What Defines You?


You have the ugliest feet I’ve ever seen!” he slurred.

I remember where we were
The dirt stain from one end to the other of his well-worn white t-shirt
The way his breath stank of cheap booze from 4 ft. away
His skinny arm around the beautiful girl he was with
The grin that spread across his face, exposing the toothpick pinned between his upper and lower teeth
I cannot, however, remember his name.

We all kind of laughed quietly and awkwardly.
For the next 3 years, anytime I was in public, I wore closed-toe shoes.
He had confirmed what I suspected all along. My ugly.

A guy.
I’d only just met.
When I was 18 years old.
At a concert.
Who I haven’t seen since.

That’s messed up.
But so very normal for a girl like me with a mind and emotions like mine.
I wish someone had told me that.

It’s regretful to think of all the time I’ve wasted replaying scenarios of happenings decades ago and because I was not already defined in my own mind and heart, I grabbed hold of them and said, “You will define me.”

Fast forward 20 somethin’ years later…When it was time to unshackle myself from these definitions.
It has been an incredibly painful process…the tearing away of that which was never meant to be part of me at all, but by doing so has, by fire, refined me.
Not without tears and wounds, and, at times, gnashing of teeth.
Not without a notable amount of doubt.
But nonetheless, improved.

Why must we strive so hard to hold on to that which keeps us paralyzed?
It is only when seeing the space once bloodied and torn, peeled away for the first time, I can appreciate the beauty of the scar that remains.

I do not find it coincidental that the season of life when I’m learning the most is in my 40’s… when I feel the best I’ve ever felt in my own skin…but something is always breaking down, requiring repair.
We’re not talkin’ about a few split-ends or a smudged manicure, we’re talking degenerative disc disease and bone spurs, torn ligaments requiring an air-cast one would wear when walking on the moon. (okay, I made that last part up about the moon, but still…) I ended up flat on my back for 3 days after pulling a muscle while bending over to pick up a receipt.

Simultaneously, as this body is going into “just out of warranty” mode, my spirit has never been so free.
Is that strange? Or is it as each decade has been?
Looking back makes more sense than I ever thought it could.

I actually don’t think I would have wanted to be 40 in my 20’s. While I could have prevented some astronomical errors in judgment, I also wouldn’t have experienced the pain that led me here, to this moment of spiritual freedom. Of that, I am certain.

Shame is a powerful thing, friend.
It has weighted down my spirit for many years making me more accessible to the chains of the lies that bind and deplete.
It’s easy for me to look back now and think, “Why didn’t I do this SO much sooner?!
As I feel a quiet voice in my spirit speak, “Because the lesson wouldn’t have been the same.”

Everything is timing Y’all.
Or as it’s said, “Timing Is Everything.”

If you’re reading this and you’re in…
… your 20‘s, you’ll just have to trust me. You’ve been skimming this anyway so maybe set a digital reminder to come back and read it in a few years.
… your 30‘s, you’re nodding your head a bit realizing that more is being revealed. Even now, in the midst of uncertainty. You may have grinned and laughed a little at the thought of being bedridden from bending over. Careful. I probably laughed too.
… your 40‘s, you may have read half way down and already related to my beginning… Even said an “Mmm-Hmm.” “Yeah, Girl!” “Me too!” “I feel you!” Or maybe you’re thanking God for those of us who were good enough examples of what rebellion looked like to keep you on the straight and narrow.
… your 50‘s+, my guess is that you’re thinking, “Darling, just wait!”
And I’ll be honest, I’m going to take that as something to be both excited and terrified by.

My Brand of Crazy

“I want to be a mouthpiece for hope not a megaphone for fear.”
– Joy Cannis Original

Now more than ever, we need someone to lift our face from the ground, back to what’s in front of us and up to the heavens, reminding us who we are and that there is greater purpose just beyond our edges of self-preservation. Recognizing and utilizing that which has been inside us all along. (Yet what we’ve been looking for everywhere but where it is.)

