Writing for Survival

I’m writing while I can, as much as I can. For several weeks, each day has brought turmoil, including a HUGE decrease in my Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) leading to facing homelessness AND not being able to afford my best friend and life mate, Jireh (my Service Dog), news that my mother (from whom I have spent half of my adult life estranged) was in serious condition in the hospital, lost a couple close friends, had a cousin die from drug overdose, I fell in front of an oncoming car (hurting myself and almost getting run over), and the list goes on. Having numerous debilitating medical issues (most of which are exacerbated by stress), I truly feel like I can have a heart attack at any moment. For the past two weeks, my health has been chronically declining.

When I received the notice about the cut in my income with June being the hardest month as they were taking out their overpayments in addition to my reduced monthly income, my strong faith cracked. I have supported myself for the past 30 years as I have no contact with relatives. I’m a fighter as I am equipped with God’s strength and wisdom within me. Having the gift of writing, I assured my close friends if I can pay June’s bills, I can find writing jobs to supplement my income starting in July.

After all, Harry Potter book series J.K. Rowling lived in extreme poverty, receiving food stamps, until her books were published. Living in poverty changes people as Rowling states, The very best thing her wealth has given her, she wrote on her website, is the absence of worry. “I have not forgotten what it feels like to worry whether you’ll have enough money to pay the bills. Not to have to think about that anymore is the biggest luxury in the world.”

According to the website, http://www.businessinsider.com,

Living in a cramped apartment with her daughter, jobless and penniless, Rowling fell into a deep depression and admits she even considered suicide. She was forced to rely on state benefits and spent much of her time writing “Harry Potter” in cafés with Jessica sleeping in the pram next to her.

I’ve been there. I think I still am. Anxiety, depression, PTSD, and Crohn’s have all held me hostage in the bathroom the past month with concerns about bills, losing friends who think I am a loser freeloader. I feel like a burden most of the time. If I hadn’t had my personal relationship with Jesus, I would either be on drugs, homeless or dead. Each day that I am puking my guts out simultaneously while losing my bowels day after day, all I can think about is I am losing time not writing. July will be here soon. So, today, I wanted to write about having peace beyond understanding because I trust God.

Instead, I am rolled up in a ball on the floor writing on my tablet so I can write how even Christians have mental health issues. And they cannot just be “prayed away” although prayer certainly changes things. In between my night terrors about being homeless and having to live on the street, I am writing AS MUCH AS PHYSICALLY POSSIBLE my book about being real. About following your convictions so you can look in the mirror, which is why I told an editor last night to take my article down because they changed my wording and it did not reflect my ultimate goal of giving all glory to God. (The byline included my personal blog where I could eventually generate income if I get enough readers.)

I’m not giving up I will write my books every day, all day, getting published and out of poverty. My God has never failed me, and never will. In fact, this post will be another chapter in my book, The Christian Bohemian, Not Your Conventional Christian.

Arm Yourself

At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. 43 But he said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.     Luke 4:42,43

Unfortunately, it is 3pm.
I say `unfortunately’ because I have spent the entire day in severe anxiety. Nothing could calm me down. I am ruminating over surviving with the SSDI decrease. Worrying is causing psychosomatic symptoms of a stiff neck, tactile hallucinations, and hopelessness. The “what if’s” keep rolling in. My faith is wavering, which surprises me since I haven’t allowed external circumstances to steal my peace for awhile. This situation is killing me.
After trying numerous remedies to calm down, I finally opened my Bible. There I found comfort as God reminded me I typically start each day studying the Bible for a few hours. Today, I went straight to writing in attempts to generate income. I didn’t make time with God a priority.
Jesus started each day conversing with His Father explaining He had to fulfill His purpose of being sent to proclaim The Gospel. He went to find His duties for each day, and I am sure The Father strengthened Jesus with words of wisdom, a vivid perspective, and encouragement. In other words, meeting with Our Heavenly Father gives us all we need to fight the world’s battles each day.

By neglecting my Quiet Time, I failed to receive the necessary tools to face the day. So my day was wasted, not to mention painful. I will go directly to Him every morning hereinafter.

Take it from me- don’t go into the battlefield without your weapons.

