it wasn’t the World Cup, but it was a big day

“i have less than zero talent. i promise you don’t want me to play.”
“don’t worry, you’ll be on my team.”

it was an incredibly beautiful Saturday in the middle of Michigan. my good friend Molly and i had road-tripped around the bottom of Lake Michigan to see a couple shows, a lot of friends and to deliver a birthday surprise. the weekend had hardly begun and i was already tired- my back was still sore from the chiropractor and i was praying constantly that i wouldn’t throw it out until the weekend was over- there was far too much to do.

after arriving at the venue, some of our friends finished soundcheck, grabbed their gloves and a few baseballs and headed to a large open field to enjoy the day. Molly and i socialized with a few other friends on the sidelines while letting the sun soak its way into our pasty, white Wisconsin skin.  i was completely content to be there with friends and beautiful weather, i had no expectations for the day.

soon enough, one of the guys playing ball had to run inside and do soundcheck so the game disbanded. my friend Kevin came over to say hello then and very quickly he asked around to find people to replace the person who had left…unfortunately everyone declined. (baseball is definitely not a game for the uncoordinated- aka me). Molly chimed in declaring her love for soccer over baseball and just as quickly Kevin replied, “you wanna play soccer? we can do soccer!” and before i knew it, equipment was hauled out.

IMG_5674

i was happy to help set up the goals, so i made my way over to where Kevin was assembling a frame and i began helping to untangle and attach the net. we made simple small talk and i joked, “you really don’t want me to play- i was at the chiropractor yesterday and i have zero athletic ability, i would be useless in a game” which was me simply being honest- i know my friend and i know that he’s competitive and loves to play hard (he’s also way better at sports than he gives himself credit for) so for someone who has never been good at sports, who was always picked last, and never played on a winning team…i didn’t have very high hopes in regards to actually playing.

once the field was set, everyone huddled around and teams were chosen. Kevin nominated himself and Molly as captains. i started edging my way off the field and Kevin was like “Liz can be my goalie” to which i looked up and was like “what?” but, i chose to just roll with it and i jogged down to the goal i would be responsible for defending. the remaining players were divided to teams and the game began.

as the ball moved across the field from the opposite end down to my goal for the first time, i was nervous but it was like i knew what to do without even thinking and with one fluid extension of my leg, i blocked a pretty aggressive scoring attempt and spun that ball right away from me and down to the other end of the field. i smiled to myself and with a whoop and cheering holler, my friend Kev shouted, “way to go Liz!” and suddenly i had some confidence. maybe i didn’t suck as bad as i thought i did, maybe my skill level wasn’t as horrible as i had been told for years and years. a little bit of encouragement to my heart went a very long way that day and it was all i needed to really get into the game and enjoy myself.

IMG_5688

soon enough, i was aggressively going after the ball when it came near me and i wasn’t afraid to go after it, stepping away from my goal. playing soccer with Kevin was a lot like having someone else with the same brain on my side- it was pretty awesome. i would go one way, he would immediately cover for me. conversely, if he jumped into the goal for a little rest (cuz let’s be honest, bro was booking it up and down the field for a good hour…that’ll exhaust ya in a minute), well i would jump out and be more offensive. i blocked more goals than i expected to- some of them pretty miraculous…and every single time, my friend would cheer me on- no matter where he was on the field, i would hear that shout of “yeah Liz! good job! get it!” and my heart was soaring. i can honestly say i’ve never had more fun playing a game of soccer in my entire life.

why am i writing about all of this? no, not just because it was a joyful memory for me… it ended up being so much more because you see, in the middle of the game, God began speaking to me- being very direct to my heart and taking my openness for the weekend and filling it with His truth and His voice.

it literally all started when Kevin very calmly said, “don’t worry you’ll be on my team”
after he spoke those words, i had to turn my face away because my eyes filled with tears. it’s a battle i’ve fought for years, and many who know me and my heart struggles know this already, but i constantly struggle to see how i can be worth anyone’s time or friendship. it’s something God has continued to work on me with over the years that i’ve known Him, and this day was no exception.

“don’t worry you’ll be on my team he says” i mumbled to myself, “it’s really unfair for him to have to have me on his team- i don’t think he understands how sucky of an athlete i am.” and i berated myself for a good five minutes before God stepped in and whispered very softly, “maybe it matters a lot less than you think it does, and maybe he’s choosing you to be on his team for the exact reason you fear” well…that shut me up pretty quick, but my eyes were still filled with tears. as i made my way to the correct end of the field, i reached up to clear the tears before they could mess up my “perfect” makeup. i was pretty sure my friend noticed, but i acted like everything was normal and jumped into the game.

