Am I Rich?

Jodie StevensI never realize how much stuff I have until it’s time to move it all. What used to fit in the back of my pickup now requires a moving truck the size of a semi. Sometimes my stuff seems almost as essential as food and water. I surround myself with it, I comfort myself with it, and it’s painful to imagine life without it. It’s my stuff. As I’m pondering how I should organize all of it, I recall the story in Matthew where the rich man asks Jesus what he is still lacking to inherit eternal life.

Jesus answers, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. (Matthew 19:21-22)

In this passage Jesus is addressing this man’s weakness. His wealth is the one thing getting in the way of his relationship with God and Jesus knew it. If Jesus was standing in front of you now and you asked “what do I lack,” do you know what He would say? What is the one thing He would ask you to give up?

Maybe it’s an unhealthy relationship, and addiction to a substance, a job that defines you, or maybe it is your stuff.

When I was a little girl I was attached to a little stuffed dog I named Creampuff. One day I left him at McDonald’s and I never went back to get him. The sweater I had to have when I was 14 is probably at a goodwill store if time hasn’t disintegrated it altogether. The red truck I worshipped (that used to fit all my stuff) is in pieces at a wrecking yard somewhere.

Relationships that were so hard to give up have ended, jobs that defined me have come and gone, and I’ve managed to give up addictions I thought I could never overcome. And I know there is more I need to let go of that I just can’t face yet.

Jodie Stevens

Why I Believed My Feelings Didn’t Matter

Jodie StevensFor most of my life I was unable to identify my feelings. The times I did know what I was feeling, I didn’t know why.

Therapists, pastors, or friends would say things like: “…and how does that make you feel.” I would stare back blankly for several minutes and finally say: “I don’t know.” It never occurred to me not knowing how I felt was out of the ordinary. The belief that my feelings were insignificant was buried so deep inside me I didn’t even believe I believed it. To acknowledge I believed it would have given validity to feelings I unconsciously believed were unimportant (confusing, I know).

Maybe you experienced deep wounds as a child and your pain wasn’t recognized or validated. Perhaps you were told your feelings were wrong. Or maybe an adult figure projected their pain onto you and you internalized it along with the impression that your feelings were irrelevant.

At some point you stopped expressing your negative feelings altogether. You never consciously told yourself your feelings were meaningless since the belief of their insignificance was established long before you were old enough to process it. When you got older it became easy to let others make decisions for you because their feelings were more important than yours (by way of the fact they actually had them and they knew what they were).

If this is the case then how in the world do you get in touch with your own feelings? I don’t have a definitive answer because I’m not a psychologist or a theologian. However, here are a few suggestions I’m incorporating into my own life:

Pray and ask God to reveal your feelings to you, stop internalizing everyone else’s feelings so you can make some room for your own, and try to establish “where you end and someone else begins.” (Dr. Henry Cloud)

Jodie Stevens

When Fear Steals Your Joy

Jodie StevensMy mother’s piercing cries jolted me awake that fateful morning in 1977. A day of skiing turned tragic for my aunt and uncle the previous evening when they lost control of their car in a snowstorm on Emerald Bay Road in South Lake Tahoe.

Their bodies were pulled from the bottom of the cliff sometime during the night. Ben lived for an hour on life support but Debbie was killed instantly. She was only 22 years old and had already survived a battle with leukemia.

I was too young to understand the significance of him taking her hand despite her illness or to know the joy she must have felt watching my little hands scatter flower petals across the aisle at their wedding earlier that year.

That morning I lay frozen in my bed praying my mother’s screams were really laughter and I was just confused.

It wasn’t the first time I’d been startled awake like that, and it wouldn’t be the last.

Today I’m 42 years old and I still panic near cliffs, on turbulent airplanes, and any other time I feel a loss of control.

In his book “What Are You Afraid Of” Dr. David Jeremiah writes:

“When our pain leads us to see God as uninvolved in calamity, powerless to control it, or defeated by it, we saw off the limb that supports us and we plunge into fear. This leaves us without hope, for an all-powerful God is our only solace in tragic times.”

I became my only support system. Trying to ‘manage’ life’s ever-changing variables caused anxiety, self-doubt, and panic attacks. I sought comfort in alcohol, food, drugs, and anything else I could find to relieve the constant anxiety.

Real peace came when I accepted Christ and He taught me to internalize this simple yet powerful message from the Big Book of AA:

“. . . and acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation — some fact of my life — unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake.”

What are you holding on to that’s robbing you of peace today?

Jodie Stevens

Insomnia

Jodie StevensI’ve struggled with insomnia ever since I can remember. Those well-meaning people that say things like: “Oh, just sleep on the plane,” have no idea how ludicrous this sounds to someone who can’t fall asleep in their own bed let alone sitting in an upright position lodged between two people at 35,000 feet.

When I was younger I would kick, scream, and sob as night crept into morning. Desperation would begin to consume me as the time between rest and work became shorter and shorter, then I would yell at God for cursing me with this dreaded problem.

Then one day I just stopped getting angry. In a brief moment of clarity at some ungodly hour way past chamomile tea, warm baths, and Valerian Root I realized that elevating my heart rate to 175 beats per minute was not helping. Yelling at God wasn’t working either.

I reasoned that some of my best days had followed sleepless nights and some of my worst days had come after being well rested. I came up with great ideas and worked out many of my problems during those wee hours. Since I was still awake when morning came I had the exceptional privilege of remembering them all.

Although God has not healed me of insomnia, my quality of sleep improved once I let go and stopped worrying about it so much (and God must be happy to have one less person yelling at him.)

We all have our struggles in life and I may never achieve victory over all of mine. But what I can do is accept my limitations and choose to live with them in peace instead of turmoil.

Jodie Stevens

How My Mistakes Saved My Life

Jodie StevensI made some poor choices in the past and my thinking led to those decisions. Since I didn’t know Gods word the only internal compass I had to guide me was based on whatever I or someone else thought was right. The inner turmoil that resulted from the inconsistencies in my behavior led to fear, anxiety, and addiction.

In a nutshell; I was double-minded:

“A double-minded person is restless and confused in his thoughts, his actions, and his behavior. Such a person is always in conflict with himself.” (http://www.gotquestions.org/double-minded.html)

I was on the Proverbs 14:12 path: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”

Today I’m grateful for my mistakes. They led me to a place of brokenness and humility and opened my heart for God’s light to shine and change me from the inside out.

Now God’s word is my internal compass and clarity has replaced chaos and confusion.

But the greatest gift that came from my past debacles was eternal life when I accepted Christ as my savoir.

Don’t be too quick to curse your past.

Jodie Stevens

8 Words That Brought Me To Tears

000_6910Retouch“You give a little, he give a little.”

That’s what the old woman said when I asked her secret to 57 years of marriage.

For many people marriage (and life) is a battle of wills with no one prepared to surrender. Sometimes it takes more courage to give up your ‘right to be right’ than it does to destroy a relationship because you won’t back down.

It’s not always about the toothpaste or the toilet seat. Sometimes it’s about painful childhood wounds that cause us to harden our heart and make a solemn vow to never need anyone.

In my case, the ‘fruits’ of this stubborn determination brought me anger, rage, panic attacks, broken relationships, and addiction.

I was hiding behind a false wall of pride build out of the fear of getting hurt and it needed to be shattered.

Step 3 in the 12 steps of recovery reads: “Made a conscious decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God” – the ultimate submission.

It’s been over 9 years since I took that step and today I have a radically different life because of it.

God, the greatest force in the universe, is the one who taught me to surrender. The fruits of this resolution brought love, peace, friendship, and a happy marriage.

“You give a little, he give a little.”

She’s right you know.

Jodie Stevens

Why Didn’t I See This Sooner?

000_6910RetouchOccasionally I get discouraged that I’m just now realizing the plethora of conditions that led to my past troubles.

While I’m grateful God has given me these epiphanies, sometimes I find myself saying things like: “why am I forty two years old and just now figuring this out?” Or, “You’re kidding, my life is half over and now I’m learning who I am?”

‘More will be revealed’ is a popular motto in recovery groups. It refers to the life long process of self-discovery. Another analogy is when you don’t get the job or date you wanted and you realize later that God was protecting you from a harmful situation. Then again, maybe all the signs of impending disaster were there but in your haste you overlooked them.

Sometimes denial is willful ignorance, and other times it’s necessary because we are not strong enough to deal with the truth.

In the Recovery Devotional Bible Melody Beattie describes denial as “a protective device, a shock absorber for the soul. It prevents us from acknowledging reality until we feel prepared to cope with that particular reality.”

If you feel like you’re a ‘late bloomer’ in the garden of life take heart, Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us that God has made everything beautiful in it’s time. That includes you.

Don’t beat yourself up for not knowing. But rather, thank God you finally see.

Jodie Stevens