losing faith, losing hope.

“Taking your own life. Interesting expression. Taking it from who? When your life is over, it’s not you who’ll miss it. Your own death is something that happens to everybody else. Your life is not your own. Keep your hands off it.” -Sherlock

I used to have this unshakable belief that everything was going to turn out for good. Even on my worst days and hardest seasons, I would look to the moments in life where God had proved Himself faithful even when He didn’t have to prove anything.  I used photos, boxes full of memories and journal entries to help myself remember what my weak, human mind would so often forget. There was a time where my faith in God was such a burning fire that I thought I was invincible. My prayers were in full faith and I spoke against darkness with every breath I had- screamed with all the strength in me. Fear didn’t hold me back and I gave 110% to my days. It felt like I was walking on the highest mountain peak and soaring with the eagles among clouds. God would show me pictures of us dancing together and I felt like an innocent and free child, unhindered in love and joy. Nothing bad could happen here, not in this place of love. Until one day, I found myself spinning in a twirl and I lost my footing. Instead of using conditioned and strengthened muscles to catch myself, I tumbled and I fell… fell right off the top of a cliff and straight into a free fall where nothing could catch me.

Once I realized I had started falling and I couldn’t regain a grip, I began frantically reaching for anything that would or could help. I went to church. Tried to sing songs of praise to a God I didn’t believe loved me anymore. Tried to sing whole-heartedly– and failed.  I tried getting together with people who I looked up to as leadership spiritually in my life — one suggested I try serving in the church more. Another suggested that the depression was a result of not being disciplined enough in Christian practices. My home group disbanded and I was added to another group. I couldn’t connect with people, tried to communicate the struggle but was not heard… and so I stopped going.

Falling and tumbling, head over feet. Every time I tried to grasp something to steady myself, I ended up with more scars on my hands from the fall and I found myself becoming more and more closed off emotionally.  In the middle of this time, my church had their annual conference. I missed a full day of it because I couldn’t get time off of work and after the next 24 hours of feeling completely alone and isolated, on the most social of the evenings, I found myself locked in my hotel room, listening to songs to try and stop the ache in my chest from overwhelming me.  I relapsed into self injury that night. Relapsed hard.  Cried myself out until my back ached and my eyes burned. Curled up in my bed and stared into the dark until I finally fell asleep.  “Things will get better” I told myself that night, “This is just one hard weekend.”
Things didn’t get better. Suddenly everything at work started falling apart. My company has been in a season of transition and many days have left me frustrated right alongside our customers. I continued giving it my all and fighting to get everything done as well as I possibly could despite the fact I felt like I was drowning.  Not too long ago, it was expressed to me that my work ethic was not satisfactory and I had a mental meltdown in a bathroom stall in the middle of the work day. Flashbacks to high school were very real that day and my anxiety was at an all time high. I am, by nature, a perfectionist. If I’m going to give my time and attention to something, I want to do it as well as possible and I will do everything within my power to execute any task in that manner. Instead of feeling challenged, I continued to feel defeated and so I stopped talking to people at work socially.  I became a cog in a machine and a silent one at that.

By this time, the fear that had surfaced from the depths of my heart was that I was invisible and it didn’t matter to anyone that I had almost completely lost touch. The only person I could talk to about it was my best friend and I hated repeating the same frustrations to her day after day, unable to find a way to change and pull myself out of what I was going through. I stopped giving voice to the suffocating pain stabbing deep in my hollow chest.  It didn’t matter and I wasn’t going to keep trying to fight it.  Exhausted. Completely worn. Somehow…SOMEHOW…still searching and trying to fight.

With great trepidation I crawled into my car and set off for one of the places I had always found a glimmer of hope- in the middle of loud music and a crowded room.  I agreed to share a hotel room with a friend and even though nothing else seemed to go right, I am thankful for the time spent with her. It forced me to not be stuck in my head and to accomplish a few tasks.  I regret hoping I would find God in that place. I regret it because I didn’t find Him and my heart won’t stop aching over it.  The questions that I’d continued to shove to the back of my mind started to rear their ugly heads and I didn’t know how to silence or answer them anymore.  A voice rang out across the auditorium, “God’s love is real and it is for you. You HAVE to KNOW that.” I felt my hands start shaking and I pressed my eyes shut to block out the hot tears I could feel welling up behind my thickly lined lids.  “what if I don’t believe that anymore?” I whispered out loud as the next song began, “what if I’ve lost the ability to believe God even wants me?”

