Thursday, February 9, 2017

One Whole Year Ago

I had intended to write this yesterday, but Wednesday is pretty much my hardest and longest day of the week. Also, I had a STATS quiz that I was super anxious about. But it's over and I feel confident about my work on it!

One full year ago, yesterday, I first met Dan Wahlgren, and his daughter Emmie. They would eventually become my employer, and dear friend, respectively.

When my big brother said "Let's go to Bible Study", I had no clue that night would completely change my planned trajectory for my life. I had figured I would hear some cool stuff about the Christian walk from a couple of learned men, and I was looking forward to meeting some of my brother's friends.
I had no idea that those people would become my friends too, one day.

At the beginning of the two Bible studies we attended that night, Dan presented Table in the Wilderness. He was recruiting Summer Staff and "looking for students who can give a Summer to God". I remember him advertising the opportunity and thinking "This sounds cool, but I'm not a student." After the first intro I knew I had to, at least, go to their little table and get information, I made sure the interaction was brief. I didn't want to commit to anything yet. Throughout the Bible Study something weighed heavier and heavier on me, until I got up, got an application, and filled it out during the second Bible Study. Hearing Dan's spiel a second time was pretty convincing as well.
When I brought the application back, we had a brief conversation about who I was. He invited me to come up to Camp the next day and meet with him and his wife.

So, a year ago today I went to Table in the Wilderness for the first time. My jaw basically became unhinged as I made my way up the now-familiar Highway 130, and into the Snowies. I kept taking pictures and nearly wrecking while doing so. I was ELATED. I was nearly in tears it was so beautiful. I was enchanted by the quaintness of Centennial (still am, actually).

I believe I met Nate first, as I tried to find my way around the Lodge. He took me to the Office and I met Sandra for the first time. She would eventually become one of the most vital pieces in my growth process of this Summer, and I would end up referring to her as our Camp-Mom.
Over the next hour we had my "interview". Technically it was an interview, but really it felt like a conversation about life, faith, and Christ with old friends.
They would offer me the position on the spot, with the wise words of "Do not give us an answer yet. Go home, pray about it, talk it over with your boyfriend and your family, and give us an answer in a week. Just let us know that you made it home safely."

A week later I would give them my answer.

I am struggling to put into words just how surreal it is to think about my life and where I was one full year ago.
When I think about all the relationships I am establishing and cultivating here in Laramie...I am staggered to think of a life without these people. A life not here. A life back in Ohio, doing whatever it is I'd be doing now. It's almost entertaining to try and imagine myself back in Ohio, because, well, I CAN'T. I can barely even picture it.
I could sit here and list the dozens of people I've met since I moved here, but it would be a little pointless. Those names would mean little to most of you. But each and every one means something significant to me, because each one is like a constellation pointing to Polaris - and Polaris is the reason I'm here.
Each connection I've established is the reason I'm here.
Every opportunity to love someone and share life with them is the reason I moved to Laramie.
Every chance to serve and lay down my life is the point of me moving here.

Now, this isn't to say that God wouldn't be using if I'd never come here. But for whatever unknown millions of reasons, He sees it best for me to serve here.
This also isn't to say that any of relationships back in Ohio were or are pointless or fruitless. I do my best to stay in contact with people from home, whether it's through this blog, or social media, or texting, or occasional phone calls.

Sure. I get home sick sometimes. There are Sunday mornings that I wake up and want nothing more than to be reunited with my family at Indianola Church of Christ. But day by day, bit by bit, God is continuing to open my heart to become a family member here. He's holding my hand and guiding me through the process of being here, and making my home here. I don't know how long my home will be here. I don't know for how much of our lives Kitty and I will reside here.
For right now, we are here and we do our best to make the very most of it.

Thank you, to each and everyone of you who has ever loved me, believed in me, and supported me. I wouldn't be here without YOU.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Fully Content, Fully Present

My sister recently shared a blog post with me that a young girl, about my age, wrote. It was about her "word" for the year being engaged, and how she wants to focus on engagement this year.

