Friday, February 10, 2017

Chewpie the Chupacabra

If any of you have ever wondered what a "God thing" is or what a "God thing" looks like, may I introduce Chewpie, the Chupacabra.

After lamenting over what had been a pretty difficult week, my lamenting forgot to jump out of the boxcar on the pity train and kept on riding. After a mistake earlier in the day, the pity train derailed and turned into a train wreck. Since I am still not skilled in handling some things well, and a professional at taking everything very personally, I allowed all of this to rob me of some of the joy of receiving a beautiful early Valentine's gift from my husband. I barely make it to 5:00, then remember that two responsibilities after work would probably mean that my husband and I would be a little late to one of them, and we were right. This was met with disappointment, which slid my train wreck off a cliff. 
One of my favorite people was speaking at a meeting tonight. I wanted to look forward to it; I really, really did. However, my bad neighborhood of a mind took me to a dark place of isolation. As I was walking in the door, I saw more people I haven't seen in a while and missed greatly. I prayed as I listened to them tell me the wonderful things that were going on in their lives. I resisted the urge to hide. The time came for the speaker, and ran out for my exit. I am so grateful; so grateful that I had no excuse; so grateful that I didn't have to pee or I would have stayed in that bathroom; so grateful that God was doing for me what I certainly couldn't have done for myself.
As his story began, he told of how he started as one person, and ended as another. He started as someone who was lonely and desperate and ended as a person who now has many close friends. People mattered to him now and he mattered to people. Toward the end of his story, he told of how he now has real friends- and he pointed to and looked at me- who he chats with and makes him laugh and who he loves and who loves him. He pointed me out as a friend, and before I knew it, I began to cry.
Something had occurred to me during the meeting; a somber yet matter-of-fact knowledge and I had accepted it immediately. I couldn't wait to tell my ah-ha moment to my husband.
After the meeting, after counting the basket donations of dollars, putting away the books and supplies, hugging and thanking people for coming, our friend whom I had "adopted" as a brother asked us to join he and his friend for dinner. We gladly accepted, then got into our separate cars to meet up together at the restaurant. Once in the car, I told my husband, "I want to share my ah-ha moment with you." My husband was eager to listen. I began to tell him, as he drove, about how I had figured out that "before" (how I refer to my life pre-AA) I had no real relationship with God or anyone. I felt alone and exiled without even God to love or love me, because I felt completely unworthy of even God's love. Now, however, all of that has changed, and I truly feel like God is with me, always, and that He never leaves me, ever, and I feel like God has a purpose for my life and because I have God, I am never alone. He responds with a smile and says, "That is awesome." Then, I say the cliffhanger......
However, I do feel like I am important to God, and that is wonderful, fabulous, and I am so grateful...but I do not feel that I am important to many people.
My husband quickly disagrees, and begins to tell me that my perception to this fact is all wrong. I assure him that I know how important I am to him, to my kids, and maybe one or two other people...and that is enough. But the point is, I have God, and I didn't before; but I honestly didn't think that I was, I don't know, that "go to" person for most people. I figured that is why I isolate more; out of fear of not being able to matter.
We walk inside the restaurant, order, and sit with our friends. We laugh, sling jokes and shoot birds at one another. My exoskeleton is starting to shed, and I feel warmer and more relaxed. Then my brother Rick says, "I have a gift for you in my pocket." I, of course, make reference to its location and tell him no thank you, as this is our usual silly banter. He said, "Really. I brought a gift, just for you, because it is time for it to be yours, and I really want you to have it."
Enter Chewpie the Chupacabra.
Chewpie has been Rick's "insanity mascot" for years. He's taken photos of Chewpie on trips in various places. Chewpie has even been to Spain. It was given to him by his now divorced wife. He loved it, but now, it was time to move on. However, he wanted Chewpie to be with someone "equally, if not more, insane than myself"..and he instantly thought of me.
But, not only was the symbol of Chewpie touching, but the sentiment behind the goofy thing that really got to me was this...
"You are my adopted sister, you really are, and so, this has to be yours." And, just like that, the breath I had just newly formed had completely left my body.
The Valentine's gift earlier in the day from my husband came with a message he had penned: "To My Darling Stephanie, the simple pleasures in life bring you the most joy."
My husband knows me extremely well, because he is exactly right. I'd rather have those little succulents growing on my desk than a diamond, and I'd rather have that little rubber goat sucker with waving arms, snaggle teeth, and purple, bat-like armpits than just about anything else you could imagine. By giving me Chewpie, Rick told me I matter. I matter to someone outside of my inner world, and that I am family to him. 
Finishing our dinner, I said to Rick, "This is a God thing." My husband said, "So...this is what a God thing looks like." Rick said, "Who'd have ever thought that a God thing was a little, rubber goat sucker?"
Certainly not me. Until tonight. XO

Sunday, January 15, 2017

"Don't let people decide if you're where God wants you to be...let God tell you that."
                                                                -Jesse Sierke

   This morning, I awoke with a crisis of purpose. My often challenged mind was becoming a bad neighborhood, and for my safety, I needed to get out of there. As usual, I allowed one circumstance to walk in and set its luggage down. Since sobriety, when this happens, I take extra precaution to ensure it doesn't open its latches and unpack.
   After reaching for my can of caffeine, I asked my husband some pretty intense questions for an early, weekend morning. (Well, early to me- it wasn't quite ten o'clock; I had just gotten out of bed and he was already in the final stages of baking a quiche.) When I realize that my mind is beginning to fly away, my grounded husband can usually talk me back down. He is really, really good at that. "Do you think we are where we need to be- in our church, in our spiritual life? Are we where we are needed, or, are we overfilling the quota?" 
   Months ago, my husband and I left the church where we were married in search of a more embracing environment of open-mindedness and intimacy. We found this in spades at an inner city Episcopal coffee shop/worship community. Since visiting once, we have never looked back. Instead of the typical sermon, we discuss topics about the readings of the day and how they relate to our lives and our mission. We absolutely love it. 
   Then, today, my mind was becoming run down; a by-product of treated mental illness and a really difficult week. This tends to happen quickly, but not as quickly as when I was self-medicating with booze years ago, thank God. Just yesterday, I was sure of where I am and where I am heading. Today, not so much.
   I asked my question. My husband immediately begins to talk of the Apostle Paul. He reminds me that Paul, then Saul, persecuted Christians, and was even in the crowd when St. Stephen was martyred. Yet, despite this despicable fact, Christ sought him out. My husband searched for today's lectionary readings. It just so happens that the first reading is from Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:1-9:

   "Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Grace to you and peace from our God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind- just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you- so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord."

You have GOT to be kidding me.

   There have been many, many, MANY times I have questioned whether I was even worthy of being used by God. Even after I got past that, I have wondered, many, many, MANY times if I have a purpose with Him at all. This morning was one of those times. Then my husband found and showed me the first reading of the day, and said to me this:

"Don't let people decide if you are where God wants you to be...let God decide that."

   Nadia Bolz-Weber says it best, in many ways, in her books Pastrix and Accidental Saints:

"Getting sober never felt like I had pulled myself up by my own spiritual bootstraps. It felt instead like I was one one path toward destruction and God pulled me off of it by the scruff of my collar, me hopelessly kicking and flailing and saying, 'Screw you. I'll take the destruction please.' God looked at tiny, little red-faced me and said, 'That's adorable.' and then plunked me down on an entirely different path."

"Sometimes the fact that there is nothing about you that makes you the right person to do something is exactly what God is looking for."

"Images of Mary remind us of God's favor. Mary is what it looks like to believe that we already are who God says we are."

"Never once did Jesus scan the room for the best example of holy living and send that person out to tell the others about him. He always sent stumblers and sinners. I find that comforting."

"Sometimes Jesus just hunts your ass down and there's nothing you can do about it."

and my personal favorite:

"The most qualified to speak the gospel are those who truly know how unqualified they are to speak the gospel."
   I have never doubted God's ability to do what he wants with us. I know there is a reason I am still here, and it's not because I should be. God has some kind of plan for my life, because my jar is spilling over with stuff I want to do, and my passions aren't of my own making. But, I question my own abilities in the furthering of God's kingdom all the time. ALL the time. What can a bipolar, ex-drunk, ditzy gal like me do for God when there are SO many more folks out there who are far better qualified than me?
   My husband told me. Well, technically,  Paul told me, THEN my husband told me. And, before them, Nadia told me, and before her, God told me, only I didn't listen to him...I listened to THEM. And that's the answer, isn't it? God knows we don't believe him, so he sends all these broken people who got patched up by God who look like us and sound like us and get tattoos like us and sober up like us and cry like us and scream like us and laugh like us, because these are people we will believe. God tried to tell the world for years, but no one listened until he sent Jesus. Now, God and his son Jesus try to tell us stuff, but nooooo...we don't listen to do they know how we feel? (Seriously?) But Nadia knows, and my sponsor knows, and my husband knows, and.....oh my God...I know, too.
   Often I praise my struggles because I know through them, God has prepared me to do his work. In my 12 step program, I learned that no one can help an alcoholic like another alcoholic. In my spiritual program, I have learned that no one can help the broken like the broken. I know this to be true, because the broken are who have helped me, and I have believed every, single word they have said.
   Sometimes, out of left field, when I don't see it coming, I open my mouth, and God falls right out. It's just minus the thous and thees and stuff. It might even be mixed with a cuss word or two. God knows what will reach and comfort and give hope to his children. 

I guess this means that God is hunting my ass down, too. XO