It is What we Make It

Alan house

 

Absolutely hating the saying, “it is what it is”, has lead me to really digest the phrase. To me, this popular saying is wildly repetitive. I mean, come on now, of course, “it is what it is.” Let’s put a little more thought into it, why is it what it is? Stuff happens I get it, but in this life, especially as Christians, we are called to turn the “yuck” of what life throws our way into His master plan. Introspectively I contemplate that “is it really what it is?” Or is it an eternal opportunity for us to make it into something that may impact our inner ability to grow and prosper into what God has intended for us in the most magnificent way?
My tire blew out.

“It is what it is.”

I was late for work…again.

“Oh well, it is what it is.,”

My life sucks, I lost my keys…AGAIN!

“Who cares ’cause, it is what it is.”

My wife left me because I’m an addict and can’t stop feeding my want for the numbness drugs bring me.”

“It is what it is.”

I’m back at Rogers Memorial Hospital after promising I’d never have to go back to this place.”

“It is what it is.”

No!!! Stop this complacent way of justifying our situations.  It isn’t what it is, it is what we make it!!!  

Can I get an “Amen” people?

Life throws many curve balls. The best way to make God laugh is to tell Him you’ve got this great plan for your life, that you’ve got your life figured out.

Reason being: We can’t predict what is going to come our way, the struggle, the torrent, the joy, love, acceptance, rejection etc… None of it is in our hands.  All of it is far out of our reach, as far away as the stars we watch on a warm July night holding our loved ones close.

So…it is what it is…right?  Let’s take a look at the last week of my life and see.
I recently spent four days at Rogers Memorial Hospital Hospital in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.  I saw people of each gender and every race struggling with mental illness and substance abuse. Let me tell you, I saw it all, from depression, anxiety disorder, heroin, cocaine, opioid, ecstasy withdrawals, alcohol dependence, Bipolar Disorder, and Schizophrenia. I met the most extraordinary people fighting to combat the darkest and deepest places in which had created their own living hell.

On my journey, I met…
A homeless man whose love and hope resided in Jesus as he spent a long winter in Wisconsin… homeless.  Living under bridges and one meal a day at the local food bank, somehow he managed to find drugs.  He was there with me recovering from heroin use to help dispel the fact that he had been raped. I asked him once, “How did you survive being homeless in Wisconsin in winter?” His answer, “Jesus of Nazareth. I continued, “How on earth did you survive being raped.  The very worst of the worst.  I get it.?” His answer, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Through squinted eyes and messy hair, his hand covered his mouth, as in a showmanship of trying so hard to not vomit up the turmoil he had been through. My hand reached out to meet his quivering broken self. “I admire you more than you’ll ever know,” I whisper. His response…
“It is what you make it.”
A lawyer from Houston, Texas who carried with him sorrowful stunning crystal blue eyes,  going through a painful, yet, necessary divorce.  On Sunday I asked, “Being it’s Father’s Day how hard is it to be away from your newborn son?” He responded, “that is part of why I’m here. My Bipolar went completely out of control at the thought of my son growing up with me as a part time dad.” My words seemed to echo through the commons area where we spent our free time, “I can’t even imagine.” Bowing my head in introspection and sorrow for this wonderful man who had reached out for help, I smiled at him with tears in my eyes. “So, my friend what are you going to do?”
“It is what I choose to make it.”
I met an addict deep in the trenches of withdrawal symptoms displaying profuse sweating while feeling cold, body aches, tremors, and his nose bleeding out all the poison.  Come to find out he had been using heroin for ten years straight, I asked him one night, “Why now, why are you here here in this moment, after many attempts at rehab?”

After a long pause, he stuttered, “My addiction has taken over every aspect of my life. I have overdosed five times in the past week, man. I’m so lucky to be alive. My last OD was at work, my boss found me passed out in the bathroom. I’m most likely going to lose my job where I was making crazy money.” Responding with my eyes wide with the wonder of what can happen to a life I also stutter out, “Why now, what about this time after two stints in rehab is going to make you clean?” He ran his worn construction hands through his dark thick hair. “Because I can’t be buried next to my twin brother. He died when we were 16, I just can’t do that to my mom, my dad, to me.” Tears dripping down my placid face I ask him, “How? How do we do this, never turning back, giving up our crutch?
“Our sobriety is what we make it, man. We just have to Ami, you don’t want to be buried next to your babies, do you? Of course, you don’t.

Let’s chose to make it what we have the ability to make it; which is something so much…better.”