and then i blocked my first goal, more to my amazement than anyone else’s… and my friend cheered me on and my team rejoiced, and i laughed for the first time since stepping on the field. as the ball began moving away from me again, He spoke to my heart again, “i’m cheering for you too Beloved, you’ve got this.” Tears sprang to my eyes again and i was reminded of a message spoken last year on the Cityrockfest Tour where Kevin would talk about cheering his daughter on, “good job baby! you got this!” and how he related it to how God sees us when He’s cheering us on to let go of pain, addictions and darknesses in our lives. once again, i was overwhelmed with an intensity of the love of God– but i kept playing the game.

our team scored, the opposing team scored, eventually everyone had to head inside for dinner and VIP’s, but not before my friend spoke a few last words to my heart that left me reeling, “you did great Liz- that was fun” and i demanded a sweaty hug – but i was quite sure he had no idea how much something as simple as a soccer game had completely rearranged my heart and left me very vulnerable.

IMG_5690

i’ve started to see, though, that very often, that is how God has been working in my heart and in my days.  i wrote a previous blog post that alluded to the idea of walking out life with Jesus in the in-betweens and i absolutely would include this two hour soccer game in that idea of small things having great meaning.

to anyone looking in from the outside, it was just a simple soccer game.
to anyone else in the game, it was just a simple soccer game.
no, it wasn’t anywhere near as big as the World Cup and no, there was no huge manna-from-heaven moment…

but on a grassy field among friends, God spoke to me and used an ordinary circumstance to do so, and all of that matters to me more than words can express. 5 years and 3 months of following Jesus and being His, and i believe more than ever that He is in the process of re-writing my biology, and sometimes… just sometimes, He can use a soccer game to do it.
“dark days and cold nights, 
you alone put yourself on trial,
hold onto Me for awhile
i’ll carry you over, and pull you from under
the broken glass, the shattered dreams,
it’s not so hard, believe in Me.
i’ll help you get over, and pull from under,
the memories of the shattered dreams,
i wish you could believe in Me.”
-decyfer down

Advertisements

In the In-Betweens

I never expected 2016 to start off as a year in chaos and disarray…but that seems to exactly be how it has gone down. It truly shot off with a surprising bang, especially after December 2015 ended quite abruptly. December being the month that brought closure to a raw subject matter that God had worked out in me for the whole year of 2015.  Suddenly in January I found myself in a terrifying place of questioning my faith, and it seemed like everywhere I turned to try and grab onto solid truths, I was grasping at air– there were no helping hands and with terrified eyes, I found myself plummeting faster than I knew how to prevent.

IMG_4163
Being in a place of terrified soul disarray, I decided to leave the tundra waste-land of Wisconsin and go on an extended weekend trip to Tennessee. It was the most last-minute thing I had done in years and the spontaneity was exactly what my heart needed to be thrown into vulnerability again. I am incredibly thankful (a hundred times over) for the hearts of my friends Mary, Jordan and Sarah– who welcomed me SO openly for the hundredth (third) time in Nashville. The weekend coincided with the cd release for my friend Jason Wilkes (look him up, you won’t be sad) and it was a gift to see so many of my Disciple friends at a non-working show for them. The days were filled with a soft grace-filled space that my heart so desperately needed. On the final eve of my time in town, I pleaded with my eyes “can we please go somewhere alone?” to which Mary immediately responded “let’s go.” (read: “Yes Liz, I am open to caring for you right now, even if it’s an inconvenience for me.” — *cue tears just remembering*).  We climbed into the shiny blue Prius and she whisked me away to safe places where the lights of the city sparkled on water and on sky– there were honest words and even more raw heart emotion than  I knew was in me at the time. I went to Nashville unsure of Jesus and left the city being completely full of security in Him. (read about it here)

-fast forward to March-

the Cityrockfest Tour was in full swing again this year- and out of nowhere, my schedule cleared so I found myself driving the miles to the incredibly strange state of Iowa to see dear friends. by this point, I had completely accepted God to be orchestrating my weekend and I finally felt like I was getting my footing back – there seemed to finally be solid ground, even though it was still hard to see. the weekend was a gift of music and friends, I was also given many hours in the car alone (which is time I always cherish to spend singing and talking with God). my dear Minnesota friend Sarah was at the shows as well and we split a hotel, naturally staying up til the wee hours of the morning catching up in conversation.

IMG_4778

another week went by and i found myself on a weekend adventure with my favorite fiery friend– Molly. let me take a second to talk about this girl. we met on a whim almost, after attending many Disciple shows together over the years (we never knew each other!) and me visiting the Cup O Joy in Green Bay, WI soo many more times than I can count. Somehow, we never met until the Radical video shoot (watch here)…and somehow she has become a dear sister to me. well, she was getting a tattoo in Michigan and asked me if i’d like to come along… you know i walked away with new ink. one of the best parts about driving to Sturgis, Michigan was getting to surprise my soul sister Lainie at her home. it had been WAY TOO LONG since i had gotten to hug her and so we took a half hour trip out of our way to spend an hour and a half with the one and only Lainie-face Conway. the evening ended far too soon and Molly and i headed back to Kenosha for a snooze before church. wait, it was Easter? oh yes, a holiday got thrown in the mix as well– this year I was invited for dinner with my friend Heidi who is now a Mrs. — the day was more of a gift to me than i even knew i needed at the time.