So Scared

I am literally feeling like I am having a heart attack over this financial situation. I found out my neighbor who is also on Social Security Income is gone… he’s living on the streets. This is becoming so real to me.

I know I am a good writer. Somehow, I feel insecure about my writing when applying for paid writing jobs. I have assured my friends who are helping financially that I will find a freelance job by July. I have a list of websites looking for writers. I want to write for Christianity Today and other Christian websites… now, I am adding Disability sources for which to apply.

Why can’t I submit my query letter and application? I’m so scared. I am scared I won’t get a job and my friends will regret helping me. I am of being viewed as a moocher. I am afraid of homeless. I can’t calm down.

I wish my old mom was still around. I feel so alone, and I feel bad not keeping my faith. I want to escape by getting Xanax and drunk. I know it won’t solve anything, yet I can’t calm down.

One Step Before the Other

Didn’t want to get out of bed as depression has fully materialized.  All of my mental illnesses have taken up residence, along with Crohn’s Disease. It hurts to live. Reality is sinking in.  Before turning to Jesus, the world took over my thought process. Catastrophic “what if’s” swooping in. I can’t do this.

Seeking  comfort from friends by reading Facebook status updates only made things worse. For example, I checked on a friend who’s facing the anniversary of her mother’s death… oh, she’s fine… she’s counting down to a luxurious vacation. So many negative thoughts revolve around my mind, I decide to take Jireh for a walk before starting my day.

Remembering God challenges me to bring my grievances to Him as He says in Isaiah 1:18, “Come, let us reason together…” I start by complaining about my financial situation, and feel God remind me, Shelly, why are you doubting me? Don’t you remember all the times I took care of you by paying off your car, taking care of your student loans, moving you into a nice apartment when you had nothing and was living out of your car… what about when you quit your counseling job due to having a mental breakdown? How quickly you forget! Trust me, My child. As far as you judging your friend’s trip while mourning her mother’s death, aren’t you being hypocritical as you get angry when people don’t understand why you have unexplainable peace when going through major trials? And about your bitterness that you cannot afford luxurious vacations… I have commanded you to set your mind on things above, not on earthly things. – Colossians 3:2. Fix your eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. –2 Corinthians 4:18. Instead of focusing on temporary things, I want you to finish the work I for which I created you.  As I have said in Colossians 3:23,24 – “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”.

Of course,  He was right, as always. I watched Jireh spying on squirrels in the magnificent Tallahassee trees, noting God also provided the means for me to relocate to my favorite city. Admiring my neighborhood walk,  I thanked God for my home, then for Jireh being happy and healthy. Now you know why I didn’t allow you to get a new puppy… you would have had to give him up. 

He continued by bringing numerous situations to mind, changing my ungrateful,  bratty attitude to showing me tangible ways He is in control. Trust me, Shelly. You are ready for the next step. Now is the time to put into practice all I have taught you. 

I realized I have spent so many years talking and planning how to use God’s gifts to me, I haven’t followed through until completion. Now is the time. Face it, I don’t have much more time on this earth. I want my life to count.

He Provides

Since I have had to go on Disability, I have dreaded paydays. My bills overshadow the income, even on my minalmist lifestyle. Naturally, I feel alone, helpless, and like a failure being this limited at my age. Knowing the smallest emergency can impede my ability to provide for myself frightens me into a severe panic attack, as well as a Crohn’s Disease flare up.

For example, I had a bad fall on a cement parking lot two weeks ago. Within days, my hand became swollen and infectious. A few of my friends gave me the same advice- go to the doctor . I was too prideful to confess that wasn’t an option since I had no money for the copayment, nevermind money for an antibiotic. Plus, I had a feeling I would need X-rays, leading to a radiology bill.

I stopped going out around friends and when asked, proclaimed my hand was much better. Someone asked if I had a fever when I made a comment about MRSA. Embarrassed, I admitted I did not own a thermometer. Basically, I live like a squatter. There was a time when I had more than the minimal survival tools and money in the bank. But that was before my mental breakdown in 2008 when I donated everything I owned to charity and lived out of my car for periods of time.

