Commitment

The dictionary defines commitment as “the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.”

Through the course of my life, I’ve had trouble committing to things and sticking with losing weight, exercising, writing a book and a host of other things.

Photo credit: Memphis CVB | Creative Commons

Which is why I was petrified when I got married again and became pregnant at 37. Once I crossed over the threshold into motherhood, I signed on to the scariest and biggest commitment of my life. I knew things would change and I was right because it’s been sixteen years now since my free spirit took a back seat.

I would be lying if I told you it’s been easy or that there hasn’t been days I wanted to quit. Marriage is hard, parenting is even harder, but raising children with special needs is beyond difficult. Yet and still, I couldn’t imagine life without them. My love supersedes everything and compels me to keep going.

That’s not to say, I don’t miss the years I’ve flitted around like a hummingbird. But I’ve realized that commitment was exactly what I needed most because it forced me to grow up. I’ve since learned that avoiding commitment or responsibility only keeps us stuck, stagnant and stunts our growth and maturity in life and relationships. So I’d rather wrestle with the struggles and hardships that comes with commitment rather than avoid it and miss out on the opportunity to grow and mature in Christ.

“Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Galatians 6:9

Redeeming Lost Time

I was speaking with my therapist last week about choices. I was explaining why certain things didn’t happen in my life and what occurred and why it lead me to where I am today. There was a significant amount of loss.

Photo credit: Garen M. | Creative Commons Flickr

The topic came up because I was rehashing what happened in my writing group. I had submitted a piece I had worked on for critique. What usually occurs is everyone gets a turn telling you what they liked or disliked or what worked or didn’t work for them. I struggle with getting critiques because I’ve been criticized for most of my life.

My therapist explained my writing isn’t me. Meaning, they are not critiquing me as a person, they are only critiquing my writing. But I responded that my writing is me.

It’s the same thing when I cook. I like to cook and feed people. When I cook, I cook from my heart. It’s an act of giving. My cooking is an expression of who I am. So, if someone doesn’t like my cooking, I take it personally. Just like I do with my writing.

I gave my therapist a time table of every creative endeavor I’ve pursued since I was a teenager. I had the same issue with each of them. First, it was acting, then fashion design, then singing, and then writing. In that sequence.

I get the fact that we need critiques to improve and grow. However, I can’t help it if I struggle to the point of giving up. I’ve repeated the same pattern throughout the course of my life. I’m tired of this cycle and getting nowhere.

Here I am at 53, and in the same position that I was in my 20’s. It’s kind of sad actually. The Lord gave me creative abilities for a reason and I’ve allowed fear and people’s words to stop me.

My therapist is astute and asked me one simple question. “Are you trying to play catch up and make up for lost time?” I sat there and thought about it, and realized the answer is yes. Now I understand where all this pressure is coming from. I’ve made so many mistakes in the past that now I’m afraid to fail.

I have to remind myself that I wasn’t meant to be perfect in the first place. I can and will make mistakes in my life and writing. I can give myself permission to write crappy, make mistakes, and even fail. Failing isn’t the worst thing that can happen to me or you because that’s when we learn the most and can become better.

This quote by Anne Rice resonated with me this week, “To write something you have to risk making a fool of yourself.” So true.

We have to risk making a fool of ourselves. We are ever evolving as people and as writers. There is always something new to learn. We won’t stop learning and growing until we die. That’s if we allow ourselves and don’t give up.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of fear and people kicking me in the butt. The past is the past. This is the present. I don’t have to play catch up and try to redeem lost time. I can start from where I’m at and give myself permission to learn, grow, make mistakes and even fail. I hope you will do the same.

Invisible Battles

For most of my life, I’ve been fighting invisible battles which I had no name for. I always felt this inexplicable fear, dread or impending doom, like something terrible was going to happen.

Photo by svklimkin on Unsplash

It was only in the past few years that I’ve begun to understand what I’m contending with. I always knew something was wrong, I just didn’t know what it was.

I learned I have a condition called Generalized Anxiety Disorder or GAD for short. I also struggle with mild form of obsessive compulsive disorder and a severe case of Post traumatic stress disorder and a host of other invisible illnesses. I have a background of trauma which is what I thought was the only thing I was dealing with.