IMG_4978.JPG

workdays flew by and as the clock ticked down on a Thursday, i found myself zooming off to grab my suitcase and jump in Molly’s car… we had to get to Indianapolis STAT…because that’s where i would find Mary. we rushed through Chicago traffic in almost no time at all, took an unexpected turn in Scary Gary (literally through the town in the dark) and as we pulled into the parking lot of our hotel, my heart was bursting to hug my friend.
the next morning, we woke up to rush to the breakfast area and scarf down some food before checking out of our hotel and road tripping to Cincinnatti, Ohio.

WE CONQUERED THE UNDERGROUND.

IMG_5097.JPG

okay, real life here– this venue has been a bucket list item for me and it was absolutely more than i could have hoped for: there were more Alliance members than any show i’ve ever been to and i was gifted the even bigger privilege to meet my friend Kevin’s family. quick story: 6 years ago i attempted to get to a show in Ohio to do exactly what i accomplished this time– to see Alliance friends and meet the family of one of the best big brothers i’ve ever known….but 6 years ago it didn’t work out. i ended up at the show the day AFTER which was hard for me back then– to miss something so so important. it was harder still that next day to hear my friend say, “i missed you last night, i wanted you to meet my family”– so six years later i fulfilled a very important promise.

one of the dearest moments to my heart occurred post-show. the Disciple guys were seated behind a long white table, signing autographs and meeting fans. about 5-10 minutes into the signing line, Kevin’s wife, Julie, appeared- bringing his daughter Blair to hang out with him while he talked to people. there were several of us Alliance members who staked out a bench behind the signing line- just out of the way and a place to relax until the crowd thinned out enough for us to socialize. it was a joy for me just to be able to watch Kevin interact with his baby girl while he worked. on and off went the conversations around me, sometimes i interacted, but mostly i just listened and observed. suddenly i realized Kevin was watching me watch him and i just smiled and he semi-shouted, “want to come say hi to Blair?” i nodded vigorously– the last time i saw her, she was merely an infant and i held her in my arms…so tiny then. it was insane to see her now as a toddler, looking so much like her dad. so i snuck around the line and slid in by where they were sitting. i reached for a high-five and then Kevin instructed her “give miss Liz a hug” and i thought i was going to melt into the floor. there’s just something about children that hits my heart. hands down, it was the biggest unexpected gift i had been given that whole weekend.

IMG_5120.JPG

the next 24 hours were mostly a blur, but consisted of coffee, getting to see Mary’s roommate Sarah for the last time (at least for a long time *insert tears here*), and watching ‘Hero! the rock opera’ (disclaimer: we laughed through most of it thanks to the Oreos an internet baby face making sites). Seriously though, I’m going to miss that Sarah girl. she is someone i wish i had so many more days with– Cheesy Potatoes and a Mandolin 4ever ❤

long before my heart was ready, it was past time for Molly and i to leave Nashville- so we crawled into her faithful car and somehow got through Kentucky and Indiana made it home.

IMG_5213

more workdays and catching up on sleep and then suddenly it was my birthday?
i definitely don’t remember agreeing to turn 26, but here it was, dumped on my head like an ice-bucket challenge surprise. i didn’t expect it to be as mentally hard as it was for me, so much in my head and heart that surfaces on birthdays. i’ve always hated my birthday and viewed it as another milestone for all the things i haven’t done and haven’t accomplished. this year though, i had love dumped on me from so so many sides. some friends bombarded me with memes, while some made videos that warmed my heart. my parents cleared their schedules to take me out for an incredibly delicious lunch but most importantly, i got to spend a solid 48 hours with my 18 month old nephew. can i just talk about this kid for a second? getting to see him has given me SO MUCH REASON TO STAY i can’t even tell you. in the hardest days and nights, i will pull up videos and photos on my phone and through tears i will look at his joy-filled face and i will fight for better days. Roger Gordon Weyh IV– you have always loved me unconditionally and i don’t know what i would do without you in my life. (besides, he is WAY cooler than me– see below photo)

IMG_5364.JPG

In all of these things, I have been continually amazed time and time again by the way God continues working in the in-betweens. The point of me writing this is not to brag about the places i’ve gone or the adventures i’ve had… in fact more has been done in my heart in the hours driving places, or the times sitting and staring at a computer screen for 8 hours a day.

There was a very large time in my life when I would need big events: concerts, conferences, memorable milestones– to find God, to have Him work. it always seemed like i was waiting for the next big thing to redefine my life, my relationship with Him..and then last year, most unexpectedly– He showed up and moved. and healed me. and i wasn’t at all expecting Him to do any of it. ever since that night, crying on a random venue floor, healing and Holy Spirit filling every fiber of my being… i’ve engaged Him so so differently. instead of going to shows and hoping for a climactic moment of the setlist, i sing songs to Him and share the journey it takes me to get to the show. hours in the car have meaning now, where they used to be an impatient waiting game. instead of always looking at the destination, i’ve begun living and breathing in the process of it all. instead of solely gazing towards a destination i think i need to reach, i’ve begun looking straight into the eyes of love Himself for all of the moments.

“When we scream,
Our lips don’t make a sound.
We march with feet on solid ground.
We walk, where no one wants to go,
On this untraveled road”
-thousand foot krutch

IMG_5272.JPG

we are not as strong as we think we are.

“what do you know that you believe about Him, friend?”

the question hung in the air between the two of us and made the space from passenger seat to driver seat seem much more vast than the reality of the actual distance. i swallowed hard and through salty tears, i whispered my biggest fear at the time,

“i don’t know right now that i believe anything– i doubt everything”

 

IMG_4277.JPG

as soon as the words left my lips, there was a measure of alarm in my heart and mind– my eyes opened wide and i stared across the glistening water of the familiar pond at Centennial Park, questioning everything from why i was in this city on this day at this hour– to my own breathing. the ingrained “good” Christian in me was freaking out– how dare i question the basic truths of my faith? and was it okay to not be sure about God right now? and what was going to happen to me? what if i died tonight not being sure about what i believed, would i be separated forever from God? and what of the fact that i didn’t even know if i believed that to be real? just because i had always been told of heaven and hell, does that mean they are absolutes in life? what if someone found out i was at this scary place in my faith? did i even have a faith anymore? i’d been removed from community from so long now that i didn’t even know if it mattered at this point what i was thinking and questioning and feeling. my mind was racing and with a fever raging through my body making everything more intensified, my anxiety began to climb and i desperately wanted to jump out of the car and start walking, despite the terribly cold temperatures and my own lack of warm clothing. closing my eyes and inhaling slowly, i was especially thankful for the friend beside me and her endless iPod of songs. she selected a familiar tune that i could focus on and for the moment i was lost in the harmonies and melodies while i tried to center myself back to reality.

“you can’t trust your feelings, feelings will lie to you”

another intense heart conversation i’d had with a friend about a month and a half before this night was ringing in my mind along with the swirling of other questions. i didn’t doubt his words, and it wasn’t the first time i’d heard them, in fact i agree with them and believe them to be completely true…but on this night i wondered if you aren’t sure of truth, what does that do to feelings, and how does it affect where you find stability? i knew i couldn’t trust my feelings, and that was a serious mercy to me in this time of questions without answer. my feelings told me to walk– no, RUN away from it all. to leave the past behind me, and start new somewhere else. walking away from everything i was, ‘breaking free’ from the Liz everyone had come to know… it was so incredibly appealing to me. when i couldn’t pinpoint my identity, a fresh chance for a new one was exactly what i thought i needed. the actual truth was that i needed to be reminded of the past to get my identity back…

IMG_4163

“is it okay if we stop at Kroger and head back home?”
the question interrupted the hurricane inside my brain and i opened my eyes and nodded in the dark, “that’s totally fine, i can’t believe how late it’s gotten.”
assuring my friend that it was absolutely fine to rejoin civilization, we started the quick journey of streetlights and merging traffic to make our way to the nearest Kroger. i suddenly had an echoing of a song in my mind and naturally, i flipped the tracks to play that tune.

suddenly, as the car filled with the sounds of  promises and praise, i lost where i was– the city, the time of night, the company– i completely lost myself in that song. and i let go of my questions for the first time in months and i sang words that were harder than they’d ever been before, “You’re still good, when the storm is all around, You’re still light, when the darkness surrounds. No matter what life brings, my heart will sing of the love You have given to me, cuz i know, You’ll never leave. So praise Yahweh, always, for our God, He gives and takes away, but still we choose, to praise Yahweh, always for our God, His promise still remains, tried and true…” and the tears poured down my face, and i could barely even sing with my ratchet voice, but my soul was singing and it mattered more than anything that i keep going, “when the walls around me break, and the ground beneath me shakes, i will fall into Your open arms, so let the walls around me break and the ground beneath me shake, i will fall into Your open arms, yeah”

out of nowhere, my eyes flew open and i began laughing. it was like having the blinds opened wide with noonday sun in the middle of a dark and stormy night. it was almost 11pm, but it was like i could see clear in a crisp morning light– God was real.
even more importantly, i still absolutely in my heart believed in Him and in what He had said. His promises were true and I BELIEVED THEM. 