Stop waiting for hope to find you and be the hope right where you are. I am learning that the only way to become unstuck is to put one foot in front of the other until I’ve repositioned myself to excel and grow.

The last 18 months have been some of the most difficult in my journey.
My children have struggled beyond my ability to step in and rescue.
I weened off of a two-year opioid prescription.
I ran back into the arms of my eating disorder.
I cried on my doctor’s exam table.
I shared my testimony with thousands of women.
I entered into a season of intensive outpatient therapy.
I broke apart…shattered…into tiny pieces that I wasn’t sure could ever be repaired
until the Master Creator picked them up, one by one, sanctified each jagged edge and put me back together in a new way than I’ve ever been before.
And the Holy Spirit is present with me in a way I never thought possible.

Have you heard the saying, “Feelings are constantly changing so don’t rush to act on a certain/current feeling”? I have experienced a multitude of feelings in this season. I would go from sheer elation to utter hopelessness within the course of 24 hours. Sometimes more than once. Most days I felt like I was on the brink of insanity. I’m so grateful I didn’t act on any one particular feeling.

I think back to a time, 22 years ago, when the head of psychiatry at the treatment center where I had taken up temporary residency wrote, “This girl is narcissistic and beyond human aid!” on my treatment plan. I cut out of rehab 1 day shy of the required 30 and was therefore considered to have left “against doctor’s orders” and didn’t receive any of the personal items I had come in with. Nope. Just the clothes on my back. That was my m.o. You say I’m ________________ and I’ll prove it.

I stayed mad at that shrink for a long time. I replayed his words while picturing the scribbled notes in blue ink. I used it as an excuse to stay drunk.

Now, today, in this moment, I can tell you that doctor was right. His definition of me was spot on. I wasbeyond human aid.” Which allows no room for doubt…

Only God.
Only God could heal what was fractured.
Only God could restore me to sanity.
Only God could allow me to be broken, once again in such a way that He alone could pick up each piece, breathe life back into it, and put me back together.

Although I have had a tribe of badass physicians, friends, prayer warriors and family surround me with their incredible courage, love, and support, God changed this girl’s heart. From the inside out. He gets all the credit.

I don’t know what “feeling” you’re sitting in today?
For what it’s worth, I’m living proof that yesterday’s feeling turns into today’s relief.
Whatever it is,
However hopeless or wonderful it “feels”,
It’s going to change.
So if it’s incredible, enjoy every moment
and if it’s seemingly unbearable,
Hold on.
Hold on.
Relief is coming.
Maybe not the way you are expecting or what you’re used to, but it’s there and it will be yours.

I Have An Eating Disorder…What Should I Do?

I have the privilege of sharing my story with women from all walks of life. To watch someone’s eyes change as they hear and embrace hope… well… there’s nothing else like it.
So when Emily invited me to be a part of her series, “Questions Everyone Is Asking But No One Wants To Answer” I gladly accepted. Em is the Founder of BecomingMe.tv and is making it her life’s mission to help women find their voice through the power of sharing their story. And friends, this is only the beginning.
My prayer is that something in this video will resonate with you and move you to positive action. May ours eyes be opened to the truth of what we are… a masterpiece in the making. 

 

If you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder, please get help. It is serious and in many cases, a matter of life and death. You can start by visiting the National Eating Disorders Association.

