the time that i learned to live in grace.

guys, i’m human.
painfully human more than i would ever care to admit to most people.

i love my perfectly curated instagram feed and getting my nails done and having my eyeliner be perfectly shaped. most of the time, it’s enjoyable to me– a type of self expression and outlet for my creativity. but sometimes, it can become a constricting prison cell- making everything perfect and just-so because it’s easier to maintain a persona than be real and vulnerable.

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but God knows i hate vulnerability. He understands why and more often than i would like, He reminds me and teaches me that vulnerability and honesty lead to clarity and healing. truth and healing are terrifying to me which is bizarre right? you would think that the concept of healing and the concept of freedom-bringing clarity would be attractive to someone who has a history of desperately needing both– but, you also should know that slavery can often seem more appealing than freedom. freedom requires faith and a LOT of trust that you aren’t going to be discarded and hurt worse in the end. if left to fester, the fear that holds you back from that kind of freedom can cause a lot of damage and wreak havoc in your spirit that will bring you to a place of shutting down and putting up thick concrete walls. fear is a horrible master and a filthy liar – if you are reading this right now and know there is fear with its ugly hand gripping your heart, don’t feel alone. and don’t give up. fear never wins when Love has a say.

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in the last few months i’ve been learning this on a deep and hellishly challenging level. back in May, i was hurt by a situation that caused me to have major flashbacks of my life before it was surrendered to jesus. crippling anxiety returned more than full force and for the first time in my adult life, i considered going on medication for it so i could cope and make it through my nights as well as my days. had it not been for my utterly stubborn, anti-drug self, i probably would have gone through with it…. but, i chose to keep trying other methods, most of which helped for awhile but didn’t heal me–they couldn’t fix me. there was something hurt and damaged beyond where i could reach, but i wouldn’t let anyone else near enough to the wound to even have hope of it disappearing. the most unfortunate part was how jaded i was about the whole situation. i kept reassuring myself and the few who knew what happened that i was fine, that everything was kosher and that there was nothing to worry about, i wasn’t harmed. the problem was, i was still holding onto it with a clenched tight fist and i wouldn’t let go. couldn’t let go.

fast forward to July: as often happens when God is teaching me something and i’m not understanding or letting Him finish the lesson, something else happened. the difference was, this time i reacted. i turned inward, began hating myself and without intentionally choosing to, i began agreeing with fear and lies that started to destroy me. just like before, a wound had happened but instead of letting God reach in and restore things, i tried to handle it myself. in many ways, He forced me to confront the situation to where it was obvious that i needed to let Him have it. but once again, i didn’t and i couldn’t. my pride was too stubborn, the fear was gripping me too tight and i wasn’t even fighting it anymore at this point. i didn’t understand Love reaching out to me and screaming in my face, “you are about to FALL. STOP. and if you fall too far, you’re going to fall where you can’t feel anymore.” by this point, i knew things weren’t right, i knew i needed something, i knew i needed Him somehow — but i didn’t know how to let Him work this time. two nights before i was about to travel, i recall laying in my bed, tears streaming down my face and just whispering to Him with a heart drenched in sorrow, “Jesus, PLEASE.” His quiet and gentle response was to remind me of His promise. healing is what He promised.

with the encouragement of my soul’s sister reminding me that God can redeem ANYTHING because it’s who He is, i crawled into my car and 5 hours later stood staring up at the daunting, yet safe site of one of my favorite places on earth. i knocked and walked inside, the instantly familiar faces gave me space to breathe and for the first time in a very long time, i had space in my heart and in my head to believe. as i tucked myself into a quiet corner of this space, surrounded by friends, i slowly began to open up. cautiously and slowly, like a fragile rosebud in the early morning light, in this atmosphere of shelter, i smiled again, i laughed again. for the first time in awhile, i was present and i was okay.

and as they often do, my closest friends pulled me back out of my head and into light- into breathing and being ALIVE. so when it was suddenly inquired of me, “how are you doing?” i jumped a mile, right back into the arms of fear. with my heart thumping wildly in my throat, i mumbled a response that was not adequate, and not even really an answer… but i refused to hide anymore. instead, i changed the subject – knowing that even not being okay right then was somehow okay because it wasn’t going to stay that way. in my head i told myself, “i’ll just answer honestly and more fully later- now is not the time”
with this friend i knew i wouldn’t get away with hiding in the shadows- and somehow i wasn’t afraid of that.

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about two hours later, i found myself in another familiar place: surrounded by melodies, singing my heart out and knowing the presence of God in a simple rock show. i was afraid of Him speaking, afraid of my heart breaking into pieces because right now, i was way too weak to try and hold them together. it would show on my face and my pride made the fear gripping my heart overwhelming. and then suddenly… He spoke through the familiar southern drawl of a friend. i felt so small, cringing and shaking- fully knowing the Holy Spirit had His thumb on me. so i let go. and let the tears come. i opened my heart to the discipline and rebuke of lies, let Him crush my walls into dust. for the first time in over a year, i screamed the lyrics to ‘dear x’ at the top of my lungs, it felt good…but it wasn’t over yet.

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vulnerability.
no defenses remaining.
choosing to be honest.
i wanted to run and hide.
i wanted to put on my mask of “fine” and “okay enough” and walk away.
i wanted to fall apart where no one could see my pain.
but i gave up my old vices in the moment.
with shaking knees and a heart terrified of being condemned i admitted that i needed help. admitted i wasn’t okay. fear screamed at me that i wasn’t deserving of this anymore- somehow it was okay that Liz from 6 years ago could need a friend like this, but right now i shouldn’t ask for this. why was i disqualifying myself from this?
for twenty five minutes, i drove through the dark on roads i don’t at all remember, hands shaking and tears falling from my eyes, following tail lights that i prayed would help me see Him clearly again.

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it was so hard.
because you guys i’m not perfect.
and i’m terrible at explaining why i’m not okay, i’m terrible at putting words to my struggles.
but i fought for it.
and instead of any anger, judgement or condemnation, i only saw grace.
felt grace.

and grace screamed at me through the calm voice of a friend telling me,
“LET IT GO and be FREE”

and because i’m terrible at words, i didn’t know how to express that surge of hope in my heart to that friend. but i have a feeling it was understood.
that night i left with my head still spinning, but even more than that, i was drenched in peace. sometimes letting go doesn’t mean you failed. sometimes letting go is acknowledging that you’re not God, that you’ve actually fought and given it your all.
and when you let your heart let go, you can see grace so vividly.
it’s in the eyes of your friend, radiating the fierce love and truth of jesus.
that same grace is the encouraging voice over the phone, reminding you the hard things are worth it and that God *will* see you out of this mess unbroken and healed.
and grace… grace is attending a church service and singing worship and praise to God while watching people get water baptized one right after another.
and that’s the grace that causes healing to flow from your face, down your cheeks, completely drenching the front of your chest.

and it’s okay. and you’re okay. you’re learning to live in grace.

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“come away from where you’re hiding
set aside the lies that you’ve been living
may this place of rest in the fold of your journey
bind you to hope
we will never walk alone”
-jars of clay, ‘shelter’