death and life.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
-2 Corinthians 5:17 

It has been one year. For anyone who knows me well, you  know that one year ago, I went to three concerts of my favorite band in one month in two different states.  While attending those shows I was changed in ways that words cannot even accurately describe.  I will suffice it to say I was depressed and dying and ready to end everything in my life and in one month I discovered hope and life and peace and joy and what it means to have Jesus Christ “dwell in you richly”.  If you are unfamiliar with that story and chapter of my life, you can read about it here.  I encountered the love of God in such a way that it completely changed me, I was baptized in the Holy Spirit and within 3 weeks, moved out of my parents’ house and ventured to Kenosha, WI.  In the last year I have done things I would NEVER have dreamed of doing, met people I never thought I would get to know and God has transformed my life already.  Shortly after moving, I met a lovely couple, Brian and Lindsey Cowen and soon after that, we began doing photography together.  Shorter still after that, I ended up moving into their house with them and becoming part of their family essentially.  Because of them, I attended the One Church Ministries annual conference in Merrilville, Indiana.  Throughout that whole weekend, I was overwhelmed by God so many times… the journal entries I wrote still blow me away.  I KNEW God would show up and speak to me and He did in a ginormous way. He showed me things about my life and my future, spoke to me about change that was coming, built a faith in me and a boldness that I’d never known before and most importantly… began stripping away things in my life that I had used to build me up, things He had no intentions of letting stay in places where He belonged. Suffice it to say, I encountered something very difficult before the conference and God wasn’t finished with that.

If I could pick a theme for the last year of my life, it would be “death and life”.  In the death of the parts of me that are no good, that are not what God is wanting to refine in me, He has brought me life…and so much more abundantly than I could EVER have imagined.

In November, my best friend, Mary Burklin, flew from Texas to Wisconsin and we met in person for the first time in over 3 years of friendship. We had some insane adventures involving someone getting us lost in Schaumburg, IL at 5 am (yeah it was me……) and  God speaking to both of us in such intensity, we weren’t prepared.  (Honestly, we have this connection that God has used to seal our friendship many times over and why we didn’t realize it would be more intense when we were together, I have no idea 😛 ) So..yeah..she came and visited and her last day here, I dropped her off at the airport and proceeded to get into the car with my friends Cara and Joelle and go catch yet a 3rd night on the tour that Mary and I had gone to twice.  It was the final night of the tour and prank night for sure.  I got to watch Trent get covered in flour and water during a prank and spent time afterwards, helping clean up his kit while Skillet performed.  It felt very empty to not have Mary there after the previous two nights and so I was clinging to God with everything, helped along by the kind words and laughter of my friends in Disciple.  Finally, it was time to leave and for the first time in ages, I left a show feeling very confused and lost.  Luckily, my friend Cara was driving and her and Joelle were talking enough that I was able to be alone with my thoughts and the strange ache I was experiencing in my chest.  However, Joelle is ridiculous and I love her for it. She put on a song (on purpose) that I had mentioned before just hits home for me and I couldn’t stop myself, I was sobbing in the backseat of Cara’s car.  It was painful yet now looking back I can say with complete confidence that it was also healing.

Mere weeks later, God spoke to Mary and she took a hiatus from everything online and everything outside of her own immediate family and life.  I knew it was because God spoke it to her, but I felt like someone had clawed my heart from my chest and I was left gasping… I didn’t know what do without her for support. (this should have sent up warning signs to me a long long time ago but i never noticed).  So for over one month, I was ripped limb from limb by God and just when I didn’t think I had anything left in me to break apart, He began putting me back together.  Slowly, and cautiously on my part, I let Him work.  I began finding myself building relationships with people around me, not bothering to keep them at arm’s length because I knew there was nothing anyone could do that would hurt me more than I was already hurting, I was completely raw and quite apathetic.  I remember going to a women’s worship night and just striking up conversations with people who I had seen a hundred times but didn’t know at all.  I didn’t walk away feeling any different but I knew something in me had changed.

Then after a series of events and talking to an amazing friend (thank you Sydney!!!) I discovered I had no idea what grace was.  Immediately hungry to know, I asked Cara to borrow her book “God’s Lavish Grace” by Terry Virgo.  I remember sitting in my room one Monday morning, finishing the 2nd chapter and just crying.  I ran upstairs and even though the girls were napping I was shouting “GRACE!!!!” and Lindsey was laughing knowingly and Brian was alarmed and I was laughing and grinning for the first time in over a month.  Things only improved by leaps and bounds after that… and then God began to speak to me about foundations.  I ended up reading about the man who built his house upon the rock and the man who built his house upon the sand (Matthew 7:24) and I finally understood that what God had been stripping away, was a foundation that I had built that was not solid, was not in Him.  In the moment it hurt and didn’t make sense but now in hindsight, I’m like “YEAH” it was good.  Shortly after all of this happened, I started doing the Vision & Commitment course at my church. We went through several lessons and then hit the one about water baptism and God really spoke to me about it. “You need to do this. The time is right.” So I did. And it was amazing. There is a link HERE for anyone who would like to watch it.

The whole baptism weekend was insane.  I went back to my parent’s house on Thursday evening and spent Friday getting housekeeping items done then Saturday woke up and headed out to Madison for the Rock and Worship Roadshow.  When I was merely 5 minutes away, on the highway, my brake line snapped and disaster struck.  I began freaking out and panicking…. trying to figure out what to do.  Fear gripped me and I somehow got my car parked at the closest gas station, climbed out and shaking, called my mom.  The minute she got there and her and my dad assessed my car situation, I lost it. Tears and shaking and feeling completely hopeless.  I wasn’t going to get to go to the show, I wasn’t going to get to get baptized the next day…how was I going to get to work Monday morning??  Finally, after awhile my mom figured things out and I crammed into my parent’s minivan with my sisters, my sister’s friend and my 2 friends….we headed onwards to the roadshow.  I was still shakey and felt really sick to my stomach.  I was hoping and praying I wouldn’t get sick.  We got to the venue and I immediately set off for a bus I know so very well by now.  How I kept myself together that whole time I couldn’t tell you, by the strength of God only I’m sure… so I ended up hanging out with friends and this led to me actually legitimately calming down and knowing God’s peace.  Kevin appeared after awhile and sat next to me… I was okay and thanks to Alyssa everyone on the bus heard I was getting baptized the following day; all of my beautiful friends rejoiced with me and I was sososo happy.  Then, we went into the venue for the show, had a beautiful time and left, I went home and slept got up after like 4 hours and started driving my mom’s minivan to Kenosha. I was getting baptized. Nothing was stopping me.

Through everything that has happened, I can clearly see the hand of God and I am SO grateful and thankful that His protection covers me. His blood covers me.
I am going to end this blog post with my current favorite song.  It’s by Jesus Culture and has encouraged me so very much in the last week.  Click HERE.

Your love never fails.

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