Putting a name to my conditions or symptoms didn’t change anything or make me feel any better. But, it just gave me understanding and confirmed some things.

However, once I knew, I stopped blaming myself and beating myself up for something I had no control over. It’s not my fault, and if you struggle, neither is it yours. And no, struggling with this condition doesn’t make you any less of a Christian either.

Please stop listening to Christians who tell you, you lack faith. Forgive their ignorance and pray for them to get wisdom and understanding. Unfortunately, they won’t be the only ones you’ll face where stigma exists. Sometimes you’ll get it from the ones closest to you, like those in your own household, family and even friends.

So what are you to do if you struggle and fight your invisible battles in silence? What I found helpful is reading or listening to books on the subject. Recently, I read two amazing books by Matt Haig; Reasons to Stay Alive* and Notes on a Nervous Planet.* Another thing I found helpful are support groups. NAMI is an excellent resource.

You don’t have to fight your battles alone. There is help and hope.

*Affiliate Links

A New Decade

Happy New Year. I can’t believe we are well into the new year and a new decade.

Right before the new year stuck, the Lord gave me two verses.

Photo credit: Carrie ~ Creative Commons Flickr

“I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14 

“God is with her, she will not fail.” Psalm 46:5 (I bought myself a coffee mug with this on it).

I sensed the Lord encouraging me, as if to say, you are entering a new season.

As I’ve mentioned, it hasn’t been an easy few years for me and my family. Not that anything has changed, but I believe I’ve grown in the spiritual department and I’m grateful for that.

It’s not easy to walk by faith and not by sight. I guess the control freak in me wants to know everything before it happens. Don’t we all? But, God wants us to trust Him in all things, not just some, but ALL.

My situation has given me no other option but to trust Him. I mean, my life is literally in His hands. I lean on Him for everything now because I have no choice. I can’t say I’m any less anxious, but I can say He’s been faithful every step of the way.

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Fear has been the biggest hindrance in my life. It has stopped me from many things. It’s been a stumbling block, roadblock and obstacle, especially with writing. I’m aware all writers are faced with insecurity and fear, but many push through it and actually achieve their dreams.

My fear is paralyzing me from actually doing it because I think others are better than I am and who in the world is going to want to read what I write? There are millions of incredible writers/authors out there. Many have Master’s degrees from elite Ivy League universities. I haven’t even gotten an Associate’s degree. So, how can I even compete, not that I actually want to compete, because I’m not the competitive type. But, you know what I mean.

If there is one thing I would want to overcome in this new year and decade, is this horrible fear, insecurity and comparison trap that prevents me from writing.

I also don’t want to continue chasing other things to avoid doing what I believe the Lord has called me to do which is to write. I’ve been running from it and busying myself with other more productive things to do. But, I’m tired of the start, stop, start, stop. I’m 53 and this is getting old already. I don’t want to get to the end of my life and regret never trying and giving it my all.

The fear of failure is so strong that paralyzes me from writing. The irony is that I wind up failing because I give up. It’s a perpetual cycle that repeats itself over and over again.

I don’t believe in new year’s resolutions, but if I were to have one, it would be to overcome this gigantic monster called fear and write no matter what.

What about you? Is there something you’ve been wanting to do, but you’ve stopped yourself because of fear, insecurity or thinking others are better than you are? If so, please comment below or shoot me an email.

God’s Hourglass

“But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” Luke 12:20

“But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” Matthew 24:36

“Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” James 4:14

Photo by Adrien King on Unsplash  

The other day I was perusing the news and came across a tragic story of a young man who was coming out of an elevator in a luxury building in NYC and was suddenly crushed to death.

I’m sure that young man didn’t think he would die that day. It was an unexpected freak accident.

Sometimes we forget we’re not immortal or promised tomorrow. We are all subject to God’s eternal hourglass. When the sand runs out, that’s it. Our time is up.

This is why each day is a gift.

Unfortunately, sometimes we take our life for granted or we complain about our lives. But we never know what the next minute, hour or day will bring.

