A Story Of A Journey

June 12th, 2013 by Lisa

Ryan asked me the other day what my relationship with God was like. It was a really good question and we had a really good conversation. And I figured it would be a good thing to write about too.

To tell you what my relationship with God is like, I’ll first have to catch you up on my story, cause it very much has shaped my relationship with God. And my relationship with God has very much shaped my story.

I grew up in the church.
A southern baptist church when I was younger and an independent church (more Presbyterian) for the rest of my growing up years. And I remember being very little and my parents telling me about God, and who Jesus was, and at age 6 I decided one night in bed that I didn’t want to go to hell and I wanted to be with Jesus. So I asked Jesus in my heart to seal the deal. I declined to be baptized for a little while though, because I was afraid the pastor would pinch my nose too tight. He looked like he was more than capable.

Then one moment at awana camp at age 11 and wandering the lakeside alone, the realization came to me that being a Christian was more than about doing what I was supposed to. I realized that God actually had plans for me and wanted me to follow Him. I realized God wanted a relationship with me. So that night I came forward and announced that I was “rededicating my life to the Lord”. To seal the deal.

I went to awana camp 8 summers in a row. It was a place I knew I would experience God and real fellowship and community. By my last year as a grad student, I had experienced some extreme and traumatic life events. None of which had rattled or shaken my belief in God, but had certainly caused a world of tension confusion and hurt within my self which I kept so suppressed. At that time I didn’t know how to let even God into those raw places of my heart. At the time I’m not even sure I knew they existed, or that anything existed outside of them.

About four years forward, I’m twenty two and feeling rather numb with life. And it frustrates me, I feel like life with God is supposed to be full, and fruitful, right? Not bland and empty. If I’m trying so hard to do everything right, why aren’t I getting anywhere? Where was God? Why did my soul feel trapped in a dry desert. That summer just before I turned twenty three, God answered a question for me. I had asked him why I felt so dry, and unable to receive His love. Because I knew He loved me, I just didn’t know why I couldn’t live in it and out of it. I felt like I was a sponge, meant to soak up His life and love, but I was wrapped in plastic keeping me from being able to.
His answer to me was this: love yourself. I told Him I’d try, though I didn’t know how. At that moment, His love surrounded me in a very tangible way. That moment was a pivotal point for me. I started a journey of loving myself. I started learning how to see myself through God’s eyes. With God’s love. I started learning how the best thing I could ever give to anyone around me is myself. Because God made me in His image, God made me exactly the way I am because it delighted Him to do so.

What happened next was both unexpected, and caused even more unexpected events. I met a boy. And God sent him after me. I was so taken with him, and I didn’t have a clue. What I do remember is wanting to get to know him more, wanting to keep him around. I was eager to spend more time with him. Then he dropped the bomb on me, asking me if he could pursue my hand. It reeled me out in to outer space and back, and when I told him no, it was the most saddening thing I’ve ever had to say, and even then I couldn’t figure out why. About a week later I came to my senses just enough to tell him yes. I’m pretty sure I sent him into outer space and back too at that moment.

We were like a couple of middle schoolers in our mid twenties, I’m so glad I’ll never know what we must have looked like. Neither of us had been in a relationship before. We both had a lot of learning to do, and naturally, we both became catalysts for things we each would need to deal with on our own. We started seeing each other in November, and of course by March we were both wanting to get married that fall. But Ryan had encountered a few realizations that sent him to the depths of the deepest and most painful parts of his heart, which sent him into a pretty severe depression. And as weeks turned to months, all the while I had this faith.

When I had finally realized that I might actually like Ryan, I had just said yes to him pursuing me and I realized I was actually going to marry him and my life would never be the same from that point on, all in the same moment. And as I got to actually know him, I had this knowing in my soul that he had the type of relationship with God where he could literally do anything he wanted to. What is profound is that relationship from Ryan’s end was really going south. Much of his depression was a struggle to believe God actually cared about him and was going to provide him what he needed. And the whole time, as much as I was tempted to doubt and fear that I was doing the right thing or that things would work out at all, this knowing stayed with me deep in my heart that the specific relationship I saw between him and God wasn’t the kind that was going to be faltered. I knew God had a handle on him that would defy any amount of disbelief in Ryan.

