. One day you will look back and see with my eyes how this all works toward a bigger plan.

Remember the words in Romans 8:28, “But we do know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose”. 

But there are so many ways this doesn’t look good. There are so many hurdles to overcome, and so many setbacks. I don’t see how I can ever look at this situation and know it will work out for our good. My teenage sons need direction of a father, I want to share more life with my husband. I don’t know if I can handle this.

Fear not, for I am with you, He said yet again.

I say in Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust me with all of your heart, and lean not unto your own understanding, acknowledge me in all your ways and I will make your path straight”. This is still true today.

Remember when you cried out to me when Bobby was plagued with infection, asking me for a calm heart if you should wait on getting him help and instead your legs began to shake? 

Yes Lord, I felt your strong presence in that moment and I told Bobby I had heard from you and that we needed him to get help and he finally agreed. I am forever grateful to you, for you saved him from the infection spreading to his organs again like when he became septic only a month prior when we almost lost him.
Just remember in times of doubt, always keep your sight on my word, for it is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. That is why so many call it the living word. The truth will always be as I say.

It’s said in Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart”.

But how will we know the right treatment to choose? Or whether we are with the right doctor? This is such a rare disease, what if they don’t know what to do and things don’t get better?

Do you recall not too long ago when you asked in prayer for me to show you a glimpse of my plan so you would know you were on the right path? And the anguish you felt over getting another opinion, as it might mean leaving behind a doctor you were both trusting to be in your best interest? 

Yes Lord, I remember very clearly. It was just a day later that same doctor informed us she was referring us for a second opinion to an outside surgeon at a major hospital who specializes in more aggressive forms of treatment for Bobby’s condition. Before this, we didn’t think surgery was a possibility.

You are in this Lord, I am beginning to see. Thank you for showing me this truth.

And even more Lord, his doctor informed us she was leaving UCI to resume her practice with another doctor who specializes in new and promising forms of treatment. And she asked us to follow her because she believes this doctor and treatment could really help in Bobby’s healing.

But how can we know this is the right path? This means leaving the only place that is familiar to us and starting all over with so many unknowns.

Just as you acknowledged these past occasions when I answered as you cried out to me, you can always seek me when you are in need and I will give you discernment. You know my words from Matthew 7:7, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you”.  

In new hope I pray only comes from you, I believe you’ve shown us signs we are on the right path. Especially because I have been constantly asking for your guidance, which I am finding through your written word, and I do believe your word to be truth.

You have said in Psalm 32:8 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you”.

You also tell us in many scriptures that you will bring forth signs that will direct our paths. That when we ask, we shall know when the direction comes from you. In Samual 10:7 you tell us, “It shall be when these signs come to you, do for yourself what the occasion requires, for God is with you”.

I believe we are experiencing your signs, which breathes hope into our situation, and for that I give you my praise.

The day after the doctor’s appointment, we attended a football event for our sons. We encountered one of the player’s grandfathers who shared how he underwent the same rare surgery years earlier that Bobby’s doctor is hoping for him.

Even more, with the same surgeon who initially told us Bobby wasn’t a candidate due to his fragile condition at the time. Of all the surgeons in and around this metropolis where we dwell to have the very same one weaved in some way into our stories.

And this man was not only healthy and restored and enjoying his life, but had also suffered many of the same setbacks that had been casting fear into our lives throughout these difficult several months. This was the first time I felt hope rising that his condition could be restored.

In my moments of doubt I must ask myself, how can this not be God?

And Lord, those aren’t the only signs, for we were brought to our knees when we recently learned this new doctor put forth a good portion of his own earnings toward more research, studies and treatment, specifically for Bobby’s rare condition!  With less than 8,000 people in the US diagnosed with this rare disease each year, we are humbled to be directly in this path.

In my strength I believe comes from you, how can I not be certain this is you guiding our way? Thank you Lord!

It’s overwhelming to believe we could actually be a part of something as miraculous as this, but who are we not to believe this is possible? If we know we are your children, truly loved by you, cleansed by your stripes, that promise alone should be enough.

But this feels huge, Lord. This new doctor believes a total cure for cancer is in the foreseeable future, and he hand selected Bobby’s doctor out of many to take part in this unprecedented journey, and we’ve been invited along for the ride. How gracious and humbled are we!

So in your courage and strength alone, we hold onto hope for this to be true. That you love us this much and are continuing to guide our path through this storm. We are your children whom you knew and loved before we were ever created, and your word tells us that in our numbered days we will carry out the plans you have for us, so long as we believe.

In Philippians 1:6 you tell us, “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

We believe Lord. We trust in you. We love you and will glorify your son’s holy name for all the days of our lives and in hopes of bringing those who have gone astray back into your loving arms.

For we believe that you, as the Author, the Creator and the Finisher, have more of our story to tell.

Words of Wisdom that set me Free…

When I finally gave up drinking, I found myself researching a lot about addiction. Many questions lingered in my foggy mind. Where did I go wrong? Why did such a horrible disease happen to me?

After all, before I hit rock bottom, I spent 15 years in corrections, transitioning chemically addicted offenders out of prison. I was paid to construct their path to substance free living. And lock them up when they failed. A paradoxical reality of stripping the freedom from those who couldn’t stay clean, all the while, enslaving myself to the prison of an addicted mind.

During the first year of abstinence, I struggled with the pain I caused my family. As well as regret for what I couldn’t change. I was thankful I wasn’t drinking, and striving to build a meaningful life, but spent many days focused on the brokenness of my past.

Then on a whim, I submitted my addiction story to an online recovery site. And quite unexpectedly, a timely glimpse of awareness shifted the focus of my life. While my story was appreciated, I was told their site focused on recovery, not the problems of addiction. Inquiries about my motivation to change and how my life was different today, helped me realize I had spent enough energy draining out the nightmares of my past.

So began a journey of commitment toward true recovery, which I’ve found to be so much more than abstinence. Here’s what I’ve discovered, words of wisdom I’d heard before, but never rang so true as now.

To love others, we must first love ourselves. Leo Buscaglia

When I stopped drinking, I united with a forgotten passion that made it possible to believe I could like myself again. I discovered old journals from the most pivotal time of my life that bridged a connection to my younger self, where innocence and pain were deeply rooted. I began to write again, and this powerful energy fueled a passion to heal from the inside out. Hoping one day to grow brave, and reach the ones still suffering in silence. I may not like part of my past, but as I begin to understand and accept it, I can use what I’ve learned to help others with compassion, because I’ve had to love myself through the same painful process.

Forgiveness is a virtue of the brave. Indira Gandhi

According to psychiatrist Dr. Gabor Mate’, the root of all addiction is pain. Hurtful life events that leave us wounded and bitter. Becoming aware of this suffering, we allow ourselves to explore forgiveness, a challenging and necessary component for growth. It’s a gift to find the freedom to forgive ourselves and others for our misfortunes. We can’t change the past. But learning and letting go are elements of bravery necessary to overcome and heal.

We are all creatures of habit. Earl Nightingale

Recovery is so much more than no longer consuming our poison. It’s a lifestyle change that requires ongoing practice. If we think about how long it took to become our own worst enemy, we should give at least that much time becoming a better version of ourselves. Early in recovery, I relapsed when I found myself in an unexpected painful situation. I had yet to develop coping skills that would reroute the worn path leading me straight to the bottle. I now engage in activities that promote relaxation to calm my restless mind. A morning meditation, walk in nature and yoga are tools I am purposefully working into my daily schedule.

It’s in giving that we receive. St. Francis of Assisi

The most dangerous place to exist in recovery is isolation. It’s important to stay outside our deeply entrenched negative minds, and focus instead on what good our experience can bring to this world. Sharing our story, serving meals at a shelter or smiling at the next person who crosses our path ignites hope in ways we may never know. Everyone else has a story too. It is through our own suffering that we understand others who still suffer. And by being the voice for those unable to speak, we receive a blessing of strength from those who will eventually listen.

So how is my life different today? My answer has changed from when I was first asked this question.

I no longer look back for too long. I see my life with an awareness of goodness that brings hope, not shame. I spend my days in gratitude for how far I’ve come. Some days aren’t easy, but I keep moving forward. Keeping my sights on the horizon, where possibilities exists, far from the prison of which I am no longer bound.

Sunset

What would you you study if you were going back to school?

lots-of-books

If I were to go back to school, I would undoubtedly study more philosophy. This self-reflective subject sparked my interest when I attended college for my psychology degree, but the prerequisites to graduate overshadowed my interest at that time.

Philosophy in its simplest form, is the study of ideas on knowledge, truth and the meaning of life. As someone who was stuck in a web of depression and addiction for a period of my life, which crippled my ability to soak up anything worthy of my measly existence, I now yearn to absorb meaningful truths that guide me closer to my life purpose. So many words of wisdom have been spoken from those who have already walked my similar life path, that its my passion to explore their mixture of knowledge and opinions, and ultimately seek my own truth that has always been within. Hidden deep inside the darkness of my self-destructive past.

My purpose as I understand it today, is to bravely share my story of suffering and perseverance without the fear of an ever present stigma and self depriving shame. It is to take the lessons I have learned from my past and share this slice of wisdom with those still wandering in the darkness. There is a way out of our own dark misery, so long as we keep searching for the light.

We were all given the gift of experience that isn’t meant to be kept to ourselves. It is meant to resonate within our own existence to eventually form a light of hope that sparks the power of our will, and shines beyond our own ability for those who choose to see it. And maybe our light shines bright enough to eventually spark a light of hope for someone else.

“Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light”- Brene Brown

#MyMightyMonth

#Daily Prompt: Infinite

To the Recovering Parent: 5 Steps On Loving Children Beyond Your Addiction

 

boys-and-beach

Almost two years have passed since my last drink. The road from addiction to recovery has been a heartbreaking and enlightening journey. And despite the pain, I’m thankful for who I am today.
But what still brings fear is the impact on my children. The mere thought of having a detrimental effect on them easily brings me to tears.

In a clinical report by the American Academy of Pediatrics (1), the short and long term effects of substance abuse by parents on their children include adverse effects with;

-mental health
-emotional stability
-educational performance
-addiction

One study reports that children with substance abuse history in their families are eight times more likely to abuse substances in adulthood (2). Coupled with a genetic predisposition for depression that’s impacted my family for generations, I pray my children are spared this unfortunate life sentence.

But despite my resounding fears, I’ve learned that if I am going to thrive in recovery, I must let go of fear. To become a role model to my children, I must not lose myself in worry over the past. Fear inhibits the ability to move forward. So I carry the lessons from my past and leave the rest behind. I focus on new ways to live a life that’s worthy. I tend to the needs of my children and show how I love them. I may not change their destiny, but I can become the best version of myself while trying.

So here are some tools I’ve learned along the way.

5 steps to loving your children beyond the pain of addiction

1)  Be honest about the past.

Being in recovery allows for a dose of humility if you are honest about the past. It doesn’t feel good to peel back layers of vulnerability that comes with admitting failures. Nor is it easy to venture into the painful parts of our past. And I don’t recommend doing this alone. Connecting with a good therapist, support group or online recovery community are a few avenues of support for what can be a challenging phase in recovery. Somehow, through discovering the root of pain, we understand the “why” behind our behaviors. And we can admit mistakes and seek forgiveness from our children.

2)  Allow their feelings.

Children may struggle with expressing their feelings about addiction and recovery. Give them a safe platform and offer open ended questions that encourages them to find their voice. A couple months into my recovery, my son appeared to have something to say but couldn’t find the words. I asked what he was thinking. After some thought, he said he could forgive but he wouldn’t forget. Even though my heart hurt to hear him speak the existence of his pain, it was important for us both.

3) Let time heal.

Early in recovery, I recognized my children were struggling with hurt and anger over my absence when I was at my worst. It came in the form of resistance, and I get it. The value of my opinion paled in comparison to those they relied on in my absence. And this lasted until I regained their trust with patience and understanding that the healing process takes time.

4) Be present in their lives.

To be present in my children’s lives is an amazing gift that continues to give. As my son makes a play on the field, I absorb the joy in his eyes because I was watching. After helping with homework, I embrace his hug because I was there. It’s these simple moments of presence when I feel l make a difference.

5) Cherish the now.

For almost two years, I barely existed as a human. And even less as a contributing parent. I believe motherhood is one of life’s greatest blessings, so this truth crushes me every time. But if I attach that shame to who I am now, I reduce the chance of loving my children past the pain. So from my heart I suggest, never forget the time lost with your children. But cherish the now. In the blink of an eye, children go on to live their own lives. But there’s so many milestones to reach and memories to share before we kiss them goodbye and watch them fly.

Will all this be enough? Time will only tell.

But maybe, the strength of unconditional love we have for our children becomes enough to mend the pain…and ultimately alters the direction of their predestined path.

1. Pediatrics July 2016 From the American Academy of PediatricsClinical Report
2. Merikangas, K. R., Stolar, M., Stevens, D. E., Goulet, J., et al., Familial transmission of substance use disorders. Arch Gen Psychiatry, 1998. 55(11): p. 973-9.

 

Keep moving forward…

Whether it be prevailing in my purpose

or faltering in my filth,

I must keep moving forward,

these programmed thoughts running rampant in my head.

The voices that have been telling me since the days of my youth

the direction I must go.

Some are with good intention

and when I act on their behalf,

the possibilities become endless.

But others whisper doubt and impose shame,

and speak louder and more frequent than the ones with whom I hold my hope.

But as I see them now, my awareness is becoming my strength.

  Strength to overcome those negative little voices in my head

that tell me to forget

I am actually learning to like myself again.

 

The Cost of Loving a Vet…

I recently took an Uber in route to the Vegas airport and as the driver loaded my luggage into the trunk, I noticed the government issued license plate that identified him as a disabled vet.

We got to talking and when I asked which branch he served, he said he was an Army Ranger who trained countless soldiers and had completed six tours in Afghanistan before God decided he had other plans for the rest of his life.

In our short 11 minute trip, I learned he received a fifteen dollar raise in over two decades of service before he was too injured to continue doing what he loved for his country. “It is what it is”, he told me about his unplanned fate, and when I told him that had been my Dad’s life motto before he passed away from a service related illness 5 years prior, I learned that both our dads served in the Vietnam war and had been faced with similar health challenges as a result.

I learned he was receiving full disability and working on the side for extra “throw away” money because otherwise he was just making ends meet. I additionally learned he had just broken his cheap sunglasses that he wore daily due to his visibly damaged eye from the shrapnel of a roadside bomb that required constant shade.

I learned he loved his job as an Uber driver because he enjoyed the diverse company and extra spending money, but was sometimes shamed at the sense of entitlement he felt at the hands of some customers who acted superior to him, the lowly regarded Uber driver he was in their shallow eyes…

I learned he took great pride in knowing all the back roads of the area so he could get his customers to their destination in the quickest way possible. He kept his car in pristine condition to keep his customers comfortable and frequently went out of his way to give a positive experience, only asking for a high service rating in return to ensure a constant flow of business.

As he helped me unload my luggage and I handed him a small token of my appreciation, it seemed to have stopped him in his tracks. He couldn’t stop thanking me and told me that I just afforded him a new pair of sunglasses. He said he was rarely compensated for his service and that he felt I would be blessed beyond measure for my generosity of blessing him.

I had just spent three days in Vegas trying to get comfortable in sinking dollar bills into slot machines that soaked them up quicker than I could push the button. It doesn’t matter whether this veteran became a good hustler who learned how to gain sympathy from his customers with his battle story or if he was truly sincere in his heartfelt appreciation. The latter is what I choose to believe.

What I never got to tell him before he drove away, regardless of his overall intent of the brief crossing of our paths, was that his words in those moments left me with bigger blessings than I could have ever received from the winnings of a slot machine.

Being reminded of my dad, the sacrifices of those who protect our freedom and the importance of appreciating those whose lives may be forever changed because of their commitment that often comes with a price, it simply cannot be bought. Time and words are free, and moments of life’s little synchronized connections such as these are priceless.

Love a vet. Thank them for their service. Let them know they matter. Bless them and be blessed.  It takes less than 11 minutes. And it doesn’t cost a thing.

The bridges of forgiveness…

via Daily Prompt: Bridge

To go where I have not yet been but surely long to go. The place that we cannot see but a glimpse of hope of what could someday be. A place where we let go of the demons of our past and allow the light of forgiveness to shine into our mending souls. To see the beauty again in a life that was always meant to be, but was never promised without pain except in the depths of our dreams.

The realness of our life revealed, far from perfect, but perfectly real. A consistent flow of lessons learned cycling in the wind that never ceases. Changing the direction of our sails for the remainder of our journey that we alone will only truly embark.

To live for today in this present moment, for it shall never come again. A chance to see the sun peak from behind the clouds and the wonder of another day.

long_stone_bridge_over_water-wide_thumb

The bridge between our past and our future lies in the forgiveness in our hearts. The forgiveness bridge I shall always seek to find as a mender to my heart and healer to my mind.