I might as well have been shouting it to an empty football field for all it mattered. No one heard me and my shattered heart couldn’t handle it anymore. God was out of reach and despite all of my efforts, I couldn’t get to His hand anymore.  The people I once gave so much time and effort and prayer and built community with had walked away from me. “You don’t need this anymore.” they told me… and months later, finally I’ve understood.

 “My heart can’t take anymore
I’m just a used up cigarette
Wish the world would just stop spinning for a minute
No safe place in a civil war
The meaningful and the meaningless
Wish the world would just stop spinning for a minute

My heart can’t take it anymore
I’m just a brain dead silhouette
Wish the world would just stop spinning for a minute
Would just stop spinning for a minute
Just stop spinning for a minute”
-Disciple, “Spinning”

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to the Christian who struggles with depression.

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“is it really 5 o’clock?” i questioned my friend as i peered across her kitchen in the haze of late afternoon sunshine.

“yeah, it’s really getting late.” she responded as i lost myself in thought. i couldn’t believe it actually had gotten that late- where had the day gone? i hardly even remembered doing anything beside laundry and making coffee- and according to the clock, that was hours ago now.

as my friend continued tidying around her kitchen and making a snack, she asked me if i was hungry and i was like “oh, um..” and never really answered her. what she didn’t know was that i hadn’t eaten anything all day until early afternoon. my mind was fuzzy and formulating answers was a struggle. i questioned my decision to even hang out with my friend at her home. mentally i was not in a place to be around people, yet i knew it was safer to be with someone i trusted than to stay alone in my apartment any longer. instead of formulating a response, i padded over to the couch and cracked open my laptop…

*******
flash back to a few weeks ago

*******

my cheeks were flushed as i conversed heavily with a friend in my living room about the topic of depression. she stated her viewpoint and i replied with my disagreement. it was a hard thing for me to disagree with something to that extent and keep a level head. when i’m passionate about something, i often can get too emotional about it and then i lose the ability to explain myself through words. usually it ends up with me angry crying and shutting down, but on this night i held my emotions together:
“i don’t believe we have to live with depression.” my friend repeated back to me. “Okay, I understand what you’re saying…but I don’t agree.”
“Why is that?” she questioned.
“Because, as someone who has fought through years of the haze and debilitating fog of depression, involuntarily– I find that statement arrogant. To state that it’s not something people *have* to live with, is to invalidate those who have lived years fighting through it. ” I paused and then chose to change the topic of conversation.
Yes, I am still friends with this person. No, we didn’t have to fully agree on a subject that I’m sensitive about, however, my opinion is still firm: some people DO live with depression and I do not believe that makes them any less human or any less Christian.

This article is for those people. 

Some nights the anxiety is your strongest reality.
Some days, you can’t even perform basic housekeeping tasks.
Sometimes you just need a text from a friend that says,

“what if i come kidnap you and we drink coffee at my house and hang out”

Sometimes kidnapping saves lives.
*******

Friends, depression doesn’t have to win. It’s the hardest thing to believe- especially when you’re at war with your own mind. But in the words of one of the wisest men I know, “the mind is a battle field and we need people around us to help us fight that battle.”

A fight doesn’t always mean you walk away unscathed but it does mean that when you find victory after struggle, you are stronger than you were before you started. I don’t think it’s helpful to live your life with the mindset of easy days. Instead, I think being a Christian who struggles with depression means walking through the valley of the shadow, looking your demons straight in the face without flinching and clinging even tighter to the hand of your Savior.  There is a beauty in weakness.

reflections and resolutions.

2016.
has been a year.
everyone i know agrees on that one phrase:
“2016 has been a YEAR”
most people speak of it in a manner of disdain.
“i can’t wait for it to be over”
“ready for something new”

i would concur in many ways… but i would not throw 2016 under the bus as a “bad” year.
it’s been hard? yes.
it’s been struggle? absolutely.
it’s been healing? very.

this year has been vulnerable. it’s taught me to speak truth, to speak my heart, to fight for better days in a way i would never have been able to without the struggle.
to be honest, this year was HARD.
i had a surgery.
which means medical bills.
which means debt i didn’t anticipate.
thanks to some back problems & other issues,
i traded in my cute little smart car for a reliable, more practical vehicle.
this year, i lost a couple friends that i had been close with for a long time.

