different paths.

“we’ve given up being accepted- we’re the rejected, who embrace our rejection,
the world can go their own way, we will run straight to the flood,
long live the rebels, we bleed a different kind of blood”
-Disciple

☧ –  ☧ –  ☧ –  ☧  – ☧

 

“how ARE you?” my hands were cupped around a warm porcelain mug and my eyes looked quizzically up the semi-familiar face of an old friend.

his answer was brief but vague and my heart ached while he spoke- it was plain as day that he wasn’t happy and as he spoke it became more apparent that his days were filled with career chasing. “well i’ve got to go – i’m headed to grab a large glass of wine before they close the bar.” and with a flourish of his hand, he was gone and my head was left spinning.

—–rewind—–

4 years ago. summer of 2012.
after a spring of being carried along by choices that were not wise and giving myself to some relationships that were not healthy, God stopped me in my tracks. “this is BULLSHIT” my friend spat, sitting across from me under a small tent. my eyes flung open wide as i looked up at the person who i never expected to cuss at me like that. the shock factor worked and he had my complete rapt attention. “what do you mean?” i whispered, my fear had me shaking and you could hear it in my voice. his voice softened, but his expression did not- “Liz, you can’t let your emotions drive you like this. you can’t keep letting this destruction rule your life. you need to FIGHT for more. when you hear this crap in your head- i want you to fight back. scream and throw things if you have to, but whatever you do– stop letting satan get hold of your mind. i promise you that he has nothing good planned for you if you continue with these patterns.”

it was a conversation that was very hard for me. i walked away challenged with my tail between my legs- convicted beyond belief that God wanted more from me in ways i was not ready to let Him work. my friend dropped me off back at my hotel and since my roommates were already asleep- i spent the next 2 hours, sitting in the hallway, avoiding drunk people and scribbling in my journal with my music on as loud as it could go. i meticulously recorded the conversation i had, and added the words God had specifically spoken to my heart that no one else knew. that night, i crawled in bed knowing i was facing down a decision- a cross roads. in my mind, there was no other option but to run straight to the path God had laid out before me and after barely sleeping 3 hours, with coffee in hand, i threw myself into the morning’s worship session. God wanted me to give up some things. i didn’t know if it would be for a season, or if it would be forever. in that moment, all i knew is that those things were separating me from Him and one in particular had become a huge lordship issue. that morning, at the altar of my pride, with tears streaming from my face, i let go of what He asked me. dropping my grip on my life- i told Him, “okay. You can have me. i have no idea what this means and if i will ever have people love and care about me again if i let this go, but i know what You are asking and so i’m choosing to let go and yield myself to You instead.” in that moment, my heart broke and shattered into a hundred thousand pieces. i died that day, in many ways.

for the next three months, i didn’t listen to any music or hardly talk to anyone in my group of friends that had replaced my family. i know some people were hurt by my actions and i wasn’t even at a place where i could explain to them what God was doing, because i wasn’t sure myself. every waking moment of my days ached and at night i could barely sleep. eventually i began making small choices that have completely changed how i relate to God. when i was in the car driving to work (or to anywhere), since i didn’t listen to music anymore- i had the perfect opportunity to have conversations with Him and spend time in prayer. the nights when i didn’t work or have plans, i would open my laptop and spend time with God while listening and worshipping along to the IHOP prayer room broadcast. in those days, that live web stream was oxygen to my soul in ways i didn’t appreciate. there were times i spent more hours of a night in the Spirit and with God in places that make no sense to natural humanity than i did with other humans. i began giving more of myself to things God spoke to me. He started speaking to me VERY strongly in a prophetic nature- showing me things about people, places and situations. anytime i would tune into His frequency, it was like a bombardment of information to my heart.
six months of this season would pass before any change would occur.

then suddenly, it was February. i found out my friends were on tour again and would be playing a show within 2 hours of me. my boss approved the time off for me – and there was a crazy freak snowstorm. but that day was deep grace to my heart. 8 months since i last spoke to/ saw these friends and it was a gift that they opened up to me like nothing had changed, nothing happened. we hung out and laughed at random jokes while video games were played. there was a new light in my eyes. that evening, unexpectedly- God spoke to me to pray for my friend before they took a small stage at a venue with very minimal attendance. shaking, i agreed and quietly made my query to my friend, “hey i feel like i’m supposed to pray for you right now- would that be okay?” and with a deep humility, my friend nodded and agreed, much to my surprise.

that night, something in my character shifted. i began to understand bits and pieces of myself that i never before saw. God began working a boldness in me and making me into a person that obeyed Him without questioning (…okay most of the time). there was this deep development of my relationship with Him that i fully believe would never have occurred had i continued in the friendships and life patterns i was in before that July.

