Journey to LA LA Land – Part I – Motivation to Move Forward

On Friday June 25th, I boarded a plane in Tennessee and set out on a journey to Los Angeles, California – I affectionately refer to it as LA LA Land.  I thought about chronicling this journey on the blog prior to leaving, but time got away from me, so I decided to share upon my return.  Here is a little back story:

I visited L.A. for the first time, as an adult, in April 2004.  My friends, I was smitten.  It was love at first sight.  I’m not even sure I know why, really.  It was big; it was challenging; it was a stretching of my faith.  The creative atmosphere just seemed to scream “EXTRAORDINARY“, a far cry from the ordinary life I’d been living.  As a child, I dreamt of life beyond the borders of mediocrity.  When I stepped foot into L.A., it was as if I’d somehow crossed my own personal borders.  The taste of it was intoxicating, and I wanted more.

As God would have it, I visited again just a year later, in April 2005, and once more a year and 9 months after that in January 2007.  With each visit, the feeling was exactly the same.  With little conscious effort, I grew more comfortable with the abundance of freeways and cars to clog them; I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and saying farewell at the end of each excursion proved to be quite the unexpected challenge.  It was obvious LA LA Land had captured my heart, but why?  What does it all mean?  Was the Lord calling me to move to this place?

On June 25th, I prepared to journey there once more in hopes of finding out.

This was my first solo voyage to L.A., and the trip fell into place with very little effort on my part.  I flew on a buddy pass given to me by a dear friend a year earlier.  I was welcomed into the home of a young lady who’d never laid eyes on me before.  She trusted the word of one of her friends (whom I’d met here in Tennessee) and gave me a place to lay my head during my visit.  Another dear friend gave me a very unexpected financial blessing that went a long way toward the cost of my 5 day rental car.  All I could say was “WOW”.  I was now prepared to “go view the land”.

I’m always amazed by how fast fear runs to greet you when you decide to venture beyond the borders of your comfort zone and take a stroll down a road less traveled.  I touched on this in my May 30th post about my morning walk, remember?  Well in case you ever wondered, the road I mentioned that looked “impossible to travel” was this journey to LA LA Land.  If you missed that post, you can click here to check it out.

Anyway, fear made his debut appearance on my journey in the Atlanta airport where I awaited a connecting flight.  I wasn’t cleared from the stand-by list for the 10am flight to L.A., and for some strange reason this minute delay sent me into a tizzy!!  Suddenly, I found myself in a panic, feeling crippled with fear and wanting to call off the whole trip.  The fact that my luggage made the earlier flight and was already half way across the country made absolutely no difference to me.  I wanted OUT!

Seriously….  It was just a simple trip to Los Angeles, right?  Or was it?

What in the world was happening to me?  This is the trip I’d been waiting for.  The sea of bodies in Hartsfield-Jackson airport seemed to overwhelm me like an ocean wave.  My body trembled slightly, chilled by anxiety.  This sudden fear was unbelievable!  It was as if the curtain had been raised, and I had suddenly succumb to a bad case of stage fright.  As my emotions exploded within me, my adversary seized a golden opportunity to taunt me, tempting me to squash it all and retreat to my comfort zone.  I almost agreed with him until I remembered that he only speaks lies and is the father of them.

I fought back tears of fear and frustration as my dear friend on the other end of the phone simultaneously checked the airline’s employee website for stand-by availability on upcoming flights and attempted to talk me down off of the ledge that had become my new home.  I’m certain she prayed frantically on my behalf, as well.  She knew turning back was not the flight pattern I was scheduled to take that day.

I had a pretty full agenda for my time in California.  Although I was excited about each item on the list, I found myself dangerously willing to chunk my divinely planned itinerary.  However, as I contemplated walking away from it all, the Spirit of the Lord continued to highlight only one of the meetings I had scheduled.  Only one….

As God would have it, I had plans to meet a woman named Kenya the day before I was scheduled to fly back home.  Kenya is the co-worker and classmate of one of my cousins, and she reads this blog.  This woman experienced great loss a few months ago, and hearing her story grabbed my heart.  I was honored that she wanted to meet me.

I didn’t tell her this when we met, but in that moment of panic, during those wobbly first steps outside my comfort zone, Kenya was my motivation to move forward.  For a brief moment in time, I was chosen to be the arms of God, sent to embrace one of His daughters as she mourns.  To me, it was the most important item on my LA LA Land agenda, and I was honored to complete the task.

God knew how to get me to California.  He knew my feet would ice over, so He placed the heart of one of His daughters on my “itinerary” as motivation for me to plow past fear and leave my comfort zone behind.  I’m so glad I did.  Meeting Kenya was rewarding on so many levels.  She may say that I blessed her that Tuesday afternoon, but the blessing was poured out on me that day, for sure.  God used my sweet sister in Christ to remind me of who He’s called me to be.  In the midst of all the “things” I had planned to do, she was a picture of what’s truly important to the heart of the Father, His children.  I believe that He would send me all the way across the country just for her, because He loves her that much.  Quite possibly at least one purpose of this trip was my test to see if I would go.