my heart was filled with joy and i started laughing…instantly confusing (and probably terrifying) the friend who was with me. i couldn’t explain in the moment what had happened, because i hardly even knew. the only thing i knew in that moment was that i believed, and it started changing everything. explaining what was happening to me the best i could, my friend simply could tell God was moving and doing something and that was enough for her in the moment (for which i am grateful, i know i can be a scattered mess most of the time)..and i just was so happy for the first time in weeks. the moment mattered and i lived it with no distraction.

the following day i returned back to the negative temperature tundra land of Wisconsin, not drastically changed, but slowly finding the true North of my compass again. Monday morning, i received a phone call from one of my older siblings relaying to me that my brother who lives in Utah was planning to visit and surprise the family– and would i be able to visit with him? i began mulling over options in my mind, (i still had work of course) and opted to wait until the weekend, though it meant more travel and less rest. the days did not disappoint and the giggles of my nephew and niece were more than enough sustenance for the journey. Saturday evening ended with an incredibly fun drive to Milwaukee with my brother and a meal at my favorite little dining experience, the Safe House. me and my little car dropped him off at his hotel in Milwaukee (he flew out the next morning) and headed back to K-town. it was after 11 when i got home and i made the decision to not be bound by expectation (my own or other peoples) and i turned off my phone and fell asleep.

with a slow start to my Sunday morning, i ground some fresh Steadfast coffee (from Nashville, of course) and whipped up some paleo coconut flour pancakes for a late morning breakfast. the responsible adult in me reminded me, “hey sunshine, you need to do some laundry” so i threw in a load and returned to my favorite arm chair, contemplating what to do with my day and after catching up on Pretty Little Liars (judge me not!) i started flipping through Netflix, searching for something that seemed safe for the fragile place my heart had been in lately. my eyes roved over the screen and came across a film i had started several weeks prior, but hadn’t been able to finish because it was too intense and raw for my heart. something in me was like “gotta finish this” so i pressed play and finished out the 2nd half of “Ragamuffin”, which for those who aren’t familiar, is the story of Rich Mullins.

let me just take a moment to say that this film wrecked me in a real, raw and important way. i’d been searching for a way to follow jesus and this film laid out so many of the same questions i’d had myself, and many i’d been terrified to voice aloud to myself, let alone God…but here it was, raw and real- a profound truth-filled movie that lent clarity to so many things in my heart and mind. if you get a chance to watch it, i am telling you- DO IT. whether you believe in God or not, whether you’re a Christian or not, this film will rock what you believe and accept as normal and good.

SPOILER ALERT: for those of you who don’t know, Rich Mullins’ life ended in a car crash before he finished his last record- one he considered “his most important work”…this was something i had known growing up, i listened to his songs on contemporary Christian radio and was very familiar with much of his story.

what i did not know was that the car crash that took his life occurred near Peoria, Illinois back in 1995. as this fact flashed across the screen at the finish of the film, my heart caught in my throat and i stared at my screen, breathing momentarily halted.
was this a joke?
was this real life?
how could this be a THING?

and then i felt that familiar nudge on my heart, and i answered the soul-tug, with a soft, “what are You saying to me?” and in that instant, He reminded me that the night before, as i drove back to Kenosha from Milwaukee, completely exhausted, i had achingly cried out to Him, asking for Him to be real to me- to make His love real to me, but not just real- because Jesus dying on a cross was real.. but i needed Him to be personal, to make it matter to me in a way that my heart could grasp onto… and so He chose this, He chose to remind me of Peoria, IL.

now that i’ve got you all utterly confused (well, some of you might know where this is going, but definitely not all of you)… in Peoria, IL back in 2011, a scared, broken and scarred 21 year old ventured to a concert with a good friend. it was a show that wasn’t planned weeks in advance to attend, in fact it was completely spontaneous– only decided by her and her friend the night before. on this particular night, the lead singer of the band preached a long message after they finished their rock set. she was used to this, it wasn’t anything new…but this night? this night it was like she was singled out in the crowd, like he was speaking into the microphone and the words were dropping straight into her heart and she couldn’t get away from it, couldn’t get away from Jesus. leaving the show that night, i chose to let go of everything and accept the life He was offering me. i didn’t even know what that meant or what it looked like, but i chose to stand up out of the cloud of dirt and darkness that was surrounding me and choose Him back. Peoria isn’t where my story began, but it’s where my Redemption story exploded into reality. as my friend drove us away from the venue, i curled into the passenger seat and ugly cried for over an hour as the highway passed beneath and behind us. i let Jesus have me. the following day i would find out what it meant to be filled with the Holy Spirit and feel Him so deeply. Peoria meant something to me.

there may still be many questions, there may still be lots of confusion and i sure as hell know that there will be a battle– the fight of my life will continue just as it always has… but i believe Rich Mullins summed it up best when he penned,

“I will never doubt His promise though I doubt my heart, I doubt my eyes”

 

IMG_4123

Searching for Community.


