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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Best Friends

Last night my best friend, Brandon, and one of Ginger's best friends, Amanda, came over for dinner. The two met at our wedding and were married about 5 weeks later! It's the first time we've actually all been able to get together, fellowship, and have a really good time. They were concentrating on their marriage for the first couple of months, adjusting to being newly married.

What was funny is they came in, there was the greeting of each other, lots of hugs and we missed you, then Brandon and I go off into the kitchen (I was cooking spagetti) and Ginger and Amanda off to the living room to have girl talk. Naturally, Brandon and I talk about sports (He is a big OU fan, I'm a Longhorn and bleed burnt orange), jobs, and being newly married. We can hear the giggling and laughter out of the living room, it'll get quiet (what do girls talk about when the whisper?), then another burst of laughter!

We had dinner in which we all four sat around and talked, well, mostly Ginger and Amanda! When we all get together, nothing is off limits, which is great. We all sit around, cut up, relax, and just enjoy the moment of being together with friends. All of us are the counselors of our group of friends. We are the one's who get the calls, or are leaned upon when things are not so good. So what happens when we struggle? We have moments like last night, where the counselors get together and lean on each other and talk about OUR struggles. We are looked upon as the strong one's, but we are weak along with everyone else. We have our moments of breakdowns, and doubts, and adjusting to changes in life. And moments like last night are refreshing because they allow us to recharge, and get things off our chest, and because we are all believer's in Christ, there is alot of praising God, and Scripture talk and giving each other verses we rely upon to make it through the tough times.

After dinner, you guessed it, we were split off again, Brandon and I on the couch sharing and Ginger and Amanda at the kitchen table. Till they got silent again and I made the comment, "whatcha talkin about?" Lots of giggling, Ginger blushes, and they go off into another room (okay, really, what do girls talk about!).

It was a fabulous night, I got some much needed guy time with one of the people I can just let loose with. I have a chicken wing recipe that he is dying to try, and we cannot wait for Texas-OU football, and hopefully a great Dallas Cowboy football season. We both have wives that come from affluent backgrounds, we are both the rebel children of our families who've defied the odds and have close knit relationships with our parents again. So we have alot in common as far as insecurities with providing (I talked at length about my job) and how we have the most amazing wives who truly love us. Yeah, both of us thought our wives were out of our league, but God has an amazing ability to match make. And we are both accepted as sons in our wives families and our wives are like daughter in our families. If you only knew what a miracle that was.

Brandon finally got to see my drawings, and it looks like I'll be doing a drawing for him. Amanda loved the drawing of her and Ginger, and I feel that familiar urge to begin drawing again. Yeah, I'm pretty private with showing my drawings off, more of that self confidence issue I have. But when Brandon thought the drawing on the mantel was a picture, well, that helped!

So now we are going to get together next week, and Ginger and Amanda will have their weekly dinner date. Brandon and I will be doing odd jobs with each other as we get them, and life is good. I'm recharged, I finally got my guy time, and Ginger is tickled pink about the reconnection. There will be many more dinners to come, and good times to share, and memories to be made. More cooking to be done, more giggling by the girls, and two guys looking at their wives (we know what they are talking about!) In the fall, our neighbors will have to bear a few yells of TOUCHDOWN as Texas scores on OU (and vice versa if OU scores). Until then there will be the required discussion about who is better, all in fun, and another year of bragging rights will be given. Ginger and I love them both dearly.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Spokesman for the family

Okay so my last post I went out on a limb. A big limb. I remember as a kid climbing up trees, we always use to "dare" each other to go higher or out farther. I loved climbing trees and being high up and looking all around. Daredevil? Nah. Just a kid with an active imagination.

So the post. When you make yourself vulnerable, especially being a man and all, there is a certain amount of risk. I know, I know, men are suppose to be macho, and strong, and full of testosterone at least that is what your taught on TV. You need to make lots of money, and have big muscles, and have the big job, the new sports car, the women. If I were to listen to tv or society, that would be what I'd be chasing. Go on the internet and your bound to see several get rich from home ads, and how to get a flat stomach, and the new miracle drug for ripped muscles!

I've gone a different route. I've got a beautiful wife who I don't need to try to compete with for most beautiful. I'll happily give her the title. My muscles are perfect for her, so I don't need any miracle drug for ripped muscles. My car is paid for, her's too, and we are more happy about that than having a pretty sports car. God provides the money we need and sometimes we get extra, but our bills are paid, and we are happy with that arrangement of relying on God. I tell Ginger that there are times I wish I had a steadier job like hers, though if I had my dream I'd draw for a living, but one day I'll have my heavenly job of worshiping God forever in heaven.

You see, the things that are important for me now are things like this. I have a wonderful God who provides for me and guides me. I have a beautiful and adoring wife who is loyal to me and to God. And she will defend her man. Just say something bad about me and this sweet, lovable woman becomes a tigeress. She is constantly encouraging me and "brags" to her friends about me. In this world of throw away relationships, I've hit the mother lode. I remember when her friends first heard about me. Only one supported her. That friend, consequently, is coming over tonight with her husband to have dinner with us. Of course, now they all support her but she was rather upfront with them that their comments hurt her. I'd never seen someone so adamantly defend someone outside of what Jesus does for us when we are accused by the enemy.

I have wonderful parents who encourage me and pray for me, and love me. In my line of ministry I hear about all kinds of parents. Believe me, I hit the mother lode again when I got my parents. I hear the voice of God and He loves me and speaks to me. I have an amazing ability to draw, I just need to get off my duff and do more of it. I love the fact that I'm a hopeless romantic, it is important to me. And I love photography.

You see these are the important things to me because 8 years ago I didn't have a wife, I was not a very good son to my parents, and God and I, well, I was not exactly walking with Him. My priorities back then were what the world said I should have. I didn't draw, I was not into photography, and being romantic was only about one thing.

You'll notice that I didn't mention anything material wise in my list of what is important now. I will mention one material thing, our apartment. We have the apartment of our dreams. And that was a God thing. God willing, we will be here a long, long time. I mention it because it is home, feels like a home. How do I explain this. When I walk into my parents house it feels like home. There is safety and comfort. There is my parents unique touch on it. You feel the presence of God there. It is taken care of. You can tell alot of loving care went into making it that way. In the same sense, our apartment is like that. Before we got here, alot of loving care went into making it beautiful. Then we got here and alot of people helped us out a young couple and we got alot of nice things to put in it. And then we began putting our touch on it. We invited God here. We've begun making memories here. And now, it is home, not just a place to stay. It is a place for memories and a family. There is alot of laughter here. A place where we dance in my little art studio, or lay on the couch and watch our shows. There are the bible studies at night where we snuggle together and I read Scripture. You can't buy any of this stuff, it's made with love. There are serious talks as we help each other. A home is about togetherness. And when God is the glue, there is no solvent that can undo it.

I received alot of encouraging emails about my last post and a big kiss from Ginger. But there is a part of one I'd like to share from my mum:

I know that we will never get the opportunity to talk to many families that are going through what our family did, but as you are our spokesperson, continue to tell them to rely on the Lord, pray without ceasing, and you MUST exercise tough love. The tough love is probably the hardest. Like I said before, a mother wants to protect her child at all costs, but sometimes that is the worst thing to do. I know all people you talk to are not Christians and may not have a walk with the Lord. I'm not sure how those people make it day to day going through this. Dad and I were knocking on heaven's door all the time and we had a strong marriage. Ours was the "perfect storm" I guess you could say (God's leading, strong marriage, unity). Our decisions were mutual for the most part and our marriage drew even closer through it all. I'm sure many marriages fall apart because the parents are at odds over how to deal with the situation. Dad had to rein me in a few times, but most of the time I followed his lead and direction without question. We didn't always know the answer, but relied heavily on the Lord's leading during this time. It was the hardest thing I've probably had to go through, but looking back I am amazed and grateful to God. What an awesome God we serve! How He loves us and will do whatever it takes to bring us back to Himself.