So, is that all there is to my “California calling”?   Good question.  As I reflect upon my visit to LA LA Land, one thing I noted was that my words from earlier in this post still hold true.  With little conscious effort, I grew more comfortable with the abundance of freeways and cars to clog them; I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and saying farewell at the end of THIS excursion proved to be quite the unexpected challenge. But does that mean I’m supposed to live there today?

My visit awakened many things within me.  It encouraged me, once again, to stand against fear (and showed me that I know how to do just that.).  It challenged me to keep reaching for the extraordinary life, one led by the Holy Spirit.  And it cemented within the depth of my soul and spirit my identity in Christ – who I am as His daughter and my assignment as His servant.  Since then, many things are beginning to stir in my spirit.  Will LA LA Land be the place I call home?  All I can say, today, is only time will tell.

I promise to keep you posted.  Agreed?!   Until next time…

P.S. For me, Californ-i-a, whether naturally or symbolically, represents the land beyond the walls of ordinary.  To choose to journey beyond the walls of ordinary serves well to stretch our faith, to challenge our current existence.  What is your “California calling”?  What is that “place” outside your comfort zone that beckons you to come?  Will you take the step?

This morning I went for a walk…

alone.

For most of you, a solitary morning stroll is nothing to write a blog post about.  Trust me, for me to go for a walk alone is enough to write the governor about! These days there’s a road that lies before me that looks absolutely impossible to travel.  During my morning prayer, I asked the Lord for navigation instructions.   To travel this road seems to require a faith greater than the faith I feel I possess, these days.

God’s answer to my morning petition was simple: “Go for a walk.”  I never go for walks alone.  Yet, for the past two weeks I’ve felt a distinct nudge working to prepare me for this moment.  For me, going for a walk alone is the equivalent of staring down the “boogey” man.  I knew this would be an exercise in facing my fear.  I hoped it would also be an exercise to reclaim my faith.  I was desperate.  I had no choice but to obey.

Although I knew “go for a walk” wasn’t the last of what my Lord would say to me this morning, I still grabbed my ancient iPod mini for some tunes to accompany me on the journey.  “I’ll listen to praise and worship,” I thought, as if that would make my attempt to drown out the voice of the Lord more acceptable.  To my surprise, or maybe not so much, the thing wouldn’t even turn on.  “Wow, Lord!  You didn’t have to kill my iPod,” I thought, as I parked the device on the shoe cubicle by the front door.

I locked up the house, then stood in the middle of the driveway.  Which way should I begin?  Trying not to delay the inevitable, I quickly chose to head off in the distance to my right.  The sky was sad, but I knew it would withhold its tears until my morning journey was complete.  Slowly, I put one foot in front of the other.  Left-right-left…  The sound of my Reeboks on the black asphalt only slightly disturbed the stillness of the 8 am hour.

I found myself looking back to see how far away I had gotten from home, from my safe place.  After a while, I could no longer see it.  I couldn’t see anything familiar, not my sister’s American sedan in the driveway, nor my brother-in-law’s German hatchback on the street.  Familiar was now somewhere far behind me, but I had to keep moving forward.  As I did, my heavenly Father began to speak:

Dad: “Monica, don’t forget without faith it is impossible to please me.”  Hebrews 11:6

Daughter: “Yes, Dad I know.  You know I’ve always stood on that word.  I used to think you’d given me the gift of faith, but lately it feels like I’ve done this “faith” thing all wrong.  I”ve been watching others who seem to have a “safer” approach, and I don’t know…  *sigh* I think I may like their way better.”

Daughter: “And another thing… I just don’t like walking alone.  I feel so vulnerable and exposed.  There’s no shield.”

Dad: “I am your shield.” Genesis 15:1

Daughter: “But I don’t know if I’m going in the right direction!  What if I’m wrong again?   Failure is just too painful!”

Dad: “Trust me with all your heart.  Stop thinking so much.  Keep your eyes on me, and I will direct your path.” Proverbs 3:5,6

There was so much I could say in response, but I knew He already “heard” me.  So, I kept walking.

There were birds up ahead.  Quite a few of them, I might add.  I’m afraid of birds.  However, as I approached, the birds scattered.

Dad: “Monica, did you notice how the birds fled as you approached?  The object of your fear scattered in all directions – north, south, east, and west.  You have no reason to fear.  Your enemies will flee, because I am with you.” Deuteronomy 28:25

Daughter: “I know! I know!  But I guess since I can’t “see” you sometimes I wonder if you’re really with me.  Lately, I feel so alone on this journey.

Dad: “Sometimes, as you take steps of faith, it will appear you are walking alone, and that’s ok.  That’s only in your natural world.  Remember, I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

So, I kept walking.  My comfort zone was no longer in sight, yet my faith and confidence in this new path were growing with each step.  My pace gave me away, as it quickened just a touch.

