I choose love

God prompted me to write. I’m studying 1:Cor 13 and this past week, I focused on verses 4-8. These are my thoughts on it. Hope it makes sense ūüôā

We are no match for the gates of Hell, for the sin that resides within us and the evil that seeks to destroy us and everything we hold dear. Alone we can not overcome this darkness. We are hopelessly lost.

The only answer that gives us a fighting chance is LOVE. Jesus is love. Through Him and only Him do we ever have a chance for victory.

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Now love is not easy. It is work, y’all. It takes putting ourselves aside, admitting that we are weak and need a savior. God has revealed that love is one of his biggest weapons. Jesus saved us all with one simple act. Love. He conquered sin and death for us all. ¬†And when we use it, we can conquer anything. We just have to learn how.

So I took a look at 1 Cor 13, because I needed to figure out this “how to really love” thing. Like I mentioned before, it’s hard. Why is it hard?

I can’t speak for everyone, but I can speak for myself. For one, I’m human. And with that comes selfishness, pride, impatience, foot-in-mouth syndrome, and anger. And when I’m ¬†wronged, here come vengeance, walls a ninja can’t even climb and unforgiveness. It’s a mess, but its what you default to when you are human and try to go it alone.

So lets look at 1 Cor 13: 4-8

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends

There’s a lot to love, many things this one word seems to hold. Yet, it was Jesus’ one command to us:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. John 13:34

I look at that command and think:

“God, I am so human. I want what I want, when I want it and how I want it. How can I possibly follow this? There are days that I remember who I am and that I serve you, but there are days where I forget (or times, like driving on the 41 on my way to work and there’s that one super slow driver….).

Whoops, rabbit trail. Ahem, back on track.

Yet, He¬†calls us to love. It’s a scary thing because we’re human. And better yet, you want us, with all our mess, all our stuff, all our love of self, to join together with another human…with all their stuff and mess and love of self- and call it love.

Wow. Thats an even bigger command. To let worlds collide, very different worlds, and learn to love within them.

So what do we do with all of this? What is our plan?

We have to follow love. It’s the only way to win. It’s the only way to defeat the enemy. It’s like a throat punch to the devil every single time we choose to love. Every time we choose unity over separation, another throat punch. ¬†Pretty soon the devil can’t speak anymore hate and fear into our lives because his throat is swollen shut. That’s an awesome thing.

Every time we lay ourselves down, and choose these things and choose Christ, the enemy reels back in horror. Our love for one another, our willingness to lay ourselves down ¬†and follow Christ terrifies him. And it causes him pain. Doesn’t that just make you happy to know that every time we do this one simple act, to love, it destroys him. The devil, who steals our joy, wants us dead, destroys our families…it is wonderful to know that every time I choose love, it ruins him.

So I choose love. No matter how difficult, how scary or how painful…I choose love.

 

 

This sucks, and that’s okay.

There have been a lot of negative things going on lately: friends losing loved ones, families being torn apart, friends being hurt. I’d been feeling down about all of it and tried to stuff those feelings away until I found out that a patient of mine passed away last week. It was very sudden and unexpected. I remember smiling at him, telling him how great he looked and how awesome it was to see him up and moving around.¬† I waved goodbye and went on with the rest of my day.

He passed away the next night.

I kept thinking in my head, “He was just here. He was fine. How does this happen?”

It takes me a while to process feelings. When something unpleasant happens, I freeze. Or maybe I detach? Physically my body reacts, but it can take awhile (hours, days…) to express it outwardly.

For example, as I was saying good bye to my sister during my last trip to Atlanta, she starts sobbing. We hadn’t seen each other in about 4 years and hadn’t spoke for about a year. It was a great trip, with lots of healing and restoring of relationships.¬† She’s sobbing, telling me how much she loves me, doesn’t want me to go and I am in the front seat like:

blank stare

Now internally, this is the conversation I am having:

” This is really sad. I don’t want to leave either. I’ve really missed my family. Oh, she’s really crying. Hard. Why the heck aren’t you crying? Why won’t you just cry? Are you a robot? Don’t you feel sad? Didn’t you miss her, too? What’s wrong with you? CRY YOU ROBOT!!!”

Despite my inner “coach”, the tears don’t come. We say our goodbyes, our I love yous, and I head back to CA the next day.

As I am sitting on the tram back to my car, the tears decide to make their appearance. In front of complete strangers.  A day later.

“Ma’am are you okay?”

“Yep, something in my eye.”

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When the kiddo died, same thing happened. Same freeze up. But when I got home, I felt pretty crappy. There were a mix of emotions: anger, shock, confusion, sadness. These were all things that I did not want to feel and I wanted these feelings gone immediately.

So I prayed.

Me: “God give me something, anything so I don’t feel like this.”

God: “Read Lamentations.”

Me: “What? Why? Isn’t that entire book about a guy lamenting over the destruction of Jerusalem? Wheres the happy in that?”

God: “Read Lamentations.”

Me: “It’s going to be depressing. I already feel sad. I want to feel un-sad.”

God: “Trust me. Read it. Take a look at Jeremiah 52 first, then read Lamentations.”

So I finally stop being hardheaded and start reading. So for those of you who don’t know the story, the last chapter in Jeremiah details the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon. Lamentations is basically the authors response to seeing his city destroyed. It’s pretty bad.¬† Mothers eating their children, people dying from disease and starvation, homes being burned to the ground, everything being reduced to rubble, nasty stuff.

if you want some perspective of what they went through, think 9/11.

As I was going over the history of Lamentations in my commentary, God leads me to one simple sentence:

“The best way to survive grief is to express it.”

Ah.

That is exactly what the author of Lamentations does throughout the book. He doesn’t hold back. He lets God know about his pain, the horror he’s experienced, the suffering, the sadness, the anger, all of it. He’s not afraid to put it all out there. He’s being so real and raw about how much it sucks to see his city, his people, his home experience so much death and destruction. I mean, how could you not say anything? How could you hold all of that in? It’s not healthy. It would kill you.

Yet I hold stuff in it all the time.

Now I do have to mention that this book isn’t all anger and despair, there’s hope. Midway through Chapter 3, the writers lamenting switches to hope:

“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because of His compassion fail not. They are new every morning; Great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul, Therefore I hope in Him.” Lamentations 3:22-24

I love Hope. It’s listed as one of the three great things to have in 1 Corinthians 13.¬† Hope keeps you moving forward when you want to give up. Hope brings peace when your world is filled with turmoil. Hope is expecting something good to come out of the darkness.¬† Hope is knowing that everything will be okay in the end. That’s why I cling to it.

In the same token, I tend to try to shove out anger, sadness, despair, confusion and skip right to the Hope. That’s the happy place. That’s where the light is. There’s pretty flowers there, butterflies, unicorns, (in my world anyway).

Lisa Frank is not reality, no matter how much I wish it to be.

I bury the bad, pretending it’s not there and just jump right to the happy. That’s not realistic. Or healthy. I don’t give myself the chance to grieve the loss, or address the anger. Some part of me feels like I am not trusting God when I let him how much I think it sucks that this kid died, or my friend lost her husband, or that my friend was injured.¬† That people are being terrorized and murdered. That I don’t understand why there has to be so much loss, sickness and pain along with the joy. That I hate suffering and sometimes feel so powerless in this fallen world. That sometimes, it just plain sucks.