So to my Mom, even though I'm the spokesperson of the family, that piece of wisdom you just shared was too good to keep in my inbox. So to those of you who thought I was too open, dredging up the past, etc., read that again. That post was not about the past, it was about where I'd fallen too and the redemptive power of God and how even that far down, God can pick you up and restore. You just can't make this stuff up....And Mom, by going to the Lord in prayer and exercising tough love, you did protect your son, you put Him in the safest place I could have ever been, the Lord's arms. Tell me I don't have the best Mom and Dad in the world....

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My Last Drink 8 years ago








DISCLAIMER: I will be talking about the last day I took a drink and one of the reasons why I drank in this post. Some of it is not pretty, and it is part of my past, but I have a reason for sharing it. Much my Celebrate Recovery friends know, little does anyone else. So read if you wish, but I break the silence beyond CR about that last day in my own personal hell of my own making.


On May 26th, 2002 I took my last drink. It was about eleven when I took my last drink. As much as I'd like to tell you it was an ah-ha moment and I just got it and put it down, it wasn't. In fact, if left on my own, I'd of continued drinking that day. I was in Stage 3 of alcoholism. For those of you who don't know, that is the last and deadliest stage. Some places call it drinking to live. It is no longer enjoyment, but to relieve the withdraw symptoms and keep you feeling normal. I rarely, at this stage, ever felt drunk. First thing in the morning I would have a drink. It was usually Mike's Hard Lemonade because I could drink it down fast and start to feel better. Once the first one was down, my stomach would feel less queazy and I could start on another one to help the shaking in my hands go away. That was bad. My hands would shake so bad I'd have to use two hands to drink in the morning. This is how my day started out. You might be surprised to know I had a job, but I didn't have to go in till noon. But I'd stash a couple of mike hard lemonade in my backpack for work. Problem was, I was out of alcohol so I walked to the store (I had no car and you did NOT want me on the road) and got a six pack of hard lemonade. This would tide me over and give me my fix for the 10 hour shift.

God, however, intervened. Sometimes God is subtle and other times He brings the rain (military term for bringing the big guns). So for me, He brought it. There were lots of prayers going up about me and my condition. You'd think that at some point I would have got it, but I felt I was too far gone. I'd given up. I had no hope. None. Several stints in rehab, even long term rehab, and still I was drinking. My thinking had become so impaired and had been for awhile and it led me to make decisions that were not in my best interest. And it led me to make choices that would bring me to police attention. I knew they wanted to talk to me but my thought was if I ignore it, and drink enough, it would just go away.

So at eleven I was about to take a shower and the door came crashing in. God brought the rain. If you have ever had a gun 6 inches from your head being told to get down, it is a very sobering experience. One move, sudden move, and...well...it never got to that. The police had a search warrant and they had me in the bedroom. They were nice, as nice as they could be. They'd done their background work on me and realized I wasn't some hardened criminal, just someone caught up in addiction. And they wanted me to confess to some things. I wasn't budging. I wasn't. I'd watched plenty of cop shows that confession is bad. Get a lawyer. Even with my roommate confessing, he knew what I'd done. But the detective, in my opinion, was an angel, or at least an angel on earth. He looked at me, no joke, and said, "Paul, I just want you to know that right now Jesus is standing in that corner right now and you are not lying just to me your lying to Him." You just can't make that stuff up.

And in an instant I was sober. And I heard God. In my heart, there was God and He said in my heart, "Here is your chance. Here is your chance at a new life. All you have to do is confess. I'll take it from there, but it's time for the truth." I confessed. I told the detective to give me a pen and paper and I did. I gave every detail. I put it all down. In fact, to such detail there were really no questions after that. Some will say it was a homerun for the police. But in fact, it was a homerun for me, because at that point my new life began and I haven't taken a drink since. And God did take over.

In those early days of recovery, God carried me. I suffered no withdraw symptoms. I was still in my prideful, selfish state, I tried to make things about me, look what I've done, etc. But it was during this early stage that letter's from my Dad were so helpful and encouraging. He had to correct me on quite a few things that I remember, spiritually. There were some honest letters with some things I needed to hear. Mom's letters were encouraging and made me cry more than once. The problem was I'd numb myself for so long now I had to feel again. It was painful. I had to look at what I'd done. I'd run from that for sooo long, now I had to face it. But I wasn't alone. God carried me. I began reading the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. I don't say that in a prideful sort of way, it was God who directed me.

So flash forward. If you would of told me 8 years ago I'd be where I was today I'd of laughed at you. But looking back and reflecting on this day, I realize how much God did. He met me where I was at. He answered several prayers. In the end, it was my choice to accept God's help. He didn't force me to, He gave me an opportunity to live a better life. And God has directed my steps. There has been miracle after miracle from God in my life. From reconciliation and forgiveness from my family, getting to Tyler, finding my best friend and love of my life Ginger, to jobs, to this apartment I write this blog in. God has used fellow believers to help me along the way. Sometimes those people were just there briefly and others have stayed and helped me along the way.

In that 8 years I've had to face alot of fears and work on things from the past. In my addiction I was drugged and sexually abused by a man in AA. And that guilt and shame kept me in my addiction for several years. It was my dirty little secret, and the reason for my two suicide attempts. When I got to Celebrate Recovery it was this issue that I was finally able to work on. That is why Celebrate Recovery is so dear to my heart because that is where I got help for that. And God led me there. I'll never forget the first time I gave my testimony in front of almost 200 people and talked about it. The secret was gone. It was out. I'd met other people with similar circumstances and I was able to share openly. I'm a survivor now and at Celebrate Recovery I talk freely about the experience and how God has helped me overcome it. I don't need to drink over that pain now. By the way, Ginger was the first at Celebrate Recovery to know. I'll never forget sitting in her Xterra, tears welling up in my eyes as I relived that experience. God is good.

So the big issue I work on now is codependency. Most addicts fall into one of two classes: control freaks or codependents. Oh yes, I'm a big people pleaser. I'm better now having worked through the steps on this issue, but I still have a ways to go. Mostly I deal with self confidence (my art work) and making decisions, or making the wrong one's. I still have a tendency to isolate but God is not through with me yet! Ginger has seen the biggest change in me, but I have a good support team that calls me on my behavior. That is a good thing.

I'll never forget going back to Iowa and seeing my Aunt and her telling me something about my eyes. The last time she'd seen me they were lifeless, glazed, now they were alive and vibrant. All God. None of this, none of this was possible except for God coming in and carrying me. I'd underestimated God's healing power. He heals. I'm living proof. I didn't take a step to Him, He took several to Me, stood at the door and asked me, "Will you open it?" Thank the Lord I did...

So in a couple of weeks my parents are coming down to Texas. They'll get to see the apartment all decorated now (and the outside remodeled!), and spend some time with Ginger and I. It is a happy time. And all because God brought the rain...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

God's Love

I was reading in Hebrews this morning and I came across Hebrews 7:25:

"Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them."