If you are, like I was, broken & without hope, I beg you to reach out to someone at one of the resources listed below. As long as you are breathing, there is still hope.
People of the Second Chance
Central Christian Church: Las Vegas
To Write Love on Her Arms

Related Posts;
3 things the Girl in your life needs to know
What Matters Now?
I’m a hypocrite
It’s time to step off the Scale
Ransomed
Wrestling demons
One Word: Enough
Anyone…anyone 
Pardon me while I compare my insides to your outsides
Just like that, a Mother is born

40 Years In…My Purpose & Pain

There is so much I could say, in the blank space, with cursor blinking, waiting to be filled. I’ve sat here many times before today, staring, with thoughts racing, too much to begin.img_5872I was honestly surprised…and not…to see the tab at the top of this page stating in all caps that I have 87 Drafts. Eighty-Seven works in progress. How silly. Knowing that each time I release my truth from the inside out, it unlocks a new aspect of freedom that I didn’t know was there. And yet, if I think about it too long, I won’t hit “Publish” on this one either.

jcp-2016-croppedSo…For today, let’s dive in before I convince myself to “Draft” it.

In the weeks leading up to my 40th birthday, I’ve thought a lot, maybe too much, about the purpose and pain through my first 40 years on this earth. While I genuinely hope this helps someone reading, it is as much for my own benefit as for anyone else’s.

My journey has not been one of ease, though it has been better than many, and more privileged than most.

The List…jcp-2016-5869

  1. Trust can take years to build and moments to destroy.
  2. Happiness can be bought (temporarily) and then lost, while true joy is internal and untouchable by outside forces.
  3. Grace is one of the most priceless and underserved gifts. Though freely given, we must receive and embrace it before it can manifest in our lives.
  4. Intuition is absolutely real and divinely instilled.
  5. The ability to forgive is key to authentic beautyNothing will age you faster than resentment.
  6. A steller hairstylist is a must. Once you find said stylist, tip well.
  7. Anger rots your inner being before ever showing up at surface level.
  8. Fear only leads to greater fear.
  9. Prayer works.
  10. When searching for an answer, love almost always fills the gap.
  11. It’s about “who” not “what” you know. (This applies to everything.)
  12. Baby wipes are essential for life. They remove crayon from a painted surface, that unidentified sticky residue just beneath a child’s car seat that’s been there for God only knows how long, mascara, lip stain, mud on wedges…etc., etc.
  13. Smiling more will inevitably lift one’s own spirit while providing warmth to the stranger passing by.
  14. It’s true, you cannot out-exercise your fork.
  15. We never see our true-self clearer, nor exert our need for a Savior more, than during times of trial.
  16. Failure is not optional, it’s necessary.
  17. Lessons will either shape you or break you.
  18. People do not control your destiny.
  19. God is not mad at you.
  20. Sunscreen actually is important.
  21. If you have one true friend you can trust with your weirdness, you are richly blessed.
  22. There is a deep human longing in us all to be fully known and accepted anyway.
  23. Death is not the end. It’s the transition.
  24. Grief is unpredictable.
  25. No matter the color of our skin, just below that thin layer, we all look the same.
  26. Generosity is key to contentment.
  27. Everything (really is) going to be okay (eventually).
  28. We don’t have to share the same DNA to be family.
  29. Miracles still happen.
  30. Everything we say and do begin with a thought.
  31. Being an adult can be really hard.
  32. We can decide, at any given moment, to change direction.
  33. There is no excuse to be unkind (to anyone) (ever).
  34. Gratitude changes things.
  35. We remember moments.
  36. God created each one of us with great intention and purpose.
  37. The most sacred space of witness is during birth and death.
  38. If we could truly grasp our worth, nothing would have the ability to intimidate or have a stronghold in our lives.
  39. Don’t put earthly limits on a heavenly God.
  40. Time goes by so quickly.

BONUS ROUND
1. We don’t have to be afraid.
2. Everyone is important to someone.
3. Labels were never meant for people.
4. Sex doesn’t have to be a dirty word.
5. Right and wrong is relative.

So there ya go. With hundreds more to be added at another time. As I live out this first year in my 4th decade of life, what would you add?

 

 

The Heart of the Prodigal

Tomorrow is a big, milestone birthday for me. 40 years. I have spent the last several weeks reflecting on the journey. Where I’ve been, where I am, where I’m going.