I have six siblings.

Yes you read that right- SIX.

All but one of them are married with children and my parents are both still alive. I love my family. 
But that’s not what this post is about.
I have an amazing church family. 
People who pray with me, fight with me, make me laugh and remind me to fight for the Kingdom. They keep me humble and remind me I’m just as fallen as anyone else.. But I am also a new creation. 
But that’s not what this post is about.
This post is about how a girl, barely older than a teenager, fell in love with a certain style of music. A couple specific bands connected her to a God she dreamed of meeting but (at the time) barely knew. His love was a foreign ideal but these song lyrics were real. They were honest and they were raw– not afraid to dive deep into places where most people look away and put on masks.

These songs literally screamed the redemption that is possible, the hope that is ours to attain and the reality of a very personal God who delights in each of His precious children.
Somewhere between the late nights and abundance of energy drinks, the sweaty mosh pits and frigid outdoor pre-show will-call lines..

Somewhere between a cozy your bus that feels more like home than any place I’ve ever lived and the tears of honesty in healing…

Somewhere from the center of the stage, to the grimy floor of every random venue…
Somehow I met real family.

I became acquainted with those younger than me and older than me, some share my passionate love for Jesus and others struggle to know Him still. Many of the people I have come to cherish as “fanmily” I have only spent a couple of hours with in person over the course of our friendships. 
And when I mention to people I love going to shows, or that I have friends in a third (at least) of the continental United States (and even some in Alaska!)… I get queer looks and confused expressions.

“Yeah you’re a groupie”

“Do you really know these people?”

“How did you meet _____?”

“Oh.. So you’re not REALLY friends then.”
BUT IT’S SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT.
it’s the beautiful vibrant-hair colours that echo passionate souls and personalities not afraid to fight conformity.
it’s saving extra from each paycheck so i can drive 4 hours to see my friends in Disciple and then spend an hour and a half making an emergency run for a couple of cases of water.
it’s about driving myself to Nashville on a very huge leap of faith to accept an adventure presented to me by God because He wanted to teach me something that couldn’t happen in the little seaside town i now call home.
it’s about waking at 2, 3, 4 a.m. from dreams and visions from God– knowing it was required of me to pray– and urgently– for my friends scattered across this globe.
it’s also about getting to have a protective big brother, who somehow cares about my life and my story STILL.. when it made no sense for him to remember my name all those years ago.
it’s about Jesus in the beginning, the middle and the end. 
He is the reason i fight for this community. i believe it’s incredible intentional how He has knit our fanmily together– to show us what our everyday lives should be and how we should fight to live always.
it’s about an incredible God, who created us all for purpose and to be known so intimately that this adventurous road would be the only way He could reach our hearts and show us Himself time and time again.
it’s about Redemption, the power of the Blood and the love that fiercely guides us to a brighter future.
i have a wonderful life… but that’s not what this post is about.

an open hand and a lot of trust.

“Does all of this sound okay to you?”
The day spread out before us and as we sipped on coffee and blinked our eyes awake, the morning light was already rising to an early midday position and the question hung in the air. It was a question inquiring on trust and pending judgement.
Instead of clinging to fear, I chose to open my heart and accept a day of adventure.

My best friend was visiting and weeks ago I had offered a day for her to plan for us.
In my haste of allowing her to do this, I did not think of the nerves or the fear I would feel later.
My days are so planned and laid out before me, mostly out of my control that a day where I had no clue to what was planned.
This was all a stretch for my heart but I took the leap and with a steamy Starbucks brew in hand, I played DJ while Mary navigated the road to Milwaukee.

We entertained a stop at Whole Foods and discovered upon a ravine and a trail leading to Lake Michigan.
Both of us breathed in the crisp air and our hearts sang words of discovery, joy and friendship.
Lunch was had shortly thereafter and a fresh brew of coffee from a little indie little-known shop in the heart of Milwaukee.

The day was drawing to an end and as we returned to Kenosha, Mary indicated a desire to find a remote location for her guitar, us and some songs. The place we chose at dusk ended up a secluded wood with just enough light to view the setting of the sun through the branches.

The notes of familiar worship songs soared to the skies as we sang to our Jesus and reminded our hearts of truths not able to be tainted by the darknesses in this world. And then, to end the time, a few familiar notes and she was playing my song. It was written in the depths of my dark season and the lyrics rang true to the core of my heart.

“it feels like no one wanted her to stay,
it feels like maybe she should walk away,
but it shines bright, 
the Spirit still inside of her,
so tonight, she’ll dance in the summer rain”

“All My Sand Castles Spend Their Time Collapsing”

“when it feels like my dreams are so far, sing to me of the plans that You have for me over again”
-Switchfoot
Sometimes… it’s like everything happens all at once and then nothing happens for a long span of time. It would be incredibly unfair of me to act like I have it all together or that there is any actual insight in what I have to offer. I’m writing about seasons and I’m writing about what it’s been like to live these days through my eyes. There’s definitely not a simple way to explain for understanding, but I would prefer to not always be simple. Things worth fighting for can be complex and understanding rarely comes until you have hindsight.

