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.

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.


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?
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 

My Beautiful Readers…

I’ve missed this community so much. I hope you are able to hear the sincerity in my written voice.
The last time we talked I said that I would be sharing the exciting changes that are happening. I never came back and did that. The truth is, I got busy. Really, really busy. And now, well, I’m not so busy and here I am. That sounds much like you are getting my leftovers. I realize how not cool that is.

This year, my faithful friends, I vow to meet you here more often than “every now and then.” This place, here with you, is the energy drink when reality wears me down. Selfishly I want this to be a place where I can expose my wounds in hopes of finding a comfort. That’s what my ego wants anyway, but I will not be getting away with that. The winds of change are stirring, leaving me unsettled and excited.

What is God up to?

He is changing my heart. This is not the first time. It isn’t comfortable. It goes against every ounce of my human nature. It is, however, necessary in order to fulfill His plan for my life. He is drawing me away from the place of comfort and towards the place of risk.

He is providing everything I need at the exact time I need it, not a moment too soon nor ever too late. When this happens… when He makes it so blatantly obvious that He alone provides for and sustains me, it shows me how faithful he truly is. It makes me feel closer than ever before to His plan and purpose for my life. It helps me trust His design.

This year, I want to care more about how many people know love, compassion and Jesus than how many followers I have or don’t have on Twitter. I want to be quick to help without caring who gets the credit. I want to mean it when I pray, “Thy will be done.” even when it’s hard. I don’t want to be embarrassed or hesitant when people ask me about my faith.

So what does this mean?

I’m not totally sure? I have an idea. Some things are already in the works. Things that require time, energy and resources. Things that have no monetary gain. I know God will provide. He is my Great Provider and all I have to do is look at His track record to remember His faithfulness.

I also know that I am one of the few who has been given the opportunity to pursue my passion. It’s quite sobering to think about how much Chris has sacrificed so that I can chase this dream of mine. I also know, were he not in full support it would not be possible for me to follow the path of what I believe to be my destiny.

I guess what I’m saying is, “More will be revealed.” I miss sharing my story, I miss this community, and I’m going to do better.

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Five Minute Friday: Voice

Listen closely
Do you hear that?
It’s the whisper of self
The voice inside you
Inside us all
Motivating your choices
Steering your future
Speaking up whenever there is a decision to be made
What is it saying?
Is it the voice of truth
Telling you to step outside your comfort zone
Telling you to walk by faith if you want to inherit eternal blessings
Nudging you to look up and around at all the beauty and life
Speaking the words of your Creator into your soul
Do you hear it?
What’s it saying?
This may be the most important voice you listen to
Because it’s your choice
Yours alone
No one can choose for you
In this moment
I will choose
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

Do you want to write with abandon? Come join us for #FMF by clicking here.


Five Minute Friday: Race

The texts started lighting up my phone around 9:30p.m. They continued throughout the night and early morning. By mid-morning Wednesday, I knew I needed to go. I would get in my car and race to the hospital just inside the city line of the town I grew up in.

It was Tuesday when my sister almost died. And though some would say, “But she didn’t die.” The fact that we were hours from losing her is surreal.

I am having quite the time processing every thing from the last few days. I go between anger, sadness, gratefulness, hope and so many other emotions. Truth is, she is in a race. Against time…against disease…against unrealistic expectations… A race that she runs accompanied by those who love her the most. It will be a lifelong event. Life as she knows it must change or an early death is imminent.

We are all running a race. Some days are better than others. If you are in the midst of a time that is more difficult than serene, I am praying Psalm 34 for you;
“God’s angel sets up a circle
of protection around us while we pray.
Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see—
how good God is.
Blessed are you who run to him.”

What / Who are you running to?

Now, set your timer, clear your head, for five minutes to just write without worrying if it’s just right or not.

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..

Go, go, gadget time machine

My friend Chinua Hawk posed a question on facebook this morning that has proven to be quite the conversation starter.

He asked, “If you had the ability to go back 20 years or so and tell yourself one thing, what would it be?”

What a poignant question! While typing the first thing that came to mind, it really got me thinking. 20 years ago I was 16. SO much happened between the years of 16-18 and then an entirely new level of life happened from 18-21. So what would I tell myself?

I was 16 when I met Chris. I was angry and confused by the current circumstances of my life. I had a warped perception of love, God, myself and the future. I would have told myself to wait. “Wait for this man who loves you. Even though you don’t fully understand what love is, one day it will be the very thing that helps you find your way back to God. This man will play a pivotal role in that.”

I talked about this very thing in the post A Letter to Myself. But it was more about what I would tell my Bella. This is a little different. In the past I have avoided looking back and asking, “What would I have done differently?” Maybe because there is just too much to sift through and I spent 6 months working step 4 of 12 in Alcoholics Anonymous wading through all of the garbage that was behind me in order to move forward. Truth be told, It must be a continual “cleaning out” of self. Mind, body and spirit. It’s not a one time deal. Chinua reminded me that I don’t have to regret everything when answering this question. I can respond in an open and honest way that will hopefully help someone else, maybe even my own children.

He also asked what one thing you would tell yourself if you could go back 10 years. I cannot believe I haven’t thought of this question sooner! October 19, by the grace of God, I will have lived 10 years without the use of alcohol or illegal substances to aid me in my efforts to avoid all feelings and circumstances. When I realize that an entire decade has passed for this girl who couldn’t go more than a couple of hours without a drink, I am both humbled and so incredibly grateful.

I am also reminded that this life is meant to be lived on a day-to-day basis, not 1 year, 5 years or 10 years into the future. When we try to live so far in the future, we ultimately fail…every time. So if I could tell my 10 year younger self one thing it would be, “Just keep breathing in and out. Today is filled with uncertainty and the unknown is scary, but everything will come together. There is beauty in this life that you cannot even begin to imagine right now, but you will. There are many tears, I know. Maybe you could look at them as a purging of sorts? A cleansing from emotions that have held you hostage for years. They no longer bind you. You are free. Soon you will look back on this day as the moment that you made the difficult and necessary choice to change your life for the better and begin living your purpose. The journey is long, but you can do it! And, you will never walk the road alone.

A little more about the man who inspired the post.

Chinua is an insanely talented artist. His voice is intoxicating. I have never heard its equal. The really cool thing is that he has a heart as big as his voice. He is a genuinely wonderful human being and his smile is contagious. When he is on stage, you cannot help but be captivated by his presence and inspired by his lyrics. You can learn more about him and hear a sample of his music by clicking here 

Want to know where he is on social media? You are only a click away…
His Facebook Page
Visit Him on Myspace
Watch Him On YouTube
Download His Music @ ITunes
Buy His CDs at CD Baby
Encore Artists (His management Company)