A huge part of my story is the journey through alcoholism and a decade long battle with an eating disorder. In this conversation with my dad, I ask him what it was like being on the other side of me when I was living my life as his prodigal daughter. Was he afraid? What made him keep pursuing me? How did he release control of me? What would he tell others going through this now.

 

Tattoos or Jesus, which one will it be?

JCP-4475I vividly remember a close family friend telling me that I was disobeying God by getting a tattoo and because of its permanence, I was in a state of constant defiance. He quoted scripture (from memory, of course) to back up his point from which the core of his unsolicited advice originated. (This was after the tattoo was already there. What was I to do about it, except put on the heavy cloak of guilt placed before me?)

I was 17 years old.

I have since added several more tattoos…and piercings to my body. This one is especially meaningful to me.Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 3.40.06 PM

For years I’ve been reading different views on this subject. It is interesting and at times crazy how defensive people can be with their written words. The ALL CAPS and number of exclamation points following the scripture references that, in their mind, confirm and validate their rightness. It leaves me wondering, “Why would I ever want what they have? How could I ever follow the God that they profess to emulate?”

As I’ve said before, “I can justify absolutely anything.” I am a Master Justifier. Maybe that is the case here. I am justifying the fact that I, a follower of Jesus, willingly marked my body.

This will cause debate. There are some of you reading now that are already irritated. That’s good. Whether you’re irritated over the thought of someone being able to love Jesus while tattooing their body, or you’re irritated over the people who are irritated…take this moment to ask yourself, “Why does this bother me so much?”

Here is what I have to remember, I am accountable to God. When I approach the throne of grace, it is not while locking arms in a group of others. It is alone. It is personal. It is intimate.

Let’s think outside of our comfort zones for a moment.

What if, every sin that you have ever committed or thought about committing was written on your body? Adultery, stealing, murder, gossip, abuse, pornography, envy, gluttony, betrayal, denial, blaspheme… Which one would you want across your face?

Things don’t have to be written in ink to leave a permanent mark. Try these labels on for size…shamed, guilty, jealous, abandoned, greedy, whore, liar, addict, alcoholic, convict, loser, hypocrite, enabler… Though not written in ink, individuals clearly wear these labels.

If God really does see past our flesh, into our hearts, what does he see? I envision Him seeing a heart covered in permanent markings.

And then Jesus came…and all of that changed. He is our Intercessor, Savior, Redeemer. He stands in the gap of all of our different perceptions and definitions of “right” and “wrong.”

God sees us through His son. His perfect son. So we no longer have to argue who is more right than wrong, or justify anything. Once we see Christ for who He is, we are given the invitation to lay down all of our judgements, isms, character defects, labels and prejudices at the foot of the cross.

No matter whether you think tattoos are “right” or “wrong,” the cross is enough. Whether you have thought about stealing from someone or have actually stolen, the cross is enough. Whether you have always seen yourself as damaged because of an image that was self inflicted or projected onto you by someone else, the cross is enough. It’s enough.

It’s about a personal relationship with the One who paid it all.

Let’s visualize ourselves removing the lenses through which we currently see everything while asking, “Father, please help me see everything, including myself, through your eyes and from your perspective. Transform my perception of others, crushing all misconceptions.”
JCP2016-7809

As you think of the person whom you consider marked up, damaged and pierced, remember, they…I, have a place to bring all imperfections and lay them down. The foot of the cross. Right there beside all the prejudices and judgements. Once there, they are all the same.

In Christ, there is no condemnation.

13 Reasons Why I Don’t Look Like An Alcoholic

JoyOn October 19th, 2015, by the grace of God, I welcomed in 13 years of freedom from the dependence on that which once enslaved me, alcohol.

When given the opportunity to share my story I always hear the same statement from at least one listener with a confused look on their face, “…But…you don’t look like an alcoholic.”
My response remains the same, “What does an alcoholic look like?”

