Sometimes we fall in love with something so ridiculously ordinary and sometimes that thing, that beloved, dear thing, becomes an idol in our lives.
For anyone who knows my story and how God rescued my life, for those of you who know who He used, and the situations He used…well you already probably know what I am going to write about. The rest of you who have no idea? Either a) ask me about my story b) read my old blog posts or c) keep reading.
A family to me. Really great friends. A huge light into my life and for about 3 years, they were the only way I knew to hear God. When I had given up on hope and life itself, God snuck their music into my life and into my heart began to grow His truth and love via the words Kevin would speak into my life, and the lyrics that many days were my strength and breath.
Depression would claw me under and I would put on Disciple’s music and, gasping, resurface. I found friendships in the community of music lovers and suddenly I had a reputation. I was somebody. Even that hardly mattered, these people loved me and were never afraid to say it, to remind me many times.
Instead of believing what God says about me clearly in His word, suddenly if I didn’t have validation from these friends of mine, it wasn’t enough. Several of my friends became very frustrated because they could see how unreachable I was becoming. As for me? I was surviving the only way I knew how in those days.
Then… it was the weekend of my church’s conference where our 5 congregations would come together, including past school of worship students, and spend a weekend getting focused on God together. Everyone comes expectant and God shows up and speaks big things. But…. I was having a very hard time making friends and getting to know people. My natural tendencies to be an introvert were winning and no one seemed to understand how frustrated I felt. To top it off, in the weeks and months leading up to the conference, no matter how hard I tried, I could not find anyone to share a room with….since there was no way I could afford a room myself for a whole weekend, I gave up on going.
In the meantime, two of my good Disciple boardie friends contacted me and said “hey there’s this show in Illinois the same weekend, on the Saturday, do you want to go?”
Believing I wasn’t going to the conference, I agreed.
To make a complicated story short… I ended up going to the conference.
And the show.
A lot of people were upset with me for leaving the conference that day.
I struggled with shame and condemnation for months after the whole thing happened.
To make it even more confusing, I had an incredibly rebuking conversation with the person at the show that I was looking for affirmation and friendship from… I cried a lot and didn’t know who I was in that moment. My past was chasing me and I couldn’t run fast enough. This one beautiful thing… I had ruined it. Destroyed it. Again. Messed up. Failure.
Then I spent 6 months on a hiatus. From the music, from shows (and there were shows!), Disciple released a new album and I took just enough time to give it a quick listen and read the album notes & lyrics. Then I put it on a shelf again and pushed it all away– out of bounds and not okay to even think about for a second. I disappeared from the online community and didn’t even keep up with texts anymore from people I considered friends.
Somewhere along the way, I gained an intimacy with God. I began digging deeply into Him in ways I didn’t know were there. Without relying on Disciple, I began to hear God differently…. and more. SO MUCH MORE. God spoke to me in this time about doing the Living Light School of Worship for the 2013-2014 school year. ( http://www.schoolofworship.us ) I found great fear in this direction, but then I worked on overcoming that fear. I filled out my application, and even turned it in… I talked to people about it… In those 6 months I began to build relationships with people in my church, at my job. I spent time reading books and drawing again… I started a 90 day Bible reading plan (yes read the bible in 90 days) and even though it’s been way longer than 90 days, I’m halfway through and that is still a huge accomplishment. There was a boldness in me that was build, a certain security in God and in hearing His voice and not being afraid to share what He was telling me. One of my best friends kept nudging and asking me about my gifting in hearing God’s voice. She spoke words about showing a strong gifting of prophecy… we had a few conversations that had me shaking most of the way through, but do you know what? I got through them. It became easier to talk about things. It wasn’t so hard to say I was afraid and why.
