Whatcha got in that U-Haul?

“Oh, don’t mind that, it’s just my spiritual baggage.”

I grew up going to church in a beautiful building with big white columns, ornate wooden benches, organ pipes floor to ceiling and a beautifully decorated soapbox called a podium where the minister in the long black robe stood.

I knew my catechism each week and would stand proudly in a handmade smocked dress as I recited them to the Sunday school class, annunciating the answers while smiling at the teacher. Manipulation at it’s best.

On Sunday evening, looking out the back window at that monstrous building, I would say, “See ya on Wednesday, God!”

I suppose I should mention that my dad was a preacher. Not the kind that has a church, but one that travels around speaking. Dad knew what was up and was more of a seeker than an organizer. What I mean by that is, there are those who seek Christ and there are those who organize religion. He is a seeker.

We would travel all summer to different conferences where he was speaking. Even as a very young child I can remember feeling a completely different presence in the auditoriums than what was felt in that big white building with the steeple on top.

I could not recite a catechism today if my life depended on it. Which begs the question, “Why did I spend all of that time learning Christian precepts instead of discovering who God really is? As anyone who has begun that pursuit knows, it takes a lifetime.

Well…because…I saw it as something else to check off my “see what a good christian I am?!” list. We “Christians” tend to do that. We put God on our “ways I get to heaven” to-do list along with things like, “Build up the courage to talk to that guy with all the tattoo’s. I could probably get bonus points for saving someone who has marked their body!” Or “Find a person who is living in a known sin and pretend to care long enough to ‘save’ them.”

Unfortunately many of us grew up with religious to-do lists, attending a church that was beautiful to look at, but left us starving spiritually.

What do we do with all of that? We put it in our “spiritual baggage” UHaul and take it with us into every relationship, every experience, every new perception of Jesus.

God doesn’t wait for me to show up on Sunday. He is wherever I am (and I have been in some pretty questionable places). I won’t find Jesus standing outside a building with a perfectly manicured lawn telling the homeless man, “We don’t need ‘your kind’ here.”

If you are like I was, hauling a bunch of misconceptions around everywhere you go, find the nearest cliff and throw it down, set it on fire, submerge it in the ocean, but don’t keep hauling it around. You don’t have to unpack it and sort through the reasons why. Just rid yourself of it and set out on your journey. You may be surprised who you meet along the way.

Even a Girl Like Me

JCP-9884I am amazed daily by the truth that God can and will use a girl like me…scarred and wretched. But on the mend.

I grew up a P.K. You know…Preacher’s Kid.
I was pretty darn “holy” and “good” until around age 13. With boys, hormones and the fact that I was filling out my bra, well, things changed.

I began to dream of living somewhere other than my small town. No one ever left that town! They grew up and worked for their dad. They all played the same part and I wanted to break away. I didn’t know exactly what that looked like, but it wasn’t to stay there and be a naive trophy wife! (No offense to arm candy. It just wasn’t for me)

JCP-1344So I set out on this quest to really “live”. You could not have prepared me for what I would encounter on this journey. I would not have believed you if you had told me the compromises I would make and lack of self-respect I would wear.

Yeah, I know you want all the gory details, but you’re going to have to settle for the abbreviated version and a decade jump forward.

After surviving a beating from the world. You know, that place where I wanted to “live” so much?! I had limited choices as to where to go next. So I finally surrendered.

I know, I know, surrender sounds like giving up. For me, it was not until I surrendered that I found true freedom.

I had grown up hearing about God. Heck, I’d been hearing about Him since the womb! The big Being in the sky, passed the clouds, waiting for us at church on Sunday? “Who is this God and why did I need to pursue a relationship with Him?!”

Little did I know, He was silently pursuing me.

At age 25, after getting knocked up, beat up, locked up (not JCP-11necessarily in that order), abusing my body and mind through choices that I never thought I would make, getting divorced and growing sick of hearing myself ask, “Why am I even here?!”, I had to find a God that I could relate too.

You know, One who didn’t care if I was used and broken. One who would say, “In Me, you find rest…safety…eternal security.I needed to be redeemed.

Did He even exist?

I am still seeking, but He shows me everyday, in tangible ways that He does in fact exist. He more than exist. He is working and moving in ways that completely blow my mind.

God willing, on October 19th, I will celebrate 9 years of sobriety. Not just from alcohol, but from many other substances and ism’s that I used to numb the pain.

When the substances, food, shopping, whatever, stopped working and the love of my life sat me down and encouraged me (through a pretty harsh reality check) to admit to myself that I was a hot mess and he was not going to join the “pity city” that I was trying to create, things began to change (slowly).Love

So, here I am, just turned 35, which I considered geezer age just a few years ago. And the most miraculous things have happened. The craziest of which, being that instead of waiting for a door to open, God has knocked down a wall.JCP-1901He is using my story of shame, in ways that I never thought possible.
I am doing workshops, radio interviews and talking to women from all backgrounds of life. I was the girl who hated other women! Now, I support them in their struggle. WHAT?! Only God.

Only a God who has been in the trenches with me… the bars and back alleys (don’t read into that) and bathroom floor at 4 a.m. and then turned me into a mother of 3, wife to a stud and a productive member of society. Only that kind of God could use a girl like me to bring others back to Him.

People want real…they want scarred…they want hope…even from a girl like me.
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