Dad: “You see Monica, having faith just means you obey me no matter what, you believe me no matter what and you trust me no matter what.  You keep moving even in the midst of your fears.  Give me your fears, and I’ll give confidence back to you.”

I rounded a corner, and suddenly out of nowhere a dog began to bark from his balcony, above my head.  Setting off a chain reaction, his next door neighbor now began to bark from his balcony.  They startled me.  I wasn’t expecting them, but as soon as I reminded myself not to be afraid, that the Lord was with me, the fear left.  And the dogs?  Well, I guess they returned to whatever they were doing before I arrived.  I never looked back.

So here are 10 navigational tools I took away from my morning walk that I’ll carry with me as I continue traveling the, seemingly, impossible road that lies ahead:

  1. Fear and faith are adversaries.  Fear paralyzes.  Faith propels.  Moving in faith positions you to fulfill God’s plan for your life.
  2. God is your shield and protection; He will never leave you.
  3. When you don’t know where to go, just start walking.  Very often you won’t receive additional direction until AFTER you step out.
  4. Use your failures as a walking stick.  Approach each new journey with the same fiery faith with which you approached the last ones. To continue in faith in the aftermath of failure deals a mighty blow to the  enemy and fills your Father’s heart with pleasure.
  5. The farther you get from “familiar”, the more you must rely on your “faith”.  It’s faith that pleases God.
  6. Obey the street signs.  Street signs provide direction.  They tell you how to proceed, identify where you are, and inform you of where you’re going and what’s up ahead. Your “street signs” for your journey of faith come from the word of God.
  7. Enjoy the flat land, and store up your energy.  There’s bound to be a hill up ahead.  An incline requires more energy but returns more strength.
  8. Speed bumps are strategically placed to regulate your pace.  They keep you from speeding to your destination and enable you to arrive safely.
  9. Occasionally you will reach a dead end.  No worries.  Simply turn around, go back in the direction you came from, and then choose another path. (always consulting your “street signs”)
  10. Lastly, faith without works is dead.  Be willing to go for a walk alone.

It has always brought me great joy to offer God what I know brings Him pleasure, and that is my faith.  His word doesn’t say that without faith it is difficult to please Him.  It says that without faith it is impossible to please Him.  Quite a big difference, wouldn’t you agree?  Yet trials, missteps, mishaps, setbacks, and seemingly forgotten promises have been working to erode my faith, to tarnish my offering.

But, this morning I went for a walk, alone.  I knew my journey was about facing my fear.  I hoped it was also about reclaiming my faith.  And so it was, my friend.  And so it was.

P.S.  It takes only faith the size of a mustard seed to move any “mountain”.  I’ll bet you have that much already!

The Uninvited Guest

A former acquaintance came to call on me New Year’s day (I’ve always wanted to use that expression. 🙂 ).  His visit was unexpected, meaning he was certainly NOT invited.   Maybe he thought I subscribed to the old wive’s tale (or somebody’s old tale) that a man should be the 1st to cross the threshold into your home on the 1st day of a new year.  He obviously doesn’t know me as well as he thinks, or in this case, as well as he used to.

I recognized him right away.  He still has the same, sneaky m.o., emitting the stench of doubt and uncertainty to announce his arrival.  It’s sad to admit, but our history is quite extensive.  Yes, we were acquainted for far too long.  It was always an awkward, one way, relationship.  Seems he was the only one to ever receive any satisfaction from it.  For me, it was simply the lure of an uncomfortable comfort zone.  As the curtain closed on the previous year, I made it perfectly clear that I wanted nothing else to do with him.  Despite my declaration, he decided to stop by anyway.  Determined….  He probably thought I was bluffing…

The scene quickly became intense.  There was no way I would allow him to cross the threshold, but he was content to not depart gracefully.  “Have it your way,” I thought.  I said I was walking away from the relationship, and I meant it!  By any means necessary, I was prepared to do whatever it took to make it clear that I have NO intentions on going back.  I would be free from his grasp once and for all.

He put up a struggle; I wasn’t surprised.  No worries.  I was trained to confront a tenacious competitor.  I closed my eyes, and I started swinging!!

God has not given me the spirit of fear.  I have POWER, love, and a sound mind! (2 Timothy 1:7 KJV) BAM!!

In God have I put my trust: I WILL NOT fear what man can do to me. (Psalm 56:11 KJV) BAM!!  BAM!!

The Lord commands me to be strong and of good courage; I WILL NOT fear!  Wherever I go, the Lord is with me. (Joshua 1:9 KJV)BAM!! He loses his balance and begins to stumble…

I am STANDING in my freedom in Christ!  I WILL NOT be entangled with your yoke of bondage ever again!! (Galatians 5:1 KJV) – KNOCK OUT!!!!  He never knew what hit him.

He had some nerve to show up here, and so early in the morning, too.  Triumphantly, I watched as Fear slithered away to whence he had come.  “Silly rabbit,” I thought.  “Tricks are for kids.”

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