And I just had to stop and meditate. God is like that with me. I'll read a chapter or two and then something will catch me and I hear a voice in my heart that says, "There, right there. Stop here. I want you to think on this, I'm speaking to you." Don't know if that is what it is like with others. Anyway I just stopped. We have a Intercessor who is constantly interceding for us. When we go through trials and struggles, when we have hardship, whether of our own making or out of our control, we have a wonderful and beautiful Savior, a High Priest, that is for us and is able to save us to the uttermost. In my deepest, darkest days of sin, Jesus was interceding for me. And He saved me. It is hard to wrap my little mind around the significance of this. I believe in my Savior, I love and adore Him. I don't show it very well at times, but He takes no offense because I come to God through Jesus. And in my shortcomings, Jesus stands up for me because He paid the ultimate price. He died for me. Me. If I was the only one, He'd have done it all the way He did. And the works I do now, they are for Him. I don't know when the change happened long ago, but I use to think my works were required, to make up for the bad I did. It is a warped sense of thinking, but it carried over from thinking I had to make up to my loved ones for all the bad I'd done. Then it clicked. You see, the way I live now I just live a Godly life the best way I know how. I fall short, but I live like I feel God leads me to live. And in that type of life, the fruit comes and so do works. I had to apply this to Celebrate Recovery as I've become part of the upper echelon of leadership. I do it not out of a sense of duty, but because I've been delivered from a pit of despair and I want others to see the joy of the other side of addiction, recovery. I use to do alot of things, Drama teams, Mission teams, going to prison to minister. I was getting burned out though. And I remember God, in a still small voice asking me, why do you do these things? For you or me? So I took a long hard look at what I was doing and why I was doing it. In the end the one thing I'm doing now, Celebrate Recovery, I do because I have a passion for it and because God gets the glory. As well, I was fixing to have a new bride, and I have a passion for her too! (almost 6 months now!). It was a pride thing. I'm this and that, I do this and that. Now I'm content. I'm a husband (a very happy husband!) and I work at Celebrate Recovery. And every day I stay sober is a testament to God and His power, because I'm powerless.

I never had to prove to my loved ones that I was changed, my life reflected it. I don't have to try to love Ginger, it happens naturally and the things I do for her I do out of love. Sometimes there is sacrifice, putting oneself to the side for the other, but I do it for love. In the same respect I see how that is exactly how Jesus loves His bride. He sacrificed Himself for His bride. And now He loves us and wants the best for us, He cares for us, prays for us, guides and leads us. Not out of a sense of duty but of love.

So what did God teach me in all this? He loves me unconditionally. When I come to Him, He accepts me as I am. I don't have to change, clean up, be perfect....I just have to come and believe. And when I do, and I follow, my life will reflect that change. Yes, my life is in a constant state of refining, molding, and sometimes even chastisement. But it is out of love. It was modeled to me as a child. I can't say it enough, my parents did an awesome job of raising me. My walk in the wilderness was in no way, NO WAY, their fault. I made choices contrary to the way I was taught, and that was one of the reasons why I am in recovery now, because of how they raised me. You see, I remembered the bible studies after dinner. I remember the I love you's, and Dad playing lego's with me, and making peach and cottage cheese salad with Mom. I remember Mom going over spelling words, and Dad helping me with math. Sitting around watching Little House on the Prairie and the Waltons. You see, they modeled God to me. Because God spends time with me. He says I love you and teaches me His word, and sits (or walks with me) and talks with me. And just like they loved me through the hard times, so Jesus did as well. And now the joy I hear in their voice with my life now, I hear the joy in Jesus's voice as He guides me.

And all this from one verse in the Bible....So just take a moment today and let God love on you, because He does. Got a struggle? Tell Him. Got a victory? Share it with Him. Let Him wrap His arms around you and let the peace surround you.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Helping

I've had two conversations this weekend where I was asked why people staying in their addiction. Both individuals have never struggled with addiction, they have loved one's who, for one reason or another, continue to go back, even after they "clean up".

So they are wondering what to do. Well, first off, you can't fix anyone. You can't, I'm living proof. I was unfixable, at least in a world view sense. You can reason with an addict, try with all your might to show them the light, but there is only one Light. There is a reason that AA, Celebrate Recovery, Rapha, and recovery programs that utilize a 12 step system have as the first step, realize that I'm powerless over my addiction. But it applies to loved one's too. And I know, that is a hard pill to swallow, because these two people did not want to hear they were powerless. Even less, they didn't want to hear that the only way their loved ones were going to recover was to admit they were powerless and then to trust God that He had the power to help them recover. Because these loved one's had to work those same principles, that they were powerless over the addict, and had to trust that God could help them recover.

The problem is the longer that the addiction is the more shame and guilt there is. I did some very very shameful things (and this is one of those times I choose not to share such things, I usually reserve that for private conversations with addicts I'm trying to help or when I give my testimony to other addicts). Not only that but I had some shameful things happen to me. And when a counselor tells you maybe you asked for it, well, you tend to close up. And to deal with those things we addicts go to our drug of choice. Plus addicts are selfish. I was. Plus, we try to put on a facade that everything is all right (Hence hiding our addiction). We are lousy hide and seekers. Like my friend who struggles with crack. I can tell. Everything is fine he says. Okay, your talking 80 mph and you can't stay still. Hmmm.

So how do you help someone who is an addict? My advise for both individuals was take care of themselves first, and give it to God. Get counseling if you need it, go to God, seek out a group (whether church or recovery), and get with some people who you can share your struggles with. Wait, they say, I'm not the addict. No, I realize that, but addiction doesn't just effect the individual it affects those around them as well. You don't cut off yourself completely, you love the person, but you do it at a distance. Be there for them so that if they do go into recovery you can support them. But trust takes time to develop back. I can't tell you how good it felt when I went to my Mom and Dad's house and could be left alone in there. When I came to Tyler and stayed at a ministry (for 3 years) I'd call my Mom and Dad every week to check in. Again, it felt so good when I was told, you don't have to call to check in, just call when you can because we know God has changed you.

If by helping them get on their feet it clicks and they do well that is one thing. I've seen that happen, where the addict doesn't abuse the help given them and they live productively. Those are the blessed one's. For me, I had to have all options removed so that I had to trust God completely. It was when I was put in that position I had a choice. I could stay addicted (and some do take this choice) or I could rely on God DAILY and follow His path. I had to make my own decisions, I had to make some tough choices, I had to work at jobs I didn't really want to, but God guided me every step. I had to really look at what I'd done, with a sponsor, and start dealing with the shame and guilt. I had to learn that when life gives you problems my first choice is to run to God, not the bottle. And these loved ones, well, they have to learn that lesson as well. Because every recovering addict I know, every one, that is in long term recovery walks with God. Not perfectly. And every one that I know has some kind of support group where they can be themselves. Sometimes life is hard. And you have to be able to have people you can go to and say life truly stinks, can I just vent. I've already written about how I stay clean and sober and these are just some more thoughts along that line.

Something else I told them, there is hope. 3 days till my 8th "birthday" and I am truly excited. It is a big deal to addicts. It may not seem like it to those never addicted, but each day an addict stays clean, each year that comes around, is a victory of unimaginable magnitude.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

An email from Mom

I got the sweetest email from my Mom. I'm not one that is moved to tears often, but my eyes get "watery" when I read it. Don't worry about the clown light, Mom, you didn't know! (Stephen King's IT did clowns in for me) Here is the part that got me on the email:

I love you so much and want you to know how very proud of you we are. You are rich beyond measure; maybe not in the world's eyes, but in God's measure of blessings, your cup runs over!

I spent alot of years chasing dreams. I spent so many years trying to make people proud of me, trying to win approval, thinking I was a failure, trying to be like my brother, trying to be what I thought others wanted me to be. I thought, in error, that if I just do this, or that, then I'll be loved.

The fact is, my Mom and Dad never cared how much money I made, or what kind of car I drove (as long as it was safe), or what job I had, or how much prestige I had. I don't have those kind of parents. They never cared if I was in the "in" crowd, or whether I was popular. As I'm learning, in my young 40's, what they truly cared about was my health, my walk with God, that I had a helpmate that loved me and cared for me. They taught me to love God. They encouraged me, and gave me such wonderful love and encouragement. They never wanted me to be dependent on them for the rest of my life but to be able to stand on my own, make my own decisions, both with God's help. And they have taught me well. There is not one thing I can think of they did wrong in raising me. They raised me teaching me about God. I was loved and provided for. They taught me to rely on God. Yes, I went off into the wilderness. I left the teachings of God, and my parents, because, much like the prodigal son, I thought life in the wilderness looked fun and exciting. As well, as things crumbled, I was ashamed, and I had things in my past that were easier to run from than face.

But as the prodigal son, I remembered. I remembered those teachings. I remembered that love and acceptance. And I was perfectly happy to be able to come back in their life, and God's, as a servant. But I got so much more than that. I was their son, and they helped me so much in my early recovery and even now they continue. I was never treated as a servant by the way. Dad, in my early recovery, began teaching me the wisdom of God again, like he had when I was a child. Mom encouraged me with a mother's patience. Through that process they loved me. And if my theology was wrong, or I had questions, Dad's patience in asking questions I'd already asked, or looking things up to explain them to me was amazing. They never gave up. The tears are welling up in my eyes right now, they never gave up. Just like God never gives up.

So now I make decisions with God's guidance. I've actually let me hair grow out (it is longer than it has ever been) because get this, I like my hair long. I'm an artist, I love to volunteer in ministry, and I have a wife, a helpmate, that in my wildest of dreams I never thought was possible to have. I help people in recovery with their addictions by sharing my life, the good, the bad, and the ugly. And from email's from my Mom, to the comments Dad gives me on my blog, I get priceless treasures. Mom wrote:

God gave Dad and I the strength that we needed to walk that path with you and now we look back with wonder and rejoicing when we see how far you have come, through God's grace.

Those words are precious. My parents are precious. Yes Mom, I am blessed beyond measure in God's eyes, He gave me you and Dad, if that was the only blessing I ever received (and I have received much more) then I'd still be richer than the richest man or woman in the world. Thank you for sticking by me, and thank you so much for your encouragement and love. A son could not ask for more.

Thanks Mom and Dad, can't wait for your visit.

Love you so much.

Guess I better explain the picture. Ginger loves taking pictures of me in funny poses. This is my mischievious pose. Hey, if you can't have fun, especially in recovery, then what's the point! And I was about to light a candle for a romantic setting, so I'll let you all figure that smile out...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Omnipotent God

Today another round of storms, to the north, to the south, to the east, and to the west but for some reason Tyler is missed yet again. Of course, in Lindale I got rained on a little bit. I was a little disappointed, I love storms. Yeah, I'm one of those people who loves the sound of thunder, watching the lightning, especially at night when it lights up the sky. I have a fascination with tornado's too, but that is another blog (can someone say storm chaser).

One of the reason I like storms is because it reminds me of how powerful God is. A tempest that no one can control. Believe me, I've tried to manipulate God, even tried to control God and my circumstances, but God is by no means dependent on me, much less can He be controlled by me. Don't get me wrong, God loves me, I am His child, and He loved me sooo much He gave His only Son to die on the cross for me. So when I gave my life to Him I became His. But God has had to do alot of work on me. I can be impatient, stubborn, I can throw tantrums (I imagine Him smiling shaking His head as I do), but in the end I come around to His way of thinking. After all, my God is omnipotent, and anyone who is more powerful than a storm, who could cast it away with but a word, doesn't need my input on how to run my life.

Recently, I've begun to learn just how powerful God's Word is. As I've begun to read more I find myself craving more. When I go to His Word with a pure heart, it comes alive and I get answers. II Timothy 3:16-17 speaks volumes to me as I understand that it is a blueprint for living a holy life. One day I'll read and be convicted. The next I'll read and get an answer to prayer. The common denominator I get with both is when I go to His Word not for selfish gain, but for wisdom, I find myself in His presence and realize how awesome He is. Believe me, I've gone the route of things are bad I need a quick fix, let me run to the Bible, okay God help me! Then I 'm back running my life. But things have been different. I have a joy reading, especially when Ginger and I sit down and I read and we discuss in our nightly studies. It is important, because we've found that as we are closer to God, we are closer to each other. And when things are difficult I do ask God for help, but how He chooses to help. The trial I may be going through may be for me to learn something, whether it's patience, or what, I may never know, but I do know that if I trust and have faith in God, it works out sometimes in ways I never imagined. Could I have imagined my life the way it is now, 10 years ago? No. But God knew. The all knowing, all powerful God of the universe knew. And I find that if I stay in the Word I forget that less and less. What a mighty God we serve.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I just want to rock!

Today I got up in a squirrely mood. Not a bad mood, just a let my hair down kind of mood. I didn't want to listen to talk radio on the way into work, so I picked out one of my favorite CD's to rock to. Kutless: Heart's of the Innocent. I'm a true rocker. My teenage years were spent in the hair metal 80's. Yeah, I'm one of THOSE people! Now Ginger hates metal (my Mom I'm sure is sooo happy about that!). Can't stand it. She'll tolerate maybe one song, and then it's off to Dave Matthews, Colbie, you get the point. So to get my fix when I'm in this mood I either have to a) listen to it in my car or b) listen to it when she's running errands or exercising or c) listen to it in my studio as I'm drawing or blogging.

Well, I for the most part listen to Christian rock, hence Kutless. My favorite band is still Skillet though. But there is a song on the CD, Shut Me Out, that I absolutely love. Gone are the days when I act like a fool and bang my head going down the road, but I do an occasional drum solo now and again. It's freeing for me. I love the electric guitar, and the words, and it satisfies my craving.

I have a mix CD that has some of my old favorites, AC/DC, Poison, etc. so when I really need a fix of the old time favorites I can. I've taken ALOT of flak from the Christian community for having such CD. It's evil, I'm on the road back to addiction, I've backslidden, I've even been told my soul is in jeapordy because I have a liking for Poison's Nothing But a Good Time. First it's the music, then smoking, then drinking, then I'm on the road to destruction, blah blah blah. (all quite recently I'm afraid). This music doesn't take me to a bad place. Actually the Poison song reminds me of my brother and I in our pool on a summer day. Not all music is bad (some is). But I'm justifying. I'm sure the Beach Boys in their day, or even Elvis, were thought to be tools of evil at one time, and yes, I like the Beach Boys (I Get Around) and Elvis (Jailhouse Rock). I love Green Day's "Do you know the enemy?" and I could really go on.

I guess my point is, if I know someone is struggling with a song I play, I won't play it. Maybe it takes them to a bad place. But when I'm alone, in the sanctuary of my car, I don't see God sending lightning bolts because I tap my feet to a song, Christian or not. Now you won't find me playing Venom or Slayer, or the countless other Death Metal bands out there. Some stuff, even for me, is just silly and screaming is not my thing. And there are some bands I do avoid because it reminds me of bad places in my life (Queensryche). But if I decide to play a song that takes me to a happy place, then I'm going to, now I have a craving for Def Lepard..(Rock Rock till you drop).

Yeah, I decided to be lighthearted tonight. If you don't like secular music, I respect your choice, but don't look down on me because my opinion is different. So crank up the stereo!

God Bless

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Mondays!

You gotta love Monday's. No, not really, you don't. Monday is the busiest day of the week for me. Not only is it the beginning of the work week, but I get off work, go home and shower, then I'm off to Celebrate Recovery (5pm to 10). Hey, I use to go straight there from work, but I needed that buffer in between.

So the meeting went absolutely fantastic! In large group we had special music. I did the announcements and I'm getting more and more comfortable with it. I stopped trying to make mistakes. I know that sounds silly, but I wanted to be the perfect announcement giver. I emulated people, tried to please everyone, and it smelled alot like codependent behavior. So I let go. I gave it to God (and Ginger prays everytime that I go up there that I just be natural, she has my Mom's heart, who prays for my pride, and God listens to them both!) and it hasn't been the same since. But that is what the group and recovery is about, learning and growing. I have yet to have a newcomer come in those doors and say "I got this, got a handle on it!" Usually they come in scared, hurt, angry, distrusting, just daring you to help them and yet in their eyes begging you to help them. And we lead them to the source of our healing, God. Yep, Jehovah Rapha. If that sounds alot like church to you, well, it is church to alot of us.

So the music was awesome and I got a big surprise. If you read my post Addiction, then you read about a friend of mine on parole. Well, he surprised us all by showing up, having been released. He got a second chance. It was good to see him and I pray he learned a valuable lesson. It was my old friend back. Yeah, I'm cautious, but God healed me, I know He can heal him.

The biggest joy of my night was the next hour. Being the co-ministry leader I stay out in the front while the small groups are going on. Usually it's pretty quiet but I'm there to handle various issues that come up. Last night was a quiet night for issues. So I hung out with the police officer that is our security guard. I've been helping with some graphics with him on a project he is doing. So for those that know me, have heard my full testimony, this is an amazing thing. Who'd of thought I'd have a police officer as a friend. Usually I was scared to death of them. For those of you who don't know much about addiction, there are three places active addiction leads you: Rehab, Jail, or Death. I've been to two, and flirted with the third. Anyway, I get to hear amazing stories from him and he gets to hear them from me. I have alot of respect for him and all police officers, they have a thankless job sometimes.

So after the small groups is the Solid Rock Cafe, where everyone mingles. I get to share with a good friend of mine how our lives in recovery are vastly different than our addiction lives. I guess I should say I'm sponsoring him and we love to laugh with each other. Laughter is healing, just ask Ginger!

Then I got to go home to my wife, who left about a half hour before I did. I got to do my little dance (and she laughed and laughed) and we recapped our day. I checked my email and had a wonderful email from my Dad. I have to mention it because I'd emailed him earlier about a Scripture question. That is who I go to if I have those questions. I remember him reading his bible before work, doing his devotions, and I gotta say that example has carried over to his son now (took long enough). I've told you all about my Mom, how she is such a prayer warrior for me, well, my Dad has been an example of leadership and a pillar of wisdom for me. He goes to God. And all those lessons, all that time I watched him, I'm starting to apply. Because of his example. Sometimes we don't see the impact we are making, so I just wanted him to know (since he reads this blog). Love you Dad, your truly the best Dad in the world to me.

Okay, gotta get ready for work! Thanks for all the comments everyone is leaving! Yes Debbie, I know Tanna, that picket fence and arch is on one of her properties to which I have the honor of living in. My wife and I want to put something in that area where we can sit and make smores! Talk to everyone later!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Celebrating with a friend!

Ginger and I went to church this morning and as usual it was a wonderful experience. One of our friends came in and she was extremely excited, she had received her 11 month chip earlier that day for recovery from alcohol. That is quite an accomplishment. From 4 1/2 years in the wilderness, to 11 months of sanity. Anyone familiar with addiction knows the kind of accomplishment this is. It's not easy. The odds are stacked against people who struggle with addiction. if you don't live in a dry county (like I do), then go into any gas station and there is your old nemesis enticing you to come back into it's arms.

I'm coming up on 8 years of soberiety. I get asked all kinds of questions. Are you still tempted? Do rabbits eat carrots? is my usual reply. Of course I am. As recently as last week. But temptation is not sin. Which leads to the next questions of how I do it? How do I keep sober?

For me it was and is all about surrender. First I had to give it to God. It was too big. I couldn't do it without God, HE keeps me sober. Then it was about support groups. In the years I struggled with addiction I tried to get sober. Usually I'd have one group I'd go to and when something happened, I'd leave and then I'm alone and then WHAM! I'm back, pour me a drink, dust off my bar stool, I'm ready for another ride on the roller coaster! I also wouldn't talk. A temptation would come and I'd feel guilty! I'm not suppose to feel this way! Um, that is just wrong. I know some who have no craving what so ever. I usually don't, unless, and here is the key for me, I want to be numb. I don't want to feel. Which brings me to:

So today I do what is called working my program. I have a main support group, Celebrate Recovery. Other's have AA ( I know some who go to both). But it doesn't stop there. I'm active in Celebrate Recovery. I don't just go to the meeting and leave. I volunteer, and not so I can be seen. I work best behind the scenes. I also communicate. I have a support team. Ginger, my wife, is my biggest accountibility partner. I can tell her anything, including if I'm tempted. I have others I can call, and talk to. But it doesn't stop there. I have a place outside of CR, my church, where I go just to be fed. That is important, so important, to me. Not that CR doesn't feed me, it does, just in a different way. My support is a system of multiple places and people. For me, having it spread out insures that if one is taken away, I still have plenty of support in other areas.

The other thing I do is share my story. I've been accused of being too much of an open book. Nobody wants to hear that Paul! You've been delivered, don't live in the past. Well, I'm not living in the past, but I choose not to forget it. How many Christians struggle? How many struggle alone thinking they are the only one who struggles? I did. How many are afraid they will be judged if they say they struggle with sexual addiction? alcohol addiction? Believe me, I give my testimony and you see the jaws drop. This all american, clean cut, nice young man did that? Had that happen to him? I also don't say those things to puff myself up. Oh, I use to. I wanted attention. It's not about that anymore. It's about helping people.

And that is the final key. Helping people. I can't do it alone, God does it. And I acknowledge that. Sometimes when I counsel people I have no idea how to help them, but God gives me the words. And that is where the help comes from, His Wisdom, not mine. Which is where praying, staying in the Word, communicating with God daily comes in.

I still have areas that I struggle with, mainly codependency. Ginger has seen great progress for me in this area, however, as my parents will probably tell you, I have a long way to go. But that's okay, God is good and He is not finished with me yet!

So Congratulations to our friend for 11 months! Next month we are going to her 1 year anniversary and we couldn't be more excited...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Voice of God

This morning Ginger and I went on our walk. A beautiful cool morning after the evening rain last night. The plants were happy, having gotten their fill of water, and were perked up. The squirrels were happy, chasing one another, eating nuts, having a wonderful Saturday morning. And the birds. The birds were flying around and they were happy as well. It was then that I heard the distinct sound of a cardinal making it's call. Whether it was for a mate, or looking for a mate, or companions, I've learned that sound in my quest to take pictures of what I remember to be my Mom's favorite bird.

In the same respect, this past week, I've found my intimacy back with God. As we were walking I realized that I could recognize the voice of the cardinal. Because of actively seeking out it's voice, watching the bird, it's behavior, I even learned where the bird was at. I learned the places it would most frequent. Applying those same principles to this week, I actively saught out God in His Word, spent time with Him, meditated and just listened. I could recognize His voice from all the other voices I heard. You know, worldly voices. When you work in ministry you get busy. There is much to do, and you pour out your heart and soul as you help people. But you have to fill up. You have to keep seeking God in that alone time, and with your spouse. If you don't you get empty, and you get tired, and you begin to wonder if it's worth it. You begin to want things that you don't have I mean after all, you deserve them right? You've been working hard all this time, it's my time now right? Worldly voices. Me me me. Self Self Self. Too many voices. So I actively began a journey to hear the voice of God. And I brought Ginger in on my quest as well, we are, after all, one with each other and Him. And just like the cardinal I could hear the voice again. At first it was distant, I was still half listening to the other voices. But as I pressed in, persevered, those went away and God began speaking. He never stopped speaking I should say, I just wasn't listening.

Think of it this way. You've gone for a walk before. How often have you walked and you don't notice anything but say, the cars driving on the road, or people walk by, and you may hear the birds but don't pay attention. Now then, go on a walk and actively listen and watch. It becomes a new experience. The cares of the world go away as your actively engaged in listening and watching.

This week has been one of growing in the Lord, learning to trust in Him again, and having my faith renewed. And I've talked to other believers in my sphere that have been going through the same thing. I feel as if I've been fed, watered and, well, filled back up. God is speaking to us, all the time, the question is are we listening?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Contentment


These are two very precious puppies. They are the odd one's of the litter of ten. All the rest are black. I say odd, but they are so cute and even tempered. I know a little about being odd, of being unique. I don't fit into any kind of norm, just an artist who loves to be himself. Ginger's artist.