No, not that kind of engagement. It's a bit click-baity in that you read it expecting that she's betting her year on becoming engaged to be married. Instead, she wants to honestly and intimately engage with the people around her. To be fully present in the moment, not living in a day dream or a social media lie.

It struck a weird chord inside of me. A personal one that has been carefully and deeply buried under layers of pain, growth, and experience. Because, in one particular year, I did bet my life on becoming engaged to man. I had been told by a man who claimed to be speaking by the power of God, that I would be engaged that year. Life more or less crumbled around me as that prophecy became less and less likely to be true.
I hinged a lot of decisions that year on the hope that I would finally not be alone. That I would finally have a man to come home to and go through life with. Surprisingly, it as rather liberating when I finally let that dream die and be buried in that year. I received a greater measure of liberty and freedom when I stopped treating it like a fortune cookie.

All of that to say:
I am as single as the broken Pringle at the bottom of the can that you just can't quite reach, and I'm becoming OK with it.

So this year I am making a conscious effort to focus on being completely content with where I am and who I am, and not spend energy in looking for a man. I've wasted a lot of time obsessing over this boy, or that boy, or regretting poor relationship decisions, or fretting over whether or not a certain someone would notice me. And I am just 100% done with it. It's exhausting, and it leaves me stressed, and frustrated. I get angry when a guy I notice doesn't notice me back. I want to scream and ask why I'm not __enough for him.
I can't always help it when my emotions are basically flying out the window, and I'm trying to bring them all back inside with a strong "CONTROL YOURSELVES, CHILDREN". But. I am in complete control of the decisions I make. I choose whether or not I am going to act on impulse towards a guy I'm attracted to. I decided whether or not to feed the anger, or the jealousy that says "you deserve what SHE got, she doesn't deserve it". It's my responsibility to make the right choice every time, in spite of how I feel.
In 2017 I am going to make a conscious effort to complain about my relationship status less, and less, and take more joy in the daily relationships that I build and experience at work, school, and in the Church community. Instead of being mindful of, and obsessed with, what I don't have, I am going to be thankful for all the wonderful things and people that I do have.

Please, if you ever hear me whining about my singleness feel free to remind me of this very blog post.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

New Year, New...everything.

As I went out to enjoy the last hours of 2016 I had high hopes of making the night fun, and enjoyable.

The first couple of hours were spent in a bar I'd never been in before, proudly decked out in scarlet and grey clinging to my Buckeyes for dear life, and watched as The Ohio State fell very, very hard straight onto their faces. The end was a sweet relief. I didn't have to watch them flop and fumble anymore, or think of my friends who had driven across the country just to watch our team lose.

But I was determined to shake it off and have a great night anyways.

I spent a little while at The Tap, talking to people and waiting for Elk Tongue's show to begin at 8Bytes Cafe. I was excited to finally go to a show, it had been far too long. Plus, the band consists of two of my coworkers so mostly everyone I've ever met in Laramie was going to be there. And we all had plans to head back to Tap at Midnight for the champaigne toast. What about this night could go wrong?

Well. For me, a lot.

It took all of about 10 minutes for a very unexpected bout of rather intense anxiety and introversion to punch me in the face. Very hard. I could not keep still, and I lost all desire to dance and experience the band. I couldn't even stand still long enough to wait in the bar line and order a drink. I tried very hard to participate in the festivities, but these unwelcome memories kept coming over me like a flood. I knew it was time for me to go when a coworker asked if I had a sad face on. I had no desire to bum anyone's night, so I left. I went back to CoalCreek. I sat at the coffee bar for awhile, fighting tears. I tried to go to Tap a few times, but every time I did my brain just started screaming "Too many people! No! Go back! Get out!" I wanted nothing more than to just leave completely, and stand on the bridge staring at the stars at midnight.

Another coworker asked me if I was ok, and I just cried more. I didn't want to talk about it. I just wanted to cry more.

Eventually we went to Tap, to get ready for the toast. And that's when I couldn't fight the tears anymore.
That's when the memories I'd been struggling to bury resurfaced like the undead from the grave.

And I completely broke down.Cried into my flute and everything.