Ever since I can remember– early teen years if not before, I’ve longed to live life on my own. “Being an adult” and “doing what I want” and “having adventures” whenever I wanted them. Then I moved out of my parents house, drove 3 hours and started over with new air in my lungs. 3 1/2 years after that initial leap into the open air, I took another deep breath and turned the key to my new apartment. Of course I would have roommates and yes, Lake Michigan was still only a brisk jog away. Over the course of the next few days, I removed my belongings from their boxes and crates and chose new homes for them all. Why was it so easy to change my surroundings and change my habits and yet the way I had organized myself was still crammed and dusty? I would mull over thoughts like this for weeks, scarcely writing or even talking about any of it with the people I am close to. Everytime God would speak something to me, I would internalize it– holding it close; terrified of letting go when everything else I knew was changing.

But then– it happened. One morning I crawled out of bed and as I padded across my room and gazed into my mirror– I hardly recognized myself. Looking back at that girl that day gave me courage. Suddenly, I wasn’t afraid to tackle my own darknesses. I found a boldness to wear the liquid eyeliner I loved flaunting. For the first time in years, I slipped my thick black rimmed glasses on my face and didn’t cringe at the way they changed my appearance.

Several months later I would encounter a deep healing and a gut-wrenching emptiness where His light had finally pierced into my darkness. I began choosing hard conversations and discerning the tender, strong voice of Jesus became even easier than I thought possible. He would whisper to me about the future and even though the darkness was destroyed forever, it’s still been a struggle to fight the cynicism that rises up so sour in my chest. “Plans to give you a hope and a future” He says– a phrase you will find plastered on journal covers and decorative wall murals…but half the time I don’t believe it’s possible for me.

“Oh don’t be so hard on yourself!” people have chastised me and “you can’t write yourself off like that” they rebuke when I dare to share my struggles. So I walk back to my car every time with sinking heart and a disconnected spirit– consistently disappointed that anyone can relate to what is happening in my life and where I am right now. Somewhere along the way I have learned to prefer the solitude of my own company in various activities to the forced polite coffee dates with friends who don’t actually want to hear my heart and awkward conversations over dinner with married friends who scarcely remember breakfast that morning let alone what life was like before 3 kids and a mortgage. When the day has drawn to a close and I pull the blankets up to my chin at night, I almost always heave a sigh of relief that I am about to sleep and find relaxation and peace.

There have been enough conversations in the past two years where I’ve walked away feeling like a freak that I’ve never dated anyone and when games are played over something as serious as relationships (or the potential of a relationship)– I’ve been incredibly frustrated. It’s been easy to be angry towards the male gender in general with all of these instances swirling in my head. “What happened to guys being actual MEN?” and “Am I sure I’m not still in high school because it sure feels like it” are two thoughts I will confess to commonly entertaining in my frustrated moments. Then there are the emotions of anger and resentment towards everyone i know who actually is married– especially Christian couples. Please don’t misunderstand my words– I do believe marriage is created by God and that it is a wonderful gift, sure. I might even go as far to bestow words of praise towards couples I know who live out their marriages in strong service to the Lord and the advancement of His kingdom… but that’s really where it ends for me. There has been this unfortunate disillusionment in my heart from what I’ve experienced and seen. Now hear my heart– while I do understand marriage is a good thing, it is INCREDIBLY UNFORTUNATE that it is glorified beyond its intent. Marriage is not an end-all or the means to perfect life goals and happiness. Christ should be the sole satisfaction of your soul, not your spouse and when your words, attitudes and actions judge single people for not being married, there is something incredibly wrong in your perception of the intent of marriage…

and for single people? it’s the most frustrating thing to have to wade through.

I can’t pretend to know everything about marriage– I realize I am not married nor experienced. But what I can say is this– I am in a season of hard work and dry, empty days. It would be incredibly easy for me to fixate on something such as marriage to be my “end goal” for where I’m at right now….however I am refusing to do just that. It’s bad enough to have dreams you have held and hoped for over a span of more than a decade to disintegrate in your own useless and incapable hands, but to continually have expectation thrust upon you by people who tell you grace says you’re enough, and then turn around and ’tisk-tisk’ you for not being romantically interested in 3 guys at once? I can clearly see a problem here, and I don’t believe it’s in my own heart or view point.

