Friday, January 28, 2011

What is really underneath it all?

Every big life change thrusts you into a new world that you must learn about.  Addiction is no different.  There are so many topics related to this issue.  Every time that I think I understand so much, a new little twist pops up.  I am constantly surprised.  I began looking into the beginning of AA and the 12 step program.  I discovered what a fascinating story that is.  I want to share with you a little of what I've learned.  I think it will help you whether you have addiction in your family or not. 

Let's start with a working knowledge of terms.  Addiction is THE disease.  It isn't just alcoholism or drug addiction.  Scientists have learned that in the brain of the addict, it doesn't matter what the substance is.  If it is booze or pills, stimulants or depressants, in the brain of an addict, it all behaves the same way.  Their brains have over a period of time, become rewired.  That is not to say that they don't have a drug of choice.  It just helps us to understand that the big problem is that of addiction.  Other substances might be substituted with many of the same effects of the drug of choice, in the life of an addict.

About the time of prohibition, we began to see a lot of alcoholics.  Few doctors recognized alcoholism as a medical condition.  Bill W an alcoholic, had found one doctor who looked at addiction as more than just a moral failing. He had treated Bill three other times. Bill was told that if this treatment failed, he would go to a mental institution or die.   On Bill's fourth hospital stay, he was feeling hopeless and cried out "I'll do anything, anything at all."  "If there is a God, Let him show himself."  He then experienced a great light, a sensation of ecstasy and serenity.  It was after this experience that he realized that any recovery could only happen because of a spiritual awakening. 

Bill later meets with an old drinking buddy who is now sober.  He tells Bill that he has found religion.  It helps Bill to talk to this friend. He realizes that alcoholics need other alcoholics to recover.   He then meets a doctor who struggles with addiction.  His name is Dr. Bob.  Together they begin forming what is now AA. 

Now fast forward a few years.  The AA "Big Book" has been printed.  There are a few meetings going on.  But, Bill is frustrated that things aren't taking off as quickly as he'd like.  It was a very cold sleety night.  Someone comes to the door and Bill in his fatigue thinks it's another bum.  He is tired but says come on in.  The fella removes his coat which reveals his priest's collar.  The man is Father Ed Dowling, a Jesuit priest.  He came to tell him how similar the 12 steps are to the "Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius."  Bill replies, " never heard of him."  This gets a laugh out of Father Ed but begins a great friendship between the two men.

Now, let's go back in time.  St. Ignatius, the author of the spiritual exercises, had his own "at the bottom" moment.  He was a great warrior.  He was very proud.  An injury forced him to be bed ridden for a very long time.  He requested reading material that had to do with warriors and battles but the only reading material was "Vita Christi" by Ludolph Saxony.  This book known as Simple Contemplation, asks the reader to place himself at each of the scenes of the gospel stories.  It was a condensed version of spiritual instructions, meditations and prayers that he had heard from over sixty writers, with regard to spiritual matters.  This made Ignatius experience a conversion.  He went on to form the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). 

OK, this is a very abbreviated version of a couple of men, separated by more than 400 yrs.  What could they possibly have in common?  As a parent of an addict, I have acquired this new vocabulary this year.  We've talked about detaching, learning the will of God through discernment, we've talked about dependence on God, we've talked about understanding the harms that we've done to others and then to make amends for them, we've talked about sponsors who advise you and have the courage to tell you when you are wrong.   We were advised to continue to take a moral inventory of ourselves and to make amends.  We do this so that thru prayer and meditation so that we can improve our contact with God.  And we are taught to take this message to others.  Learning these things was like hitting the lottery.  These activities have helped our family so much.  I had wished that the 12 steps were around when my grandfather, Henry was alive. 

Guess what, they were.  Well, not the 12 steps.  But, the idea that we give up control and become dependent on God.  The idea that we get to know ourselves and our motivations better so that we can learn through the gospel stories how Jesus lived.  The idea of frequent confession so that we can focus on the will of God.  St. Ignatius gave such great instructions for discernment.  He thought that everyone needed a spiritual advisor who could be honest  so that they  could see their authentic self.  Then he advised them to take God's message to others. 

Sound familiar?  Ever heard, "they need to hit rock bottom?"  Well, Ignatius and Bill had hit rock bottom.  In both cases, God intervened.  Ever heard of an intervention?  I really thought I was learning new cutting edge information.  Nope same problems, same solutions.  Do you suppose addictions are only to drugs and alcohol?  I don't anymore.  I think we are ALL addicts.  We might have different drugs of choice.  Ours might be legal.  But, addictions are something we need more and more of.  They are something we don't think we can live without.  We might spend more and more time trying to get what we want.  I love sugar.  I've told my endocrinologist that I needed AA for sugar and he agreed with me.  He said it was an addiction.  There is also power, money, attention, sex, food, and ANYTHING that you  can't or won't give up to maintain a healthy relationship with God (remember he is a jealous God).   You are as,  George Strait says in a really good song, "Lookin' for Love in All the Wrong Places." 

Why are we so afraid?  Why were Adam and Eve afraid in the garden? is that voice telling us that it won't hurt to do what we want.  This is were we need to get to know ourselves....where we need to practice discernment.  Does the voice we hear tell us what we want to hear or does it bring us back to God? 

When we start peeling all of the rubbish off of our pile, we learn what is important.  Peeling back....detaching.  Relying on THE ONE, can show you what God sent you here for.  Now, how cool is that?  How exciting is that?  We, like the addict, have been mucking up God's plans.  But, it's not too late.  It never is. 

Today my prayer is that each reader will peel back to learn what is underneath.  God is at our core.  Can you find him?  I pray for the ability to recognize right from wrong, good from evil and life from death.  I also pray for the soul of my Henry and yours. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

"Reality is For People Who Can't Handle Drugs"

I asked my son if he ever watched "Celebrity Rehab"?  He said, "I have but I hate that show."  "Those guys are all narcissistic." I looked at him a little surprised and said, "well, I think that 's probably the norm for those suffering from this problem."  Now he looks at me a little shocked.  Then he says, " I hate that Dr. Drew, he is just getting a lot of publicity off of that stuff."  To which I reply, " I love him."  "There are so many stigmas attached to addiction and he is bringing light to others who don't really understand it."  "He has helped me to understand some of your behaviors along the way."  There was no argument.  There was just a little stunned silence. 

Perception is defined as becoming aware of, knowing or identifying by means of the senses, mind or cognition.  I read an article on a study of artists and non artists.  The study looked at how much time each spent on looking at an object and the amount of retention each had.  Oddly, the artists spent far less time and acquired a lot more details than the non artist. 

Our perception can change just based on our vantage point.  It can be changed based on light or our ability to see things for what they really are   If we zoom in on just one aspect of what we see, we will miss the bigger picture.  If we zoom out we may miss some tiny details.  Perception is huge.  I have started questioning what I think I see.  I think my view has many biases.  I think it is distorted from time to time.  It is only focused on what I want to look at. 

I think that a lot of brokenness comes from faulty perceptions.  We sometimes rely on others to define what is good or bad.  People don't always meet our expectations.  Even if they aren't aware of what our expectations are.  We might depend on money, job, romance, social standing or others to perceive that we are loved or successful.  Being dependent on others will always fail you.  Being dependent on substances will always fail you.  Being dependent on money will always fail you.  Being dependent on success will always fail you.  Being dependent on God is the only answer.  When you let go of dependency on everything but God, the frame zooms out offering so many more opportunities without losing focus on the little details.

We are all sick, just like the addict, unless we understand that God thinks we're just perfect for what he designed us to be.  Unless, we are willing to give up our "drug of choice" and try and follow his will for us.  Unless we become like little children, totally dependant on him.  Then, light will flood your heart, soul and mind.  Your vision will improve.  Your cup will runneth over.

We learn so much through suffering.  No one wants to go through it.  But, if we can let go and just walk through the pain asking God to lead us through it, then it is so much better than trying to avoid it.  We might actually learn that God will help us.  He will help us to survive it.  He will teach us things along the way.  He wants us to use it to help others. 

Today, my prayer is for an increase in light for all who read this.  I pray that each of you have the strength to let go.  I promise that God handles it better.  Let him take your yoke.  Ask him to forgive you for any offenses and ask him to light your way.  I pray for all those who suffer and most especially for Henry.

"If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite."  William Blake

Monday, January 17, 2011

Aren't We All "The Least of These?"

Recently, I went to visit my Dad's last surviving sibling, my uncle.  He is 92 years old.  He has memories that I wanted to learn before the opportunity is lost.  It is so interesting to visit an uncle or aunt after your parents have passed.  You see them and while they may be very different, there are those family similarities that you might have forgotten about.  A certain look, mannerism or the voice that sounds so familiar.  It is like seeing a little piece of your parents.  It is a reminder from heaven. 

I wanted to learn more about my grandfather, Henry.  I wanted to get a picture of the kind of man he was.  I wanted to understand how his addiction played out, day in and day out.  Lately, I've been hooked on "Celebrity Rehab" and "Intervention".  My family was initially very uncomfortable with my obsession over these shows.  But for me, it is a study.  My mother's passing made me keenly curious about death and heaven.  Now that is a difficult subject for study.  No one who has ever had the experience of dying has been able to come back and tell us about it.  As for heaven, I have always thought that if we really knew about it, no one would ever want to live. 

I visited my uncle who was thrilled to have the company.  He was so happy to tell stories.  But, every time that I asked questions about Henry, he seemed to go off subject.  I am sure that it was difficult.  I also think that during the time of his youth, they chose not to talk about that subject.  But, I did learn a few things.  For one thing, the face of addiction remains the same regardless of the cause of addiction.  It is selfish and fights to support itself above all else.  It still tears families apart and shortens the addicts life span.  It makes the addict look like a monster. 

I love "Celebrity Rehab".  At first, I thought that these were selfish, soulless people.  I thought that there was little hope for these folks.  I thought that many of them were only seeking attention by being on this show.  I thought the show was just another ridiculous "reality" show.  But, what I like most is how Dr. Drew explains these awful behaviors.  I like how he is able to peel back layer after layer until by the end, you see this wounded soul.  Initially, I was rooting for a select few to make it.  Now, the ones that I liked the least are the ones that I am pulling for most.  These are the most wounded folks who sought to find relief from their pain in perhaps the only way that they knew how. 

God creates us each and everyone with unique gifts and talents.  When we are little, we are unafraid of expressing our hopes and desires.  We boldly state that we want to be a great artist or astronaut.  As we get older and our sinful world starts to give us a very skewed perspective of what we can do or what we should do, we stop listening to the longing of our hearts.  We start turning down the volume of the voice of God.  We start thinking that we are the only ones in control.  We start relying on only ourselves.  We will never be happy this way.  We will search high and low to fill the void.  We may try to use food or drink.  We may use drugs.  We may spend too much money.  We may try to have a lot of possessions.  We may try to be the smartest.  But, until we strip all of that away and get to know the person that God created us to be and lean on him and his understanding, we are as lost as the addict is.  And, most of us can't even see that.  Most of us (including me) sat in judgement of the folks like my son.

Al Anon has taught me so much.  It teaches me first and foremost, that I am not in control.  That took some time to accept.  But, once I did, it is such a relief.  Then it taught me to take care of myself.  It taught me to allow God's will in my life.  It taught me to take a moral inventory of myself.  It taught me to make amends for the things that I can change.  It taught me to realize that God is the only one who could restore sanity in my life.  This is a very simplified version of some of the twelve steps.  The person responsible for these steps was an alcoholic who professed no religion.  I find that fact so fascinating.  I have learned more about living my faith from an alcoholic than from any lesson in church.  Now, that is not to say that I haven't learned a lot in church, because I have.  But, before we judge people, before we dismiss them because of a weakness that they have you'd better look a little deeper. 

Jesus didn't really hang out with the popular guys.  He didn't smooze with the really rich or famous.  He didn't only associate with the incredibly holy folks.  So, if we are to emulate his life, why do we avoid "the least of these" so much?  Why do we always assume that they don't have the capacity for change? Why do we think we're better than them?  I daresay that an alcoholic from Akron Ohio helped more people than I ever will.  Bill W. (the alcoholic from Akron and founder of AA) got a vision one night.  It was a vision on how to help fellow alcoholics.  I think it was the voice of God.  He listened.  He didn't look at the fact that he was a floundering alcoholic.  He didn't think of how little medical or psychological knowledge he might have. He  didn't worry about all of the details he'd have to work out to carry this message to those most in need of his message.

Today, my prayer is that my son and all of you will start to discover who God created in YOU.  I pray for the healing of souls. I pray that my son will discover the healing power of God.  I pray for those souls who died without the benefit of recovery, most especially the soul of Henry.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sensations of Being High

We are a very judgemental society.  I am the first to admit that being judgemental is a perennial item on my confession list.  God is now giving me a new perspective on this very topic.  If I watch TV, I can't tell you how many derogatory references that there are to "junkies".  While there is a choice for addicts when they initially decide to experiment, later it is out of their hands.  My son is clean and sober.  He is working full time.  He is struggling to pull himself up by the boot straps.  It took a really long time to get this job.  Now his roommates might be using again.  He met them at rehab.  Now, my son is calling them junkies.  He was telling me about them and said, "You can't imagine what it is like to live with junkies, Mom".  This is where I had to say, "Actually, yes I do".  He looked at me a little surprised.  "I lived with you for the last few years."  "I understand the lying and manipulation that occur when addiction takes over a person's mind".  "They can't help it, it isn't personal".  You see while my son was impaired, he couldn't see himself as he really was.

I wonder if any of us really see ourselves as we really are, impaired or not?  I have thought a lot about why my son would ever even try drugs.  Life is hard.  Many of us aren't comfortable with who we really are.  We have an idea that we don't measure up.  Maybe we have an expectation of what our lives should be like that we feel like won't ever happen.  Maybe we constantly compare ourselves to other people who are successful at this or that and we only seem to see the things we're not good at. Maybe we think we fail if we aren't perfect at everything. I wonder why we always look at others to define what joy or success really are? 

Addiction is a family disease.  We are taught in Al Anon that our symptoms mirror the addict.  I would venture to go further.  I would say that most people that suffer in any shape, form or fashion, have similar symptoms to a family dealing with the disease of addiction.  I would say that they become so focused with whatever their problem is so much, that they forget who they are.  They forget what gifts God gave them.  They feel somehow angry and responsible regardless of how ludicrous that might be.  They might be living a life that is unmanageable.  I would say that many people who, like the addict, feel like they don't measure up, live a life void of peace, joy and excitement. 

Today, I received a letter from a lady who was our neighbor, when the kids were little.  She was an angel on earth.  She would watch my kids so that I could go to the grocery store.  When you have 3 kids, 3yrs old and younger and no family nearby, going to the grocery store alone is almost the equivalent of going to the spa.  She was so glad that my son was doing better.  She made a statement that was very thought provoking. She said, "I hope he realizes that that kind of life isn't really living, but was just a nightmarish dreary world that only gives him sensations of being high".  Well said.  I love this statement.  But, I think it also extends to you and me. 

Anytime we are so busy looking at what we can't do, don't have, think we want.....we fail to see what we do have, appreciate the gifts we have been given, experience the joy within.....I must boldly say that in many ways I am thankful for this cross that we have been given.  It has stripped away all of the superficial crap that I previously thought important.  I don't care that I'm not an amazing mathematician.  I don't really want to be a supermodel...although I would really like to be thinner.  I don't care that I'm not famous.  I am just grateful for this clarity I've been given.  I am so over the moon to learn that peace and joy and simplicity give me the most amazing high on earth.  Read that sensation...a real high.  A high that doesn't cost money, doesn't make me sick, doesn't tear my family apart, doesn't take away my it only builds me up, my family up, makes me think so much clearer and makes me want to dance.  This high comes only from God.  It comes from putting first things first.  It comes from a grateful willingness to serve.  It comes from faith.  It comes from giving. 