My first hours of 2016 were spent in the arms of the one I used to love. I bet my life and my future on him. I put all of my eggs into his basket.
We started our year on some uncertainty. That uncertainty grew, and grew until it became a canyon between us that pushed us further and further apart.
The plans that we had begun to build and work towards slowly began to crumble and fall apart. He began changing his mind on things that used to be steadfast. The more he became unsure, the more i fought, kicked, and screamed to make sure I got what I wanted out of the relationship.
The harder I fought, the more he pulled away.

And then one day, after weeks of tears and arguments, he went back to Cleveland. I cried a lot more. I think a part of me, deep down lost somewhere inside of me, the voice I had quit listening to when my heart became so set on getting married that I wanted nothing else in life, It knew we were over. I knew we were coming to an end. But I fought, hard. Because I knew what I wanted, and I thought I knew what I needed.

I had no clue where God was sending him, or what he was being called to. He barely knew himself. But I knew that I was being sent West.

And then. Less than two weeks after I had arrived at Table in the Wilderness, all of my dreams, hopes, and plans that I carried into the year were completely shattered.
In a short couple of texts, and a long phone call or two, everything was just...over.

It took five days for me to fall apart. It took five days for the shock to wear off. Five days for the tears to come, and then not stop for an entire day.
It took a Summer of conversations. Love. Hugs. Prayers. Leaning on shoulders. An amount of reliance on other people that I've never experienced before.

If you've read my past blogs, you know that my Summer was pure adventure, experience, and healing. I'm not going to bother reiterating all of it. I short: it was exactly what I needed. It was a time that God began to rebuild my hopes, dreams, and plans. He killed the ones that I had thought were what I needed, and He showed me little glimpses of His hopes, plans, and dreams for me.

As Summer turned to Fall, I found myself back in school, working as a barista, and living alone with my precious little The Frog Princess Buttercup.
Sometimes I wake up and the crushing sense of loneliness is like a weight on my whole body that won't let me out of bed. Just sitting there glaring at me, reminding me that I'm not married, I'm not dating anyone, and I am very, very alone.
The loneliness reminds me that there is a wedding dress sitting in a closet as good as rotting.
The loneliness makes sure that I remember that so many of my friends got married, while my relationship completely fell apart.

But then.
On January 1st. I went to work hating the world. Pissed off. Frustrated. Cranky as all get out. Snapping at my coworkers. Trying very hard not to glare at customers. Failing at lying when people said "How was your New Years Eve?" I wanted to tell people I was fine, but I could not lie. Instead I was almost bluntly honest with them, and then hurriedly apologizing for being a cynic.

Before I knew it, my coworkers were surrounding me with love and some really powerful advice about embracing being alone.

 "The world is your oyster. The world is my oyster. The world is OUR oyster. We're not married! We're out here on our own, for the first time! And we can do ANYTHING. You are not broken because you're not married. Your story is not your friend's story. Your friend's stories are not your story. Your story is your story. Embrace it. Love yourself. Don't wait for a man to give you purpose. Because a man can't give you purpose. A man can't complete you. You have to be complete on your own before you're ready to share the REST of your life with a boy!"

Thank you, Abbey. I love you. I'm thankful beyond words that we work together.

All of this to say:
It's a New Year and I've got pretty much new everything going for me. Except, my faithful books and art...but, well, you get the point. Everything is new. My life looks nothing like it did 365 days ago. It frightens and excites me at the same time. But in all honesty, I hope my life doesn't change THAT much all over again this year.
And no. I am not making a resolution this year. I haven't done one since I was like ten or twelve. And I am also no longer doing the projections, either. I'm tired of being disappointed in what I hope to happen in a year. I'm just letting it all go, and am going to be content in whatever this year contains.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Is God your Cosmic Consultant? Part 2.

How many times (roughly) do you think you've asked God for wisdom and direction in your life?
Is it more often for something specific; do I take this job? do I date this person? do I buy this house? which major do I choose?

I've often prayed these things to Him. In my last relationship, I often said "God, help me to see what You want in my life. If You don't want me in this relationship, then let me know. I want to see what you see."

I don't know how many times I prayed this prayer. Dozens. Maybe even hundreds. But I don't think I meant it, ever. I wanted God's input. I wanted His advice. I wanted His perspective on my life. I wanted His opinion, blended in with all the other opinions of all of my friends and family members. I just wanted to know what He thought about things.

I didn't actually want His leadership. I didn't actually see God as Lord - ruler and leader - of my life. I wanted to do my own thing and then know what He thought of it.

I'm sharing all of this with you because I don't want my friends to handle their lives the same way. I don't want people to view God the same way I did for so long.
If you're going to give your life to God, then give it to Him.
If you say you surrender; then actually surrender.
If you say to Him in your worship and prayers "I am Yours, take me where You want me" then mean it. Because when you say those kinds of things to Him, He will challenge you on them. He will put you to the test to see if you're serious or not.

And the closer you walk to Him the more and more He will challenge you - dare you even - to walk closer to Him and lay down a little more of yourself to Him everyday. To die a little more everyday to yourself, to your desires, and to your own hopes.

When you ask Him what He wants for you, do you really mean it? Do you really want Him to rule over you and be your King?

Friday, September 2, 2016

Is God your Cosmic Consultant? pt. 1

Life is so surreal right now.

When I was a kid I wrote a little poem about one day growing up and living in the City, away from the farm and away from my parents.
I used to, at night, use the house-key to lock and unlock our never locked front door, and go in and out of our house, dozens of times, pretending I was a grown-up going in and out of my apartment; to and from work or whatever. I think at that age my dream job was a detective. I had recently discovered Sherlock Holmes and I wanted nothing more in life than to be a British consulting detective.

I may no longer be in a giant, million-person City, but I am now living alone. Every night I come home to my happy, cuddly, sweet little kitty. She greets me, checks on me, and then follows me around the apartment crying until I get into bed. She then curls up next to me with a little kitty smile on her face and purrs both of us to sleep. I like her a lot. She makes my apartment a home.

Since I made the decision to move into town I have been actively and consciously looking for Christian community to be a part of other than just Sunday morning service. Through two of my best buds from Camp I ended up at a campus Navigators meeting on Wednesday night. Navs is one of many Christian college-level organizations designed to help students in their walks with Christ through their college career.
I've been to a quite a few Campus ministry meetings over my life, but this one. Wow. I was impressed not only with the message, but also with the number of young Christians I met and their immediate genuineness and kindness towards me.

The point of the message was:
Is it worth your time to actively follow and pursue God in your college career?
Yes. It most definitely is.

"Why do you spend money for what is not good to eat, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance. Incline your war, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you -" Isaiah 55:2-3

Good question.
Why do we spend our money on worthless things that do no satisfy our souls?
Why did I spend so much time and energy in my first round of college trying to satisfy my fleeting wants and desires?
Why do we "eat" what is bad and fill our hearts with junk and trash?

The speaker talked about his own fleshly pursuits in college, and how, in the long run, it greatly benefited his life to lay aside all of that and really, truly pursue God's Heart. He'd grown up in Church, but he had never really let God lead his life.
As he was talking I was reminded of the message I'd heard last Sunday Morning at the EvangelicalFree Church:

"If you're treating God as a cosmic consultant, He is not Lord of your life. God doesn't give advice. He gives instruction."

That line hit me right in the heart. Hard.
I was immediately reminded of how often I had prayed about my last relationship while I was in it; wanting to hear God's advice and input in my life but not actually wanting His rule and authority in my life. Even now, as I write this, it still ties my stomach in knots and makes me shake my head in shame and regret.

I can't change the past, but I can wisely improve the present by learning from my past and the pasts of those around me who share their own lessons, trials, and mistakes,.

Monday, August 15, 2016

His Heart for People

Were you ever taught or led to believe that Jesus was only a vengeful and angry man?

I believed that for a long time.
I had often pictured Him as someone Who only ever brought the sword and judgement down upon His enemies, or the people who didn’t heed Him. I saw Him as angry, more often than not, when He was speaking to the crowds or to His disciples.