My final question is this:

— How can we continually fill little girls’ heads with fairytale ideas of princesses and knights in shining armor their entire childhoods only to reject their kind and loving hearts in their young adult years– because for some reason they have not made themselves available enough to “prince charming”? maybe it’s time to re-evaluate what’s a priority.
Me? I intend to keep pursuing Jesus morning and evening, listening to what He says, and speaking what He shows me to speak. My heart has been deeply wounded for most of my years but let me reassure something here– I am fierce at loving. After being battered by lies and bullying my entire life– I have learned to fight. What will your choice be?

Slowly and Then All At Once.

When I first chose to surrender everything to Christ, back when I was 20 years old, I didn’t have much hope in Him, let alone in this life. At the time, I was barely clinging to His promise that He would always be with me, that I wasn’t invisible Him, that my pain was something He make worth the aching and tears. A few dear friends who stood by me through the worst of the storms, promised hope and better things for the future. To put it bluntly– I didn’t believe them. Any of them. I recall more than a few arguing matches with people who cared about me. I remember walking away aching and still bleeding inside from wounds I’d known for years. Somehow there was belief in my heart. When it seemed as though my back was against the wall, like I was cornered and surrounded by wild animals— every single time, there He was, reaching out His hand and rescuing me.  Time after time, I would find myself in another mess, another night full of tears and gut-wrenching loneliness and pain that gripped my heart and tore at my soul.

It would be about a year and a half after that decision that everything in my life was torn apart. Every doubting question, every bit of anger and fear and abandonment that I ever believed or felt— in that season, it all came bubbling to the surface and I broke. Shattered would be a more accurate term. Everything felt like deep death and pain, every waking moment and every sleepless night. I would search day and night for comfort, for the Voice that I knew, but there was more often silence than words. I would read scriptures that I had known since I was a little girl and the words would just be words. I stopped feeling, stopped caring.

Every now and again, something would happen out of nowhere and interrupt my cynicism violently. One such time was a Sunday morning when an incredible friend came to the back where I was hiding, softly grabbed my hand and led me to the front where people were receiving prayer and being set free. I cried freely that day and I knew things were only just beginning to open up. I had no idea that the future would hold freedoms I dared not dream of on my best days. If you would have told me I wouldn’t constantly feel shame over things that happened to me when I was barely a teenager, I would never have believed it. I was the queen of cynicism when it came to forgiveness and especially love. I had so many fears and it seemed like every time I turned around, I had opened up to trust someone and I was burned again, hurt again and it felt like the bleeding would never stop. Did no one really even care about me or my heart? Why was I constantly forced to face everything alone?

Then out of nowhere, He began whispering to my heart of healing. Events took place where I wasn’t afraid to be open and vulnerable. In the not too distant past, I was finally able to sit down with a close friend, take a deep breath and say, “I have been so so wrong and hurtful to you with ___, ___ and ___… can you forgive me?” And as tears fell from my eyes, and I finally had the courage to look up at her, I saw tears of love looking back at me. It was an outpouring of grace I wasn’t expecting to hit me so strongly and it came so quickly and suddenly I was overwhelmed. I was thankful for that day and the night we spent together in a room full of sweaty Christians. That night changed something in me that I had long given up hope for restoration and healing. I’ll never forget being on my knees, huddled on a dirty floor of a random church venue, sobbing to the point of hardly breathing as His hands reached into my heart and softly healed the parts of my spirit and soul that had been ripped by someone else’s hands. More than that, I believe pieces that were stolen have been replaced.

Just a couple weeks later, I found myself again in a crowded room, again at a concert and again I felt the pressing hand of God on my heart. “Far more can be mended than you know.” He reminded me and as tears of hope rolled down my face, I lifted my arms, opened up my hands and opened my heart to Him in such a full way it felt like I was getting born again– again!

That was an incredibly significant night for me, because I walked away from who I was…. once and for all.
As many who know me are aware, once upon a past life, I was severely depressed, broken beyond repair, very alone and in pain I couldn’t handle. I decided to make everything better on my own terms and taking my own life seemed like the only option I had left. To summarize a very painful and scary night, Jesus met me on a bridge and He took my hand and we walked away from that place on that night. For years I would go back to that bridge and re-live would could have been, how I could have been “free” on my own terms. But on this night, He brought up the bridge. He told me to walk away and let go of it forever. I made the choice to turn away and walk away and as I did, I began to be enveloped by a white light and everything around me wasn’t dark and scary and gray anymore, but everything was light and clean and new.

The following day He was speaking to me and whispering “there is more to come, this isn’t over” and even today He told me, “now is not the time to be afraid.” Because of how everything has unfolded, I have begun to believe that much like falling in love, healing comes slowly and then all at once. I know my Jesus is about the process He is taking me through and I am only just beginning to understand the valley of the shadow. I see now that I do not have to fear when facing the darkness, when facing the enemy because I am always fully surrounded and fully protected. The place He has me right now is the best possible place I could be for where He is taking me in the future.

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, 
nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God
in Christ Jesus our Lord.” -Romans 8:38

Previous Older Entries Next Newer Entries