One evening, I came home from work and went to check my Facebook — I was expecting a message from my mom. As the home screen loaded, I noticed a Disciple show posting. Illinois? Just 3 weeks away? How did I not know about this? Typically I would have been planning this for ages… Suddenly I was seized with fear. Of course I couldn’t go. Didn’t God give me sharp, strong rebuke the last time? Didn’t everything crumble in my hands when I went the last time? Completely lost in the turmoil in my head, I curled into a ball in my bed and whispered, “God please just speak to me about it. If it’s no, then tell me no. I would almost rather it be no. It would be easier.” Shortly after, I fell soundly asleep.
Two days later it was still heavy on my heart, and I had been talking with God about it. I still felt a HUGE apprehension about the whole thing, but I knew this time I was not going to hastily jump into a decision. I got together with one of my best friends, I talked deeply with my homegroup leader and friend… firstly I shared with my roommates. In all of this, I was seeking God hard. Every. Day. I was listening for His strong, “NO.”
But I never found it.
Instead of answers, He began showing me Himself. He revealed depths of His kindness to me, He answered my heartache with mercy… but the strongest thing He gave me was a new understanding of grace and His love IN His grace.
It stopped being important whether or not I went, I didn’t get super excited about going, because I didn’t know if I would. As I voiced to my best friend Cara, “If I wake up the morning of the show and God tells me ‘Don’t go’, then I won’t be able to go.” In the depth of Himself that He had graciously revealed to me, I was lost in awe.
The morning of the show dawned wet and fairly warm for early February. I woke up singing a Jesus Culture song and I couldn’t do anything until I played it several times through. While I sang and whirled around the kitchen making coffee and breakfast, I knew I was going.
Naturally, I gave myself a tentative timeline…I knew it was forecasted crazy amounts of snow but it was just raining… rain on a warm day was harmless. I finished getting ready, double checked that I had everything I needed and set out to drive 2 hours to Elgin, Illinois.
The drive was fairly simple, following my Siri on my GPS, it was the most uneventful drive into uncharted territory I had ever taken (I get lost a lot). Hallelujah for the iPhone!!
As I made my way deeper into Illinois, driving through towns I had heard of been never been to, the rain continued on and I couldn’t help but sing heavy worship songs. I wore out my Kim Walker album and moved onto Hillsong United before deciding I needed some serious Jesus-jam time and cranking up The Spark. I made a pit stop at a Target, grabbed a quick lunch and re-set my GPS. 15 minutes ETA.
WHOA. Fifteen minutes? What a FAST car trip!!
In no time at all I pulled up to the venue and with shaking, nervous hands, I switched off my car’s engine. The rain was steadier now, thicker drops now. Quieting my racing thoughts, I took the time to ask God for comfort and peace. To keep my head straight and keep my heart and motives purely about Him. He answered me with a warmth and a joy and, climbing into the drizzle, I couldn’t help but grin.
Fast forward about 45 minutes later when I met up with the Disciple guys. Finally curling my legs under me, on the cushions of the bus that always feels as comfortable as home, I met the new fellows and after he finished up part of his video game, Kevin came to chit chat. We caught up the whole afternoon, and just generally had goofy fun…something I hadn’t really done for awhile. It wasn’t that at home I didn’t let myself, it was different.
Finally, I could be myself with this friend. There was no fear, no trying to impress, no pressing agenda. For the first time since I ever could remember, I didn’t have something I felt the NEED to talk about… I was good. Really good. So we chilled. And laughed a lot. And I’m apparently a good cheer leader when you’re playing a video game that you passionately wish to accomplish a new level of awesome in… I was greatly reminded of times with my older brothers growing up, except I was able to share bits of things God was doing and speaking to me, just like any other normal conversation.
I had a lot of joy to give and it was just overflowing. I couldn’t stop laughing, couldn’t stop grinning and there were times when I would hear negative things like “yeah I’m actually pretty absent you know” and I was just like NO YOU ARE NOT. Completely aware that it was not *my* normal reaction to say those things, I just knew they were lies from the enemy that I was pretty sure caused problems when no one else was around. I heard enough of those in my life to understand the kind of damage they can do to a person. It was like I could not resist speaking truth, and then there was the part where they fed me coffee. It was lovely and appreciated but oh my goodness do I get chatty.
We went inside to have dinner, and I actually ate. A legit meal.
If you know me at all, I never used to eat before shows. I just couldn’t.
Whether it was nerves or what, there was never a chance of me eating like at ALL on show days, even if it wasn’t Disciple. It didn’t matter, I wouldn’t be able to stomach anything except caffeinated beverages until after the show was over. But this day I had breakfast, lunch and now I was eating dinner. In front of people too. With my friend. All of these things had me really reeling. Is this what change is like?
Soon enough, it was show time. And I was excited, but…. it was different. The whole time I had been praying, asking God for a huge impact. It didn’t look like there was a huge crowd and that made me sad because crowded shows can be the most fun…but I knew that didn’t matter. God could initiate a crazy impact at a show of 10 people if he wanted to. Fully believing I was here for a reason and that it was going to be really great, I just thanked God for what He purposed to do this night. We were backstage and the crews were switching out the sets and instruments, the guitar techs and players were setting up and it was just me and my friend backstage off to the side. He peeked his head out to really check out the crowd and the stage and venue, and he turned around and came back to wait.
As people pushed past us carrying things, bustling and getting things done, suddenly looking at my friend I could see and hear God speaking to me. annointing. NOW GOD??? You are going to speak to me NOW?? He’s about to go on stage and perform. There’s nothing I can DO right now!
And then I stilled myself and took a deep breath.
Maybe this is why I was here.
Okay God. What are You speaking to me right now? I’m listening, I’m okay to hear You.
And then just like so many other times when I bring words to people, I knew to pray. I didn’t know what words I needed to say, but I never worry about that. God never disappoints in these situations.
Putting my hand on Kevin’s shoulder, I simply offered, “Hey, I really feel that I am supposed to pray for you right now.” In a completely unexpected response, I saw eyes of complete humility looking back at me and my incredible friend replied, “Okay let’s stand over here so we’re out of the way.” I nodded and we scooted away from the main walk area. As I lifted my hands up and lay them on his shoulders, the words just began to flow as I knew they would. What God whispered to me, I voiced with a boldness I didn’t know was in me. In it all, I completely KNEW the power of God working in me and it was easy to believe and see the annointing being poured out. God was moving and He chose me in this moment.
With joyful tears in my eyes, I finished with a deep heart-felt thanks to my amazing, beloved God and grinning again, squeezed my friend hard one last time.
“I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen. See you in a few!” and I disappeared into the darkness and the crowd.
Melodies and drum beats were very quickly echoing in that small room, hope was rising and as I clapped and jumped, I couldn’t stop WORSHIPPING God. I just KNEW He was reaching people and my story of great Redemption was brought to my mind. As Kevin sang and screamed the truth, the lyrics that I knew would reach hearts, the Holy Spirit residing in me was just DANCING and naturally I could not be still.
“We’re more than faces,
We’re more than just names,
We’re more than labels, the hypocrites gave,
With the affection of the Unseen,
We are the sons and daughters of the King!”
It was Sunday morning corporate worship at a small little rock show in Elgin, Illinois.
God strongly showed me that I don’t need to hear Him solely from the words of my friend.
He reminded me just how clearly I *do* hear Him. He reminded me of His incredible kindness and choosing of my life. He gave me a clear view of my past and His glorious name painted in crimson over everything I used to be chained to.
Two years later, God had taken a scared, empty, shell of existence and turned it into a vessel.
Instead of Kevin praying for me, like on that night in Rhinelander, Wisconsin so long ago now, it was me speaking and praying and following His leading.
It was and is one of the most humbling things I have yet to experience.
Yes, I am still learning and I’m still messing up– a lot, but even in that, His story is remarkable.
Redemption always wins.