It’s been no gentle road up and out of the struggle, however. There was actually a time in the Fall which I spent apart from Ryan and with my family in Arizona. After coming back and even after reuniting with Ryan I became very depressed. Back in June I had quit my full time job to pursue freelance work, but with the emotional turmoil I was going through I couldn’t support myself, and I knew I wasn’t even capable of holding a normal job. In February (of this year) I finally got a waitressing job. And I was finally seeing Ryan really changing in his outlook and his emotions and what he talked about. It was so hard to even see, because had gotten so hard to hope. I was at a point so low I was so unable to hold on to hope, but still, all the while that faith stayed with me. I realized that the faith and hope I couldn’t hold onto was holding onto me.

And that’s been the strangest part. God told me two summers ago to love myself. Then He sent me Ryan. And through that relationship, Ryan has shown me a love that I have never experienced before. He has supported me in a way I have never known support. He has accepted me in a way I have never known acceptance. All while he has been so broken in himself. And I can see, I know, that that love he loves me with, is the overpowering love of Christ. Even when Ryan pointedly hated God, he was able to love me with an incredible love I know came directly from God. The faith, hope, and love involved in this journey (for each of us individually and together) has not been that of our own perseverance, it has literally been what has held us up.

This past year and a half of dating Ryan and learning how to love myself has been such a blur, such a hurricane of emotion and such a fierce uprooting of causes of fear and pain in my heart. And I am so blessed, and so in awe of what has happened for both of us. Ryan’s season of depression has really produced exactly what I foreknew it would. His wounds are being healed, and his relationship with God has been strengthened beyond what I imagined. And I know that in this season I am going through a very similar process of my own with God.

So what I explained to Ryan when he asked me what my relationship with God is like is this.

Growing up, I believed that God had given us a set of instructions to live by. So if I was hurting or not doing ok, I must be out of line somewhere, so I’d pray and read the bible to figure out where I was wrong and how to fix myself. I believed it was up to me to do things right and stay in line. So I’d pray and read the bible, but be frustrated when I didn’t get the answers I needed. I gradually begin realize the value of just talking to God like a friend, I began consulting Him on the small things, and just talking to Him in my head instead of talking to myself. I also gradually began to realize that conversing with God didn’t even have to be deliberate, that when it says ‘pray without ceasing’, doesn’t mean to never use your brain for anything other than talking to God, but that I could essentially live in an awareness that God was always present, that He was always listening, and that He was always a part of everything I did. Kinda like tuning into a ‘holy frequency’. I’d frequently go to biblestudies once I grew out of awana. But I started to experience seasons where I really didn’t feel like God was present, and I couldn’t really connect with Him. The ‘holy frequency’ was gone. And no matter how much I studied, read, or prayed, I couldn’t reach personal contact with Him. I would try to stay focused on God and the things of God anyway, but when it drew out for a couple years was when I grew frustrated and felt so dry in my soul. That was when He turned my focus from seeking Him with my actions and efforts, to sitting back and knowing Him by His.

This journey of loving myself has really turned around my understanding of who God actually is and how I can actually relate to Him. Instead of just tapping Him into my mind like a radio wave, I’ve been learning how to see him more for who He is and how much He has power over, how much He is in control, and how to let Him change me. He’s been gently pursuing parts of my heart I’ve kept safely hidden while they rot away, and I’ve been learning difficult lessons over this year about surrendering control over the safety of my hidden places. Some of those parts of my heart are parts of myself I’ve simply rejected as no good. And it’s been scary to let them out, because they are so rough and raw and sensitive. And I don’t know why, but somehow it took a period of time full of grave uncertainty and pain and depression to bring me to a point of being able to let them go.

And through this time of depression and faith that holds me when I can’t hold on, my relationship with God has been like this: I know He’s there, I know He cares deeply for me, and I know He’s in control. And I know what He’s been asking me to do is to let go, He’s asking me to delve into emotions I know will blind me from seeing clearly. So while I’m obeying, while I’m doing so, I have to trust that He is there like I know He is, even if it’s the last thing I feel like in any given moment. Even if I’m consumed with anger or fear or hurt. It’s a knowing and a faith that holds on to me, when I am completely powerless, weak, and helplessly saturated in raw blinding emotions. And the beautiful thing is I know it is all for the sake of healing.

These days my relationship with God is very much described by faith, trust, and learning to let go of control. I’m not depending on anything but that I know He’s leading me on this journey of continuing to learn to love myself and live in freedom of who He’s made me to be and who He is. And for the first time in my life I’m learning what rest really is, because I know it’s not up to me.