Knowing full well that I have my own mental image of what an alcoholic looks like and it’s motivation for me to never go back to the life I once knew.

Her hair is matted and her clothes unkempt.
There are deep creases in her face from years of neglect.
She wears her wounds, making no attempt to hide them.
All forms of dignity have been stripped away.
She appears to be around 60 years old when in reality she’s 42.
She looks…well…tired. And she is.

Her children, if any, have long since given up on her and moved on with their lives.
The family she once knew has disowned her.
The church has overlooked her.
Society has pitied her.
Friends have deserted her. (They had no choice really. She stopped trying years ago.)
She’s an inconvenience, with bad teeth, no concern for personal hygiene, flammable breath, and a reputation that precedes her.

People say things without regard for her humanity, like, “Why haven’t her foolish ways killed her yet? She’d be better off dead and so would everyone else.”
Or, “She probably drinks mouthwash or rubbing alcohol. What a waste of space.”

Is my description harsh?
Have you ever seen an alcoholic in the grips of their disease?
To say it’s ugly is an understatement.

Throughout these years of recovery, I have visited treatment centers, held the shaking hands of the one in detox, claimed my seat in the rooms of A.A., accompanied a scared mother to a court hearing, listened to teary family members nightmares of living with an active alcoholic, and attended too many funerals for the seemingly hopeless one who never saw their 30th birthday.
I have seen what my future could look like if I allow my disease to dictate the direction of my life. Quite frankly, it scares the hell out of me. I hope it continues to scare me enough that I never pick up that first drink. That’s where the stronghold begins. The very first drink.

It’s a bummer. I don’t want to be an alcoholic. I didn’t grow from a little girl to a young adult dreaming of one day being a blackout drinker. I never aspired to be dependent on alcohol.

Not once did my parents say to me, “Now Joy, strive to be the best alcoholic you can be.” But I definitely gave it my all for several years. 

The reason I don’t look like your stereotypical alcoholic is because;
1.) I’m not homeless
2.) I’m a wife, mother, and productive member of society, and most days I’m pretty dang good at it.
3.) I have all my teeth (some natural ones and some designed by a dental artist).
4.) I’m obsessive about hygiene.
5.) My family is still speaking to me. Some of them actually like me.
6.) I have incredible friends who know me and aren’t embarrassed to be seen with me in public.
7.) I love and care for my children.
8.) My children love me, except when I’m driving them crazy.
9.) I don’t willingly participate in self-destructive behavior.
10.) I pay my bills…on time.
11.) I am of service to others and I love it! It’s one of my favorite things to do.
12.) I’m not a liar.
13.) I have a relationship with my Creator that everything else in my life centers around.

Most of the things listed above were not true of me 13 years ago. It has been a journey of faith with unpredictable twists and turns. Trust, especially in close personal relationships, has been earned and restored over time. I know and embrace the meaning of “Amazing Grace.”

We all have something in our lives that wants to destroy us. Mine happens to be alcohol. Maybe yours is food or sex, compulsive shopping or depression? No matter what it is, you know that the moment you become complacent in this particular area, you’re in trouble. There is a solution.

Do you know what the best defense against complacency is?
Gratitude.
I call it my complacency repellant?

I am more aware (than ever), going into this 13th year that I better be thanking God in the first few moments my eyes open and my lungs draw a sober breath. Before my feet hit the floor, praise must already be on my lips. It will be the first thing on my tongue in the morning and the last thing I taste at night.

Here’s the big takeaway… Beginning the first few moments of your day with a grateful heart has the potential to change everything. Guaranteed. If it works for me, it can work for anyone, anywhere, no matter what.

Do you believe that?

Need a place of refuge? Visit my friends over at People of the Second Chance. Get connected. Whether you struggle with addiction or you love someone who does, you don’t ever have to be alone again.

Think you have a problem with alcohol? AA is a group of individuals from all walks of life, who share the same ism. It’s a program to which I owe my life. Learn more in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous