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Friday, June 18, 2010

Dragonfly


This little fella right here was buzzing around me all day. I just had to go get my camera and try to get a picture. It took me about 5 minutes of standing still, sweat pouring off me, but it finally stayed in one spot long enough for this cameo. I love dragonflies. I especially liked the neon green (though I'm looking for the elusive red one). There are several on the property I work on.

Well, it is the weekend (finally!)! It has been hot, and I do mean hot. I'm pretty good till about 3, and then I feel the energy just sap out of me. Ginger, my sweet wife, encourages me through text to drink plenty of water. I can't tell you how important that is in the line of work I do. Already I'm sagging my size 29 jeans, which is normal in the summer. By winter they will be comfortable, but I usually drop weight around this time.

Just like I need water in the heat, so too do we need the Word of God when we are in the "heat". When we are in adverse conditions, it is especially important to keep hydrated. Actually we need it daily, but during times of hardship, God's Word gives us hope, gives us peace, gives us guidance to make it through. The particular verse God gave me today was Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope."

And it sustained me, and my day turned out pretty good. It was awesome to think that the God of the universe cares about little ole me. He thinks of me, and I have a future and a hope through Him. I love my new life. And I see a future, and I have hope. And I follow God to the best of my ability, not perfectly, and He is patient with me. Like some of the things I blog about. I really ask the Lord to guide me in that. There have been a couple where I've said, really God? What will people think? I'm reminded of a song by DC Talk, What will people think when they find that I'm a Jesus Freak... Though sometimes, if it causes my wife anxiety, I listen to her. As you can see, I've wrote them. I push the fact of what people will think aside, and instead ask, "How can God use this for His glory?" I have no idea who is looking at this, but God does. And if I'm a vessel, then my orders come from Him. My life is His anyway. Trust me, I ran my life for a while, and I made such a mess. I mean, I thought I'd written on the walls with permanent marker, never to get it off, but God has a way of cleaning the walls.

So now I'm in a cool room, getting ready to eat pizza, and snuggle on the couch with Ginger. I've been looking forward to that all day. God is so good....

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Passion


I had a conversation with a good friend of mine Monday night at Celebrate Recovery (CR). We got onto the subject of passion. No, I'm not talking about romantic passion, but a passion for what we do. I'd had a conversation with my Dad over the weekend about how sometimes it is hard to heed the call of ministry. There are times you just get tired, I mean, let's be honest. You do well in doing good, but it can be hard at times and don't you just want to sit sometimes and eat potato chips, veg on the couch and do nothing? Okay I'm the only one (ha ha!). But even in those difficult, weary times, I put on my name tag and head out the door. And usually, by the end of the night I realize why I'm there.

It doesn't happen often, but it does happen. So what keeps things like my friend and I going? Besides the obvious answer, and that is God, who gives me the strength when I don't feel like I have any strength left, it is a passion for what I do. So what do I have a passion for? What do you have a passion for?

Well, CR is a big passion of mine. I get to see people who were where I was 8 years ago get it. It clicks. I also get to see people farther along than me in recovery and I get to glean from the wisdom they willingly share. I have a place (besides this blog) that I can openly share. The twelfth step talks about helping others as you've had a spiritual awakening. Well, that awakening is still going on. I still learn, grow, and yes, get corrected. It is a growing process. But I love helping people. I've taken some criticism for being TOO open with my struggles. What will people think? Same thing they thought of the disciples who followed Jesus. I use to be told that by telling my story I'd embarrass my family. Don't live in the past Paul, you've been set free! Move on! But they forget something. What about that person who is where I was 8 years ago? If I go up and say hey, I've been where you are, oh, but I can't talk about the past, but promise me it get's better, what do you think they are going to do? Besides, when my Mom emailed me and said I was the spokesperson for the family in this area, didn't sound too embarrassed to me. In fact, I can't tell you how many times this weekend my parents told me how proud they were of me, how far I'd come, and, this is the best part, the peace on their face. My goodness. The smiles, the laughter, the love...that is the fuel for my passion. I loved the encouragement, but the real reward was the contentment that my Mom and Dad had. They can see God in my life and God gets the glory to where I'm at in my life. It's all God.

But sometimes, passion or not, we get tired. So how do you stir the passion again? Remember why you have a passion in the first place. I have a passion for Ginger (both romantic and otherwise). I love her more than my own life. She struggles with anxiety, and I standby her, help her, support her, love on her. I don't do this because I feel obligated, but because I love her and want to help her. Marriage is hard work. You get out of it what you put into it, like planting a seed and watching it grow. Ginger and I communicate really well. We love on each other. We encourage one another, correct each other (yes, in marriage you will inevitably do something that will drive your spouse insane). But when her anxiety is bad do I just give up? Tell her to deal with it? Seems like that is what most do. I choose to put aside what I'm doing and help her. Sometimes all I can do is hold her, and sometimes, that is all that is needed, to know your not alone. Sometimes it takes listening. Real listening. Yes, I know, your favorite show is on, it's the finale, and your wife needs to talk. What is a husband to do? Well let me ask this, will you be in bed with that TV show later that night? Look, it's happened to me. And what I found is I can go on the internet and find the show and watch it later. What's more important? And a complete bonus is when we go to bed happy, well, my parents read this so I better stop! The thing is I never forget that fire of love that burned in my heart that very first time. It is stronger now, deeper, more mature, but that first moment of love will last me a lifetime. I tell Ginger every day that I love her, that I'm thankful for her, and that I'm thankful for God putting her in my life. That keeps the passion going. The touch of her hand on mine still gives me sparks. When you are thankful, it makes a big difference.

Kind of babbling here, but I haven't blogged in a week and I have a lot to say. I also have a passion for drawing. I've drawn some pretty difficult pieces, where people have given me three photographs to combine into one and actually changed what they were wearing. When it get's difficult do I quit? No, sometimes I put it to the side and get my perspective back, and then revisit it. Sometimes I just persevere. Life is like that. I tried quitting life, God wouldn't let me. Every breath is in His hand. But I don't just draw anything. Ginger is my favorite drawing subject (that is not rocket science), but every drawing has a story. And when I actually agree to draw, I put a piece of me into it. From drawing my grandparents, my parents, Ginger, etc, I love what I do. From loved one's (I have pictures of a drawing I did with three children from three different photographs) to even a dog. I have a passion.

And, the best for last, I have a passion for God. I have been forgiven of all my sins, and just like my namesake, I feel at times I've been the chief of sinners. But I am a child of God. He loves me, and tells me each day He loves me. I'm so thankful for how He reached into that pit and pulled me out. He protected me, and still does. Through all the trials, He was there, many times carrying me protecting me from myself. And when I begin to feel that my walk with God is getting stagnant, He calls me back, I get in His Word, I pray, I begin to look around and see all the wonderful things He has done for me, and it brings me out of the stagnation. God is good, He never gives up on me, and I'm living proof that God can take a depraved sinner and turn Him around. I've talked to more than one person who's heard my testimony and said, "That could not have been you." Yep, it was me. Not anymore, but it was me. And only God could have saved me from myself, understand that, only God could have done it. So there is a huge thankfulness to God!

So the point of this blog? What is your passion? Is it quilting like my mother? drawing like me or recovery? reading autobiographies like Ginger? Has your passion waned? If so, be encouraged, your not alone, just go back and remember why you had the passion in the first place and you may find new found strength to continue.

MY PARENTS CAME TO VISIT!

Okay, I have been busy. Good busy, but busy none the less. That and I got a good book I'm reading. Brunner the Bounty Hunter. It's science fiction, set in a world far away. It has a Conan feel to it which I absolutely love, pulp fiction they use to call it. It's mindless mayhem and after a day of thinking all day, for me it is the way to relax. I get this love of science fiction from my Dad. Of course there are different sub genre's within they we both gravitate too. Ironically my mother is NOT a fan of science fiction and neither is Ginger. Ewwww.... I'll hear when she sees the cover of my book. I just smile, and go back to the mayhem. I loved Conan and the series because no matter how badly the odds were, he found a way to defeat them. Carter from Mars was like that, Red Sonya, and now Brunner.