I have to see that God can handle all of mine, all of¬† our emotions good or bad. That He can take our honest feelings, in fact, that’s exactly what He wants. He isn’t offended by our questions, our anger and He doesn’t see it as a judgement of Him or who He is. He’ll still love us. He’ll still be faithful. He’s still God and in control.

It’s okay to say, “this sucks.” God will listen, open His arms, and ultimately it will be okay.

To Be Someone

(I finally unpacked all my books, and decided to spend the afternoon reading. I picked up a book, and then this happens. God said “write” So I did. Enjoy.)

It’s just a book.

A book.

A book my sisters dog chewed up on the edges that I couldn’t throw away because I loved it so much.

Thanks, Sammi
Sammi always went after things we loved. For my sister, it was her shoes. For me, my books. Thanks Sammi!

A book that has me unglued and sends a flood of memories. I picked up,

To Be Someone

and got really into the first few chapters, when I realized the last time I read this book:

My mom was alive, I was a week from moving from Sacramento to Fresno for grad school and I was excited FREAKING OUT.

I was so scared and uncertain of my future. Why Fresno? Why did I just leave my job that I was crazy good at to move to a city I’d never dreamed of living in? Also, counseling? REALLY? And finally, college students? I’m supposed to manage a bunch of college students? I’m able to plan groups for 100 psych patients but watch over 600 COLLEGE STUDENTS?! Am I INSANE?! I hate confrontation and to manage people…what on earth was I thinking?!

On top of all this, my mom was still dealing with the after effects of cancer treatment, and here I was, leaving.

Was this really the best time to leave? REALLY?

I remember bawling in my room, my dog Roxci standing by the door watching me cautiously as I sat on my bed. I wanted to get up and tell my mom she was right: Fresno was scary, that I was just going to stay, complete my degree at Sacramento State and turn down the Resident Director job in Fresno.

Yet God had opened every single door imaginable to get me to leave…and I knew I had to go. I’d never had doors open that easily before. EVER. I sat on my bed holding,

To Be Someone

knowing that if I shut this door my life would change drastically. If I gave into my fears now, I’d make a serious mistake. If I let the idea of comfort and the “known” keep me back, I’d have a lot of regrets.

I took a deep breath, wiped my tears and returned to my book. Roxci hopped on my bed after a while, convinced that I no longer had my running shoes on.

It’s amazing what things you are able to recall from something as simple as picking up an old chewed up book. And for the record, despite all that has happened, I am so glad I left.

I remember buying the book,

To Be Someone

on a whim while browsing the discount section at Borders one afternoon. It was 7 bucks, had a girl on the cover with headphones on her ears (practically me everyday) and after a skim of the back cover, I had to buy it. I remember the anticipation and joy of getting home just so I could dive into my new adventure. I loved and still love books. Especially the feel and smell of a brand new book, someone should bottle this and sell it.

Without giving too much away (it’s a great read and wouldn’t want to spoil it in case you decide to pick it up) the story circles around a friendship (Helena and Sam) that was ended by cancer and how the main character, Helena, tries to move on. She makes plans, she goes a little crazy, and she almost gives up.

When I bought this, I had no idea cancer would be the subject of the book. I remember reading

To Be Someone

and facing my own fears about losing my mother.  What would it be like to possibly live on without her? Would I go nuts too? Would I give up?

A month after I moved to Fresno, my mom got the all clear from her doctors that the cancer was gone. I was excited and so relieved. I wouldn’t have to experience the pain of losing someone you loved. I wouldn’t be Helena. My mom, my best friend, my Sam, would be fine. She’d watch me walk at my graduation, she’d walk me down the aisle… she’d be here.

That was my plan.

Clearly plans change, and the unexpected happens. Life takes you down roads you wish you’d never have to go.

As I look down at this book

To Be Someone

I think of the road¬†my life has taken these past seven years. As my road changed unexpectedly, sometimes I would run in fear and often in the wrong direction. It’s amazing how fast you can run when you are scared and when the unknown is way too scary in your mind to face. You remember the cracks¬†and ditches that loss has left in your road and you do everything in your power to avoid getting¬†any more.

After a while, you get tired of running away. You realize that you can’t control everything; roads warp and change with time. You can only avoid so much and you have to start trusting that one who created your road will always be there, no matter how many cracks and ditches form. He’ll fill them.

You learn to walk down your¬†road despite fear and pain, and that I’ve learned, is called¬†courage.

cour·age
ňąk…ôrij/
noun
the ability to do something that frightens one.
“she called on all her courage to face the ordeal”

strength in the face of pain or grief.
“she fought her illness with great courage”

synonyms: bravery, courageousness, pluck, pluckiness, valor, fearlessness, intrepidity, nerve, daring, audacity, boldness, grit, true grit, hardihood, heroism, gallantry; informal: guts, spunk, moxie*, cojones, balls.

*I’ve always loved the word moxie. I want to be a woman with moxie. Tons of it.”¬†

This past year or so I’ve worked to be someone that holds these traits. To be someone that sees the Jordan ahead of me and can step out into the river knowing that the water will stop. To be someone that feels this:

fear1

but remember this:

joshua

so that I do this:

leapoffaith

To leap and enjoy the unknown. To do it afraid. To be someone, with moxie.

I’m getting there.

Where feet may fail

It’s been a¬†rough month emotionally. I just needed a break from the crap swarming in my head. So, on Friday night after an eight hour Doctor Who binge (sad, I know),¬†I asked the Lord if I could¬†I take an introvert day to the beach. He allowed it.

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My happy place

I decided to go to San Simeon for the day. One of my patients told me that it’s a great beach to visit, not too crowed and that I’d love it there. So I went. On my way there, I was just talking to the Lord and said:

I’d like to go sea kayaking. Maybe someday

When I usually take my introvert time, I just sit at the beach for hours¬†and read. I love it. It’s my happy place. I’ll frolic in the waves for just a bit, get soaked because I went in too far and got slammed by a wave. ¬†Then I sit down, usually covered in sea water and sand, and read for a while.

Perfect reading spot.
Perfect reading spot.

But, I’ve always wanted to go out farther. Go deeper in. Swim with a dolphin or two and really interact with the ocean. For me, I guess my representation of God is the ocean. It’s huge. It’s beautiful and peaceful. Yet very¬†¬†powerful and could really take you out, all of us really, if it wanted too. There is so much of it yet to be explored, so much beyond my understanding. ¬†Kinda how I view the Lord. ¬†I feel closest to God when I am there, so I go monthly if I can.

Anyway…

As I am driving along the 1, I come across tons of beaches. Instant joy. Usually I give into that joy, stop and enjoy whatever beach I come across. God kept pushing…

“Don’t stop. You’ll like where you’re headed. Keep going.”

So I kept going. I drove past so many beaches, fighting the urge to stop each time. I pass this pier and it takes everything in me not to stop, get out and skip down it.

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God pushes,

“Keep going Alexis, you’ll like this.”

I finally get to San Simeon, pull into the town and see cute old buildings, horses, beautiful view. There’s gorgeous trees and flowers everywhere. I like it, but I can’t see the beach.

Cute town.
Welcome to San Simeon

“Lord, this awesome and all, and I am grateful because I really had to pee, but where’s the beach?”

“Walk.”

I walk down this stretch of road, dodge a few cars and then come across this view:

Ahh, there it is.
Ahh, there it is.

Unfortunately a large gate separates me from enjoying the ocean. I can’t trespass onto the land that would easily allow me access, so I get into my car, drive farther down and find coastal access. I hop out of my car look down the road and see this:

Sea Kayaks! Ahhh!!! Yes please!!!
Sea Kayaks! Ahhh!!! Yes please!!!

“Are you ready, Alexis? Let’s go kayaking.”

I admit, I was scared. This is something I’d really wanted to do for a really long time. I’d come across it, give into my fear or the idea of something happening to me and I’d talk myself out of it. I mean it’s the ocean. There is stuff in the ocean that can take you out. The OCEAN can take you out. One wrong move and I’ve got myself an early trip to Heaven. Yet God had taken me to a beach I’d never explored before and there were sea kayaks there. I had to try this, but I was afraid.

Finally I convince myself to go.

“Okay Lord, let’s do this. I’ll go to rental place and sign up.”

I get there and the sales person is out.

“See God, they’re gone. Maybe it’s not meant to be today. Maybe next time.”

“No. Wait.”

So I did. I wandered around the beach a bit, snapped some photos and waited.

A few minutes later, I see a guy running up the hill. I knew that it was my kayak guy. I hunt him down, and tell him I want to try kayaking.

“By yourself?”

“Yep.”

“Okay. Let’s get you started.”

I signed some waiver  that informed me that this activity could result in my death, changed into a wet suit and followed the guy down to the beach to grab my kayak.

“Have you ever kayaked before?”

“Once. In a reservoir. That’s similar right?”

He laughed.

“Not really. So you’re going to need help getting into the water. “

I nod.

He gives me a mini lesson on how to enter the ocean.

“The key is getting started is going in after the waves break. You have to stay straight. If you move too much to the side, the waves will knock you over. You have to hit the water head on. Once you pass the wave break, stay to the right. The water is calmer there and that wall over there is beautiful. When you get tired, go left so the current can pull you back. Got it?”

“Okay.”

“When I say, get in, I’ll give you a push and you have to paddle like crazy. How good of a paddler are you?”

“Decent.”¬†If you count the rowing machine at the gym.

” When I say, start paddling. Toe to butt as strong as you can. Got it?”

“I got it.”

“You ready?”

Not at all. I CAN’T believe I am doing this. I’m thrilled and terrified all at the same time.

“I’m ready.”

Time for launch
Time for launch

“Good. I’ll send you out after this last wave. Okay now! Get in! Paddle! TOE TO BUTT!!!”

I paddle like my life depends on it. A swell hits and I paddle through it. Another swell, and I keep going. Finally I remember to go right and the water calms. I did it. I’m out in the ocean!

I literally shook for the first 10 minutes from excitement and fear. I have never been that far out from the shore. It was really unnerving yet AWESOME to be out in the sea. I head towards the wall. The guy was right; it’s a beautiful wall, with trees and several large caves in it.

I love caves!
I love caves!

I stay really close to the wall at first. Then I get bold and explore a bit. Then I get scared and rush back to my wall. Then I get a little bolder and go out a little farther. Then I rush back to my wall again. Then I swallow my fear and just start exploring. I spent the next hour and a half exploring caves, paddling around the sea and just enjoying my time with God.

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There was so much peace out in the sea. It was really beautiful. The sound of the water is soothing and calming. I knew I was safe. I had a life jacket, a paddle and if I got into any trouble I could just paddle away. ¬†God had brought me here and I would be okay. ¬†And if something did happen, I’d enter the gates of Heaven with a huge smile on my face because I would have died doing something I really loved.

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There was a lot of sea life around me, birds, fish mammals. There was a HUGE elephant seal chilling on the shore.

Meet Bill. Bill is not a rock.
Meet Bill. Bill is not a rock.

Something kept grabbing birds out of the the sky from the water off in the distance. I wanted to check it out but got the sense that it just wasn’t a good idea. Something swam underneath my kayak and it was the coolest feeling ever. The sun made the water sparkle and felt so good on my face and arms. ¬†Every now and then I’d get a little bolder and want to go out really far.

It's not THAT far...
It’s not THAT far…

 

I listened to the Lord

“The farther out you go, the longer it will take you to get back. ¬†You don’t want to do too much at once and burn out. This won’t be the last time.”

and let him guide me along the sea.

So much peace.
So much peace.

At one point, I looked around me and said:

“This is what Peter must have felt like, out on the water like this. This is amazing.”

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I could have stayed out there all day, but I got tired. Grateful that I listened and didn’t go out super far, I turned my boat to the left and let the current take me in. As I got closer to the shore, the current got stronger. I had to work to against the current and the waves to get to shore without tipping over. I dipped my hand in the water for a bit earlier on in my adventure while I was floating. That water was ice cold, my hair was straight and I had no desire of being tossed in the sea. I decided I needed some help.

“God, okay. You control the ocean and all, how about you bring about a nice wave and I just coast the rest of the way to shore? I’m tired.”

“Um no. This is good life lesson for you right now…”

“Oh come on, not now…”

“Alexis this is what you do. You get tired, give up too soon and you want me to do the work for you. That’s not how this works. You have to keep going, even when you are tired. You have ¬†to work. You are so close to the shore in so many areas in your life right now, but you want to give in. You have to go strong all the way to the end. And when you need that push, that final push, I’ll be there. So start paddling, girl.”

I groaned and kept paddling. It was hard work. I started cramping but I kept going.  Finally my wave came and I got my huge push. I squealed with joy as I was shoved onto shore. Best ride ever.

I raised my paddle¬†in triumph. “Woohoo! I made¬†it!”

During my little victory dance, I forgot my kayak was still in the water and had to run back so the waves wouldn’t take it back out to sea. Once I retrieved my vessel, I flagged down the first person I saw and got a photo.

Happy girl.
Happy girl.

Awesome day.

God, I thank you for knowing your kid and what she needs. For speaking to me in a way that I understand. Through this trip, I got¬†put to action what I’ve learned this year¬†about conquering fear, and plowing on when my flesh says to stop. Man my flesh is loud; but You are getting louder.

I thank you for caring enough for me that you wake me up at midnight, 1 am, 2 am, sometimes 3am to talk, because you know I am not distracted. ¬†You know I’ll just listen. I may not always appreciate it when it’s happening, but afterward I’m thankful for those moments.

I thank you for being super patient with me, even when I am at my most unlovable.  I thank you for teaching me about love and how to love.

I thank you for holding on tight, even when I push away.

I thank you for helping me take down my walls with others. It may be a slow process, but brick by brick, that wall is coming down.

I thank you for the journey you’ve taken me on this year. ¬†I can’t wait to see what else you have in store for me.

Thank you for teaching me how to paddle. I’m ready to come to shore.

December

God’s been pushing me to write about this for weeks, so here we go…

Usually I post some funny story about my mom around this time of year, but I am just not in the mood. I feel like to do so is covering up how I honestly feel.

The faster December goes by, the better. I want to crawl under the covers and wake up on January 1st. It’s silly, but it’s honest.

I wish it were socially acceptable to do this until January.
I wish it were socially acceptable to do this until January.

I hate that I feel this way because the holiday is supposed to be about Jesus. It’s supposed to be about God’s promise to us, a savior. It’s supposed to be a day to celebrate his birth with our families and the wonderful gift that God gave the world. I’ve been reading a lot of Luke to remind myself of this, to remind myself of what it’s really all about.

All I can think about is how much I miss my mother and wish she were here.

Christmas was her holiday. She LOVED Christmas and she went all out for it every year. Even on her last Christmas here, she was all smiles despite the pain she was in from cancer.

Everything about this holiday makes me long for her. There are so many awesome things going on in my life right now, and all I can think is “God, why couldn’t she stay? Can I borrow her for a bit? I know Heaven is awesome and all, but can she visit for just a day?

There are so many things I wish she could be here for right now. Christmas is definitely one of those things.

It’s small things that I miss. We would spend nights visiting neighborhoods just to see Christmas lights. We went to all the holiday lighting events. We’d watch them on TV. She’d buy tons and TONS of lights each year to add to the already massive ball of lights we had from previous years. Did those lights from previous years actually work? Not at all. Half of them lit up, but she still held on to them and put them up every year.

Me: Mom, these lights don’t work.

Mom: Okay then, we’ll go to Walmart and pick up some more.”

Me: Can we throw out the ones that aren’t working?”

Mom: No, I can put those up outdoors.

Me: But they don’t work. Only half of them light up.

Mom: They still light up don’t they? We’ll put them up outdoors…

Me: Mom, that’s really ghetto.

Mom: No it’s not.¬†It’d be ghetto to put them on the tree.

Me: Fine. But I am not going to untangle that ball of lights.

When I went through my moms house after she passed, there was a massive box of christmas lights. MASSIVE. It was a tangled, crazy ball of lights that would have taken ages to untangle. And less than half of them lit up.  I threw them out. I may get smacked by mom when I get to Heaven, but not even Jesus could save those lights (nor would he want to).

lightkeeper-pro

As much as she loved Christmas lights, she loved Christmas trees even more. We ALWAYS had a tree (a REAL one) every Christmas. She would keep the tree up well past Christmas to the point the thing was not only a fire hazard, it was a weapon.

We have seriously had trees this dead, still DECORATED in our house.
We have seriously had trees this dead, still DECORATED in our house.

There were numerous times my sister and I would be found on the floor, whimpering because we stepped on a dry christmas needle.

The funny thing about my mom is that she never used the same¬†ornaments. NEVER. Each year our tree had a new theme or color. We’d have a huge discussion on what colors should be on the tree that year and then we’d go out and shop for ornaments for the theme we selected.

One year, my mom wanted to dabble in Kwanzaa, so she made these handmade ornaments out of Kente cloth. They were pretty cool. When she realized that Kwanzaa was a week long and involved handmade gifts for each day, she said that having a christmas tree with african print ornaments on it was Kwanzaa enough.

images-129
This was a fun and very bright tree.

Even when she could not afford it, somehow we always had a tree. One year, she could not afford to get us a tree in time, so she decorated this random palm tree she had with lights and ornaments. I was six, my sister was three, and I remember her telling us that Santa brought us a tree from Florida this year. We accepted the palm tree, but she could tell that we wanted a real one. I don’t remember how she pulled it off, but she brought in a christmas tree later than evening. We were thrilled. I knew my mom had no money but she got that tree.

We did not have a lot of money at all growing up, but my mom made miracles happen on Christmas. We never lacked. We always had food. We always had something under the tree. We always had fun or had something funny happening. We were always together. Even if she went without, we never did.

That’s how much she loved us and Christmas.

I visit Christmas tree lane, I see Christmas tree lights and decorations, and I fight back tears.¬†¬†I do Christmas related activities with friends, coworkers and pray that I don’t turn into a sobbing mess. It’s been over four years and this holiday STILL hurts. I’m relatively okay on Mother’s day and her birthday. But December…Christmas hurts.

I go back to Psalms 147:3 and read:

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Well Lord, brokenhearted. Wound. Heal please.

Change

I have not written in such a long time.

I don’t like change. I really don’t like it. Good or bad, not a big fan of change.

It really hit me as I sat on my floor, a sobbing mess, trying to figure out why on earth I felt so…sad. I just got ¬†blessed with a new job, I have 17 days off till I start that job. Yet I’m a sobbing mess.

After collecting myself and listening to the Lord for a bit, he gently reminded me¬†that ¬†I don’t like change and I needed to mourn leaving a place where I had become comfortable for past nine months. Although there were some dark days…and lemme tell ya, they were DARK, there were some very good days. Even awesome days. I actually liked the majority of the people I worked with. I formed relationships in that short time. I had coworkers that were really fun. I had a very encouraging boss. ¬†And I loved my clients, even the most difficult ones.

So I mourned. It was sloppy, snotty, uncontrollable, LOUD…but I mourned. And now I feel better.

Goodbyes are hard. I don’t like them, even when they are necessary. Change is necessary as well. It’s unavoidable. We change, our environment changes, people change. It’s bound to happen. The only thing that doesn’t is God, and for a girl who longs to finally be rooted; that’s a great thing.

I looked up some reasons on why people don’t like change and found this cool article from positivityblog.com.

I’ll paste it here.

Enjoy.

 

Six Reasons People Don’t Like Change, and What to Do About It.

‚ÄúMen are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound.‚ÄĚ
James Allen

‚ÄúAny change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts.‚ÄĚ
Arnold Bennett

‚ÄúAnd the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.‚ÄĚ
Anais Nin

You have probably arrived here because you want to make a positive change in your life. Perhaps you want to improve your social skills, your health or simply your attitude and how you think.

Now this is great. But it seldom that easy. There may be obstacles outside of you. There are almost certainly obstacles inside of you.

In this article I’ll explore some of those common obstacles that can make change so hard and how to overcome them. Hopefully you’ll find something that can help you to move forward to make that change.

1. You don’t want to change.

Maybe you think you want to change something. But is it really your wish? Or is it the wish of your parents, boss, partner, friends or society?

If you don’t really want to make the change deep down then it will be very hard to go the distance. Yes, you can begin but if there is no inner drive to do it then you will lose motivation easily and feel like giving up all the time after a while.

What to do about it: Sit down and really think about whose goals you are working towards. If they are not yours the think about what you can do to stop working on them and spend more time on your own consciously chosen goals instead.

If you still have to go on with may have started as someone else‚Äôs goal ‚Äď perhaps your boss has told you to do something and you can‚Äôt just ditch that if you want to keep your job ‚Äď then find your own reasons for working on that goal. Brainstorm and write them all down. Review that paper and make the goal into more of your goal and know why you are working towards it for you own sake.

This is also why it is hard ‚Äď if not impossible ‚Äď to change someone else. So be careful about such wishes and hopes.

2. You don’t feel courageous enough.

Change can be scary. Doing things for the first time or stepping into the unknown can pretty frightening. You may feel like you need some courage to make those changes you want, to take those first steps.

What to do about it: Well, as Eleanor Roosevelt once said:

‚ÄúYou gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‚ÄėI have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.‚Äô You must do the thing you think you cannot do.‚ÄĚ

You have to be willing to take action, to move out of your comfort zone and to face fear to increase your courage and self confidence in a way that stays with you (not like when you pump it up temporarily by using different exercises or music for example). You have to be willing to take the punch and risk some emotional pain for a while.

There is no way of getting around that.

And I won’t lie to you. Sometimes it will suck. You will go to bed and feel sick to your stomach and just hope the day will end. But many times you will feel great as you just move over that invisible barrier and face your fear. You may not even get the result you wanted but still feel great about yourself because you just dared to face that fear or take some action.

But what about the times you felt sick to your stomach and went to bed feeling not so good at all? Well, the next day you will wake up. And you realize that you are still here. You are intact and the earth keeps spinning and you get up for a new day. Life continues. But now you know deep down that you can handle things at least a little bit better because you could handle what happened yesterday. You have raised your confidence in yourself and become stronger.

And another thing is this: when you do things you don‚Äôt just build confidence in your ability to handle different situations. You also experience progressive desensitization. What that means is that situations ‚Äď like for example public speaking or maybe just showing your latest blogpost to an audience out there ‚Äď that made you feel all shaky become more and more normal in your life. It is not longer something you psyche yourself up to do. It just becomes normal. Like tying your shoes, hanging out with your friends or taking a shower. And so you don‚Äôt really need that much courage after a while.

3. Your environment is holding you back.

If you are for example trying to lose weight then it will be a lot harder if the people around you are eating junk food every day. If you are trying to think more positively then it will be a lot harder if you hang out with negative people all the time and watch the news and negative and fear-inducing TV-shows too much.

What to do about it: Change your environment in a ways that will support you. That’s doesn’t mean that you have to take drastic measures like never talking to some friend or family member again to cultivate a more positive attitude.

It may just means that you cut down on seeing the most negative people/TV-shows etc. that much and replace that with more time with positive people and positive media consumption. By doing that the process will be so much easier.

If you are trying to lose weight then find people with similar goals that you can spend some time with each week. Even if it’s just via an online forum of some sort.

Carve out some time and a space for yourself with people and motivational and educational information ‚Äď books, blogs, magazines etc ‚Äď that will support you as you move towards your goal. Also, by involving more people and/or for example signing up for courses somewhere you will feel commitment to people you like and a bit of positive social pressure to actually go there when you are supposed to instead of slacking off on the sofa.

One common problem with the social environment is that you perhaps fear what people may think if you make change. Well, in my experience people are seldom as harsh as you think they will be. They are most often supportive or simply not that interested/neutral to you making changes.

People are most often focused on their own goals and challenges in life. Or what other people may think of them. You are not the center of the universe. :)

4. You feel like giving up after one or three failures.

When you are really young then you probably don’t build failure up to be this huge thing. You learn to walk, fall down and ding your head and get up again. The same goes for learning to ride your bike.

But through influence from school and society failure becomes this increasingly more frightening thing. Sure, as you get older the stakes become higher and you can lose more if you fail. But I do think people often exaggerate the effects failure will have simply because they feel frightened.

What to do about it: Most of the time the sky will not fall if you fail. People will not mock you. Life just goes on, as I mentioned above while writing about courage. But you have to do things to gain this understanding. You will not get it just by reading these words and all the other things by people who have said the same thing for centuries.

Your mind has to experience failure ‚Äď or the possibility of it ‚Äď over and over to make the fear of failure to lot smaller. That has at least been my experience.

You may however find motivation in that failure teaches you things books/blogs cannot. By changing your perspective to a more curious one and seeing failure more as a learning experience than something to fear it becomes easier to handle.

5. You don’t feel enough pain yet.

Why do people change? Oftentimes I think they have simply had enough. The pain of staying as you are becomes too big and you seriously start looking for a positive way forward.

What to do about it: Besides waiting until the problem becomes pretty much unbearable you can try to see your future self vividly in your mind.

Ask yourself: What will this lead to in 5 and 10 years? Where are you going?

Towards massive debt, a heart attack, serious illness and severe restrictions in your future? Do you want go to that place where it is very likely that you will wind up if you don’t make a change? Then see your future self where you have made the positive change. What positive and awesome things has it brought you in 5 years and in 10 years? See it all in your mind. And remind yourself of the positive and negative consequences by writing them down and reviewing them whenever you feel like quitting and going back to your old ways.

Vividly seeing the probably very real future consequences of not changing can be that nudge you need to get serious about improving something in your life.

6. You don’t know how to practically make the change.

This is a common obstacle. Fortunately, we nowadays have the Internet so it’s a lot easier to find practical solutions to the problems many people have faced before you.

What to do about it: Ask yourself what have other people before you or around you have done to improve their situation?

Talk to people who have made the change you want to make (lose weight, quit smoking, improve the social life etc.). Or if you can’t find anyone, read the top rated books on Amazon.com on that topic or read blog articles.

But make sure that you take advice from someone who has actually been in your shoes and gone where you want to go. Find a way that suits you. It may not be the first method or system you try. So be patient. Keep moving forward towards the things you want most in your life.

 

Light

I got another blogging assignment from She Reads Truth! Yay. Here goes something ūüôā

image

5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,

and in his word I hope;

6  my soul waits for the Lord

more than watchmen for the morning,

more than watchmen for the morning.

Psalms 130:5-6

I find myself laying in bed in complete despair. Life is not what it should be. I do not want to get out of bed and face the day. I want to hide in my room, never leaving the comfort of my covers. There has been too much change.  My hope has been shattered. My promises seem broken. Everything in my mind is shouting loudly that all has failed. As I lay in my bed, listening to the roaring negative thoughts in my head, a calm small Voice sneaks in.

“Alexis, things are not what they seem.”

I’m amazed that I can hear this Voice above the negativity roaring in my head. The negative thoughts seem as surprised as I am and they stop at once. This new Voice has my attention.

“Alexis, this year I am going to restore your hope. Take a walk with me, daughter. All of this has a purpose. These changes, these trials are meant for good. Remember last April…’I have heard your prayers and know your promises. I am quickly working over them. ¬†I will bring you so much joy, you will not know what to do with it.’ ¬†Continue waiting and trusting, daughter and these promises will be granted to you.”

I allow these words of comfort to sink in. I wipe the tears from my eyes, peel off the warm cocoon of my blankets, and get out of bed.

That was January 1st of this year.

5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,

and in his word I hope;

6  my soul waits for the Lord

more than watchmen for the morning,

more than watchmen for the morning.

Waiting on the Lord is not easy. There are so many times I want to throw in the towel, give up and just hide. For a long time, that was my response. I was content in the darkness. I longed for the night. I would flee from the sunrise. The brightness of sun hurt my eyes. It’s brilliant rays hurt my skin. I felt exposed in it’s light. Vulnerable. Hopeless.

5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,

and in his word I hope;

6  my soul waits for the Lord

more than watchmen for the morning,

more than watchmen for the morning.

My soul however, longed for more. It craved the light. In the light, I found peace in the loving embrace of a Father. I found hope. Love. Joy. Safety. Forgiveness. All the things I longed for and God wanted to freely give. I just had to learn to trust Him. I had to learn how to wait and find joy in the waiting.

5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,

and in his word I hope;

6  my soul waits for the Lord

more than watchmen for the morning,

more than watchmen for the morning.

In the waiting, hoping, trusting, ¬†I’ve built this relationship that I can’t live without. I must spend time with the Lord. Before it seemed like a burden, sadly. Something that I had to do. Now, it’s something that I look forward to. The more of myself that I give, the more He freely gives me. It’s such a gift to have this relationship. To have the love and forgiveness is a beautiful thing. It feels good to let go, put myself aside and just follow the Lord.

5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,

and in his word I hope;

6 my soul waits for the Lord

more than watchmen for the morning,

more than watchmen for the morning.

I’ve come a long way from that dark morning on January 1st. Life ain’t always a bowl of peaches, but as long as I wait on the Lord and remember the love He has for me, it’s easier to hang in for the long haul.

Thanksgiving Top 30…actually 10.

Around this time of year, I miss my mother tons. I always will.¬†The plus side to her passing is not only do I have these awesome memories of the times we spent together during the holidays, I also get to make new memories with others and be a part of their family. It’s pretty cool.

So with November ending, and December being practically tomorrow, I figured I share some of my favorite Thanksgiving ¬†memories. I’m going to try to share 30 of them for each day in November…the operational word in this sentence is TRY.

Okay, so it’ll be more like ten.

Here we go:

10. The thanksgiving my sister fell down the stairs.

This is kind of an awful one to start with, but it is still one of my favorites. My mom invited my aunt over, and had spent hours preparing this huge meal. It smelled amazing and WE WERE STARVING. (Sampling the food while it cooked was a crime punishable by being smacked with a soup spoon…on the knuckles). Just before my aunt was to start the thanksgiving blessing, my sister decides to run upstairs to grab something.

Note: We had been sitting around for hours just chatting and NOW she chooses to leave the table as we are about to start eating? I think we all wanted to murder her.

My mother dangerously close to giving into the rumblings of her belly, yelled for her to hurry up or we would start praying without her. As my sister starts to shout for us to wait, we are all interrupted by a loud shriek and then several loud thuds with the loudest ending with a groan. Do we jump up and race to the stairs in concern? No. We laugh. Hard. Then run to the stairs.

Carpeted stairs are evil folks.
Carpeted stairs are evil folks.

There my sister lay, at the bottom of the stairs, groaning that she had probably hurt her butt and arm. We laugh harder and help her up. As my aunt gives the blessing, I am being smacked and my mother whispers that “God is going to get you” because I can’t stop laughing during prayer. The best part? My mother would randomly repeat the sound my sister made falling down the steps throughout dinner. And God’s supposed to get me, right?

We aren’t terrible people. We just find falling really funny in my family.

9. My first thanksgiving without my gallbladder.

I got my gallbladder removed when I was 21. It completely changed my diet to fat free EVERYTHING and took me a long time to adjust. My mom wanted to make sure that I did not feel left out of the gorge fest that was thanksgiving, so she revamped our menu.

Mom: Alexis, I am making the slides completely healthy this year. No butter in the yams, smoked turkey in the greens and black eyed peas, salad, fresh fruit and  vanilla soy milk in the mac and cheese.

Me: Okay, mom you really didn’t have to do all that. I’ll be fine. Also vanilla soy milk sounds terrible in mac and cheese. You know they have original right?

Mom: It’ll be fine. We’re eating it. I bet I start a trend…vanilla mac and cheese. You’ll wish you came up with it.

I honestly think she picked this because blue was her favorite color.
I honestly think she picked this because blue was her favorite color.

My mom plates our healthy meal, we pray and we all sample the mac and cheese first. My mom looks at me and says: “This is really terrible. You’ll just have to eat healthy all year and cheat on thanksgiving.”

8.  My mother guarding the turkey EVERY thanksgiving.

As mentioned earlier, my mom guarded her turkey like rabid dog. My sister and I made several attempts to sample the bird she prepared; each attempt ended in sore knuckles. My sister and I would try anything, crawling, hiding in the pantry, fake deaths. Nothing would sway here from her purpose: protecting that turkey from our greedy hands. Just when we thought the coast was clear and we were oh so close from picking a juicy piece off that turkey,  she would come out of no where, spoon in hand.

I still flinch when I see someone brandishing one of these.
I still flinch when I see someone brandishing one of these.

We finally got smart and hid the spoon. She upgraded to spatula. It was just a losing battle.

7. Every thanksgiving prayer with my Aunt Val.

My Aunt Val loved to bless the meals. She had beautiful prayers…LONG beautiful prayers that were more like sermons. My sister and I would ALWAYS get in trouble when my aunt prayed. We fidgeted. We made faces that we thought no one could see. ¬†My aunt would start praying, and after a minute or so, my hand was getting pinched. Or my sisters. I could never figure out how my mother knew, but she knew. I’d open my eyes a little and see that my mothers eyes were closed, but she ALWAYS knew.

My prayer request, that this prayer moves faster so we can eat.
My prayer request, that this prayer moves faster so we can eat.

Side note: Aunt Val…we love you. We apologize for what we did in hunger; smelling all that food for hours on end and not being able to devour it until after prayer was torture for us kids. We hope you didn’t notice.

6. The thanksgiving my mom let me make my own pumpkin pie.

My mom normally cooked the entire meal by herself. As we got older, she reluctantly released her kung fu grip over that meal and let us help. My mom put me in charge of the pies, and I wanted to make a pumpkin pie. After I finished the sweet potato, I started on the pumpkin pies. Thinking the pie filling came pre-sweetened in the can, I just dumped the contents of can into the pie crust. It was the nastiest pie we’d ever eaten (my mom made us eat it) and got pumpkin pie banned from our house for a few years.

They should really put, "seasoning not included" on the can.
They should really put, “seasoning not included” on the can.

5. The thanksgiving football orange juice incident.

My mom was a diehard football fan.  DIEHARD COWBOYS FAN to be exact. Often, our neighbors would come over concerned that someone had fallen or injured themselves from all the screaming that came from our house. Once they found out it was my mother cheering in joy or screaming in agony over a football play, they would roll their eyes and ask us to keep it down.

I was the only person in our household, our family, that was NOT a fan of the Cowboys. I would poke and prod my mother during every interception, missed catch, failed touchdown, etc. One year, my mom got so fed up by my jeering and attempt to turn the channel during the Cowboys game, I got orange juice poured over my head.

I learned to run and made sure no drinks were nearby during Cowboys games.

4. The thanksgiving I met my older siblings.

In March 2006, I got a call during my spring break from Rochelle, my oldest sister from my dads first marriage. We had been looking for them for years and had given up any hope of finding them. When I moved to VA later that year for an internship, I knew I had to see them.

It was a blast.

I got sample chitlins for the first (and last) time. My brother made his first fried turkey and I got to eat it. ¬†I got to see where I was born and where my mom and dad were married. I met my nieces, nephews, step siblings and cousins. I met so many family members that I never knew I had and they were so welcoming. ¬†It’s something I prayed for a very long time.

My nephew, completely knocked out after we stuffed our faces. So cute.
My nephew, completely knocked out after we stuffed our faces. So cute.

3. The first thanksgiving after my mom passed.

My sister and I made plans to be together for thanksgiving and she planned on coming to Fresno. ¬†My roommate at the time offered to let us spend turkey day with her…but she was a little nuts (well a LOTTLE nuts). My friend Tara thankfully had also offered and her mother, Laura, is very similar to my mother. So, I accepted the invitation and we had dinner with the Hodges…and Darin.

My sister educated Darin (who I barely knew at the time) on black ¬†stereotypes and shared stories about me with the rest of the dinner guests. Darin chucked Tobblerones all over Laura’s living room to her horror. Tara, Darin, my sister and I took a mini Thanksgiving road trip. There was a lot of laughter, teasing, ¬†awesome food and I didn’t really think about how much I missed my mother. My sister loved it too.

I don't exactly remember why this picture was taken, but it happened.
I don’t exactly remember why this picture was taken, but it happened.

2. The year my mom spent thanksgiving with me in Fresno.

The costs of cancer treatment caused us to lose pretty much everything. My first year of grad school, I gained my mother as a roommate for a few months. My mom wanted everything from her original menu, black eyed peas, ham hocks, neck bones, collards, mac and cheese, the works. The downside is, I had limited knowledge of the Fresno area, and I wasn’t too sure that we would find everything she wanted.

Our search took us to a Vons (Safeway) on Champlain and Perrin.

Pretty sure we won't find ox tails here...
Pretty sure we won’t find ox tails here…

One look at our surroundings, I knew we were not going to find what she was looking for.

Me: Mom, I don’t think we will find what you are looking for here.

Mom: Why not? This end of town is really nice for Fresno. I’m sure they offer a bigger variety.

Me: You know that’s not true and we won’t find ox tails here.

Mom: (Loudly) ¬†I’m not getting shot today, Alexis. We are NOT going to Fresno’s ghetto. This may be the white part of town, but at least we won’t be robbed.

Me: (Face palm)

After several stores, we ended up finding a Winco in Clovis that had everything she wanted. We made an awesome meal for my friends and we did not get “shot”.

I should mention that my mom was NOT a huge Fresno fan.

1. The thanksgiving my mother “prepared” ¬†dinner from her bed.

This was my last thanksgiving with mom. My mom went through chemo and radiation during the holidays. She was sick, but she was determined for us to have a good meal and she was determined to eat it. My sister did most of the cooking, but we managed to make the entire meal with my mom shouting recipes from her bed. The meal was delicious. The only thing that did not make it was the black eyed peas that my sister burnt beyond recognition.

It was really this bad.
It was really this bad.

My mom cracked on those black eyed peas the entire meal, but she was proud of us. It was a great meal, and it gave me a new respect for my sister. We’d been through a lot that year, and had a lot of loss, but in that moment it didn’t matter because we were together.

Burnt black eyed peas and all :).

September

It’s been a while since I updated.

After my adventures with roller coasters (I promise to write about that soon), my life became this huge whirlwind of change. Long story short, right after my trip I got a job, gave my two weeks notice, packed up my life and left Arizona. I’m finally ¬†back in Fresno again. Yay. My new job doesn’t start until October 7th, so I have a LOT of free time.

Forgive me, my writing is a little off. I’m in a weird probably shouldn’t be writing mood, but need to post this.

I went to Monterey yesterday to spread my mother’s ashes. It was time. I’ve had them for about three years and it’s something I’ve wanted to do since she passed away. September is her birthday month, and although I missed the chance to do it on September 3rd, I knew I had to do it before this month ended. I borrowed Laura for support, as well as to have someone tag along so I didn’t get horribly lost, and headed to Monterey.

I went into this adventure thinking it would be a happy trip, filled with fun memories with my family celebrating my mother’s 50th birthday. It was, but I didn’t expect to feel the amount of pain I felt when we arrived.¬†I felt the tears wanting to come as soon as we hit Fisherman’s Wharf.

Oh no you don’t” I told myself as I walked along the pier sampling clam chowder. I couldn’t understand why I would feel sad.

I scolded myself again. “This crying business is not happening here.”

I don’t cry in front of or around others. ¬†I want to be able to, but right now my body goes on lock down. So, instead of crying, I stuffed my face with plenty of crab, tilapia, clam chowder and salad as I could fit in my stomach.

After we ate,  we rolled ourselves into the car and drove to the beach.  My intention was to find the spot my mother took us to after the aquarium and spread her ashes there. I asked God to help me remember the spot. As we climbed out of the car to take a few pictures of this gorgeous park we found, I looked through the trees and saw this:

There it is :)
There it is ūüôā

I remembered the stair case.

I remember carefully climbing down to the bottom with my mother yelling at us that she was going to fall because she was in heels.

I remember running along the shore, playing in the waves with my sister while my mother watched.

I remember my mother coaxing us to move further back into the water to pose for this picture:

We had no idea a massive wave was coming.
We had no idea a massive wave was coming.

I remembered the spot.

We were too afraid to do the same to her. We knew better.
We were too afraid to do the same to her. We knew better.

Unfortunately, that spot was heavily populated and I didn’t want to freak anyone out spreading my mothers remains. We decided to hop in the car and find a secluded spot along the beach nearby.

Ten minutes later, we spot waves crashing in the distance and select our spot.

IMG_20130924_154651_903

Laura asked if there was anything special I needed to say before I let her go. I didn’t really know what to say or have much to say. I walked out closer to shores edge, waited for the waves to come in, and threw her remains into the ocean.

IMG_20130924_155601_886
Beautiful spot.

Her ashes turned the water a pale pink as they collided with the waves. Then they were gone.

The waves were getting pretty big at the spot we chose, so we decided to hop in the car and find another spot just to enjoy the ocean.

I spotted this sitting area on the beach, excused myself, put on some head phones and let the tears come.

IMG_20130924_163852_546

I realized why Monterey brought so much sadness. When I was here six years ago, life was good. There was no cancer, no sorrow, no thought of death. Life had just started to get good.

In  2007, my mom finally found her dream job, started being successful and was finally happy. We were all finally happy, finally stable, finally rooted.

Little did we know that in October of that year what we all thought was just a simple bladder infection was actually cancer.

You guys, I grew up watching my mother struggle over and over again to make ends meet. My mom would finally make it, and literally get hit by a wave that sent our family spiraling. This was all I knew. My life was one big ocean wave, building and crashing. I would pray that we would finally have some sort of stabilty, some safety net that would break this constant cycle. My mom moved to California from Georgia in 2001, and the cycle continuted there for a bit until 2005 when things started to improve. Then she got her teaching job and was the happiest I’ve ever seen her. Then, from October 2007 to July 2010, I watched cancer eat away at my mother, my family and we lost everything.

Me: Things had just started getting good…and we lost everything. My mother lost her life.

God: I know.

Me:  She was so happy. She finally made it and she  got cancer.

God: I know it’s hard to understand. I know her loss hurts.

Me: What’s the point? Why look for happiness? ¬†Why put yourself out there when you could lose everything? Why open yourself up to that much pain and disappointment?

God: You aren’t meant to be alone. You can’t hold others away because you are afraid you’ll lose them. You can’t run away because you’re afraid of loss and you can’t be afraid to be happy.

Me: So God, what if I open myself up and become vulnerable to others and I lose them? What if I find happiness and I lose everything?

God: Even if  all that happens, I am still God. You still have me.

In the heat of that moment, in that conversation I realized how true that is. He is still God. I still have Him. I have nothing to fear because I’ll always have Him.

When my mom died, a big part of me died as well. I lost my ability to trust God and built a huge wall around myself designed to keep others out. Why be happy? Why try for the things you love if you are just going to lose them? It’s not a way to live, and frankly, it’s a lonely, fear-filled life.

No one is meant to live that way. (1 John 4:18)

Tears truly cleanse the soul.
The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears and the sea.

No matter what happens, He is still my God. Yesterday, today and forever.

I walked away from that spot ready to open myself back up and tear down the walls I’ve built for three years. ¬†I am tired of waiting for the other shoe to drop, fearing the worse. I am ready to start letting others in/loving others again and stepping out in faith. It won’t be easy, but now I am ready to at least try.

Adventure

I figure I should write about this now, because next Sunday, I’ll be hanging out with my AZ peeps and probably be a bundle of joy/nerves/crazy…

(Fair warning, there is an over abundance of meme usage in this. Sorry. I usually try to stray from using these, but nothing else seems to work with this post)

I’m 14 days away from what I believe will be one of the most exciting adventures of my life.¬†¬†I’m taking a roller coaster road trip that will start in Texas and end in Pennsylvania. The first leg of the tour, is a road trip with 96 other people visiting parks in TX, AK, WI, MO, IL, and OH. The last leg is a mini tour to three parks in PA, then back to OH where I get to spend some time with my siblings. The trip is about 20 days total. At the end of it, I would have ridden 94 coasters in all and driven thousands of miles. I so can’t wait!

Seriously the coolest thing I've probably ever done.
Seriously the coolest thing I’ve probably ever done.

In April, I signed up for the Theme Park Review Texas Midwest Tour with my friend Darin. He’s been talking about going on this tour for quite a while. It sounded like a great time but in the back of my head, I seriously doubted it would ever happen. 1) It was really expensive. 2) I was desperately trying to get back to Fresno and spending money on something like this seemed far from logical. 3) I just couldn’t see it happening at least not this year.

Well, I was wrong.

I had no idea what was coming...
I had no idea what was coming…

After visiting with my pastor from the RC in Cave Creek, I came home one Friday night ¬†to an email from Darin ¬†saying he’d signed up for the trip and it would be fun if I could go.

oh-god

Before I even started my prayer to God about whether or not I should even consider this adventure, God shouted a very loud and clear YES.

oh-god

I had so many questions:

Me:  Okay, God, what is going on?  Am I insane for actually wanting to do this?

God: ¬†This is a great gift. You’re welcome. I said an abundance of joy is coming your way. Well, here is the start of it. You’re not insane. You’re going.

Me: How am I going to pay for this?

God: You have your savings and your state pension from AZ. You’re going.

Me: What about the job I was just offered?

God: Not the right job. You already know this. Sandi also confirmed this. ¬†You’re going.

Me: What about the VA Home position? I’m supposed to be interviewing for that and trying to move home remember?

God: None of those things have happened yet. Stop worrying about future things. You’re going.

Me: I feel like I barely know him. Isn’t this something you’d rather have me do with one of my besties?

God: Well, get to know him. That’s who I’ve chosen to go. Stop making excuses. You’re going.

Me: What about…

God: Look, you asked for a long vacation before you started your new job. Well, here it is, times 1000. ¬†I know this is not what you imagined, but this is what I am giving you. It is better than anything you could ever think up. You love roller coasters and you love road trips. You’re going to have a great time. Stop worrying about the details and over thinking; I’ve got everything covered. Again, you’re going.

Seriously.
Seriously.

It took me a day and a half from that conversation to sign up and send in my deposit. I was really, REALLY hesitant and very much on the fence about actually taking the trip. God hounded me ALL WEEKEND until I finally broke down and signed up.

God: Alexis…

Me: I’m going to sign up right after this commercial.

God: Send in your deposit Alexis.

Me: I promise I will. I just need to go take a walk at the lake.

God: Alexis…stop procrasinating. Send in your deposit and sign up.

Me: Are you sure you want me to do this? Is this really from you?

God: Nice try. Sign up Alexis. I won’t leave you alone until you do.

God is persistent. VERY.
God is persistent. VERY.

(While I’m trying to sleep) Sign up, Alexis. Have you signed up, yet? Sign up.

(While getting ready to meet friends) Have you signed up yet?

(While driving in my car) You still haven’t signed up? Sign up Alexis.

(While shopping for clothes) Sign up Alexis.

(While hanging out with friends) You’re signing up when you get home.

(While trying to go to sleep). You could have signed up tonight. You can still sign up now. Sign up.

(While eating breakfast) Seriously, you still haven’t signed up. Alexis…

(While getting ready for church) Look, here’s the link again. You should sign up now. Come on Alexis, it’ll only take you five minutes…

Me: ¬†WOW OKAY FINE!!! I am signing up. See, here I go. I sent it via pay pal. I’m going. It’s done. I signed up.

God: That wasn’t so hard was it? Thank you.

Me: **grumbles**

Once I realized that I ACTUALLY sent money, BOUGHT a plane ticket and ACTUALLY signed up for the trip, theOMGWHATTHEHECKAMIDOINGAMICRAZYTHISISINSANEIMUSTBEOUTOFMYMINDHATISGOINGON freak out started.

oh-god

I’m pretty sure I woke up every morning that first week and paced my apartment. I was happy, but OH BOY was I freaked out. I was in complete shock that this was actually happening. The craziest thing, everything I’d been through, every hardship and trial now started to make sense. If I wouldn’t have moved to AZ, and worked for the state, I wouldn’t have had the extra money to take the trip. If I would have taken any of those jobs I was offered, I wouldn’t have enough time built up to take off for this trip. I have over 100 hrs of PTO with my current company. ¬†If I would have left AZ in April like I planned, I wouldn’t be able to afford this trip. ¬†Everything was covered. Everything was taken care of. ¬†I was getting what I asked for…and more. God was all over this.

This is the only picture that I can find that most accurately displays what I felt as all of this was going down.
This is the only picture that I can find that most accurately displays what I felt as all of this was going down.

Staying committed to going was not easy at all. So many things popped up immediately after I signed up that really made me question my decision to go. I wanted to leave Arizona SO BAD and this stuck a three month delay on that. ¬†My current job got a lot harder (and is still hard to deal with). I got offered three more jobs, one that would pay for relocation and everything…and I had to say no. There were so many moments I was ready to say “screw this” and do my own thing. God would quietly remind me of the promise He made, the abundance of joy that was coming, my promise to stay on His “Yes Walk” and I’d eventually calm down. This whole thing has been a huge test of my faith (and sanity) but I feel stronger because of it.

Pretty much where I've been the last three months
Pretty much where I’ve been the last three months

It’s been three months since I signed up for this thing, and I think I just now stopped freaking out (sort of). Now there is just a ton of joy and excitement. There are still moments where I really think about this adventure I am about to take and I start to get a little freaked, but then the joy floods in and washes it away.

God blessed me with an epic adventure. EPIC. ¬†He took two of my favorite things, put them together and added a friend to it. It really is perfect. ¬†No one else could have given me this opportunity but Him. I feel like this is a “thank you for being faithful” gift from God. I love it. God is seriously the coolest dad ever.

So like I said, in two weeks from today, I will embark on one of the most epic adventures of my life. I have no idea what is coming, but I bet it is better than anything I could think up. There will be ton of pics. I can’t wait to share them with you all and update you on all the fun that I’ll be having.

As always, thanks for reading!