Since I was making decisions from survival mode, my estranged relatives (who never believed in psychology, which I found out upon declaring my major in college was Psychology), likely had images of me being carried away in a straight jacket by men in white coats, kept their distance more than ever. My church and friends pretty much followed along, leaving me all alone… but Jesus stayed. In fact, He pulled me closer. This was time He made Himself clearly known to me.

I had nothing… I had no one… except I had Jesus… and with Him came an unspeakable peace and comfort surpassing all understanding. Since then, I have had all I TRULY needed.

The past ten years haven’t been the easiest, but they have been the best as I have been forced to depend on Jesus, my Savior. He has never abandoned me, even when I try to run away from Him. I have gone without food, medical care, heat, and family.

It has all been worth it to me. If I hadn’t lost everything, I would have missed out on this priceless relationship with Christ. I have learned to trust Him completely. The more I walk with Him, the more He blesses me.

So today when I sat down to figure out which bill I would have to put off, somehow, my SSDI covered all of my basic needs. Wow! Unbelievable. Well, unbelievable to non-believers, but for me… I looked up and imagined Jesus smiling at me. After all, He is Jehovah Jireh … My Provider.

Good Company

My Crohn’s Disease has me running to the bathroom every 5 minutes. Thankful I get to stay home and work. The car tire I waited until I got my SSDI to buy turned into hearing the $60 bill turned into $175, needing two tires. AND my other two tires are so old, the rubber can separate any time, thus I was instructed not to drive until I get 2 more tires. Yet, it is miraculous my tires did not blow out when driving 80 mph on my recent road trip. My AC needs coolant yet I am safe in my own place. There are a few other serious problems going on that appear catastrophic, needing urgent attention.

Depression and anxiety should be on full throttle. I admit, for a few hours, I was freaking out.

Then I went to Jesus in prayer. He showed me (again!) how perspective is everything. Enjoying God’s presence instead of focusing on my current circumstances has me writing and studying Scripture has me at peace. I read my friend’s blog about how she was having such a bad day, until she realized God is walking with her, showing His love, mercy and grace. She quotes several verses which turn her heart to focus on the eternal. Jessie at The Hope Filled Life –  http://www.thehopefilledlife.blogspot.com is such encouragement to me as she finds joy even in the hard times because she has Jesus with her wherever she goes. She admits to her frustrations, yet like David writes in Psalms, her sorrow always turns to joy as she connects with Him. I love being around her because she overflows with the love and character of Jesus. It’s so refreshing to be around her!

My friend, Karen, is the same way. Karen and I have a contest over who has the most debilitating medical issues. She has serious hidden health conditions, yet she tells me she feels inadequate to write a book on faith because she doesn’t have significant problems. Um, yes she does but because she is indwelt by the Spirit of Jesus, she is so grateful to have His presence in her life.
I love hanging out with positive people, like Jessie and Karen, because they show me how irrelevant my problems are in the scheme of things. Most of all, I love spending entire days having quiet times with Jesus. I mean, come on! How can I be discouraged when I get to spend the day with my Savior?

Lonely

Next chapter, moving on, after successfully completing the recent stage of life, God has given me a sign, a photo, of going higher. Like Maslow’s hierarchy, God has graciously advanced me to the next level. For me to hold on to that which is familiar is the antithesis of who I am.

Discovering my most controversial life decision was respected by my earthly father and Heavenly Father points me to an uncharted path made just for me.
Honored, yet humbled God chose me for this journey, I draw closer than ever to Him. Listening to Him, spending quality time with Jesus, and obeying when prompted, enables me to be singleminded on Him. No distractions from people on a different journey. That is comparable to asking individuals on the path behind me for directions. Come to think of it, reaching out to friends for help is counterproductive to the growing process if they have never been where I am going. God knows the way, and without the input of others, it is easier to hear His voice.
I am lonely, which is unusual for me as I am always comforted by the Lord’s presence. Maybe part of me is mourning the life I once had… or thought I had. Maybe uncertainty is preventing me from taking that next step, the next level.
A level where my mind stays focused on what truly matters, rather than things of this earth. I’m sure once I get accustomed to the next phase, I will enjoy and savor the changes. There may be new friends to meet who relate to my mindset. Or it may just be a more intimate relationship with Jesus. I am never a burden to Him. He loves spending time with me and is never too busy.
I need to feel that right now. I need to feel His comfort.