i struggled with my faith right away at the beginning of 2016.
in the heart of a chilly Nashville January, i found that i still believed in God- it was a huge comfort to my heart. an anchor i could return to when i questioned things. an anchor i very much needed.
after solidifying my belief in a God who loves, heals and is everything i need, i ran straight into 6 months of traveling and expending myself giving to others. going to so so many shows and spending hours behind the wheel of my car talking to God about every second of it.
then i traveled to Indiana a few times and God made it very clear He wanted to deal with something in me… i was afraid. i knew it would require vulnerability and at first, i tried to embrace the process, but fear won and He still moved and healed– but it was not the fullness of what He intended. as often happens, God brings things back around to completion until it happens the way He intends. and so this time, still trembling in fear i was the most vulnerable i’ve been in years. but do you know what? i was met with incredible grace. grace so deep in friendship and in Jesus that i felt like i was drowning. instead of having stones thrown at me which i expected (and quite frankly would have probably preferred with my legalism struggling heart), i heard the words, “you need to take yourself down off that ledge…you’re human” and as i let this friend pray over me, i let myself cry and be healed in deep places.
just a month and a half later, my best friend had made the venture on a Megabus to Wisconsin and we drove over to Michigan. that night we ended up praying for a friend of ours in one of the top 5 most intense prayer battles we’ve ever faced together.
then in November, i got to spend time with my youngest sister traveling. that weekend i obtained my first ever speeding ticket (thanks Indiana!) but i also had the chance to delve into conversation spaces with my sister that we haven’t had the chance to explore since we were teenagers. that weekend also included one of the darkest venues/shows i’ve ever been to– i remember very vividly holding tight to my best friend’s hand in the middle of a bar show, praying fervently and aching to feel Jesus in that place. it was a suffocating darkness and we were both in disbelief of the magnitude of evil that dwelt there. but, as i have learned in these last years, when darkness rears its ugly head like that, those of us with light in our very being MUST stand against it. we have no other choice, it’s in the re-written DNA that is who we are. so we fought it. and we both gasped as we saw and felt the light come bursting through, breaking the darkness– the veil torn in two right before our spiritual eyes.

then suddenly…

the year was basically over.
it was back to discipline.
back to routine.
time to dig back into relationships and the everyday.

at first i was very okay with those things- sleeping in my own bed was wonderful and even doing laundry was a quiet restful pause for my heart. but i’ve learned that i actually thrive in constant motion- it’s the quiet and the average daily life that i struggle with most. sure, it’s easy to be full of faith when you’re in motion and seeing God tangibly move. it’s much harder to walk in grace and assured freedom when you’re doing data entry and answering emails at your 9-5. honestly? after a few weeks of this, on top of the weather turning colder and winter rearing it’s icy, blue head– well, i sank into a depression of sorts. i was constantly tired and not wanting to be around anyone- not even my roommate.
it was in this time period that i became incredibly grateful for the facetime calls i would have with my 2 year old nephew. the way he calls me “auntie!” melts my heart. he loves playing with me so much that when i’m in Kenosha and we facetime, he likes to take my sister’s phone into his playroom and we “play” over the phone. i’ve never known such complete adoration and love from someone as much as that kid loves me unconditionally. i’m incredibly thankful to God for him because he has kept my heart out of depths of darkness with his giggle. at Christmas when i was visiting my family, he took off my pretentious hipster beanie and put it on his own head, “auntie- hat on!” he triumphantly declared as the brim covered his eyes and fell down to his chin. i laughed and laughed and replied, “yup bud you’ve sure got it on!” to which he promptly handed me his hat and looked at me until i crammed his little mickey mouse toddler ski hat onto my own head.

so here we are.
2016 is ending in a few hours and 2017 will be taking it’s place.
a year wide open with promise and challenges of it’s own.
one of my old friends works for the local newspaper in my town and a couple of evenings ago, as i sat at my favorite Kenosha coffee shop playing games with friends, he passed by and questioned us if we had any resolutions for the new year and if we’d like to be in the article he was writing on that subject. one of my friends immediately stated, “yeah i’ll do it! i totally have a resolution!” but i knew in my heart that i didn’t have any strong resolutions for 2017- nothing to write home about and certainly nothing to put in a newspaper. so my friend took his notes and went on his way while we continued our game and i pondered the year of 2017 and what it could mean.

later, as i lay awake in bed, trying to doze off, i thought further on the subject of resolve.
sure, i could resolve to be more healthy. i’ve done that every year since i can remember and every year i learn more, and adapt my lifestyle more to one that helps my body grow stronger.  i could resolve to read “X” amount of books to gain knowledge- but what would that achieve besides a pressure to read consistently? i read anyway. i couldn’t come up with a solid resolution in my mind, so i let the thought go until the next morning when i woke up and began flipping through my notifications on my phone.