Today, I would say that the word for the day that God has given me is contentment. And over the past couple of days I've realized I'm pretty content with my life. I had a discussion today about the Israelites and how when they were delivered out of Egypt, after a while they complained about wanting to go back to Egypt. I related about how I've been there. Boy howdy. I walk with God, He is guiding me, and I think back to when I had things. Life was comfortable. Life was predictable. I conveniently forget that my slave master (Addiction) was a cruel task master. Sure, I had things. I had stuff. I had my own bar stool (Norm on Cheers). I could usually get what I wanted (which was usually a drink) and didn't have to worry about getting provided to by God. If I couldn't provide I found a way I could.

And I forget about the relationships I had that were so dysfunctional. I forget about how I couldn't get up in the morning without having a drink because I'd be shaking so bad. Or how about lying to everyone that I was alright. Yeah, Egypt for me was fun fun fun if I forget all the negative stuff.

Now life is less predictable. And not so comfortable at times. God molds me, and you know that clay that gets molded every which way? If it had a mouth and feelings what do you think it would be saying? HEY THIS IS GETTING A LITTLE PAINFUL HERE! YO! OUCH! THAT HURTS! And yet, I wouldn't trade it for Egypt. I've blogged about those things I'm thankful for, and those things make it worth it, the discomfort I may have to endure at times. Easy, no, worth it, yes. When I lay down at night and look over and listen to the soft sound of Ginger sleeping, so peaceful, so content, I realize that life away from Egypt is a whole lot better. And when I look back (I read some old journal entries in my journal) I realize how much I've been molded. No big head here, I've got a long way to go. Trust me codependency is a witch.

Like the puppies. Look at the picture. So content. So peaceful. God has big arms, a huge lap, and is a willing giver of hugs. I can crawl into His arms and just rest.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Chasing Cardinals


Yesterday I was able to catch this shot of a cardinal. He was very elusive (thank goodness for a good zoom on my camera). They were chasing their female counterparts, singing their love songs, and as I looked specifically for them, they kept an eye on me! Funny, they seem to not have a care in the world, just singing and chasing away! I'm in a much better place spiritually today. Last night Ginger and I had a little devotion and just talked, about God, about life, about our love. We are really good at share time. When we first met we'd talk for hours about everything. We got to know each other. We learned each other's strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, and our goals. Just like the cardinals yesterday, I chased Ginger (and she chased me!), I sang her offkey love songs that was music to her ears. To this day I still chase my wife. I still sing her love songs (same off key voice), I do little dances in front of the TV making her smile (more more she'll say!). I do it out of love, it just seems natural, like the cardinal. Our devotion allowed us to reconnect again and we always feel so much closer when we invite God to be with us, when we put Him first. Of course, it started with me and my walk, putting God first in my life. Dad gum Israelites, I'm so much like them at times...And as I related all the lessons God taught me to her, she had her own insight as well. The funny thing is, she prayed that I would Walk with God yesterday. And the title of my post yesterday unknown to her, Walking with God. She told me, I just figured it was a little prayer, would it get to God? Oh yes, it got to God and He answered her prayer literally. To have a wife that prays for you, well, a treasure beyond worth...And to have a God who answers prayer...priceless.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Walking with God


So I was on my walk yesterday morning and I decided to take my camera. I had my coffee in one hand and my camera in the other. So I'm walking with God, because usually I walk because I need some advise from the Father, and I see this little fella. One of my boys. Yeah, I have a special affection for squirrels. Maybe because I'm a nut. I also have a special affection for cats, which chase squirrels, so go figure. Anyway I'm watching this little guy, and God always has a lesson for me when He stops me or catches my eye with something. This squirrel was no different. Nut in hand, this little one was just eating away. His only concern was the guy with the camera, so he moved up high enough (thank goodness for zoom) where he could watch me and eat in relative peace. God provides. This little squirrel didn't need to worry about where he was going to find the nut (or acorn). In the same way, as I brought my concerns before the Lord, He provided (Matt. 6:25-34). He brought me peace and a comfort to rest in Him. As I consider my concerns and ask God, "Am I where you want me?" I picture Him walking beside me, a smile on His face, just listening. And then in a gentle voice He says, "Trust me, Paul, I value you, I care for you, I love you, just trust me and I will guide you." Such peace in that voice. Such assurance. Giving up one's life is easy sometimes, harder in other times. I mean, I'm just being honest. You see other people with all these nice "things" and you wonder whether your in the right spot. You take your eye off the nice things you have and beginning looking at other things. And so God reminds me of the nice things I have. The beautiful things. In that gentle voice, as we walk, He asks me how valuable having a loving, loyal wife is? She is a treasure beyond worth. A loving set of parents, who pray for me, love me, and encourage me? Again, a treasure beyond worth. My salvation? Eternal life? There is no treasure worth that. The apartment of Ginger and I's dreams? The work I do at Celebrate Recovery? My soberiety? All these things, all of them, God has provided for me. And all of these things, as I walk with God, He continues to provide. So as my heart turns back to gratefulness, God floods it with peace. What was just a simple walk to get with God and get some things off my chest turned into a wonderful lesson. Trust God. You'd think, with what I've gone through I'd never forget that, thank goodness for walks and lessons with God, who will remind me of how good I really have it.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The best mother in the world

I have an opportunity, in the ministry I'm involved with, to hear about all kinds of mothers, and even see a few. I've heard many stories, of good mothers, faithful mothers and adopted mothers to people who've not had very good mothers. I've heard stories of faith, heartbreaking stories, and even redemptive stories of mothers who turned it all around with God's help.

In the mother department, I got extremely blessed. Yes, in my eyes, I have the best mother in the world. She exemplifies motherhood, in fact, to me she could write the book on how to be a mother. It wasn't that she was perfect, it's that she was faithful and loving. She raised me to love God. She raised me with manners, and to be educated. She taught me to love others and respect others. She brought out the best in me. She kissed my cuts and bruises, she took care of me when I was sick, she cheered me on as I grew up.

And then I got into addiction. I'm not proud of it. I broke my mother's heart too many times to keep count. I lived for me, forget Mom or Dad, or anyone else. In my hurt and pain I left a trail of destruction vast and wide. My Mom had every opportunity to write me off. She could have disowned me, forgotten me, left me to my own devises. But she didn't. In those dark days, she prayed. She anquished for her son. She continued to love someone who was very unlovable. In other words, she expemplified Christ. Christ loves us even as we are yet sinners. And my Mom went to the cross several times uttering my name before God. Help my son, please. It wouldn't surprise me if there were tears of blood.

God answered those prayers. Her son is now sober (almost 8 years). Her son is married to the love of his life (to which his parents prayed in, of that I have no doubt) and lives a successful life in the Lord. He isn't perfect but he is that son who she raised. No longer does she jump at the phone, worried about news (is he gone?), now the phone calls are joyuous times, family times, loving times. She's coming down soon (from Iowa) and I can't wait to hug her, and be with her. There are many mothers out there, God picked the perfect mother for me, and so on this day I honor her, for she is and will alway be Mommy to me.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A special garden


On the land I work on, one of our good friends lives there, Rebecca. This is a picture of her garden. She actually owns a business where she makes wreaths out of honeysuckle.

Rebecca has a special place in our heart. She is actually from New York, but exemplifies true hospitality. I've cabin sitted her cabin when she was away, and the first time Ginger saw it she loved it. It has another special place in my heart, it is where I proposed to Ginger. It was one of those God things. I was trying to come up with something special and unique two Christmas's ago. I wanted it private, intimate, and I wanted God at the forefront. So a week before Christmas, Rebecca calls and asks if I want to stay there over the holiday's she'd be out of town. And a plan began to form. I won't give away all the details, but I completely surprised Ginger. We had just sang happy birthday to Jesus and had a little cake (a tradition from my family) and we had one more gift each to open. So under the light of the Christmas tree, I opened mine then gave her her's. She opened this little box that said to stand up and close her eyes. She knew then. In the light of the Christmas tree, the wood stove burning wood to keep us warm, she opened her eyes to me, on my knees, asking for her to spend the rest of her life with me. Rebecca didn't know I was planning this, so she was happily surprised. Ginger was even more surprised. So what did we do? We were hungry and the only thing open on Christmas was Whataburger. You guessed it, we went and had a hamburger and just glowed with that newly engaged look! We felt God smiling down on us. I went through alot of planning, with the ring, with asking her parents for her hand in marriage (yes, people still do that!), and even asking my parents (MOM) for their blessing. I'll never forget my Mom's response, "She is exactly what I have been praying for you in a help mate all these years." My Mom, I'll write about her tomorrow. But I love her dearly. And Ginger and I? We are more in love than we've ever been. I love her more than anything on this earth, she is my heart song.

Anyway, there I go getting mushy. I can't help it. When your married to the most beautiful girl in the world you tend to get mushy...

Friday, May 7, 2010

Roadrunner



So today I noticed a new friend. I'd seen roadrunners on the trail to my work, but never had I seen them in the woods. This little fella let me get close enough so that my zoom would capture a pretty decent picture, I was amazed when I got it onto my computer.

So today I was able to start working on the trails I'd started last summer. I'd done alot of the prep work, now I just needed the riding mower, a pair of loppers and a weedeater. I knew I shouldn't have worn shorts today...

The trees, to me are like a canvas, and I'm able to create the trails as I see fit. Now that I work alone out in the woods I'm able to get creative. I took lots of pictures today, though the elusive blue jay and cardinal were camera shy. I'll be patient...

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Need a Lemonade?

Okay so for the past couple of days I've had some pretty deep topics. I'm not always so serious, in fact, I'm pretty much a clown sometimes. Not a clown, I still think their evil, but chalk that up to a clown lamp I had as a kid that I had nightmares about, it would be at the foot of my bed and talk to me. Yeah, traumatic. I slept with the covers over my head till we got rid of it. Now that was a joyuous day.

So today I'm working on the land. I caretake 20 acres of land, of which 3 acres is cleared. This is if I'm not remodeling, painting, helping install air conditioners, etc. Anyway, my pal for today was Luke. Luke is a full blooded lab. Black, sleek, and my buddy. He is my boss's dog, but when I'm there, Luke follows me around. Today I'm sweating, working, and there is Luke, in the shade, tongue hanging out, just watching. "Need a lemonade?" I ask? He gets up, comes over, nudges my leg for me to pet him. Now isn't this the life, I thought. I give him fresh water, food, and you can forget about him staying in the backyard. When he sees me, he jumps the fence, and there he is, nudging, wanting to be petted.

If I'm on the mower, he follows. I think he's looking for squirrels, or more shade, I keep cutting down trees and brush. He is not, however, useless. If anyone comes on the land, he barks. If any critters are nearby, he alerts me (like snakes). It may seem he is doing nothing, but in reality he has my back. So naturally, this makes me think of God. Sometimes we don't think God is doing anything. We wonder, where are you? We read His Word, even pray, but God are you just sitting up there watching me? Need a lemonade? And then in those moments He comes over and hugs us. He nutures us. He speaks to us, and warns us if we are on a shady path or about a path we are not on but he sees danger on. Like the 3 foot copperhead that was above my head one day, in the chicken coop that I was cleaning out. Sometimes we don't think to look around, but God is all around, and knows even before we take a step.

So I'll happily have Luke sit in the shade and watch me, he may take a break to go jump in the creek to cool off, but he is ever watchful. Because God is there watching me, he just has a dog named Luke he is using. Would it surprise any of you that I'm craving lemonade now...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Addiction

I have a friend, well, I have more than one if you count the imaginary ones...but I digress, I have a friend who is not doing well. We both have similar backgrounds and we both got caught up in addiction. We met in a ministry, he was the extrovert I was the introvert, however we were both in recovery. We didn't hit it off well at first. I thought he was arrogant, he thought I was a people pleaser. We were both right, actually. It all came to a head one night when I heard he was talking about me. I was not happy. He invited me for coffee to talk about it and I relunctantly went. And that night our friendship was born. I learned his heart, and that he was trying to protect me by talking to my best friend to talk to me. He learned my heart and how arrogant people remind me of the person who sexually abused me. Communication. It does wonders. We use to be very close but addiction is very jealous of who she keeps company with.

Well, he is on parole. And he is a couple of months away from being off. Addiction is better at playing games than we are. Trust me, if you think you've got some good moves, if you think your quick, or smarter, or better, I promise you that addiction is
quicker, smarter, and will get the best of you. He is wicked smart. Has a degree in chemistry and is an excellent business man. Tomorrow he has a parole revocation hearing and could go back to prison for up to 3 years. Game over.

So what is my point? Anyone who has been addicted and is in recovery knows that with one choice that could be them. I'm asked how I keep sober. God. I'll say it again God. I am completely powerless and have to rely on His strength, not mine. I have given my life to God. Ginger and I pray together. We worship together. We go to Celebrate Recovery together. I volunteer in ministry to help others. I choose who I hang out with wisely. I have an accountibility team who has every right to ask me how I'm doing and hit me over the head if I'm stupid. And I communicate. I talk (and now blog). Because every time I say my story, even a apiece of it, I remember. I remember the pain and destruction. I don't believe in living in the past, but I choose for myself not to forget. I have to remember what drinking caused me. I had good times, and if I remember those only I'll drink. What can one beer possibly cost me? I'm not willing to find out. God went to great lengths to get me where I am at today. It wasn't me. He changed my heart, changed my values, changed my life. Having a good wife is more important to me than a new car. Being sober is more important to me than having a six figure job. Having God in my life is more important than anything this world could offer. Only God could have done that.

So say a prayer for my friend. Though he made some choices, he is still dear to me, I just chose not to make the same one's. My prayer has been that God will do whatever it takes to get him back to Him. It's the same prayer my Mom prayed for me...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Encouragement

So today was a much better day. A friend calls me, out of the blue, and encourages me, thanks me for what I do at Celebrate Recovery. And that is how my morning started. Encouragement. It makes me think of Ginger. Ginger deals with bipolar and anxiety issues. She's rather open about it and her tight group of friends (of which two are admitted bipolar) and her are constantly giving each other support and more than one cry session. I can't profess to know what it is like to be bipolar. But I empathize. And as Ginger and I courted I learned a great deal about her disease. I'd already known some, but I actively sought out information. I went to doctor's visits with her (she goes about once every 9 months). But there are two things that have been, in her words, a great help. The first is the counselor in me (that would be God!). We talk alot, and we talked alot during our courtship. There were many "thorn pulling" sessions we had to get to the root of anxiety she was feeling. Sometimes I'd get a text at 1:00 am, asking if she could call, because there was a problem. I didn't mind. When you love someone you go out of your way, or at least that is what I did. With patience and perseverence we worked through many issues. Sometimes a issue would come back and Ginger would be hesitant to bring it up. But she would. And when she'd start crying (tears of joy) I knew we'd hit on the problem. I'm not this great counselor, there were times I had no idea how to help her. But God would take over my words and I'd get to the heart of the issue.

The second thing that has helped is laughter. I can make Ginger laugh. There are certain types of her anxiety that laughter is the key, and I'm talking big, belly hurting laughter. I'm not talking about jokes, either. I'm a little..um..off the wall. For example, she's feeling bad and will text me to tell her something funny. So I'll say something like: The pink elephants in their black tutus are coming to your work to do a disco dance for you. Like I said, out there. But you'd be surprised at what it does for her. I have the ability to make things come to life. Stuffed animals, etc., Ginger will swear they are real. Call me insane, crazy, but it works for us. But you know what happens? It takes her mind off her anxiety. Suddenly she is in my little carnvial world and life, at least for a little bit, is easier to handle.

I try to be Ginger's biggest encouragement, but there are times that she needs someone else bipolary. That is where Amy, Erica, Jen, and Amanda come in. I could get jealous (I've seen it before in people), but I actually encourage her to call her friends, because sometimes I can't help. God uses us all in her life, and I'm thankful she has them.

American Idol is on tonight, her favorite show. She's making the pizza, and we are getting set to have a night on the couch, eating good, and watching her show. In the mean time I'll be coming up with some stuff to make her laugh..let the carnival rides begin...but there are no clowns, clowns are evil....(if your a clown and your reading this..wait..I don't know any clowns)

A blah day

Ever have one of those days? You know, you get out of bed and your just blah! You hope the day gets better, but blah! I mowed and cleared large amounts of grass yesterday, rushed home and went to volunteer at Celebrate Recovery. I know, I should be super spiritual and say "I was happy to get there and serve serve serve!" I should be, but I've never been one to follow the norm. Truth be told, I wanted to be at home, my butt on the couch, eating potato chips and dip drinking koolaid. The God I serve is amazing. I can be honest with Him. I can tell Him how I feel. I don't have to lie and say I'm doing great Lord! He knows anyway. He knows my heart more than I'll ever know it. So instead of saying, I'm great God, I said, you know how I feel, give me the strength because I really don't want to be around people, because they are just disappointing me today.

So that is how it started. Things, of course, started turning around. My wife walked in (she is a leader too). If anything brings a smile to my face it's her. She looks at me, no lie, I see those beautiful golden hazel eyes look at me, I see the love, and I see Jesus. And then other's I know and adore come, not knowing my mood, and just lift me up. I feel my mood lifting. Large group starts and the music is AWESOME! And then I get up and do the announcements. And it just flows. I get down from the podium and Ginger says I've done the best job ever. I hear an awesome testimony from my good friend Tony, and then Ginger and I have a habit of when we say the serenity prayer we look into each others eyes as we say it. Afterward I'm talking to our security guard, who happens to be a Smith County Sheriff Officer, and we are laughing and having a good time. By the time I left, my mood was restored. I didn't have to fake it, I was real with myself and God, and He brought people in my life to lift me up.

By the time I got home, I was a new man. People in ministry can have bad days. The good news is, we have a God who cares if we are just honest and say today I need your help. He helped me, and He used alot of good people to do it.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Good Times at Coyote Sam's

So last night was dinner. Didn't quite go as planned! Ginger and I decided that we'd go to Coyote Sam's because one of our good friends, Mike Gonzalez, was playing music there. We both love live music and Mike played music at our wedding. Mike is a fellow Christian but plays all types of music. I like that. There is beauty in music, regardless of the label.

Well, about 4:15 pm one of my best friends calls, and we decide that we'll all meet up there. Josh and Allie have 4 beautiful children. I'm uncle pauly, and ginger is auntie ginger. I was adopted into this family a couple of years ago and Ginger was adopted in when we got married. When we all get together it is a riot. There are no masks on, there is no topic that is sacred, and we can be ourselves and just have a good time. Do you have friends like that? I earned there trust when I was at a ministry and everyone kept leaving as soon as they got close to the children. I'll never forget Josh pulling me to the side and asking, Paul, my children are getting close to you, are you going to leave too? Well, I didn't. And in the process developed a lifelong friend. Those are rare. After all, they taught me more about God than any theological book or speaker ever could. From little Josh I learned how to pray. He'd just pray simple, talking to God as if He stood right there. Such innocence. From Kaitlyn I learned how to worship, free and not caring what others might think if I raised my hands. I learned to sing to God, not man. From little Isaac I learned something really profound. One day he crawled up in my arms and laid his head on my shoulder. Isaac, are you tired? No, he said, just content. How much does God just want us to crawl into His lap, lay our head on his shoulder and just be content? From Elijiah, the newest member of the Williams clan, well, I learned how much love can bring someone back from the brink of death. When he was born he almost didn't make it. I was the first person called by Josh when he was born, telling me to get to the hospital. I don't think I'd ever heard Josh cry before. You have to understand Josh, 6'4" about 350 lbs. A big man. I was working, told my boss I had to go, and got to the hospital right before they took little Elijiah to Dallas to the Children's Hospital. Lot's of prayers went up, lot's of hugs, lots of love, and we all got closer. How is little Elijiah today? Healthy as can be.

So there are 8 of us at the outside table's. The kids are being, well, kids. Little Josh fawns over Ginger. Kaitlyn tells me a knock knock joke (knock knock, who's there, KGB, KGB who? slap in the face (not hard), we will ask the questions (in german accent, which I speak a little of)!).
I have my camera and I'm taking pictures. I love photography. I can't afford a DSLR, but I have a nice digital point and shoot Canon I just got, and I'm taking candid shots, planned shots, I'm an artist after all! Then Allie, the sly one, as I'm distracted (I think it was planned) get's the check and pays for the meal. She is like that. She is like a sister to me and I'm like a brother.

The music was great, as always, and Ginger got to hear the banana pancake song! She loves acoustic guitar. I do to, but I once was and still am an electric guitar person. I'm a lil rebel, I grew up with 80's metal hair bands and still rock out now and again. My Mom and Dad hated that music...but then again their parents hated their music too! Ginger can't stand metal, so I listen to it in my car to and from work at times if I need a fix!

All in all it was a wonderful night. Ginger and I got home, content, happy, and even got a little alone time for ourselves. Life is good and God is so good to us. This morning I got up and went to water the plants. And they are flourishing. Funny what a little watering and a little TLC will do. Our lives are like that. If we go to the Living Water, He waters us. And He puts people in our path to give us a little TLC. Like I said, life is good.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Your Worth It

I got blessed today. It was one of those moments that I was actually looking to bless someone. I have a friend who, for the longest time before I work where I currently am now, I mowed her lawn faithfully. Another one of those people who knew my past and chose to see and accept the changes I'd made in my life, and who encouraged me. She never knew the old me. She is an encouragement to me. Like a grandmother to me, she is a widow who lost her fire fighter husband to a car accident. But she didn't let that destroy her. She had every right to, according to the world. But instead she relied heavily on God and serving in ministry. Self reliant and a fighter, she is, however, cautious of humankind. She has been burned before and so she feels you out. But when your in, your in. I'm in. If something comes up she needs help with (her husband did everything handy work wise) I'm on her short list of people to call. You know your in when she allows you to come in her house, or work there while she is away. When you are trusted it is a warm fuzzy feeling. I like warm fuzzy feelings. So when she calls, and it's not for anything minimal, I find myself making time and going out to help her. By the way, she was invited to Ginger and I's wedding, that is how much she means to us.

So last week I get a call that her gutter's are clogged. So I went by and her gutter guards were all messed up. So I scheduled to come out today and fix her problem. A trip to Lowe's and I was set and in about 3 hours time I had her set up, gutter's fixed, and a happy friend. She asked how much and I asked for the price of the gutter guards and gas money to Lindale. You have to know her. She smiles, listens and writes a check. Sure enough it's way more than I asked for. I tell her, look I just like helping you, you don't have to pay me extra. She smiled and said, "You know I never give you what you ask for, your worth it Paul. Take your wife out to eat, bless her, that will bless me." Your worth it. That kept playing in my head. I don't make alot of money, I use too, but not anymore, and I'm okay with that. For me it's not about the money, what I do. I have a mansion waiting for me one day, a place at the foot of the Savior that is ready for me. My bills are paid and Ginger and I are happy. I use my talents, my gifts, not for the almighty dollar, but to help. Whether it's volunteering at Celebrate Recovery, fixing gutters, or making my wife smile (she loves having a handy man husband), life is good when I hear things like "Your worth it." She didn't need to pay me extra to prove that point, but Ginger and I will be going out to eat tonight on Virginia. And she wouldn't have it any other way....