But here we see something different. He is standing on Mount Olivet, looking down at Jerusalem, and He is weeping for the broken lives within. He is not angry that they will very soon crucify Him. He’s not pronouncing curses on them for what they are about to do; instead, His heart is broken for what He knows they will do. Not that He was sad for His death, but that He is utterly distraught that they are blind and broken souls.

It is so easy for me to look at sin, and look down upon the person in pride. To say “Well, my sins aren’t as bad as yours. Thank God I am not like you.” Or to think “Man, can’t you choose a less extreme sin? What is wrong with you! Stop destroying your life and the lives of your loved ones!”

But in this particular passage we see Jesus in pain as He weeps for the broken, lonely, and angry lives in the City of Jerusalem. And even now, His heart is broken for this World. He doesn’t look at people in their sin and want or desire to punish and burn them. No. He wants to reach them in their fear and loneliness and rescue them from it all. He wants to set people free to walk in true love to each other.

And He wants His people to have the same heart; to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free. The only way we can do this is by His Spirit - loving with His heart, and seeing the World and our neighbors with His eyes. We can never force someone into freedom. Or scold and lecture them into grace. We can only, by the Holy Spirit, show them the door and they themselves have to walk through it.

I encourage you, if you don’t already, to pray to have His heart and eyes for people. That He help you to love people beyond your own physical limits, and beyond what you alone can see of their lives. I know that, personally speaking, it makes a lot of difference in the lives of my Campers when I do this. It helps me to patient with the unruly ones. It helps me to have the right words to say the tired, hurt, and worn ones. And it pulls me out of my own shell of selfishness and step into someone else's pain for a little while.

Until next time,
Peace, love, grace, and blessings be multiplied to you.

*bonus note about the photo:
I took this sitting on the rooftop of one of the coolest restaurant concepts I’ve ever been to; a place in Denver called Avanti. My friend Marissa was showing me all the hippest places...until, right after this, she drove me through the heart of the gentrification. I was in such shock I didn’t even know how to respond as she explained to me that thousands of people were, quite literally, forced out of their third and fourth generation homes because a new stretch of highway was built. They were forced to sell their homes, and were given so little for them that there’s nowhere in Denver they can afford to live; so they’re homeless. The line for the shelter stretched down a street and began to wrap the block. A woman yelled to her friend “What’s wrong with these people? Why they gotta rob an old man! He’s jus’ an old man. He wasn’t doing anything. Why they gotta go rob him?!” Another woman was rocking back and forth sobbing uncontrollably while a young man attempted to calm her down and get her to breathe. And quite a few others just shuffled down the sidewalks, or sat and waited for their next crack-high. It is an image forever burned in my heart as I crawl into a comfy bed every night, and know where and how I’ll get my meals everyday.

Friday, July 22, 2016

He Leads Us in HIS Way

The current group we are hosting is a national youth group, with divisions of students from California, Colorado, and our very own Laramie. It’s pretty cool to see these young men and women from all over come together as one under Christ with us for this past week. And next week we have the pleasure of serving the same youth group, but their middle schoolers instead of high schoolers.
I’ve sat in on some of their evening Chapel services and they really have been a blessing to me. I’ve learned from their speaker, leaders, and students alike. It truly is a beautiful and wonderful thing to see God working so intimately with so many people, especially young people, and then to see them in response have their hearts open to Him and to each other.
The first Chapel I attended the above verse was one of the focus passages. It really snapped me to attention because about a week ago I was meditating on this very verse and God spoke to me through it. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself…let me back up and explain.