“that’s it!” i exclaimed out loud.
no more living in the past.

2017 is going to be the year i resolve to live in the now and the future of what God has for me.

no more looking back to where i was.
no more spending time lost in thought over regrets.
no more being chained to who i was before Christ rescued me.

2017 is unknown.
2017 is not smudged by failure or doubt.
2017 is new.
2017 is hope.

my new year’s resolution: live.

“but then i meet Your eyes with the fire of a rising sun”

 “God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.”
-1 Corinthians 1:27

 

“Tonight, Beloved. You’re ready.”

My hands gripped my steering wheel even tighter as I took a deep breath in between songs and cleared my throat, “Hey Mary? What do you think about it being time? Like, tonight?”

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As clear as I heard Him speak, I still ached for confirmation. In moments like this, my heart is so faint in me and though I fully know what He said, still I struggle to have courage and step into the fiery path of the enemy. I knew that’s exactly what we would be doing and I was not looking forward to what we would have to fight through to keep this time sacred. Though I did not receive immediate verbal confirmation from my friend, we still knew it was right. Hours of songs later and quick trips to snag green Monsters, we found ourselves in my car waiting for the right moment. As is so natural to me, I flipped to my worship playlist and encouraged my friend, “since we’re going to be pouring out, let’s spend time getting our hearts right and filling ourselves with Him as much as He will give us. We cannot go into this weak. We know what He has spoken- let’s be intentional.” So we worshipped. We thanked God for everything He is, for the deep and enduring faithfulness He has shown in these last 5 years. Minutes ticked by quickly- and yet somehow it felt like an eternity with Him. Tears flowed freely from both hearts and as we climbed out of my car, our resolution was clear. No longer cloudy and unsure, but strong and full of fire.

There was more laughter to be had, many more hugs to be given and as the crowd of people thinned out, we all breathed easier. Watching friends interact with each other was a gift. As Mary and I waited with patience, I secured a perch off to the side where I could easily observe yet jump in and be present if the need arose. Time continued passing quicker than it needed to, and before I knew it, we were taking last minute snapshots and preparing to say our goodbyes. In a moment of resolution, my trembling hands clasped securely in my lap lest they give me away, I voiced our request and the three of us trudged off the cozy warm bus to the chilly outdoors.

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I’d love to say that it got easier after that, but instead, my heart was challenged. Suddenly it was like i couldn’t remember words or anything and as I made eye contact with my friend to share my heart, a surge of emotion and a flood of fire came over me. I blinked and my eyes gazed up, blazing. It was now or never.

Standing firm, hand in hand, gripping the shoulders of our dear friend, we closed our eyes and before the throne of Jesus, we began to fight in prayer. Speaking truth, declaring promise and somehow shielding against the enemy all at once… words spilled from our mouths again and again. Even though we were all physically shaking from the cold, I felt flushed from the fire raging within me- this was war and these were important battle changing moments.  As Mary finished with utter grace, we both looked at each other in incredible awe. It was abundantly clear that this was so far beyond either of us – and we were better for it.  It took several moments to realize there was a heart moved deeply standing with us, and the moment was absolutely right for a massive group embrace. We hugged so hard and I didn’t want to let go. There was a fragility I’d not witness for years and my heart was moved so strongly.  With a choked whisper, we said goodbyes and Mary and I walked back to my car.

We waited several moments to say goodbye to another Kingdom friend, and then as we took off, I set my playlist to an old favorite that fully embodied the night. This was the body of Christ.  Sometimes the hand is strong when the foot is weak and sometimes the shoulder needs help from the knees. To speak life over a heart that has so often spoken into our lives for years was a gift far beyond words- I’m still trying to process it in my mind and heart.

More than ever I’m convinced that despite the divided hearts in our world, it is in the shelter of each other that we were meant to live.

Not alone. Not secluded. TOGETHER. In unity.

One goal.

One Jesus.

One eternity.

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“if there is any peace, if there is any hope,
we must all believe,
our lives are not our own.
We all belong.
God has given us each other
and we will never walk alone.”
-jars of clay

 

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.

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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”

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’

 

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