Lifeline

May 23rd, 2013 by Lisa

It’s been a dark, difficult, and painful year and a half for me. And from where I’m at now, it doesn’t particularly seem that bad, and while my first thought was maybe I’ve just gotten used to it, I believe it’s more because it’s been that way long before now, it was just less obvious in the years leading here. All the things I’m wrestling with in my heart and mind are things that have been there for a very long time. Fear. Doubt. Self doubt. The inability to have any confidence in myself unless it’s confirmed by someone else. The inability to be honest with myself about what I really think and feel, and the inability to express it. The fear of displeasing anyone, because I take it as a reflection of my performance.

It’s difficult to willingly address these types of things, because for one it’s just a painful and messy process. For two, from the outside it looks like you’re just a mess and out of control. Which you are. Your goal is healing, but you are out of control. And that’s what faith takes, is letting go of control. And to take this step requires a tremendous amount of faith.

One of the things I’ve discovered about living by faith, is that it makes it impossible to give a satisfactory explanation for your actions or decisions. This makes it scary for you, on top of everyone else who cares about you and is concerned. But, with faith comes a peace. Not a peace that erases all fear and doubt, for there are still difficult things that need to be addressed and processed. But this peace, exists deeper than anything else. This peace, it’s deeper than calm. It’s stronger than confidence. It’s an immovable mountain beneath you. Sometimes it feels so far beneath you that you will just be swept away from it by the ocean of emotion that surrounds you. But it’s always there underneath you, and underneath everything else.

This peace is just a knowing, a faith, a trust. That the condition of my heart or mind does not determine or hinder the carrying out of God’s ultimate plan and purpose, and it doesn’t determine wether or not He does or doesn’t bless me or care about me or notice me. God is not slowed or held back by how much or little I understand, or how much I am or am not capable of. The only difference I can make in any of it is whether or not I choose to simply trust and follow Him.

And through this process of learning to live by faith, though I may be swept away in fear or anger or sadness, He is still constant, and full of grace, love, redemption, and reconciliation. And He is my lifeline, so I am safe.

My Song To Sing

February 26th, 2013 by Lisa

I was writing my heart
I was writing a song
A song I couldn’t sing

A song inside me full of life
A song held back by chains

These chains were truths that weighed on me
But were locked with lies I couldn’t see

If I knew the lies did not exist
I could just set the chains aside

When the truth shines
And we open our eyes
We see the freedom that’s there

Now these lies I see, I know they’re false
Now I can drop these chains

But how to walk without these chains
They seem a part of me

It’s a matter of choice to let them go
And to set them down to leave behind

And it’s a process to grow in learning how
To walk in the freedom we have

These chains of mine, the truth of these:
I’m sensitive, emotional, and rather fickle
I don’t respond well to goals or expectations
I don’t function naturally in a school system setting
I don’t function naturally in a typical job setting
I’m a people pleaser
I’ll shortchange myself often
Then get desperate to defend myself

But the lies are these, the falsehoods are:
I’m limited, empty-headed, pointless and unuseful in my emotions
I’m worthless because I can’t climb the ‘success ladder’ of the standard american dream
I’m subject to what others say or think
I’m bound by what others expect, I’m bound to make them happy
My value is reflected by how others respond to me
I’m dependent on others to tell me I’m ok

Untangling the lies from the truths
Seems an awfully daunting task
But slowly I am recognizing
It’s a matter of my own response

If my identity is in Christ
If I am who He says I am
Who is anyone else to tell me different
Who am I to believe anything else?

The lessons God is teaching me
The truth He sets before my eyes
Shows me how faithful His love is to me
Despite everything I’m feeling

Knowing you’re cared for, knowing you’re loved
For who you are and where you’re at
I think is one of the most important things
A person can believe

My Personal Psalms

January 31st, 2013 by Lisa

This morning as I was writing I realized what my poetry is. I’ve wondered all along how to describe it, becaise its really something all of it’s own. It tends to be deep. And really what it is is the outflow of my heart.

These are my personal psalms.

I’m caught in this place, this old mentality
I’m caught in this haze, this cloud in my mind
Off all the things I should be, of all the things I’m not
I’ve been here before, but this is a deeper spot
I’m going deeper, getting closer to the root of the fault
This is good, it’s a journey I will be glad I made
But right now it is agony, I’m hanging in between
Dealing with pressure, consequences
and trying to think like I’m normal
I cannot function this way
I need to just let myself be broke
Let go, give in, Jesus told me, He has me in and out

So I can be broke, I can now breath, I can release my grip
Though I’m falling into my faults
He knows my faults, and He has my hand
He will be my strength, what I need
He won’t let me go too far

What I need to do is just go back
to what my point and purpose is
Is my purpose to be successful
to prosper, to give, to succeed?

Or is my purpose to be myself, to help and love those around me.

Or is my purpose to simply love Jesus, to know him and to abide?

Go down to the root, don’t splint your branches, don’t try to tape your leaves.
Remember the source, He’s the water of life, from Him will grow all you need.

And all the while He ponders your thoughts, He holds your time in His hand.
He waters you, gardens you, tends all your needs, you cannot escape His love.

Evermore

January 31st, 2013 by Lisa

This is where we are
This is where we need to be
Not where we should stay
But not off track, just wait and see
Who knows what life will bring
Who knows how soon will change
Who knows, God does, I am not He
I evermore am safe

A Winter Poem

January 10th, 2013 by Lisa

Painted over, white on black
Spread the sheet like hills of snow
Shadows deepen, contrast the light
Truth stands pure in the dark of night

Widows lit with candle flame
Flickers hope for traveling home
Winter warmth, welcoming in
The greatest bond distance brings

Words which come from a deeper place
Grow the understanding dawn
Melt the icy covering
Return to bloom

Do What You Love

December 21st, 2012 by Lisa

Adam Baker, founder of Man Vs. Debt, gave a TED talk titled “Sell your crap. Pay your debt. Do what you love.” I loved listening to what he had to say for many reasons, but mostly because he brought to light several concepts that all tie in together, and these concepts are ones I’ve been pondering more and more and trying to grasp.

Do what you love. It’s the only way you are really going to thrive! The concept is that simple. Adam talks about the importance of setting your own goals, and your own definition of freedom to you as an individual, or as a family. Because if you don’t, there are plenty of people and companies and media out there to give you a cookie-cutter template for what your goals should be for your life: go to school, get a job, get married, buy a house, buy more stuff, have the latest gadgets, retire wealthy, etc. It kinda makes me shutter!

When he talked about one of their personal goals being to go backpacking through Australia with their one year old daughter, my heart flipped. That was an assumption I had just accepted, that once I’m married and start having kids, I’m tied down to one place and can’t really travel anymore. Assumption = Myth = Busted!! To me there is so much freedom in the acknowledgement that if it’s important to me, I can do it. Regardless of how practical or probable it is. I can home school my kids and take them on road trips across the states, or even through Europe for some “field studies” if I wanted to! Sure there are always costs and compromises, but if that experience means more to me that owning a brand new car, for example, then that’s my choice to make! Doing what you love is all about deciding what’s most important to you.

I hope to write more on this topic as I’m discovering how to break out of that model of life that I’ve just accepted for so long, and what freedom really is to me. But for now, you should listen to Adam’s talk! What I’ve mentioned above is just a small highlight of what he has to share:

Lindsey Sterling, Hip-hop Violinist

December 20th, 2012 by Lisa

This girl is one of a kind. When I first saw her video Crystallize, I instantly fell in love. As a dancer and musician, she is absolutely inspiring. But it’s not her technique or the novelty of something different… she loves it, and you can see it. She puts her soul into it. And that is the coolest thing to me.

Visit her youtube channel, or watch and listen to some amazing dubstep violin action here:

Hello Bonanza!

December 7th, 2012 by Lisa

So I’ve decided to set up an online store and start selling a few things! For now, for my purposes, this is basically an online garage sale. (I’ll be moving soon and will be cleaning out my closets anyway!) But I’m thinking eventually it’d be fun to start reselling thrift items…

At any rate, I decided to start out on Bonanza over Amazon, Ebay, and Etsy for a number of reasons. First of all Bonanza is the least expensive place to get started, secondly it’s a smaller amount of traffic but also smaller amount of similar listings, thirdly I liked the cleanness of the website and branding, and overall it seemed to fit my goals the best.

Here’s to trying new things!

Lisabeloved

December 6th, 2012 by Lisa

I often use lisabeloved as my username when signing up for something online. It goes as far back with me as being my main email address, and it’s really become part of my identity online. And for some reason, I just felt inclined to explain what it means to me.

What does it mean.

Well, I stole it from John. John the beloved.

There was actually a study I did called Beloved Disciple. Not that I really remember much about the study itself, but the impression it left on me really stuck. The intimacy of being a disciple, of being close to Christ. It’s the farthest thing from religion you can get.

Every time I see or write that name, lisabeloved, I see myself being loved. I hear God saying my name and calling me His beloved. It really is the most tender and intimate thing. And it’s my name. It’s my identity.

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