I'm a little sad that I didn't arrive at this place until now.  I'm a little sad that it took this tragedy to find this understanding.  But, this is today.  Today is the only thing that I have influence over.  So, today, I share this with you.  Today I pray that you look to God for comfort, peace and joy.  Today I pray that you help God to show you the gifts that he has given you in the hopes that you will use them to glorify his holy name.  Today I pray that you will find that real high that comes only from God.  I pray for my son to find these same things.  I pray for all of you that have held us up and I pray for Henry, as always. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Beauty in Ordinary Time

Today is the first day of ordinary time.  To me, this is similar to returning home from vacation and getting back on schedule.  I get excited about vacation, and love it while I"m there but after a while, without regular routine, I get a little out of sorts.  I need a routine and a schedule.  So today marks the first day of the first of twelve weeks before Lent begins. 

The sun rises and sets.  The seasons come and go.  As a new catholic (relatively speaking) following the church's calendar just sort of ties things all together, helping me to feel God in the everyday.  I just love that.  I have this set of books called In Conversation With God by Francis Fernandez.  He is a priest of the Opus Dei Prelature and has a doctorate in Canon law from the Angelicum in Rome.  There are books for each season of the church and extra ones for feast days.  They are daily meditations, that for me, help me to get over myself and to focus on my daily duties according to God.  These little books have helped me to realize that I need different order in my life.  They help me to see the importance in the mundane and the triviality of what I might think important. 

My son is working.  He sounds really clear when I talk to him.  But, I think he's a little angry at us still for cutting him off.  I don't mean financially.  I mean our relationship.  I think that this is probably something he will need to process.  I think this is part of his healing. I think that I must still be patient.  I am starting to realize just how important the cycles of each day and season and year and lifetime are.  I feel like I am learning that just as the attention or lack of attention were paid to God's priority list before we learned of my son's addiction, that same attention today can help to heal and build up what was previously broken or disordered. 

I love the outdoors.  It is where I am most at peace and feel closer to God.  I think I got this from my Dad.  Maybe it is from my Indian heritage.  I don't know.  I do know that God is everywhere and in everything.  I know that every person that I encounter today is his creation.  I must remember that the actions I take with even his most irritating creation, is far more important than reading my e-mails, doing my laundry or doing reports at work.  Those things can be important too, but not at the expense of failing to show God to others through your daily actions. 

These daily meditations remind me in this first day of ordinary time of the importance of my day being one of prayer.  Each load of laundry, each errand I run each action I take should be done in light of what Jesus would have done.  I think I needed that reminder. 

I can't control my son.  I can't control whether or not he heals from his addiction.  I can only control my actions.  This is where God wants us to focus.  This is where I will heal enough to deal with either outcome.  I think my son is better, but who knows.  I must not hinge my every action on that.  I must be the person that God intends for ME to be.  I think he intends for me to trust him with the care of my son, no matter what. 

Today, I begin this day and season and year with a prayer that I am able to do God's will for me each minute of each day.  I pray for the strength to give my son's care to God.  I pray for an increase in faith.  I pray for each of you to be able to do the same in your individual situations.  I pray for healing for my son and as always, I pray for Henry. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Hill

Yesterday I took my 19 year old daughter with me to fulfill one of my bucket list items.  It was a dream from childhood fullfilled.  I used to look at the hills surrounding our western Kentucky home and long to climb to the top and see what things looked like from up high.  It was one of those little girl dreams that my Dad would say, "we'll do that one day,"  and by the time I was old enough to do it myself I thought well, I'll do it later.  Recently, as an adult, as I would drive down a rural highway where I live, I would look up at those really steep hills and remember that feeling of wonder, that idea of wonder Would it be thrilling when I got to the top and looked down. 

This journey we're on to heal our families' disease of addiction is so interesting.  We were so busy dealing with the addict...trying to fix or change him, that we forgot who we were.  It wasn't only addiction that robbed us, it was also being a wife and mother, being a boss, day in and day out routines.  It was mixing up our priorities.  It was not being in tune with God.  It was planning our day and thinking that we were in control of it.  Al anon has taught me to take care of myself.  It has taught me to look to God to let him restore me to sanity.  My son's addiction brought me to Alanon.  That program taught me how to live my life.  It taught me how to be a member of my family and how to realize that God was in control.  When I finally understood that and let go, I was able to live MY life...finally.  With that realization, my child-like curiosities, excitements, longings, faith and hopes seemed to return.

This is how we arrived at that hill, my mountain to conquer.  My daughter was looking very stylish in her cute little jeans and trendy sweater.  She had her jeans tucked into her Ugg boots.  Her hair and makeup were just right.  I had discussed this little trip with her before and she was game.  My son who was home visiting, thought about going but the new job left such a large number of blisters on his feet that he bowed out.  I say to my daughter, "do you want to go change...put on tennis shoes or rubber boots?"  "No, she says,these are comfortable, they'll be fine."  "Okay", I say.  Aren't you proud of me?  Before I might have gone off on a tirade about stating just how foolish she was.  Now, I offer a suggestion and realize that life is often times our best teacher. 

My daughter, Miss Glass Half Empty, and I are off and she is concerned about our eminent arrest for tresspassing, being shot by a hunter or falling to our death.  I just laugh and tell her to enjoy the adventure.  If we get arrested, it'll just make for a better story.  I don't think we'll get shot this close to the road and I'm sure we can just roll back down the hill if we have to.  She is not amused.  But we are off.  First we must cross the creek. We have to find a shallow section to cross before starting our climb.  We take pictures of our hill.  We get across this creek and I am starting to see my daughter as a city girl.  She is complaining about the brush, the slippery leaves, the beggar lice, and oh my the hair.....anything that messes up the hair!  We start to ascend.  It soon gets steep enough that we need to reach for small trees to hang onto and use them to pull ourselves up and grab onto the next branch.  I start feeling all of the 20 lbs of fudge that I must have consumed over the holidays.  My pulse is pounding so loud that I can't hear anything anymore.  We must stop to rest.

These hills can make you feel like giving up.  They make you physically tired.  Emotionally you are concerned about the will you get down without falling and being unable to stop?  We keep climbing.  Then I get my foot caught in old tangled barbed wire.  It causes me to fall, which makes you keep sliding on those leaves that are blanketing that muddy hillside.  As soon as you fall, you must find something to hold onto so that you can stop the fall.  I am now covered in mud.  My daughter isn't sure if she should laugh or be worried....she opts for cautious laughter.  I get up brush off what I can and with bruised ego in tow, keep pushing forward.  We think that we're at the top until my daughter notices to our left another hill still taller.  We decide that we must go to the top of that hill to have really conquered our mountain.  Off we go and we get close to the top of the hill and we see tents just over the hill and a fire burning.  We decide that it's time to head back down the hill.  We take more pictures and plan the best route back down. 

The descent is much faster, like it or not.  We get most of the way down when my daughter very proudly states that she is gonna make it down without a fall.  She has yet to learn that making those statements is like tempting God.  He must just need a good chuckle when we get too proud of ourselves.  I hear a gasp and watch my daughter using both hands hanging on to a small tree, feet dangling down the hill.  Then I see blue, blittered nails slide all the way down to the trunk of that tiny tree.  All I could do was laugh.  It was a laugh so deep and loud that it echoed through those hills.  After my tongue lashing, we continue down and she falls again.  The old gal fell once.  The youngster fell twice....but she looked good doing it.  Oh what fun!

