difficult.

it always happens.

something good goes down in my life, i actually think i know joy….and then a few days, or weeks later my heart is back in the tank.

i am frustrated.

because i have tried for nearly 3 years now.
to make connections.
to create friendships with people my age.
to be able to be myself and have it be okay.

….and it still hasn’t happened.

oh, sure, i have a few friends, maybe 3 close friends.
yes that’s right. 3 close friends.
with all of the people that are my age group that i know, i find it incredibly disheartening that only 3 people ever plan to hang out, ever text me to see how i’m doing…there are only 3 people who really share life with me.

that is SO discouraging to someone who fights to be honest.

it puts SO MUCH doubt in my heart and in my mind.
because i never really for a second believe i belong to this “family” i’m joined to.
it’s nearly impossible for me to find reasons to stay in this town.

i want to go home.
i miss my real family more than words can express.
i miss the familiarity of the streets i grew up with, the small town life.
it’s practically impossible to see the stars in Kenosha. when i lived in Reedsburg i lay under the stars almost every clear night.

the stars always kept my heart still.
in all of the chaos of life, in all of the uncertainty, i could gaze upon the stars and KNOW that i wasn’t alone.
i have none of that assurance here and now.

time and time again it happens, i will be chatting with someone, trying my hardest to be social and get to know people, and someone else will run up and say to the person i’m speaking with, “hey! a bunch of us are going to [insert location] after [insert event] you wanna come??!” and that person typically replies, “sure! see ya there!” and then turns back to me to say “oh hey i gotta go but it was nice talking to you.”   **silence**  “you too.”

it’s happened more times than i can count.

and my heart is tired. exhausted actually.
because i just don’t belong here no matter how hard i try.
maybe i should have gone home a long time ago and i missed it.

living in this forsaken town is like trying to light a fire with soaking wet matches.
pointless and impossible.

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set apart this dream

Elizabeth or Elisabeth is the Greek transliteration (Ἐλισάβετ, Elisábet) of the Hebrew name Elisheva, meaning “God’s promise”

He chose me before the foundation of the world. [1 Peter 2:9]
He has known me in my most inmost being, the most delicate parts [Psalm 139]
He calls me beautiful. [Song of Solomon 1:15]
I am more valuable to Him than any animal. [Luke 12:7]

Ever since I was a small child I have known the presence of God.
His voice. His guiding. His watchful eye.
As a small child, running through the piles of crisp leaves on a brisk autumn afternoon I remember Him there. In the way the sun caught between the emptying tree branches and in the essence of the cool breezes that signified the winter to come.
He has always been with me.
I have always known I was His.

But then I was older.
I could think for myself.
It was easy to do whatever I wanted and ignore Him.
That’s when it got dangerous.
My delicate, innocent heart was left open to the lies.

…and I believed them. Every word.

it wasn’t long before I had forgotten those days as a child.
I was lost and afraid.
in a dark wood, covered by the terror of night.

then He came for me.
a dazzling streak of purity and strength shot across my night sky like a blazing star.
I strained against my chains and the manacles around my wrists reminded me it wasn’t going to be that easy. this was going to hurt.

He came for me that night.
when I saw His pure luminescence in the dark of the night, it was painful to my eyes.
painful to my heart.
I didn’t want Him to see me like this.

As I sat shaking in the cold and dark, He knelt down and reached to lift my chin.
Tears began to fall thickly and violently. Was this really happening?
I heard His smile, daring to gaze into His eyes. oh the love in His eyes…
He called me by my name then. softly. gently.
no one had used my name for such a long time..I had been so very alone.

Finally He stretched out His arm, reaching for my hands, reaching for the locks with no key.
it was there that fear swept me under. I shook my head and shoved my hands behind my back. I did not want Him to see the wounds, the marks the chains had left me with.
Not Him. Not like this. Not here.

instead of fighting me, He extended his arms around me protectively, holding me.
dirty me. broken me. scarred and wounded heart.
ultimately He won me over with His safety and persistence.
I sighed and looked up at Him.
“okay” I whispered, barely audible.

as I revealed my filthy, bloodied wrists to Him, I swear I could see tears in His eyes.
His strong, clean hands clasped over my wounds and He gingerly removed the heavy metal from my weary arms. at first I didn’t know what to do, I was still shaking.
we sat for a time, Him holding me; I was crying the entire time.
Eventually He rose and reached out His hand. He didn’t say a word, but I knew I could not stay here. this was my rescue.

I remember waking in a palace.
the most glorious light invaded my eyes and blinded me. was it really morning?
gazing around me I noted that I was wearing a gown and my skin was no longer blackened by dirt. could this be? surely I must be dreaming.

clambering out of the massive bed, my feet hit the warm carpeted floor and I scrambled to the door, seeking someone, anyone to help me. I did not belong here.

almost instantly, a kind blonde female, relatively close to my age entered the room, smiling warmly at me. “I’m so glad you’re awake!” she grinned, “we have much to do! the King wants to see you!!”

“The King…?” I replied back with a puzzled expression on my face.

“Oh yes! You’ve been asleep for days m’dear! He has not slept a wink since you got here, He only wants to be with you!” she gushed.

“Oh…um… are you sure He means me?” I hesitated. How much could I trust her?
“I’m not exactly…royalty…or even a common person. I’ve actually been a slave my whole life. See?” And I reached out my arms, shaking back the sleeves of the silky robe. Sure enough, there were clearly visible scars, only barely begun to heal. This, however, did not deter my new friend. She simply smiled knowingly and gestured for me to sit down.

“Yes. It’s you He is waiting for–He has been waiting for years. I have heard many stories from Him about you. He wasn’t exaggerating either, you are incredible and you are BEAUTIFUL.” she halted and looked full into my eyes. “There is a lot of work ahead of you. I am not saying this to frighten you, I am saying this to speak courage into your heart. Let me tell you something you ought to know: you once lived in this palace. You were stolen at a young age and forced into slavery. Many of us who live here had the same thing happen to them and it is ONLY because of the incredible love of our most precious King that we have been restored. He means to restore you also, but you MUST trust Him and you musn’t give up. There is much to do in your heart and He will not give up on you. Not ever. You have incredible value to Him.”

I must have looked utterly shocked because it was then she introduced herself. It was a name I recognized but I wasn’t sure why. Smiling, she answered my unspoken question. “We’re sisters. You had forgotten, but now you are remembering. You are waking up. You can trust me. We’re in this together.”

My head was swirling and I was glad she had then left me to get changed, though I wished she had stayed, this gown was ridiculous. Who even wore clothes like this?  I sighed deeply, “She was right…this IS going to be quite the process. This isn’t me at all.”

I didn’t even bother to touch my hair, what was the point? I didn’t know what I was doing at ALL, so why try? Irritated, I made my way down a long golden hallway towards a commotion and a noise. Why did I hear so many voices? How many people were in this place anyway? Still disoriented with my head trying to comprehend my…sister’s..words, I noticed two giant double doors. It seemed all the noise was behind them so I reached to open them and as I did so, they opened of their own accord.

My eyes were overwhelmed suddenly by the massive brilliance that was before me. There were hundreds of people, thousands maybe, all at a table that was a size I could barely believe. Once I shifted forward, straining to figure out whether or not I should even be here, the great hall went completely silent and I was afraid. Everyone was looking at me, some people were crying, others grinning in sheer excitement. There was a movement at the far end of the room and I just knew. It was Him.

And then He was running towards me.
He was faster than my fears.
There was nowhere to flee, nowhere to hide.
Then suddenly, He was before me.
Brilliance and splendor were shining from His face.
My knees buckled and as I began to crumple to the ground, He reached and caught me.
We embraced and I was crying.

The food was wonderful, but I barely remember it. I was enamored with Him.
Everything He said, how He treated everyone. His every movement captivated me.
There were so many faces, all of them I recognized yet I could barely remember them.
and then…it was over.

He lifted His hand and I put mine in His.
we rose from the table and ventured to a new place I had not yet seen.
it was a garden overlooking a great valley. the light was bright and everything was full of life. birds darted above us and butterflies danced all around.
there was a gleam in His eye and His joy was infectious. I couldn’t help myself, I laughed.
we wandered over to a glorious waterfall and facing each other, we sank to the ground talking and laughing, already reminiscing of the feast and the fun we had there.
He hadn’t let go of my hand and now He reached for the other one, I did not hesitate to give it to Him. this was SO safe. nothing could happen to me here.
with my heart full of joy, I couldn’t even imagine anything bad…that is, until He asked to see my wrists. “let me see the wounds. they are already healing, but I need to see”

shame flooded my heart and my face.

“No. You can’t.” I resisted.
It was then I noticed how much that hurt Him to hear. The pain it caused me to see Him hurt was more than I could bear. Gritting my teeth, I inhaled deeply and rolled back the sleeves of my satin gown. The blood was gone now, but the marks were extremely visible and deeply etched. Tears sprung to my eyes and visions of the darkness came back into my heart.

“You are safe here. I love you. I have saved you for a reason. Everything from now on will be okay. I will NEVER leave you.”

Courage rose in me and I threw my arms around Him only to realize He was already embracing me. This was joy.

As the weeks went on, and we spent more and more time together He began to tell me who I really was, explain what happened to me and we walked through healing together. Day by day He built courage and strength into me, a boldness I had never known became my own.

He began explaining about how there were others like me, lost and still bound to death and darkness. “Together.” He said we would bring freedom. He asked me if I was able to fight with Him.

As long as He was by my side I knew I could do anything.

Then one afternoon, He began to speak to me about love.
He gave me a promise, but He asked me to wait.
“Set apart this dream for me” He requested.

It was the night before I was to go on a mission, a very important and dangerous mission to recover one of our own and I couldn’t sleep. Completely restless and feeling the heaviest of weight on my shoulders, I left my chambers and began pacing beneath the light of a silver moon in the valley garden I had come to love and adore. The cool night air was refreshing to my lungs and taking deep breaths, I gave myself space to think and calm down.  I was not very long gone, not very far away from the castle when I faltered in my step and waited.

“I’m so glad You’re here. I couldn’t sleep.” turning my head, I felt Him rest His hand on my shoulder.

“Yes, I know.” He replied. “Remember: I am WITH you wherever you go.”
Smiling I reached out and placed my hand in His, letting Him lead me back to the castle gates. “Come.” He beckoned, “Let us rest before the seige begins. We will need all our strength.”  As He led me back to my room, I noticed an assurance in my stride I had not known previously. I was His and nothing was going to change that.
He left me in my room with a kiss to my forehead and I soon fell fast asleep.
That night in my dreams I could see the hurting and the hearts abandoned.
My yearning to see them know love was more than enough.
I slept so well that night, but before I knew it, morning had come again and it was time to go.
As I slipped into my fitted armor, I reached for my sword and noticed a piece of paper near the hilt. A letter? For me? My trembling fingers broke through the wax seal and as the words leaped off the page and seared themselves on my heart, I gripped my sword ever tighter and firmly set my face to the east. Time to go.

“oh, lovely and beautiful, precious and priceless
you’re so much more than you know, heart of the purest gold
pure clean and white as snow clothed in such splendor
oh, what a beauty for Me”

He is healing you.

“You won’t always feel this messy. He is healing you.”

i could barely read the words, let alone believe them in my heart. this was too hard and i had no idea how i would ever be able to do this. i had built up this support system around me, people to help me, people to run to when i wasn’t okay and suddenly what was looming on my horizon was Jesus. me and Jesus. nothing else. no one else. 

let me rewind a bit.

my head was a flurry of insanity and my everyday life was full of non-stop activity. i had just moved into a new place and was starting to build relationships with my new roommates. there was a break in to our home and while much was stolen, it was very clear that we were being kept safe by something stronger than any of us. my duties at work began increasing as my boss chose to assign more and more tasks to me requesting that i take on project after project and it was nice to know i was reliable and hard working enough that so soon my heart and attitude were paying off. the days were busy and typically stressful in some form, however it wasn’t the stress that was crippling. 
i just wasn’t dancing with Jesus like i was used to.

things had been hard for awhile but my life always has had ups and downs, fairly dramatic and often enough that more often than not i simply held on as the ride pulled me along.  i never enjoyed the ride, the up and the down and it often terrified me. so much fear in my heart… i always believed someday things would change…but someday was a fantasy in my mind, a mountain peak of sunshine and glory that i never seemed able to apply to today. naturally, i kept surviving the whirlwind even though my heart was exhausted and it seemed like all i ever did when i wasn’t working or at activities, was sleep. often i would forget to eat and even when i would remember i wasn’t interested in food, i just forced it down and moved on to the next item on my agenda, on my never-ending list of to-do’s. 

rewinding a bit more…
back right before i moved, when i knew i was moving and i knew it was right, but i had no clue where or how or when it would work out, i had a long VERY hard conversation with a dear friend. as much as i have known her and her heart, she has never been one to accept “okay” as a state of being and in all honesty i was often afraid to keep in touch because it meant being honest and being challenged. i’ve never been very good at either of those things, especially relationally. so, like any other person would do, i tried avoiding the tough conversations and i only talked about what seemed acceptable. what seemed “churchy” and “appropriate”. i wasn’t living with grace and i knew it, but it seemed too far away and so i stopped trying to brush shoulders with it. 

so here i was, sitting in my room, on a very cold and dark night wrapped in a thick blanket with my space heater on, trying to warm myself enough so that i would stop shaking. eventually i would figure out it was fear and trepidation and i would shed the blanket, why hide when there was nowhere to go? 

a nervous smile and an attempted friendly “hello” and the conversation was swirling around me before i could even know how to keep myself protected and safe. i didn’t know how to share my aching heart, i was too afraid of voicing fears because then they might become real and if i could barely speak them, how on earth could i face them? how could i fight them? 

we talked.
i grinned.
and cried.
i was honest. and it hurt.
but… there was no anger or disapproval. no shaming or harsh words.
i shared my struggles and my heartache and was met with love and a very still personality that wouldn’t let me stop when i thought i had gone too far with my words. and then… this friend posed a very deep and important question to my heart. a question that even now i ponder and think about.

“do you honestly believe that you would be happier in your life without God?”

i was silent as the words saturated the air. i could feel my heart pounding, but knowing she was miles away i didn’t bother to stop it from racing in my chest.

“i….don’t know.” was all that i was able to weakly reply. 
and i really didn’t know. fear had gotten the best of me and i had all of these “escape plans” with what i would do if everything failed and nothing worked out. if i had to move from Kenosha, if i had to live by myself…i had even entertained thoughts of worse alternatives. 
but this question? it ceased my mind. it halted my breathing and for the first time in ages i stopped and went back to what caused me to leave my hometown in the first place. back then it was nothing short of Jesus that pushed me out of the nest and forced me to fly. somewhere along the lines i had forgotten what i was doing here. my purpose and passion had been stolen from me and even though i thought i had an answer to this question, i wasn’t quite sure how to get back what had been taken from me in only a couple months. 

our conversation ended after much more time than either of us had planned and by the end i wasn’t wanting to say goodbye. then i spoke a longing, more likely more in the form of a whisper than a word, but i said it nonetheless. “i wish you could be here. more than anything.” in my heart i knew it was foolish and completely wistful but i couldn’t help but hope that maybe, just MAYBE it could happen again someday soon. BUT then it was time for both of us to go, sleep was calling and i had a lot of thinking to do. before falling asleep, for the first time in quite awhile i actually opened my heart up to Jesus. my friend told me to do this you see. this is how she pushes me. makes me fight.

that night i cried a lot. and He held me. held my heart. 
for the first time in many many days, many many nights, i rested. and i could breathe again.

….fast forward to April 13th. it was a chilly very cold sort of morning, and not just cold by the air, but cold in existence. granted, i was awake at 4am after not falling asleep until nearly 1:30 but i could push past that pretty easily. Joelle was coming to visit. i was simultaneously afraid and incredibly excited. i literally had no expectations and still i knew it would be wonderful beyond imagination. as i rode to Midway airport with Heidi (worst drive ever!) my tired brain was overanalyzing everything that could possibly happen while i chatted with Heidi and we played our favorite songs. (yes, Disciple happened.) about 15 minutes before Joelle’s flight was to arrive, we shimmied into a parking spot and raced to find a bathroom. (girls+coffee+long drive=run). in no time at all, both Heidi and i were scanning every pair of feet coming down the escalators for the ones that were familiar. for the dear friend we both love very much. then suddenly (as i was looking the wrong direction, naturally) Heidi exclaimed “there she is!” and i looked up to see Joelle smiling at me and i knew i was already grinning. she had barely made it over to us before i was squeezing her tight, my heart feeling as though it were about to burst with joy. we spent the next 4 hours wandering the streets of downtown Chicago and even though it was sleeting and wet, i was having the time of my life. i felt so ALIVE.  ….by the time we got back to Kenosha i was exhausted. we all were and Joelle and i literally chilled in her bed for a couple few hours. we went over the tentative plans for the next few days. i felt like i was waking up from a really long nap and though all of these things were disorienting, i managed to hang out and have conversations. there was a lot of incredible laughter and deep heart moments shared. 

i will never forget the one night Joelle was visiting…and when i was struggling. the whole day i was really off and no matter what i did it was like i was on the outside looking in at everyone else’s happiness. granted, more like than not i really needed sleep…but i was down for the count and the enemy was having a field day with my mind. throughout church and lunch and a photoshoot we did… i was a mess in my head. it was like i was locked up and pounding on the doors but no one could hear me and i couldn’t claw my way out. i wanted to cry and just curl up in a corner in my room, but there was no way i could do that because my friend was visiting and well, to put it simply, there was no way she was going to let me do that and i knew it. so i fought to hide how i was feeling and i smiled and nodded and laughed on cue, but it was killing me inside. 
once we got back to my house and it was just us, we were relaxing before dinner (like i could even think of food) and i crawled under the covers with Joelle sitting beside me and i curled into a ball fighting tears. unexplicably i was deeply sad. whether it was because i was tired or Joelle was leaving soon, it didn’t matter. i wasn’t okay and this was the worst time to have to deal with this. 

but then i was deeply surprised. 
Joelle stated, “i have an idea” and left me sit there with a confused look on my face.
she turned around and handed me her bible.
i was even more confused than ever.
“um…?” i looked at her quizzically. 
“you’re going to read some verses” she took the book from me and began flipping through the pages. 
“…right now?”
“yes. right now. here.” and she handed her bible back to me. “read.”
i gulped.
Psalm 139.
my voice shook and i hesitated but Joelle wasn’t backing down on this. i decided to just do it and get it over with, i needed to find out what her angle was. why was she doing this?
i finished the specific section and she took the book back into her hands and flipped forward quite a few pages as i waited. so many questions.
1 John 3:1
1 Peter 2:9-10
Luke 12:7
Matthew 11:28-30
Psalm 145:18
Jeremiah 29:11-14
i was doing okay, most of the verses i recognized though a couple i was amazed that she had chosen them… i had heard these words from others before. i started to pay attention when i realized this wasn’t random. these were words over my life. then finally she said “okay one more” and as i noted that it was Psalm 18, i also realized i wasn’t very familiar with that one. so i opened my mouth and soberly began to speak the words on the page. very quickly they began to impact me. my voice faltered and i got choked up reading the lines. these were things i knew to be true. i had lived them. my emotions welled up and i was holding back tears. i was nearly finished when someone yelled “time to eat!” and i paused, looking up at Joelle, extremely affected by what i had just read. she held my gaze and asked me if i believed the bible to be true. i responded “yes, of course” and she continued, “okay good. THIS (and she held up the book) is truth. everything. else. IS. A. LIE.” it was very firm but i could sense something deeper in it. i didn’t understand it, but this was love and it caused me to have to brush away tears. i looked up and noticed that she had written in my journal a list of specific verses and i didn’t even have to ask why. they were to read. and to believe. and to FIGHT with….my identity. 

Joelle went home the following day, but our time together impacted me in ways i couldn’t even have imagined. days after i would re-read what i wrote in my journal, “i’m not used to being loved like this. she demands my honesty and she GETS it.” and those words were very true. it wasn’t that i didn’t know love, it was that this was different and it was unique enough to cause me to be shoved out of my ‘routine’ and force me to BE different. 

the point in explaining her visit was to display how i am challenged and my boundaries are pushed to their near limits. this is where i was when Joelle brought up a discussion about SOZO healing prayer. 

i had never heard of it before nor had i really had any experience with this kind of thing. i only knew that i could trust God and i could trust Joelle. so, with Joelle’s constant encouragement (i knew she had gone through it herself and thusly she truly believed in it) and a nudge from the Holy Spirit, i made a phone call and exchanged a few emails with a lovely woman named Holly. before i even could change my mind we had set up a time for a sozo session and i was asking off work in the middle of the week.

the day before my sozo is where i began this post, i was full of fear of the unknown, fear that God wouldn’t speak and general nervousness about what was going to happen here. i was texting my dear friend about how i was feeling and where i was at when she spoke those words to me. “He is healing you.” and she was just SO sure that i clung to her words and her faith and chose to do this, going all or nothing. if i was doing it, i was going to give everything to it. 

morning dawned clear and bright that day. it was already nearly 60 degrees at 8am and i made sure to wear a light t-shirt, something comfortable at least. with the word “love” emblazoned across my chest on my bright purple shirt, i set my course for Burlington where Holly and her sozo team awaited me. i was a bit nervous to meet them in person for the first time, but other than that i was actually quite peaceful. it was a comfortable, warm drive out to the city and as i neared my destination i discovered the Nestle chocolate factory. yes. it smelled amazing…. but i was on a mission and would not be deterred for any reason. 

9:20 am.
-i climbed out of my car, took a deep breath and began the short trek from my parking spot to the building i was headed towards. 

9:25 am.
-climbing a short flight of stairs i made my way down a wide hallway with a slight hesitation. i heard soft music and it sounded of gentle Christian radio. it was no song i recognized although i was okay with that, it was certainly the last thing on my mind. 

9:30am.
-i sat down in a comfortable arm chair with three lovely ladies around me and Holly opened in prayer. i took a deep breath and unclenching my fists, i let go of all apprehension and whispered, “okay God. let’s do this.”

2 hours later.
-i was walking out into the sunshine. i thought i was soaring.
i couldn’t stop grinning and i was laughing even though i was by myself.
the sunshine warmed my skin and as i strolled back to my car i knew things were going to be different. 

forgiveness is powerful.
healing is possible. 
and Jesus? He’s waiting to give more than you can imagine.