But enough about books, MY PARENTS CAME THIS WEEKEND!!!!! Yeah, I was a little excited. I was able to buy them lunch, and my mother in law as well, and that was a very good feeling. It's been, what, over 8 years since I've been able to do that. And it's the first time since I've been to Tyler that I can do that. I've come such a long way on this journey. Ginger said she couldn't wait to see me around my parents because I light up when I talk to them on the phone. Well, I was lit. We got to show them the apartment and how we've decorated it (and remodelled the outside) and sit on the couch that was a wedding gift they bought for us but hadn't seen in person. They got to see our rabbit ears antenna (we do not have cable), and Mom finally got to see the quilt she made for Ginger on our bed. We also got to talk a bit. As I recounted for them how I met Ginger I saw Mom's eyes get watery. And more than once, they said, you've come a long way, Paul.

I'm reminded of the Biblical story of the prodigal son. It is a classic parable, and one of my favorite. Found in Luke 15, it tells my story. I was a prodigal son. You cannot look at my life and not see God. Oh, you could look away, or try to explain it while ignoring the miracle that happened in my life, but you cannot honestly look at it and not see God. I was a hopeless case at least in the world's eyes. But God specializes in the hopeless. I don't care how far down you think you are in a pit, God can reach you. My healing wasn't instantaneous, it wasn't an ah ha moment. It was a journey. It started with one day, and another was added, and another. And each day I learn something new, and God gives me enough strength to make it through that day. I try not to worry about tomorrow, just working on what God has before me today. And when I take life in bite sized chunks, I don't choke. Though I made a big deal of my 8 year soberiety birthday, and it was, I still wake up the next day and work on that day. 8 years is good, but I can't live in the past. Because I'm still one drink away from a pit. But God does special things for me, like letting me see the look on my parents face when they see me. Yes, they see their son, their very sober son, but they see God. They see answered prayer. Though it took years for the prayer to come to fruition, they got to see it answered.

I'm happy now, content. I have a wonderful wife, parents, and in laws who I might as well call mom and dad too, because I couldn't ask for better in laws. I have family again. There is hope from a life of addiction, I'm living proof.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Another Wedding!!

Well last night we were able to go to another friends wedding. It was a beautiful wedding. The bride is tiawanese, so during the course of the reception they had a traditional tea ceremony, the first I'd been to, and it was fascinating to watch how another culture celebrates the covenant of God between too people.

It was also a time to put to practice my last post. Poison Ivy. It just so happens, unknown to Ginger and I, they were serving wine at the wedding. We were with two friends of Ginger's who'd gotten married about a year ago, so we had a couple we could make small talk with and have a good time. Of course, they, not being alcoholic, had wine. Now that is not a bad thing, not everyone is an alcoholic, and I don't expect everyone to make accomodations for me because I am. My recovery is my responsibility, and if I am tempted in such a situation it is up to me to listen to the prompting of God if He gives instruction on how to handle the situation.

I'm happy to report that there were no major problems with it, with Ginger and I. Of course, we had a plan. We stayed by each other. Not because we didn't trust the other, but because it is smart to have your closest accountibility partner by you when you are around something that is dangerous to you. We talked with our friends, we ate good food, we enjoyed the wedding, and we left very sober. Once all the festivities were done, and people decided to really drink and dance, we left.

Plus, I always ask myself what would it cost you. If your in recovery and your reading this, this is a good question to ask. What would it cost? Or what could it cost? In the short term, that one glass would lead to two, then I'd want to sneak off to get more, and then there is the drive home. Going to jail if we are stopped? Does it seem silly to go through these scenarios in my mind? Not to me. It helps me not take that first drink. Plus, in addiction as long as I was, I did this so many times I lost count. It is how I relapsed so many times. I didn't think, what would this cost me, I thought I want this feeling now. I've talked to several people where that has happened.