You might ask,  "How was the view?"  It was beautiful.  But, the climb, the held so many ups and downs and surprises.  It brought challenges and little triumps.  It brought joy and laughter.  God, who created that hill and each leaf on that ground, teaches us, still today, with parables everywhere, if only you look at each moment as an opportunity from God.  He tries each day to teach us so much.  With every new bit of knowledge comes insight and joy.  This all came to me from a desire that I had as a young girl to climb a hill.  When I listened to that desire, I had an adventure.  I learned about completing a journey on a concrete level.  I got to poke fun at my daughter.  I hope she learned that the jeans and the hair and makeup aren't nearly as important as the experience.  There was no Rocky Balboa music playing as we made it to the top.  It didn't make the papers.  But, it was fun.  It was a good memory to put in my pocket.  I'll tell my grandkids one day, when they are teenagers how silly their mom was.  It is a happy time, a treasure.

Today I have a prayer of thanksgiving for the joy and peace that comes when you stop planning and start trying to follow the plans that God has for you.  I am thankful for so much.  I pray for my son to keep staying strong.  I am praying for the health of all of my family.  I pray for continued direction.  And, I pray for Henry.  In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen

Saturday, January 1, 2011

My New Years Bucket List

Talk to any 4 or 5 year old and it will certainly brighten your day.  Ask them about their dreams.  Listen carefully....because you won't hear limitations.  You won't get a lot of editing.  You'll just see honest, blind faith.  You'll get wild abandonment.  There is an excitement instead of a fear of what can go wrong.  As we get older, and we've had something not work out or we feel like we've failed at something, we loose faith.  We start to doubt our gifts, dreams and desires.  If you look at the really successful people, the common denominator is the perseverance.  They simply don't look at a "no" as the fact that their gifts aren't for real.  They just keep trying and realize that the "no" just means that either it isn't time or it isn't the venue for that dream to become reality.  But, they do not doubt God's gifts.

It is really rare when you see someone who has complete faith in their gifts and abilities.  Most of us are insecure.  We start looking at all of the things that could go wrong.  We start loosing excitement.  We start to become weary.  We stop loosing curiosity.  We start just living the day in, day out, tasks of our lives, instead of working towards living our best life experiences. 

This journey that I am on, is the result of one of the most frightening things that a parent can face.  My son's addiction did some really wonderful things in my life.  I now center my life around God.  I always thought that I did, but now I really give him everything.  I consult him about everything.  I try harder not to do things that will come between us.  Because, with God ever present in my day, it is a joyful one.  He gives me back that childlike curiosity and excitement.  He gives me back that desire to do things that I used to say I'd do.  Some of the things aren't monumental life some just look like fun.  Some are just an experience that I want to be able to put in my pocket. 

So, this year, I'm choosing a bucket list over New Years resolutions.  That may sound morbid, but it isn't.  It's just a goal.  If I don't write it down, I won't actively try to make it happen.  I want to do things that are pulling at curiosity, before I die.  I want to live, richly live with experiences that are open to us if only we are open to them. 

I'm gonna give you a sampling of my list.  I want my list to contain 100 items and when I finish those, I'll start a new one.  I hope you will consider ways to live fuller as well.  Enjoy what God has out there for us.  Thank him for the desire.  Thank him when you experience.  Share it with others.  This year, I realized one of my dreams.  As a native Kentuckian, I had never gone to Churchill Downs during a race.  This year, I attended the Breeder's cup at Churchill Downs and saw the amazing horse Zenyatta come in second during her final race, her only loss.  But, it was thrilling.  So on to more ideas....

I want to become a writer and be published.  I want to climb a really big hill and take photos from the top.  I want to ride a horse on the beach.  I want to visit Italy and eat my way through the country, learn to surf, learn to ballroom dance, have a back porch and eat breakfast there, tour Napa valley, start taking more picnics, find a great tree to lie under, on a beautiful old quilt and read, own a convertible and drive from one end of the Pacific Coast Highway to the other, drive across country, find out more about my family tree, visit my relatives more, experience at least one gee whiz, wow miracle, raise a ton of money for a great cause, learn Spanish.............

Today, I pray for all of you...that you may continue to dream and hope and never give up.  I pray that my son learns to dream.  I pray for his ability to fight this addiction.  I am thankful for the excitement that I have, that is a gift from God and I pray for the soul of Henry.  In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.