I had these amazing and deeply strong and courageous people surrounding me as I went through one of the most difficult trials in my life.  We poured into one another for hours on end. Talking, crying, withdrawing from the poison that we filled our veins with. We played silly games that the counselors made us, after rolling our eyes at the sight of “Loaded Questions”, we all laughed and felt authentic empathy for one another. Our stories were all different, our past, our pain, abandonment, abuse, and total destruction of our hearts. We were united in a common joining of pain yet hope to make it what we had chosen to make it by having the will to seek out help.
I’ll never forget the people I met the four days I was in the hospital. Never ever ever. They were one of the many reasons I had to fight because in fighting we were in the battle together. Cheering one another on toward victory over the enemy’s playground we had chosen to play on.  Death was searching for us, each and every one of us, yet by crying out for help we fought the fire of an inevitable end. We battled the turmoil inside us that we had invited into our inner will to fight. Fight. Fight. Fight.
Eventually, seeking the ability to overcome, I am currently in a four-week partial hospitalization program where I spend six hours a day with intense medical observation, coping skills, weekly drug and alcohol testing for accountability. Which is perfect, as God designed such capable people to care for the “us” who have such battles inside our minds.
It is what it is.
I have a mental illness.
It is what it is.
I struggle with alcohol abuse.
It is what it is.
I have had a really rough go of life, facing struggle after struggle since I was two years old.
Oh heck no, it isn’t what it is…it is what I make it!
And I chose to make it perfectly where He needs me to be, ministering to others.
Make it well with my soul. To follow Christ, giving Him all the pain, addiction, sickness and my past turmoil that has an imperative reason as to why I’m here, right now in this place, facing this struggle.
Ultimately, it is what I make it
I chose to make my life the stunning bright light of beautiful glory that God intended for me before I was even me. And that is the true definition of, “it is what it is.” God’s grace tells us that we are perfectly and wonderfully made, and it sure helps get us there when we make it what He desires for us to make it.

The Parable of the Parrot

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I am about to share with you something that will probably shock you to your core.  Words that have been spoken to me since I can recall until now are that I, in fact, talk too much.  I know, it is a major confession.  Yet, in the midst of a really great church service today, Pastor Kevin spoke on what I seem to excel at…words.  A power exists within the linguistic ability to build up or destroy.  Our inner moral code is formulated with what comes out of our mouths and what can be detrimental the words we tell ourselves that believe we truly are.

Absorbing every word of our beloved pastor had to share on the power of words I both felt great appreciation for my gift, yet a deep burden.  I have both the gift of spoken and written word…what a responsibility!  My heartbeat slowed, my air flow swallowed as I gasped in the great knowledge of what God has called for me in this life.  Like a sword that is in your hands and you can either lift up or chastise.  You have that much power.  Yet, we all do.  The wordsmith isn’t the only one held accountable to such a duty.  We all are.

I almost didn’t go to church today.  After battling on Saturday a day of depression that I haven’t had to face in a while, the kind where I could barely get myself out of bed.  Saturday, the only thing I wanted to do was sleep, find some kind of peace in nonexistence.  Faces danced in my mind of my children, my blessings, my God who has always been faithful, and my husband, my dear wonderful blessing of a husband who loves me so…and even so…I wanted to disappear.  An imbalance in the brain, circumstantial, environmental, abusive past, all things prelude to such an illness.  The words of others telling me I’m weak to not trust God for healing blared in my silence as I tried to do anything but sleep.  In that moment, that precipice of time, His hand reached down and caressed my hair like my mom used to do when I was sick.   He said it wasn’t my faith in His ability to heal me that was lacking, it was my trust in Him that He hasn’t healed me is what I needed to cling to. He gave me a vision of why I’m where I am.  Sometimes we aren’t healed.  People die of diseases that they don’t deserve, and more so, they live with illness’s that holds them back from the better part of themselves because of a purpose.  God told me my purpose was clear.  And it is my words.

I drifted off to sleep, thankfully.  My dreamland brought me to a place where I was speaking in front of a group of young women.  All suffering from…depression.  A door opened and I walked through it, even though in my dream I could barely keep my head up, my eyes open and my body afloat.  What I saw were sixty, maybe eighty eyes on me begging for hope, for an answer.  For enlightenment.  Digging deep into my life experience, pain, torture, lack of want to go on, I walked on the stage and told my story.

Tears fell.

Knees buckled.

Women’s lives were somehow touched.  Because of my pain, not my immediate healing.  My journey through the perils of grief, abandonment, abuse, loss, addiction, fear, love, joy, birth, re birth, loss, loss, loss lives were forever touched….I woke up with a gasp of air that filled me full and left me okay with not being healed today.  For healing comes in so many different forums.  Sometimes our closure to the vice that hunts us down is simply helping others who are walking in the shoes we had to navigate tough territory in.

I almost didn’t go to church today because I’m battling a big go at depression.  Somehow, I got up, dressed, put some makeup on so I wouldn’t scare anyone, and gathered my family to Journey Church.  Walking into the place where it is easy to find and experience God my husband and I ran into Pastor Kevin.  I told him, “I’m so excited about this service.”  He smiled, humbly as he always does, and placed a gentle hand on my shoulder.  In that moment I wondered if he knew if I almost didn’t come.

Words flowed, from a wordsmith to a wordsmith.  Taking notes as fast as I could process I realized that my polarity is huge when it comes to my words.  Sure, I write books, blogs, speak, but I am so very capable of the polar.

I have gossiped.  Slandered.  Cussed. Been blasphemous.  I have. Usually depending on my polarity or the reach of where I chose to hang my hat.  Folks I surround myself with, words I acquire into my vocabulary.  They can be either earth shattering beautiful, or God-forsakenly hurtful.  

Colorful and smart the parrot knows this better than any of us.  Mimicking who is dancing in front of her, she speaks the words, repeats the actions because it is all she knows.  Yet, we as followers of Christ know that we chose who we polarize ourselves to.  When we surround ourselves in darkness we speak….way more crass than we would in the light.

In the sunshine, we encourage, build up, bring peace and open the door of opportunity of God to move.

I have been the enemy’s parrot.  Speaking ill words of people who have done me wrong, spreading gossip, true or untrue, somehow giving me a high that is straight from the pit of hell.

 I have been God’s parrot.  Shouting from the mountain tops His love, promise, hope even in the face of depression, abandonment and abuse.

The takeaway and the burden of my heart this week is that when we speak kindly, even against those who we feel don’t deserve it God will shine, those around us will be blessed, and we will be at ease. No, we aren’t Jesus.  We can’t be, but we can try.  It is our calling to Fight so hard to act as He did, and strive to be the better part of us that He is in the process of formulating.

Words are monumental and in ways we are all parrots, repeating our surroundings and giving what we are given.  Chose light, love, joy, freedom, and repeat.

 Repeat.  Repeat Love.

The Army Behind Me

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December found me lying silent, and in that season a blanket filled with quiet I fell into a thick darkness that I know all too well.
A war was waging, a fire blazing, and I could hear the gunfire in the background of my bleakness. Sleep couldn’t come fast enough, and the thought of leaving my house left me paralyzed with a desire to black it all out. All the goodness, the light, words, and song that usually consumes me was diminished to a dismal singular flame flickering on my bedside. Barely keeping me…here.
That is depression, the enemy, a stillness that can black out a once active and fertile mind and consume it with…black.
Recently, the silent enemy of depression knocked on my door, as it does periodically in my life for no particular reason. Finding it extremely difficult to explain this kind of struggle to the world has been a challenge my entire life. It seems simple for people to understand a disease that is medically coherent.

Heart disease, a wrecked knee, cancer, lung disease…all things that are tangible.
But mental illness it isn’t visible through my smile.

My hug.
Or in a peppy attitude that is saved for the hour you may see me.
What consumes me the moment I can let my guard down, is a desperate plea to my God who knows my pain. My suffering, and the reality of an imbalance in my brain that in unseen to the naked eye. The disfiguration of such a struggle is beyond words, metaphors, and enlightening.

The reality is black yet the tangible feel for people who haven’t walked in its ugly shadows is sadly gray.  Unforeseen. And misunderstood.
I’ve fought my entire life to hide the demons that wage within my mind. For, I do not want you to see me as weak.
I know this more than I know most things, I am anything but weak. What I’ve seen and been through in my life, yet still risen above proves so. God has given me a precious gift of an armor that has shielded me, kept me, and built me up despite horrid and unforgiving odds.
Yet…a child is only as strong as she can be. The mind can only take so much, and the body will eventually have an emotional response to repeated toxicity. Hence, my lifelong battle with depression and anxiety.
It’s hard for me to write when I’m struggling in the brinks of the darkness, therefore I have been silent lately. So this will be brief. It’s difficult for me to breathe, walk, get dressed, so the manifestation of the love of my life, my words, leave me as well.
But one thing I’ve learned in this past year of returning to my faith after a seventeen-year hiatus is that I am LOVED. I am not alone, and that I am capable.
My voice, though it may be small, is needed in this world. God told me so, on a cold February night last year when I re-dedicated my life to the Lord. He spoke through the pastor, into the music, providing a spiritual army as a portal into my soul. I will speak of mental illness as loud as it is needed. To normalize it, to forgive it, and to bring peace and hope to my fellow sufferers of such a hell.
The army has always been fighting. Praying, fasting and praying again. Now in the throws of my faith, I know this. I was never alone. WE ARE NEVER ALONE. And when I feel as if I am, somewhere deep inside me I know they are there, fighting when I am too weak.

Two Seconds From Grace

Mental illness affects us all. Especially those of us who have a chance to make a difference at the moment before a fall from grace.

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Definition: Grace/  simple elegance or refinement of movement.

(In Christian belief) the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.

 

My letter to the church leaders of the world,

I know why you serve the way you do with such reckless abandon coupled with intense fervor.

It is found in the knowledge and emotion that you love God and have a passion for people that very few in this life possess, wanting to spread a rare never ending beautiful bleeding heart upon the needy and hurting people of the world. That in itself holds value; people today desperately lack yet deeply crave to be helped when they cannot help themselves.  It can be a catapult to distinguish the true servants of God and the false chasers of self-glorification.

If you expedite an intense yet sincere passion for serving the God you praise more dutiful than the god within yourself we all fight, you have won a battle most will lose. 

You can have victory over the dark one that creeps up deep inside of us all that will find you and beg to be noticed no matter how hard we try to shove down the cornerstone of true humanity.

I’ll be quick because I realize we are all in a huge hurry.

I know this to be true as I too live in the fast paced social media era of reckoning as we find ourselves completely submerged in a lack of presence with the moment we are in. In fact, research states that the dopamine released in the brain is equivalent to heroin during times distracted on social media.  Today such distractions consume us, transporting even the most faithful of leaders to a far away land providing a high that we can’t feel simply by being present in the moment.  The intoxication feeds us, propels and catapults into a greatness we cannot taste alone.  Yet our “real” friends do the same for us, the ones we see after serving a long day wanting to congratulate us on a great sermon delivered, or an amazing set of music at worship.  Connecting with those real time friends is essential to our walk of life no matter our focus, yet losing peripheral vision in the ministry can be catastrophic

Think of a stranger who may be approaching you in their darkest hour?  Will you find time for compassion, fluidity, and what we are called to administer like no other upon one another…grace?

Having lived two amazingly diverse double decades of life, I have derived more wisdom through the badges of honor and the pitfalls presented my way and I’d like to share.  For I have a powerful observation, and that is, ultimately we all crave the  innate need to be seen.

We simply need to feel loved where we are in the moment of truth that life can poignantly present.  The insides of us that we cultivate deep into the throws of our true identity need acknowledgment.  Those of us that get up early and go to bed late fighting hard to be the best we can be are known as a special breed in the eyes of our Creator, or the church, and can find a remarkable place that can meet the need of acceptance.

There is a special commodity where our gifts can be used to help others find the principle belief that Jesus will fight their battles and WIN!

In the ministry, we feel blessed if a person in the congregation waits to speak to us after God delivered hope through our words. But what if they happen to be at the end of their rope, feeling lost and hopeless, are you truly prepared for such an encounter?  Are you in tune with the holy spirit for such an acquisition but mostly are you on standby to provide the need for them to be seen?

Pay close attention…Because what if…a hypothetical story is truth week after week in a large body of christ.

They find hope and acceptance because they found power, of Jesus’ grace through your words.

They sought the promise to end earth deafening loneliness through the cry out for a better life.

Then they wander home wanting to find a more fruitful life.

And sit at their bedside-more lost than when they left your congregation hours before.

The darkness comes in a wave of unthinkable sorrow because they sought out love yet received a standoff.

Feeling loneliness and exile from you.

They recall your~

Distracted eyes on as they shook your hand.

As you looked for someone more important approaching in the distance.

Turmoil overtakes them.  The inability to be seen leaves them hopeless with a small bottle quickly emptying its numbing liquid effect and making the sorrow of life’s war more real.

Then they reach for the steel cold barrel by their bedside

Lifting it to their mouth, they see no other way out.

A thousand decibels of anguish quake the earth and the heavens leaving nothing but sorrow and exile behind.

Don’t blame them;  their face you cannot recall as they couldn’t state the obvious dread inside their heart when they shook your distracted hand.

They couldn’t voice the ache in their heart,

“I’m struggling with depression.  I am having suicidal thoughts, and I’m about two seconds from grace yet a thousand miles away because I feel alone.”  They won’t say it because they didn’t feel  important enough in your shifting eyes.  And even if they were, they didn’t see it because you were too concerned with the need to be seen yourself.

Sincerely,

A once church leader turned church goer searching love and the need to be seen…  One who has traveled many years of love, loss and service to find herself needing an eye on hers, a handshake, or an extended listening ear, yet found disengaged leaders who were waiting for the next great moment to come their way.  I’m lucky to say that I’m still here today to write about it, but so many aren’t.   Please find  Jesus’ grace deep inside the gifts you have and never deny to show it to a beating heart that desperately may need you for the very reason you serve with such reckless abandon.

10 Reasons Why my Facebook Life is Fake

We all are guilty of taking 51 shots on our iPhones in order to get that one selfie that makes us look incredibly skinny, pretty and oh so perfect! That is the lure of publishing our lives on social media, we are finally in control of our lives that in reality we have no control over what so ever. So here it is folks, the really bad selfie of me!

Alan and Ami's bdayI am imperfect.    We all are.  Yet I feel social media is the perfect medium to allow our imperfect beings to show a false reality of what we really want to be seen…I admit it, right here, right now I fall into this category.  In the depths of loving the selfie taking, word choice moments that may have formed an unrealistic vision of who I really am, I want to call myself out, to let you see a glimpse of true reality.

I’m sorry if you feel lied to but this is really who I am…

1.  A divorced woman.  Yup.  I failed at marriage the first go around.  Indeed, my ex and I are still friends, we chose kindness not hate.  But we are still not one.  We are left nothing but..painfully divorced as a couple.  Leaving my two older sons with a mom and dad who didn’t keep to our original marriage vows, who are scattered amongst the wreckage of the rest of the world.

2.  I am an author.  I get to tell amazing stories for a living.  Yet in order to do so, I have lived a lifetime of hardships that allow my words to flow from my ache-ridden heart the way that they so fluently do.

3.  I have lived with a painful eating disorder.  I have posted pictures of a skinny skeleton of myself from my past with a story of the torture that comes with being so thin.  There is always at least one in the crowd who tells me how “great” I looked.  Yes, it looks great to live on 400 calories a day and to succumb to the pain that comes with the pressures of perceived perfection.

4.  I have no clue what I want to be in this life…still.  I’m 41 years old and have no idea what I’m going to be when I grow up.  Most women at my age can identify with being a stay at home mom, or having a career.  I am still in-between and after a few unpredicted situations of having to take a late stand in life against abusive people, I am still finding out just who I am and where I am supposed to be.

5.  I have a child who is leaving and one who is just starting out.   My oldest son of four children is getting ready to go to college and I am so very proud, beyond belief!  Yet, accepting he is leaving my nest is more difficult than I could have ever imagined.  I want to chase after him every time he comes home this last year he is under my roof and give him one last hug, just in case he should forget what it feels to have my arms wrapped around his neck.  Yet…I have a baby girl who I have dreamed of having my whole life who is just three years old.  She is just starting out, the breath of life is fresh and every new discovery is a light in her eye.  As much as I embrace it, there are times I wonder what it would be like to be simply saying goodbye to the teenager who begs for freedom, not starting all over again.  A sign that we are never truly content with what we have, are we?

6.  Depression, it hunts me down when I least expect it.  Ins and outs.  Ebbs and flows.  It always finds me.  End of story.

7.  I’m a figure skater.  I always wanted to be on the ice, and made the dream come true at the age of 30.  But by choice not by recognition of simply wanting to be something I wasn’t.  And  I’ve fallen more than I’ve landed.  I have more bruises than pretty dresses.  Anything worth while comes with hard work that is unthinkable to most…

8.  I have a love-hate relationship with any form of alcohol.  Being an ultra-controlling Virgo, I absolutely hate the idea of anything controlling me.  Submersed in the freeing feeling of one too many martinis I have to ask myself, is this where I really want to be?  Numbing the difficult day away, or truly feeling it through good times and bad?  Scrolling along on social media all we see is ways “wine” is the only solution to a difficult day, yet is that really any kind of a solution?

9.  I don’t speak to my father.  Because it is healthy.  And that alone hurts.  Way more than I ever lead on.

10.  My husband and I aren’t perfect.
  We take date night selfies.  We post our dinner recipes for the night, and show you our children’s pretty faces, but please know that we do fight.  We clash.  We are at odds, more than we’ll ever let you know.  But if anything in my life that is imperfect, my marriage is the one thing I’m the most proud of because no matter how flawed I am, no matter how much I struggle to find balance, my husband chases that dream with me.  And he perfects my imperfections with his own struggle, and he forces me to see my beauty more than any single human being ever has.  Simply what we all truly need in this life is that one person who has our back.  And that is what I don’t say enough on social media, that I’m flawed, I hurt, but through it all, I have a partner who is too.  He holds my hand and says, “we will make it through the struggle…together.”