Right before I departed to come here I met with two different OSU Advisors, talked over a lot of academic options, and decided to register for a class in the University Exploration Major. Which is a fancy way of saying Undecided. The goal of the class is to educate the student on the various majors and minors offered at OSU, discover my own strengths and weaknesses, and help to focus my desires into a tangible career. Everyone here at Camp knew I was thinking about going back to school full-time, but very undecided as to the how and what. So part of the reason that I chose to come here was that I’d more clearly discover what I’m good at and where my talents are.
I’ll never forget the moment in the van on the way to the river when Trystan asked me “Lizz, you ever thought about counseling?” The pause in my response was hilariously awkward as I tried to figure out why Trystan thought I needed to see a counselor.
Of course what she meant was, have you thought about becoming a counselor? She was particularly struck by how easily I meet people exactly where they are, and how words of love and advice just naturally come to me. Within two weeks three other people, all independent of each other, came to me with also the same exact words of “I think you’d be really good at counseling.” When the fourth person said it I said out loud “Woah ok hold on, this cannot be coincidence.” So right there around the fire my friends encouraged me and gave me the little push I needed to get serious about going back to school.
One of my biggest qualms about it is money. Education is expensive. Seminary is extremely expensive. Amanda quickly shot down my excuse and said “If money is your biggest reason to not go back to school, or fear of debt, that’s a really poor excuse. God is so much bigger than any student loan. If He’s really calling you to this, you need to answer and He WILL provide.” In that moment, I realized part of my excuse was based in pride. I’ve been proud that to this day I have no debt to my name.
I went to bed that night with my brain buzzing so loud with excitement I could barely sleep. Could this finally be it?
First thing the next day I began comparing tuition expenses with those in Ohio. It became very clear that by staying here I’d be able to cut some of my education in half. On a sort of whim, I decided to put a fleece before God and just look and see if there was any housing available here in Laramie (this close to the school year no less). Within minutes of searching I located a very affordable apartment, and what do you know, he was available to show it that very same day. I swung by the community college and they gave me the information on how to pursue academic residency.
I came home with my mind and heart full of hope and excitement. Is this real? Am I really looking at moving to Laramie? Am I really ready to say goodbye to Ohio and no longer be a Buckeye?
I had about four days to give the guy an answer on the apartment. And you can bet those four days were filled with a lot of prayer, conversations of advice giving, and everyone here saying “Please stay! We love you! You’ve already gone bouldering you’re already mostly a Laramite.” I talked a lot with my parents and we expressed mutual hopes and concerns. My Dad said probably the best thing when he told me “I don’t care where you are as long as you are following God, and your focus is on Him. Wherever He takes you is fine with me.”

So there I was one afternoon, enjoying awhile of quiet time with God and thinking over all of these pros and cons, fears and worries, hopes and dreams, and people I love here, and people I love at home, and trying to figure out what is the RIGHT decision – when all of a sudden, my attention was drawn to 2 Corinthians 12:9.
“And he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
In that moment God spoke to me: You are weak right now. You lack the direction, plan, and understanding for your future that most people have. But MY strength is made perfect in that. You are weak in that you are alone. You crave and desire to be married. You have let men and relationships become an idol in your life. But MY strength is made perfect in that too.
I took a deep breath of the mountain air, looked around as my eyes blurred with unexpected tears and said out loud “I’m not ready to leave these mountains yet.” And in that moment I received great peace to stay. I fell to my knees and began just worshipping God and thanking Him for everything in my life.
The good and beautiful friendships I have made.
The painful ending of my relationship with my boyfriend, and Jesus’ perfect love, mercy, and patience through all of it.
The opportunity to work at Table and share life with so many people.
The opportunity to stay here in this incredible part of our Country.
And above all, His faithfulness and unending love to me and everyone.

Within a week of the decision to stay I’ve also been incredibly blessed with a job that was offered to me on the spot during the interview, and this was after being told by a few Laramites “It’s hard to find work here.” Perfectly timed, as God often does, the job doesn’t even begin until Camp ends.

And then, as if He was reminding me that He is with me every step of the way… in that the guest speaker spoke almost everything to the students that God has been showing and teaching me in the past four months. She spoke on saying yes to Him and stepping out in Faith. She spoke on refusing sloppy seconds in life, and trusting Him that He provides the absolute best for His children. She shared personally with me about being in a relationship that was on the track to marriage, but God ended it for her betterment in life. Everything she spoke confirmed what was being written in my heart.
So here I am. Nearing the end of a Summer Ministry Adventure, but getting closer and closer the beginning of what I expect will be a grand and amazing Wyoming Ministry Adventure.
Thanks, as always, for being a part of this. For reading these long posts. For daily praying for me and laboring in love alongside me.

Until next time!

Peace, grace, and blessings be multiplied to you dear brothers and sisters.