I started this blog with really no purpose in mind but to write, since I love writing. In the process it has become a blog about how I as a recovering addict stay sober and walk the Christian life. There are examples, practical ways I handle temptation, and plenty of references to how awesome a God I have and how He helps me with all the above. Will I ever have a million viewers? Doesn't really matter to me. If that is what God wants, He'll make it happen. If it helps one person, just one person, stay sober, then God has used it successfully. And I realize that after writing Poison Ivy, that God is helping me, giving me things before hand that I can use later. So in that, it has been a success.

In less than a week my mum and dad will be down here with Ginger and I for the weekend. Can't tell you how excited I am. We get to celebrate our mom's birthday's (they are two days apart), and they are looking as young as ever! I won't tell you their age (do women ever share their age?), I will say they don't look a day over 40! Can't wait to show my parents my 8 year chip, and our lovely apartment and how Ginger has just taken over the household. I'm a blessed man. My wife is like a priceless jewel, well beyond worth, and beautiful well beyond the beauty of any jewel. I spent a lifetime looking for a treasure like her and God took me to the right spot, at the right time, to find her. And I treasure her. Can't wait for next week, her and my mom will be chatting away with her Mom and I'll be able to sit back, smile, and be thankful to God...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Poison Ivy

Okay anyone noticed it is hot! I have to work in the heat, though I don't mind. I am just a walk away from a hose that I can douse my head with, which works nicely. Guess that is one of the perks of working on 20 acres of land. Of course we have a stream that I could just lay down in, our dog Luke does frequently. Really I don't mind, my farmer's tan is coming back and usually after that first layer of sweat develops I'm good to go. Don't get me wrong, I feel it at the end of the day, as if the energy has just been sapped out of me. But it sure makes me sleep good!

Of course now poison ivy is starting to make itself known in the woods. I have an amazing resilence to the stuff, as if I was made for what I do (I give God ALL the credit for this one). My former boss used that little fact to his advantage, but then again... It'd go something like this:

"Paul, there is a bunch of poison ivy over there, I need you to chop it all down."
"Yes, sir."

So there I'd go, always careful not to tempt my resilence. Then he'd go, take a big handful and put it on the trailer. You guessed it, he'd get poison ivy rash. I'd always use my gloves. I've grown older I realize it's just not smart to not to be prepared when you handle something dangerous.

If you know something is dangerous, but you have to be around it, it's always best to be cautious. Though I'm 8 years sober and I'm quite resilent to the temptation now, doesn't mean I can wade in and "take a handful." There are times that I'm around alcohol. It's inevitable. I'll walk into a gas station it's there. I go into a resteraunt and I'm offered it every time they come to take my order. So how do I handle the poison ivy? If I'm in a gas station, DON'T GO BY THE STUFF! Oh trust me, the gas station would get me every time back in my addiction. I'd walk in intent on being good and just stop and look at all the pretty bottles. Now they don't look so pretty anymore. You go in, pay for your gas, get out or now I pay at the pump. No need to go in. Cautious, a plan.

Resteraunts are better. It goes like this:

"Good evening sir, would you like something to drink, tea, a coke, a nice cold beer?"
(As if making the beer so inviting is going to do it)
"No my wife and I will take water and lemon."
"But that is such a boring drink, not very adventerous?"
(This has actually happened more than once)
"Well, maybe so but I'm a recovering alcoholic with 8 years clean. No need to be adventerous now."

This comment works quite well. One time we were the first to arrive at the place, and the above dialog happened. Not a single person in my group was asked what they wanted to drink beyond water, tea, or coke. I don't say that to every waiter or waiteress. But if I'm pressed or pressured, I have no problem standing up for myself. Which is important. You have to be able to say no. You have to be willing to stand up for yourself.

When I work with poison ivy, I have a plan. It is the same way with alcohol. I have a plan. I'm not immune to poison ivy, nor am I immune to alcohol. But by using caution and having a plan you can live a successful, sober life...