Even with all the problems and issues we contend with on a daily basis, there’s still much to give God thanks for.

I came across a verse that I’ve read several times, but for some reason this time, it stood out. It’s Romans 1:21.

 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.”

The “neither were thankful” part jumped out at me.

Even in the midst of our suffering, there’s still something we can give God thanks for.

Life is precious and short. We are here today and gone tomorrow. God is who gives us breath and life. He blesses us with each day.

Yes, we can find a multitude of things to complain about. However, God is still worthy of our thanksgiving, praise and worship despite the suffering, hardship and difficulties we face in this life.

When we don’t give the Lord thanks, we are basically not acknowledging Him.

Are you giving thanks to God? If not, it’s never too late today.

 

His Eternal Well

“And he must needs go through Samaria.” John 4:4

This verse jumped off the page recently. I thought about how Jesus went out of his way to meet the Samaritan woman.

Samaritans were mixed; half Jewish and half Gentile. The Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans, they were rejected. So, not only was Jesus going out of his way to meet a Samaritan, but he was also going to meet a woman. And not just any ole woman either.

 

Image: “Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Martha at Bethany” by J.J. Tissot – Courtesy of Brooklyn Museum: https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/objects/13433    

In verse six, we see Jesus is weary from his journey and sits on Jacob’s well. When the Samaritan woman appears to get water.

In verse seven, Jesus asks her for a drink.

She responds in verse nine, “How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.”

He responds to her in verse ten, “If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.”

He goes on to say in verses thirteen and fourteen, “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:

But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”

She asks him for some of this water. And then the zinger comes in verse sixteen when he says, “Go, call thy husband, and come hither.”

She stops dead in her tracks and tells him she has no husband.

He responds by saying she’s correct, that she has had five husbands and the one she is with now isn’t her husband either.

I chuckled at verse nineteen, when she tells Jesus, “Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.”

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I absolutely love the fact that Jesus didn’t allow the customs or prejudices of that time stop him from changing His course to go speak to her. It was a divine appointment. He didn’t judge or shame her. He basically let her know that these men she keeps sleeping with aren’t going to satisfy her. They aren’t going to be able to nullify the emptiness or fill the void she feels with sex. Jesus knew her pain and made it a point to go out of His way to help her; a Samaritan, woman and prostitute.

The religious folk couldn’t understand Him. They judged him for talking to sinners like her. But it didn’t matter what they said to Him or accused Him of, He knew her heart and He wanted her to know that He is what she’s searching for.

Today many are thirsting and trying to fill their void without Jesus. They are rejecting God which is why things are getting worse in our country and around the world. The more society shakes their first at God and rejects His Son Jesus Christ, the worst things will get.

Like the Samaritan woman, He comes to all of us offering living water, the question is will we drink from His eternal well?

The Mentally Ill Christian

It’s hard to have mental illness, but it’s even harder for a Christian.

Most days, it feels like you’re drowning. Drowning in isolation, fears, and worries that shoot at you like a barrage of stray bullets.

If only it would stop. If only there was peace.

 

Photo by Davide Pietralunga on Unsplash

 

Unfortunately, most don’t understand what it’s like, not even the Church. Where acceptance, understanding, and tolerance should exist, but doesn’t.

They treat you like they are flicking a piece of lint off of their lapel. There’s no understanding, support and even compassion for those suffering and their families. They’re only willing to offer you cheap platitudes as a way to assuage their conscience.

Many sufferers are forced into silence due to the stigma, lack of acceptance and intolerance.

The pain of being misunderstood and rejected gets tucked away like tidy towels in a linen closet.

But, nothing can erase the guilt and shame of a broken brain.

Christian’s suffering from mental illness have mastered the art of pretending. They’ve had to become world class actors to survive because most people–inside and out of the Church–simply can’t handle the truth.

What is the solution? Optimally, it would be for Churches to get on board and educate the congregation on mental illness to eradicate the stigma.

The more education and awareness, the less stigma will exist in and outside the Church.

People shouldn’t have to feel alone, misunderstood, isolated, rejected and marginalized in the Church.  The Church should be a place of refuge and a catalyst for change to bring hope and healing for families.

 

Glorious Weakness by Alia Joy

Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Baker Books
Price: $15.99
Purchase: Amazon | BN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Description

As a girl, Alia Joy came face to face with weakness, poverty, and loss in ways that made her doubt God was good. There were times when it felt as if God had abandoned her. What she didn’t realize then was that God was always there, calling her to abandon herself.

In this deeply personal exploration of what it means to be “poor in spirit,” Joy challenges our cultural proclivity to “pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.” She calls on readers to embrace true vulnerability and authenticity with God and with one another, showing how weakness does not disqualify us from inclusion in the kingdom of God–instead, it is our very invitation to enter in.

Anyone who has struggled with feeling inadequate, disillusioned, or just too broken will find hope. This message is an antidote to despair, helping readers reclaim the ways God is good, even when life is anything but.

Review

It’s been a long time since I’ve come across a memoir which closely parallels my life and experiences. I feel like Alia Joy is my long lost soul sister.

She writes in the beginning of her book that Glorious Weakness is not for everyone. However, her book certainly was for me. And if others kept it real, they would see parts of themselves in her memoir, too.

Whether you’re a Christian or not, no one escapes pain and suffering in life. Pain and suffering is universal to the human experience that we all can identify to some level or degree. Alia had a fair share of it and then some. All of which I can relate to and identify with. It was as if she was writing my story.

Alia Joy’s writing style is descriptive and her use of metaphors is breathtaking. Her writing is poetic and lyrical. I enjoyed and relished reading her profound and touching memoir.

What I most appreciate about her memoir is that it’s not your typical Christian book. She doesn’t sugar coat anything.

I can’t relate to the popsicle Christian books being marketed and sold today. Glorious Weakness is real. Whereas, today’s Christian books lack depth, aren’t relatable and are impractical. Alia Joy’s book is the complete opposite. I have trouble sinking my teeth into those fluffy Christian books which make me sneeze with all their fuzzy platitudes.

Glorious Weakness is my kind of Christian memoir and I highly recommend it.

 

 Alia Joy is an author who believes the darkness is illuminated when we grasp each other’s hand and walk into the night together. She writes poignantly about her life with bipolar disorder as well as grief, faith, marriage, poverty, race, embodiment, and keeping fluent in the language of hope. Sushi is her love language and she balances her cynical idealism with humor and awkward pauses. She lives in Central Oregon with her husband, her tiny Asian mother, her three kids, a dog, a bunny, and a bunch of chickens.

Visit www.aliajoy.com.
Twitter: @aliajoy

 

 

A Loss For Time

I never thought about time the way I do now. Before becoming disabled, my days lead into the next without much thought of what awaited me.

I was once healthy, active and strong. I took pride in my ceaseless energy and workaholic ways. I felt like I was on top of the world. Never did I imagine my life would take the turn that it did and I would be faced with limitations.

On dealing with relentless health issues and that of my children, I was smacked head on with my own mortality and a loss for time.

Photo by Fredrik Öhlander on Unsplash

We all want time to stand still, especially when life is good. We live in the moment and relish it for what it’s worth, believing it will last forever.

I can assure you, I never imagined being in the situation I am today. If someone would have told me this when things were going well, I would’ve scoffed and laughed in their face.

But here I am, facing what is, as time ticks by and I can’t get one second of it back.

When I was forced to slow down due to my illnesses, I was faced with time. Time I once had and squandered. Time that’s left which I bargain with God daily and beg Him not to take me too soon. More so, for my kid’s sake, not so much for mine.

Well, perhaps a little… as I think about all the time I’ve wasted when I thought I had plenty of time.

The Bible says it best in James 4:13-14:

“Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:

Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”

Yet, there is this part of us that thinks we aren’t going to die, that we will live on earth forever. Until we are reminded, through sickness or an untimely death of a loved one.

I’ve contemplated all the time I’ve literally wasted, never once thinking I’d be in the position I’m in today. I took my health, energy and vitality for granted.

I also had plans.

For one, I was going to retire at my previous job of 23 years. Never thinking I’d ever become disabled and unable to work anymore. That wasn’t something I thought was possible and was the furthest thing from my mind, too.