the miraculous part about God is that He restores the things that are important. the family i had found in beautiful friends was restored and increased. my relationship with Him increased and flourished. for the first time since i moved to Kenosha, i became invested in my church family and grew some deep roots of foundation and truth that have changed who i am. it’s a miracle because that July when everything in me shattered, it was God breaking a shell around me of darkness that i didn’t know had been smothering me. in His deep compassion and kindness, He knew the blow of loss and laying down would ultimately be for my good. (Romans 8) Looking back, i’m overwhelmed with the gentle and kind hand He used to shake me, break me and restore me.

——back to present——

after my friend walked away to obtain the aforementioned wine, my heart ached and broke. our conversation was dripping with a bragging of accomplishment on his end and when he asked if i still attended the same church- i could feel and hear a strong disdain on his part. “yeah i was there for a few months, but it was too weird so i left.” nodding, i understood. though i was saddened that someone i once cared about deeply was lost in the darkness, i was also more thankful than ever for how God had pulled me out of darkness and dropped me straight into a blinding, dazzling measure of His light.

the times when i’m overwhelmed by how holy He is, and how much i’ve fallen, my prayer is that i will remember that He is light and no darkness is in Him. in the brilliance of His perfect light, no darkness can hide and no lies have any foothold.

friends, there is hope for the ones we love- for the broken, the hurting and the tragically lost. the longer i walk with Him, the more and more convinced i am that God can save anyone, that He can use anyone. in surrender, we are all clay in the Potter’s hands.

☧ –  ☧ –  ☧ –  ☧ –  ☧ –  ☧ –  ☧ –  ☧ –  ☧ –  ☧

“And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”
-Romans 8: 2

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empty grave (a story of redemption)

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
-Romans 8:38-39

i first heard the voice of God and responded to it when i was 8 years old. i told my mom i wanted to belong to Jesus, that i loved Him and that i wanted to ask Him into my heart.
we attended a southern baptist church in the middle of Wisconsin, so it was easy to have people walk me through the process. my mom bought me a fancy dress and i got baptized because it’s what you’re “supposed” to do. the next 6 years i struggled to be a Christian. i always went to church because i was a good kid, because it’s what you’re ‘supposed’ to do. some really bad things happened in my life and it changed me. i was no longer a happy go lucky child, i was forced to grow up quickly. i cared for my family, took on a lot of responsibility that probably never should have been mine to shoulder at that age.

suddenly i was a teenager with a lot of issues including depression and anxiety, though i had no idea what those words really meant. i went from loving school to dreading it. i was bullied by a lot of my peers, and sometimes i would end up in practice rooms in the music department with the lights off and door closed, crying my eyes out. i never understood why people hated me so much. there were a few adults in my youth group that fought for me in those days, and i think if it hadn’t been for them, there would have been a few nights that would have ended a lot differently.

graduating high school was one of the hardest seasons of life i can remember. i went to college for a year and after struggling through major depression the whole year, i was relieved to hear God tell me to walk away from college. i hated it – every second of it. so when He offered something different, i lunged at the chance to get away from the world of academia. so, i replaced classes with working retail.

for most of the next year, i lived in a perpetual haze of working, severe depression and insomnia. living at home was incredibly challenging for many reasons, i felt surrounded by darkness every time i was there and at night i never slept because i was suffocated by things i couldn’t see. so…i started sleeping over at friends’ houses. there were multiple nights as a 20 year old where i had access to substances i shouldn’t and more than once, i woke up on my friend’s couch hardly remembering the night before thanks to alcohol.

all through this time, God was chasing me. pursuing me. shoving His love and truth in my face, mainly through songs and lyrics. Disciple had been my favorite band for quite some time already, but these were the days those songs haunted me. instead of choosing harmful drugs or dangerous situations, i would literally hear echoes in my head, “ain’t going back again” and “why are you down, lift your head. you’ve got a reason to live.”
half the time, i wasn’t quite sure why i even listened to that music, why i played certain songs on repeat, why the lyrics made me cry like i was missing something.  i had been taught my whole life that God was real, that He had a purpose for my life, but i didn’t believe it. every evidence seemed the opposite. i was running out of rope to hold onto and every waking moment, i seemed to slip further and further away from life.

by day, i was the walking dead. i didn’t laugh anymore, i wore my eyeliner thick and the scars on my skin were hidden under layers of clothing. cutting was a vice. i hated the scars on my skin, but i felt like i deserved them. by night, i was a depressed and suicidal wreck. i would stay awake until 3, 4, 5, 6 am — wide awake through the darkest part of the night. if it was warm enough, i would grab a hoodie or blanket and my iPod and sit outside, staring up at the stars. most nights i listened to Disciple’s track “Falling Star” on repeat, trying to decipher the meaning behind the song. that song alone had over 3,000 plays on my iTunes before my computer crashed in 2011.

in those days, my friend Jen and i would hang out all the time. she had given her life to Jesus and i had introduced her to Christian rock music. after waiting for what seemed like forever, Disciple announced tour dates in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. Jen and i bought tickets immediately and made countdowns to October 7, 2010. with something to look forward to on the calendar, it seemed as though the voices in my head and the darkness only got worse. Disciple had released an album titled, “Horseshoes & Handgrenades” that summer and there were many days of playing songs on repeat from that album. two tracks from the album (along with my older favorites) were the songs i would choose on the nights when i would hear the voices telling me i should die. “Eternity” became my favorite song the first day i heard it 6 years ago, and it still moves me to this day. i did something then that i never would have thought to do normally. i wrote a message to the band on the release day of the album (9/14/2010) and shared that i wasn’t giving up on life because their music made me believe in hope. (you can read my message here ) that day started a conversation with someone who has become one of my most trusted friends. that day, for the first time in my whole life i heard words that i never knew were true about me: “You are a daughter of God”  and “I want you to know that God’s love for you is the most intense reality in the universe. His plan for you is real. The destiny He has for you is real. The gifts He has given you are special. You have purpose. You have life for a reason.” 

when i received the response to that email, i cried for hours.
someone believed my life had purpose. i chose that day not to give up on life.

[video]

the next year, Disciple toured in the spring to promote their new album.
in the month of February 2011, i attended shows 3 weekends in a row (not planned) and each time, i was shown love and grace that i had never experienced before. the 3rd show happened to be a weekend i was visiting my friend Heidi. she lived in a town called Kenosha in southeastern Wisconsin and i never had any interest to visit aside from the fact that her and another friend of mine at the time, lived there. they would urge me to visit and i never was interested in going to church with them really, but to see friends who cared about me, driving 3.5 hours was nothing. so that weekend, i came down and upon arriving at Heidi’s front door, she asked me what i thought about road tripping down to see Disciple the next day in Illinois. i quickly and excitedly agreed and crawled in bed that night, hardly able to sleep. the next day was one of adventure and travel for inexperienced travelers. i laughed so much that whole day- i was with one of my most cherished friends and we were hanging out and laughing with my favorite band. “the venue is your playground” is the advice we were given and though the venue was strict on mosh pits (ha), we still managed to have a blast. that’s a night i won’t forget because one of the bands on the tour was asked not to play their set, so Kevin had an extra long amount of time to speak…and did he ever. that night i already had something on my heart my friend Cara said to me, she told me when praying for me, God had shown her that i was standing in a cloud and i couldn’t see out of it and it was suffocating me. she told me all i had to do was stand up and i was free from the cloud, that i was clear. i knew as Kevin spoke that that night would matter, and it did. as Heidi and i got back into her car after hanging out, she put on a random playlist and as we drove away from the venue, lyrics and words once more enveloping my entire being- i felt God with me strongly. and as i said yes to Him, as i chose to stand up out of that cloud, the melody of “Whatever Reason” grabbed hold of me and i ugly cried for about 45 minutes. i had no clue that was only a small part of it all.

the next day, very tired Heidi and very tired Liz stumbled into worship (late of course) but fully ready to engage. i was excited to be in church that day, it had been years since i wanted to be in church. during the announcements, one of the church elders said there was a Vision & Commitment class that night and Heidi leaned over to me and whispers, “Liz you should go to that!” and i just laughed and was like “if Cara wants to..” that day I hanging out with Cara since Heidi had to work so after church, Heidi took off and Cara picked me up for lunch. she asked me what i thought about going to Vision & Commitment class that night and i was like “uh yeah i guess if you want to? have you talked to Heidi…?” and she responded with, “no, why?” but i brushed her off and said “haha never mind yeah we can go if you want” so after doing some various activities, we went back to the church building for Vision & Commitment class. that night, the teaching was on Baptism in the Holy Spirit. the lesson finished and as soon as Ian was done teaching, Cara looked over at me and said, “do you want to go up there and pray with Ian?” i replied, “what do you think?” and as i smiled at her, i also felt a crazy fear, but it was soon overwhelmed by an excitement. her and i had talked about the Holy Spirit before and it was something i never understood growing up in a baptist church, but i knew i wanted it from the first time we talked about it. power? help? closeness with God in a new way? yes i wanted all of those things!

so Cara and Ian laid hands on me and prayed. and in mere moments that felt like an eternity, i experienced the most amazing peace and joy i’ve ever known. i prayed in tongues for the first time that night, not really even knowing what i was doing. it just happened to me. and that’s what i tell people who ask what i believe on the subject. it wasn’t something i tried to conjure up of my own doing, it was God-initiated and He laid the scene for everything to play out in exactly the right way for it to happen. the most vivid memory for me was the joy i felt. i cried gushing tears because i had so much joy – i didn’t know what to do with it all.

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spirit filled &  joy unspeakable

 

 

while driving back home the next day, i was praying (i used to have horrible anxiety about driving, especially in traffic and i would get panic attacks frequently) and God spoke to me very quiet, very simple “you’re moving to Kenosha” surprised, i grinned and said “okay” and finished the journey home, not thinking anymore about it. once i arrived home, my parents were watching tv and they asked me, “how was your trip?” i remember replying very nonchalantly “it was really great! i’m moving to Kenosha in two weeks” and then going to my bedroom to unpack like it was no big deal. i put in for a transfer at work and both my retail jobs transferred me. it was settled, i was moving to Kenosha. three weeks later i had packed up my life and with Disciple encouragement blaring for 3.5 hours, i drove to Kenosha to start a new life.


the years that followed have been insane. as soon as i think God is slowing down, He surprises me by throwing all the cards up in the air and doing something new.
He has completely changed almost everything  about me since then (at least in major areas). i used to be a very shy and quiet person and now, i’m rarely shy or quiet. there have been seasons of God breaking down old mindsets and lordship issues, desert seasons where i couldn’t even hear Him. i have known His closeness at times unlike anything this world can offer. i’ve met friends who have become family and since 2008, i’ve attended 40 Disciple shows. my heart will always support the band and what they do for ministry. their message is Jesus because He is the only one who can heal, the only one who can restore. He is the only place in this whole world where you will find life.


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March 2015.
Cityrockfest Tour.
Elgin, IL.

 
my best friend had come up from Nashville to visit me for a week and we attended a show in a random Illinois city with Heidi and her (now husband) Nate. that night, completely out of the blue, i found myself kneeling on a dirty venue floor, weeping as God healed my heart and soul from my early teen years. “there’s nothing that’s been stolen, that I cannot replace” He told me through song lyrics. Kevin sang out lyrics to a song i didn’t quite love yet from their new ‘Attack’ album and the gaping hole i had tried fixing for years in my heart was suddenly made whole as i forgave someone who hurt me deeply. “let go of what’s behind you, the past can’t hurt you anymore” and i cried and cried and it was like He pushed me to the ground. it would be almost 3 hours before i could even verbalize to my best friend what He was doing. she didn’t even know the full extent of the damage at that point.

that night was the beginning of a season of intense process. ever since then, God has been working things out of me and forcing me to face sin issues or parts of my character that are not Christ-like. it’s hard looking in the mirror and seeing your raw humanity, knowing the last thing you deserve is the love of God…and yet– through many sleepless nights and hard cardio workouts, hours screaming songs to fight through the lies and the fear… i have found Him to be more than faithful. i have found Him to be committed to me far beyond anything i could understand. through incredible friends who have not flinched or walked away as i’ve confessed the deepest darknesses… i have been faced with the full force of grace and what it really means.

one of my close friends very recently told me, “you’ve got to take yourself down off that ledge and give yourself grace for being human. it’s how God created you and there’s no need to apologize for that. it’s like asking for forgiveness for being hungry, it doesn’t make sense.”  and for the first time in our friendship, i wept openly that night as that friend prayed for me. as they spoke things over me that i had long fought to believe, as they declared my identity like it was black and white, i cried so hard i was shaking. that night i felt the full force of grace crashing down on me and offering Himself to me once again.

this blog was born out of a place of understanding and a place of freedom. the process is really hard work, but it’s WORTH the work, it’s WORTH the fight and it’s worth giving yourself over to the process. God knows exactly what He is doing every second of our lives.

here’s to a new season.
here’s to remembering where God has brought me.
here’s to straining towards what’s ahead.

rebels know their life stories all point to the cause.
that’s what their lives are about.
and they don’t stop telling people about it.

“wide awakened from the dead,
a day that i could not forget,
i was so empty the day that You found me,
kneeling at Your cross i find, a place that i could find new life,
where Your resurrect me, leaving an empty grave”
-Disciple, ‘Empty Grave’
“Long Live the Rebels”