Yet, here I am… dealing with one health issue after another for the past three years and things only seem to be getting worse instead of better.

However, I’m not writing this to depress you. The purpose of this post is a reminder that life can change in a second, minute, hour, or day. You can be fine one minute and get hit with something the next. Life–as you know it–can radically shift in a blink.

We never plan for stuff to happen. It’s not in our control. The only thing in our control is today. If you have God, your health and mental faculties, then as Benjamin Franklin quoted, “Don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today.”

Wise words which I would encourage you to heed.

Please don’t wait until you retire to pursue something you’ve always wanted to do. A dream you want to pursue. A place you want to visit. Make a plan and do it, don’t wait.

There is a loss for time and once it’s gone, you can’t get it back. Take advantage while you still can.

I Discovered Donna Tartt

I have to be honest, it’s been a long time since I have come across an author whose writing literally captivated me. Donna Tartt is that author.

 

I discovered her by borrowing The Goldfinch from the library on audio. The narrator, David Pittu is absolutely fabulous. He is by far the best narrator I have ever heard in my life. He is fantastic and gifted beyond belief. He made listening to this story magical.

I’m currently listening to her debut novel The Secret History which is also beautifully written and suspenseful. I am completely blown away by Donna Tartt’s talent. She reminds me of the classical authors. Her range is amazing and awe inspiring.

She is my kind of writer. Her writing is descriptive and detail oriented. Her use of metaphors is beautiful. Her writing is thoughtful and philosophical. Her character development and pacing is incredible. I can’t help but gush over her writing.

If I would aspire to write like anyone, it would be her. Her writing encompasses everything I would love to achieve. She is a genius. There are not many writers like her. She is unique in every sense of the word.

Donna Tartt writes a book every decade. She is a true artist. She is not falling for the hype. She writes at her own pace and for the love of writing. She has written only three novels and all three novels were hits. The Goldfinch winning the Pulitzer Prize in 2014.

I had to make mention of her because if you haven’t read her books you are missing out on great writing. Her books are long, but I would encourage you to listen to her books on audio, especially The Goldfinch which is a real treat.

When I finished The Goldfinch I was sad. I didn’t want the story to end. It kept me company. I would listen to it at night before going to sleep and became deeply engrossed and invested in Theo, the main protagonist.

The way Donna Tartt weaves a story is brilliant. I highly recommend her books.

What Mental Illness Should Not Be

I hear terms like, “the weather is so bi-polar,” or “I’m just a little OCD,” and I cringe. When people say things like this, they have no idea what they are saying.

Photo by Callie Gibson on Unsplash

Terms like these are used loosely all the time. For the record, there is no such thing as being a little OCD.

Just because you are clean and meticulous doesn’t mean you suffer from OCD. OCD is a serious mental illness and those who have it suffer a lot and it’s no laughing matter.

Being clean and organized has nothing to do with the fastidiousness of washing your hands countless times a day to the point of bleeding. Those who suffer from OCD will tell you unabashedly, it’s like living a reoccurring nightmare.

OCD is a debilitating disease that never goes away. And, as with most mental illnesses, there is no cure.

Sometimes people associate all mental illnesses with psychosis which is a separate diagnosis. Here is a short clip of what psychosis is like: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0783qvh.

Society dumps everything in one batch. When they think bi-polar or schizophrenia, they automatically associate it with being “crazy or like I mentioned in my previous post, “Psycho.” But, nothing could be further from the truth.

Mental illness is the result of a brain disorder that affects your mood, thinking and behavior.

For example, with OCD, there’s a barrage of uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over. They can’t stop it or snap out of it either.

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, bi-polar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.

Bottomline, mental illness (i.e., OCD, bi-polar, schizophrenia) should not be the butt of jokes, the brunt of mockery, or made light of nor misinterpreted, misrepresented or stigmatized. Because mental illness is not fun or funny. Those suffering from it live in constant torment and daily torture and they  hide in shame and suffer in silence due to all the ignorance floating around.

Which is why I’m speaking up to help end the stigma on #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth.