Monday, March 13, 2017

telling our story // 03. the second year - TOUR

warning. this is a heck of a long post. sooooo...grab your coffee so you can stay awake.

our story can be clearly divided into sections from summer to summer, which is sort of weird but it does make for nice chapters. I got the email saying I was most likely going to be on tour in June of 2014, spent July at home, and in August was due to fly to Colorado. So the day I was due to land in Colorado was almost a year to the day from when we (Joshua and I) graduated from basic the previous August.

but before tour, in the few weeks between coming home from South Carolina and when my plane was scheduled to leave for Colorado, there was a pretty big explosion. impressions, misunderstandings, and a defensiveness on my part left me feeling like I was about a low as dirt, my self-esteem was shredded, and I spent several weeks in complete shock, questioning my own morality to the very core. and essentially, my relationships with Josh's family were broken and I even drafted an email to the choir's director of operations telling him I couldn't tour for "personal reasons". Thankfully I didn't send it. But I spend weeks in sheer dread of facing Josh, wondering what in the world he would think of me, and dreading setting foot on campus in Colorado, afraid of rumors. MESSY.

I had to look inside my deepest corners that summer. I was forced to take a good solid look at myself, the person who I was, and let the Spirit show me whether I was under conviction, or condemnation. I had never been through anything like this before, and up till that point had simply sailed through life, sometimes self conscious about my love of conversation and talking, and outgoing personality, but overall assuming that if there was a true sin issue in my life, that the Spirit would be faithful to convict. This felt like all out trial-by-fire, and it took a little while to sort out what was Jesus, and what were lies the enemy wanted me to believe. I wrote a lot that summer, and I'd encourage you to look at these posts, and see what the Lord was growing in me as I prepared to head to do my "dream" job, but now with a the prospect of spending a year with someone who, as far as I knew, hated my guts.

This post, "the struggle for affirmation", captures the conflict I was up against, the confusion, and yet the dogged pursuit of Jesus that kept me moving when all I wanted to do was dig a hole and bury myself and never speak to another human being again. I also began exploring my own personality type, which as sentimental and silly as it sounds, actually liberated me to figure out what was really Liza, and what could be worked on and improved.

The other amazing thing about that post, is that above my house that day, there was this beautiful rainbow. It didn't mean anything much to me then, just a reminder of promises, but the rainbow has become Josh and my special Ebenezer throughout our story, and still has come to stand over us on each milestone we've walked together, from the week we fell in love, to the day we lost our son. I'll tell y'all more as we go along.

I shared this post on one of the many days I would just listlessly spend time with my littlest siblings, who have always thought I was the cool older sister, and just rest in the fact that even if the rest of the world wanted to burn me at the stake, they would always like me. PATHETIC I KNOW. But for real, this was my mental reality. *hesitant laugh*

Then there's this one, the tentative declaration that JESUS IS. I had decided to go ahead and leave for Colorado, I wasn't going to be afraid, and this year was going to work out.

And this final post was the retrospective, way more mature and grown up Liza, looking back on three crazily horrifically wonderful months and saying, "You know what, Jesus died for me. Jesus loves me - the crazy emotionally royal messer-upper of life that I am. And He has freed me to live without sin, and I can live free of condemnation so LIFE HERE I COME."

So now you know the emotions I had worked through, the state of mind I was in as I took off for the greatest adventure of my life. and remember, I still didn't know if I was going to be actually staying for tour, although I knew it in my gut. still a lot of insecurity involving the job, uncertainty revolving around whether or not Josh hated me (still had never actually been in communication with him in any way), and wondering if I was even the right person for this. But hey. Jesus made a way, and at this point, I was going to RUN through that door until I hit a wall.

And I packed my bags, said emotional goodbyes to my family (who, unbeknownst to me, I wouldn't see for nine full months), and boarded the 5:10am flight from Charlottesville to Charlotte, to Denver.

Y'all, I had no clue. No freakin clue what was about to happen.

rainbow in Colorado the week I arrived, as we drove home from a day at Compassion

Oh, tour.

oh, tour. the crazy twelve months that changed both of our lives forever. the best year of my life. the year I met some of the most amazing people in the whole world. the year we visited thirty-six states together. the year Josh and I fell in love, against all odds. the year that opened our hearts to the ministry and calling God placed on our life, as individuals and as a couple.

many of you all followed my year of tour through this blog, and through my instagram. I wish I could tell all the stories, show you all the pictures, and fit everything into one post. Ohhhh how I wish! But I'll just keep linking back to old stuff so you can see where everything fit in. Unfortunately you can't embed private Insta pictures, so you may just have to spend an inordinate amount of time on your phone scrolling back through my feed and checking random pictures till you find the ones from tour and then click on them one by one to read the captions and see how it all fits in. A lot of you may have already done that (you know who you are) - and no shame, if I was you, I'd do the same thing.



Back to tour.

I loved these people very much.

To me, we were a family. And being a relational person, the thought of belonging to such an incredible team and doing the incredible work we were doing, was pretty much the best thing that could ever happen to a young person. I was instantly theirs. I gave a piece of myself to each person you see in this picture - something that opened me up in a deep way, for better, for worse. And when the rest of our team arrived, and was complete, those new staff received part of my heart too. What else do you do? How else do you live? Even though I had so recently been stripped of everything I thought I was, I still wanted to start fresh and be myself fully with this team I loved so dearly.

and the children.


our babies.

They still have my heart. Their voices still play in my head. The love I felt for them from day one still pounds in my heart. I would have, and still would, do ANYTHING for these faces that called me "Auntie" and who I called mine. three of them now have access to the internet, and when they blow up my phone at all hours of the night to chat, it still makes my heart sing and my eyes fill with tears. I loved these children like I've never loved anything else, and the Lord knew I needed them. And even though it's taken nearly three years to believe it, I can now see that they needed me.

I'm going to be honest. I'm weeping right now. I'm sitting here at my computer, weeping. This part of my life is something I hold so so close. It's a treasure, and at the same time it's a burning coal. I just started playing the playlist I built as tour went on, and as it plays I'm just praising Jesus that this is my story, this is my song, these are my people, and this the is the testimony I've been so graciously and supernaturally given. Actually, here's the playlist. I'd encourage you - open a new tab (it's a good old fashioned Youtube playlist, I'm not a Spotify user, ha), hit play, and listen as you read the rest of this.

*deep breath*


I came to Colorado with a lot of hope, overFLOWING with excitement and energy, a lot of apprehension, and still brutally insecure about my place on the team, and in life.

Enter Josh.

This amazing man who is now my husband, who let me start over, right away. He let me know that we could leave the mess of the summer behind, and begin again. To be friends, and leave the gossip and slander in our past. He was balm to my raw soul, and showed me Jesus in a way that I didn't think was possible. For the first time ever, I felt like we could actually be friends, and even though I was starting to think he was seriously the best man I had ever met, there was no longer this weird tension that held my heart in limbo. The emotions of the past were over, a new season was beginning, and everything was going to be okay.

Also, enter Courtney.

She is my best friend. And we couldn't hardly stand each other at times, and we do things so so differently, and I didn't understand her for so many months, but every time we had an issue, we'd go sit on each other's bed, even hold hands, look in each others eyes and ask forgiveness and restart (don't ask how many times that happened), and in her faithfully forged friendship, I began to step into freedom. She and Josh and I would talk for hours about Jesus, about freedom, about breaking out legalism and bondage, and spiritual oppression. We blared Bethel music, we forgot we were on campus, and the three of us began a friendship that is still alive and fiery to this day, which I will never ever take for granted.

Campus life was the foundation of our team. We had to hang around for six weeks waiting for our kids to make it to the States, and even then it was just the Ethiopians. It wouldn't be for another month that our precious Mizos would come, and our family was complete. In that time, we went through staff training both with the choir and with Compassion, also did a lot of team activities, prepared the campus, hung out with friends and students on campus, just lived together. Ten days after I arrived, I got the official yes that I would be on tour, and while that helped solidify my place on the team in my heart, I still felt a little bit like an extra - even in things as simple as not having an assigned job to do when we were on campus...a feeling that lasted for most of tour, to be honest. But that was a fun season. SO FUN. You can feel my joy overflowing in these posts from September of that year as we waited for the kids.

Then the kids arrived and life got crazy, and I started doing rehearsals with the Ethiopians, and finally felt purposeful. I'd sit for several hours a day, cross legged on the floor, teaching our non-English-speaking curly haired crazies how to sing songs in English, and feeding them kolo to keep their attention. *hehe*

The Mizos finally got their visa approval and to celebrate we rolled all the way across the lawn on campus in the middle of the night, ran back, and almost threw up. You know. Welcome to our team. And when they finally arrived, we kicked into high gear and left for tour almost immediately after barely two weeks of full rehearsals.

Y'all. I loved tour.


Dream job. Traveling, kids, music, Compassion....all my favorite things in one. Not to mention doing it with the people I cared about so much. I couldn't get any better. I fell in love with each one of our kids. Learned so many important things about myself, and learned new skills and had so many wonderful opportunities. So even in the hard stuff I'll be sharing, don't think for a second I didn't love my life, or my job. All these emotional challenges were just undertones to what was truly a wonderful year. It sounds like a lot when you just hear one side of it, but truly. It was a beautiful, powerful season.

There are so many ways I could walk through this year, explaining. And I've written and rewritten this and it's kinda crazy. SO. I'm going through this month by month, with one picture to describe each month, and then what was going on in the physical (people, places, things) and what was going on emotionally and spiritually.

We were on campus for most of the month of November, except for a one week tour to Kansas and back. It was a little chaotic, as we were all assimilating into our roles on the road, but my first couple host families ever were so wonderful, and I started to realize that this wasn't going to be as scary as I thought. I don't remember much of this month, except the blur that was tour, and then the Alumni Reunion on campus, and then preparing Thanksgiving. Funny story - Josh asked if I could make three pies his mom used to make as part of the meal, and I was super nervous *laugh* I did my best, but completely forgot to adjust the recipes for altitude, and two of them never set. *grr* I was embarrassed, but Josh assured me they tasted great. Sure. I was skeptical but hey, if he said so. Also, one random evening, Josh and I were asked to count and catalogue every article of clothing in the storage room - if that's not bonding time I'm not sure what is. We actually barely talked, but it was team work, and team work is good.

Spiritually, among our team we would have these deep conversations that really showed me how so much of my life I hadn't really seen what being set apart and free really means. Our Ethiopian kids had very rough pasts, and the struggles we were having helped me tremendously to choose the victory of Jesus in situations where I had no control. All of this was laying a strong foundation for the months ahead, when I would need to dig deep into the truth I knew, and choose TRUTH over LIES. I was learning how to truly push myself to pour out completely each day, and not hold back, and even if I didn't think I had a "real job" on campus, I could still LOVE the children completely. That was huge for me, and that's reason Number 1 why our children meant so much to me - they kept me focused the whole year, and I could always come back to them when nothing else made sense.

Christmas. Wow. Christmas was a big part of our story. We had the option to take a break to go home, but since the kids had just arrived a few weeks before, and we were just starting to gel as a team, I was very hesitant to leave, and since I didn't expect to get hardly any time off, I wasn't planning on going home for Christmas anyway. So I stayed. Maddie came out to visit the week before Christmas, which was wonderful. And it ended up, that over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, it was just Josh and I and the international staff who were with the children. For the first time since I arrived in Colorado, I had real responsibilities, I was in charge of food and getting things done on campus, and I absolutely loved it.

Also, between Josh and I, the Lord was building a faithful friendship. When two people go through what we did over the summer, and have no idea what to think of each other anymore, it takes a while to build trust. And over Christmas, as we worked together and wrapped gifts till past midnight on Christmas Eve, and took care of the kids together, so many broken bits and pieces were healed, and for the first time, we both would've said we were truly friends. I remember the day I went to pick up Courtney from the airport, right before I left I told Josh, "Hey, thank you. Thank you for this week." I was still baffled that he even wanted to talk to me at all, and the fact that he was becoming my friend was overwhelming. He was showing me the forgiveness and love of Christ in a way I had never known, and I didn't know what to do with it.

January 2015
This is when tour really began. We left the day after New Years for California, and didn't come back to campus for real until Easter (we stopped in for a couple days in February). California was intense, but so good for me. I had wonderful host homes, I loved my girls, and I was growing and learning so much about being a leader and being confident. We spent the entire month of January trekking up and down the state, and I actually ended up meeting my future boss (with Compassion) that week too - although I didn't know it then.

these are pages from my journal, and they
paint such a beautiful picture of what Jesus
was teaching my heart throughout the year
So. January brought some emotional changes for me. I had some unexpected communications with members of Josh's family, and some of it was really confusing and hard for me. So I brought it to him, and of course, he didn't really know what to say. Duh. But it was an inkling for both of us that there were still challenging things going on under the surface, and this whole ordeal wasn't even close to being over. Yuck. I started to feel very guilty, like I brought this on Josh and everyone close to him, and started to retreat within myself. I felt like everyone on my team thought I had a secret past or something, and I tried to just fix my life on my own. I threw myself into loving the children, and doing my job, and getting kids sponsored, and tried to ignore the fact that my insecurity about a completely unrelated situation was affecting my ability to be open with the people around me. Except Courtney, duh, who literally knows everything. Hehe. Oh January. But HEY. It was a fun month. I loved Cali. And if you hosted me that month (and I know a lot of you are reading this because you are AWESOME) just know that we had a rocking good time that entire leg, and my girls pretty much stubbornly insisted for all of tour that California was their favorite state to visit. (followed by Oregon and Michigan, but we'll get there)

OREGON. I think it was the people I stayed with that sold me on this state - so many wonderful wonderful families, so many wonderful people. And I got to even see a few of them just the other month when we drove to Idaho, and with tears in my eyes I visited the church and saw the faces that loved us so well over two years ago, and realized that I would go through that whole year over again just so I could be with those dear ones and be part of their lives.

A wonderful host home where Courtney and I got to stay together, she and I had many late night talks and she convinced me that it would be wise to just talk to our directors about the situation with the family, just a little bit, so they wouldn't be clueless. So I did. The conversation with our directors made me feel a bit better, but I was definitely being attacked by the enemy with lies that I was becoming the "drama staff" member and that I was making a mountain out of a molehill. Shame isn't a very fun thing to live with, and even though I was definitely learning to walk in freedom, it was a gradual process and the Lord was faithfully renewing my mind and my heart one piece at  time. Honesty always makes me feel better, and being transparent, so no matter how petty or even embarrassing some the stuff that happened me felt, I started to make a conscious choice to talk about what was going on in my heart and in my life with SOMEONE.

Also, we had just found out that us American staff were going to be left behind in South Carolina in a couple weeks while the rest of the time got to go to Seattle, and we needed a place to stay. Court was going to stay with family, and Josh's sweet sister Christi said I could stay with them for the week....I was excited, but nervous. But then the plan was also for Josh to be with his family that week, so I said I would stay with Chris, since I wasn't too sure I wanted to be there by myself, after everything that had happened and might happen. And THEN we find out Josh was going to Seattle after all. And I completely freaked out and cried - and of course Courtney was there to tell me that Jesus is way bigger than travel plans (DUH) and it would work out. And then we found out we'd be in Tennessee instead of South Carolina, and my dad had friends in Memphis so I was going to stay with them. Phew. But gee WHIZ what an emotional week! Also, it showed that I trusted Josh, in a funny way, and that even though stuff was still up in the air and unresolved with family, I had this instinctive feeling that he would stick up for me. Y'ALL I LOVE THAT MAN. (but I didn't love him yet - soon, but not yet)

I was learning that sharing and being vulnerable was a good thing. And I didn't really know how to do it very well, but I was determined to be a vulnerable and transparent person. And of course, when the Spirit shows you something like and you agree with Him and start walking in it, the enemy is going to try to throw a bushel basket on your light. More on that....

Also yay for the craziness that is "plans" on tour. Try booking life a month ahead of yourself when you don't even know where you'll be, HA.



During all this time, tour is happening. Two or three concerts a week, homeschooling kids, keeping the bus bins stocked, processing Compassion forms, hanging out with host homes, getting to know people, staying in touch with family, trying to stay sane. AND we're only TWO MONTHS IN AHHHH!!!!

MARCH. (when everything changed.)

So. March happened. And arguably, this was the month when I "fell in love" with Josh. Not really, but maybe this is when I realized that there were worse things in life than spending the rest of my days with this man. Which of course I was determined not to think about since I was ON TOUR so yeah.

But anyway.

Honestly, a lot of what happened in March is deeply personal, and involves people that I love and care about, and am related to, so this is the simple overview. We were in South Carolina on tour, (exactly two years ago to the day today) and the Lord brought some very difficult things to a head after a team dinner at what is now our home church. There were late night conversations, lots of tears, and very intense confrontations - all completely unrelated to our team and our tour. But through it all, the Lord gave Josh wisdom and grace even though he didn't really know what to do, He gave me peace even though I felt completely helpless, and He gave us the perfect family and friends to surround us in those couple days who didn't ask questions but just let us rest, and because of that, those crazy couple days did not affect our teammates or the children we stayed with, and even though Josh and I were walking a trial by fire, no one else seemed the wiser.

After the visit, we did talk to our directors a bit about what happened, and they let Josh and I talk it through after we left in some one on one conversations during set and tear down at the next church, which I was very grateful for.

And essentially, we came out on the other side as a team. His family was my family after that week, whether we recognized that or not, and for the first time, he started seeing me differently - as someone to be protected and cared for, and I was completely floored that he chose to defend and stand by me in that very challenging time, instead of the easy way out, which would've been to not say anything at all and let it go past.

Right at the peak of all this emotion and craziness, the team left for Seattle. Leaving me in Tennessee. And I was completely alone, with no responsibilities, a whole week of vacation ahead, and plenty of time think. I was actually getting excited - with the family stuff resolved and behind us, and Josh and I on the same page, I felt for the first time that tour was the ONLY THING I had to think about, and I was so so so so so ready to not have any more drama in my life.

*rolling on the floor laughing*

So then Memphis happened.

I'll be honest, this is also hard to articulate. But basically, during my week there, I was told by someone I trusted that essentially everyone back in Colorado distrusted me, and thought I was on tour only because of Josh, and that I had ulterior motives for everything, and even our directors didn't know what to do about it. Yay. Awesome. Being the trusting, believing, slightly gullible person that I am, I believed all of it - tried to take it with a grain of salt, but at that time in my life, that was very hard for me to do. I tried to put on a good face, but that completely deflated me and I was so done with everything, I could've gone home that day and been okay. Not really, but sort of. So I did the completely rational thing to do, and called a friend back in Colorado and pretty nearly cried my brains out and asked them what the heck I should do, and how to respect my authorities when I felt ignored and invisible, and did everyone really hate me, and does all ministry have to feel this way? And this wise friend calmed me down and preached simple truth to me, and then I felt renewed. My journal entries from that week are very interesting, to say the least.

Memphis was actually good for my soul. I'm an adventurer, a history buff, and a creative, and that side of me was feeling a little starved. So I got to explore a city that always fascinated me, I was staying with the most precious older couple, who weren't part of our Colorado friend circle they were from MY friend circle in Charlottesville, so it felt like home. I got to watch March Madness and UVA was playing and I saw Cinderella twice in the theaters and I was happy. I even got to go to Graceland.

The whole time I fiercely missed my team, and strangely found myself missing Josh's steady presence. And yes, although he was actively denying it to himself, Josh was missing me too.

After Memphis, I felt more free and liberated, more excited to focus on tour, and more myself than I had ever been. And even though this revelation about "everyone in Colorado" was making me sick to my stomach, it didn't have near the same hold on me as the other stuff.

End of March found the whole team back in Colorado. Even though I was a bit disillusioned with ministry life at this point, due to the disconnectedness with some of our team, I pulled our director aside and recommitted emotionally to the team and the ministry and told her that God had done a lot in me and I was putting the drama behind me and was ready for a new chapter. I still felt isolated, but I was determined not to let it affect my participation in what our ministry was about.


Such a fascinating month. Some of you may remember that I got a concussion on tour. Welp, it happened this month, in South Dakota. I was pushing my big little girl on a super big epic swing in our host home's backyard, and the wrists of my sweatshirt caught on the hooks of the swing and dragged me up in the air, and then back down on the ground. It didn't feel so horrible in the moment, but in the next half hour, I started feeling nauseous, and then lightheaded and exhausted. For a couple days I was definitely out of it, but thankfully I was doubled with Courtney for the next host home group.

Then, right about the time I was supposed to be getting better, I had to bail from a group activity to go home due to nausea and lightheadedness, and then Josh got a call from his sister saying that there was spiritual attack going on at home, and asked after they talked, they felt like my lingering symptoms were actually spiritual, as I had been standing for their family in prayer. His sister and her husband called me to pray for me, and I was instantly healed, with no symptoms after that whatsoever (just some tiredness in the next days as I got stronger again).

That was a really intense week for both Josh and I. For Josh, it was a turning point, and he was starting to feeling really strong to stand for me, and protect me, and it was eye opening for both as the Lord made it very clear that I was linked with his family in a very deep and spiritual way. We had a few conversations during set up and tear down at churches, and all of a sudden our friendship had a different, more intense feel to it.

During one week in the Dakotas, Josh felt lead to text Courtney and I his written testimony of freedom and God's faithfulness in breaking bondage he had been under in his life, and how that translated to his relationships with others. It was a really powerful, and a huge step of vulnerability for Joshua. Later that week, at our Wednesday night event, we had a team meeting about reapplying for tour. All through the meeting, and afterward, both I felt like I was carrying a heavy heavy burden on my shoulders. I went out to the bus and just wept and wept and wept. I felt like I was releasing all my emotions and all the cares to Jesus once again, a spiritual reset. While I was out there, right as I was praying for Jesus to give me something to stand on, Josh called me (on the phone) from inside the church. Right on cue. He prayed over me, speaking some incredible words of life. He'd felt the weight of the burden too, and together we stood for truth against the darkness. All during the concert, the Lord was really pressing him to talk to us girls, and while Courtney and I were counting the love offering after the service, he came in and shared more of his story with us. While these seem like kinda normal things for Christian friends to do, it was deeply powerful at the time for all Us Three (the name of our group text), and changed our attitude not just towards each other, but towards the rest of our team. The three of us felt like we had a calling to let our "three of us" mentality go by the wayside for a season, and unite in loving the rest of our team.

you have Zeli to thank of this random photo she took in New York - first photo of only us...and ONLY photo of only us for a very very long time.

April and May were all through the Great Lakes region, and are some of my favorite memories from tour. Josh was leading out, there was a sort of a deep breath that went through our team, and relationships among the staff were probably at the best they were all year.
The girls I was staying with were older, and we had great conversations and they were so so good for my heart. Truly y'all, we had amazing children. AMAZING. We toured through Ohio and Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania, it was the peak of spring, and it was everything I wanted tour to be.

Between Josh and I, because he was leading out and Zeli and Belay were gone as well, I was helping Freddy with leading the kids musically, and during one concert I was actually sitting up on the front row. It was Josh's first time speaking that year, and you know when you're a little nervous, your eyes keep going back to one place? Well, that crazy guy kept looking at yours truly, and both of desperately tried to ignore this growing feeling that working as a team was pretty much our favorite thing ever. Anyway.

May was also when the team went through Virginia, and praise Jesus I got a break! It was the first time seeing my family, and I spent a week with them in their home. It was refreshing for my soul. Then the team came to do a concert at my old church, and three other host home groups joined me at my parents, and it was just a wonderfully great time. Josh was actually on vacation that week with his extended family in North Carolina, so there was a whole two weeks there where we didn't see each other. Since all the drama two months before, we would sometimes text on and off, nothing that we weren't willing to share with another party. But once any specific conversation was over, we wouldn't text just for fun. It had to be deliberate, sort of an unspoken rule we had. We were definitely becoming best friends, but there other priorities on our lives. We were both very aware the God was doing something in both of our hearts, and that He very well could bring us together, but it's so encouraging and amazing to look back at BOTH of our journal entries from these months and see how we were so willing to wait and let Jesus keep writing the story. We both trusted His timing and His plan, and whatever that looked like, we didn't have to worry about ourselves or try to make things happen.

In early June, our whole team was home for the Set Apart Girl conference, and here folks, here is when stuff happened. Believe it or not, Josh and I never even ONCE talked about being in a relationship until over a week after the children had gone HOME. I promise. We stuck with the handbook and never once did we speak about our "future." But we did have one pivotal conversation.

So. There were some broken relationships in our team by this point, which I haven't really talked much about yet, and I would rather leave it that way, but unfortunately it is part of our story. Over the years, Josh and I have learned that "hurt people hurt people", and there were definitely people with hurts on our team. In ministry, it's very easy to be hurt by other believers, and then start to build walls up around yourself so you don't get hurt again. I totally understand that, I've even done it myself. But when your hurts from your past are so blinding and unresolved that you can't see or truly love the believers that are with you in the present, it causes more hurts. It's a vicious cycle, that only Jesus can heal, and sadly, that cycle was present in subtle and not so subtle ways throughout our team and our tour.

I wish I could've seen then that so many things that were said and done to me were just the results of other people's pain in their past - I feel like I would've been able to rise above it so much better. But hindsight is 20/20. Anyways.

I had a sort of friendship with another teammate, and by this time, it was solidly unhealthy. This person knew I liked Josh, and they were continually telling me that because of that, anything I did that put me in a position to have a conversation or any positive interaction with him (Josh) was wrong. I felt trapped in a daily battle to be honorable towards Josh, pushing me to make decisions and say and do things as if Josh and I were actually a thing for the sake of "honesty", while at the same time supposed to be accepting questionable behavior from this other person because we were only friends. I didn't see the danger in that until I realized I was sucked into the emotional wheel and felt helpless. By the end of tour, I was pretty much ordering all my decisions around the preferences of this teammate, and miserable.

"Liza, why didn't you just say something, just stop listening, make your own decisions?" Yeah. Well, I tried, but that's definitely easier said than done. When you see someone everyday, and you are on a team, and in your heart you truly deeply care about their welfare, just telling on someone who you love and consider a friend and brother is one of the hardest things to do. Especially when you don't have a concrete reason, and it would feel like slander. (which I wasn't about to do to someone else after what I just been through the year before) And since I didn't even have a real relationship with the people who could've done something about it, and I thought I had already caused enough trouble, I decided to fix it myself. HA. Obviously that failed.


Conversations happened, I was feeling terribly guilty about even being friendly to Josh. And so we both realized that we needed to set aside any semblance of a friendship we had for the sake of the team. Even though we hadn't done anything that we felt like was wrong or even borderline questionable, we realized that even just being friendly to each other could be distracting.

And so the evening of the Set Apart Girl conference, Josh was unlocking the trailer for me, and we had about a ten minute conversation to essentially "define" our non-relationship, for the "sake of the team."

The beautiful thing about this story is that in the moments where it mattered most, in the moments where Josh and I could've totally thrown aside what was being pushed on us as the "right thing" to do and put ourselves first, the Holy Spirit led us into a sweet and powerful selflessness that was pressing us to be more like Jesus. Conversations like this were not driven by a selfishness that "needed" clarity or even "needed" each other - they were intense, Spirit-led encounters that left us JOYFUL and FREE and EXCITED to pour out for the people around us. There were many other conversations with other people through our tour that did just the opposite, and even though I had a hard time choosing one over the other in the moment, those brief moments that the Lord gave Josh and I were always uplifting, always Jesus-filled, always honorable and above reproach. Josh led with a God-given humility and grace and I never came away wondering if just talking to him was the right thing to do. And that's why, even with accusations and challenges, I could always say with a clear conscience that I had no regrets.
Back to our talk.

Essentially, we talked in very roundabout words that our team needed our complete attention, so we shouldn' It was so weird. But we talked about Jesus, and putting Him first, and choosing others over ourselves, all sort of in a general sense. Then Josh threw out there "Guess I'll talk to you in a year." Ha. *cough* Um, what? What do you MEAN? My brain went crazy. But I took a deep breath and was like, "Yeah, haha unless we're on tour together again." Yeah right. And as we turned to leave the trailer, there over our heads, instantly appeared a massive double rainbow. It felt like something out of a movie. I was standing with my back against the trailer, Josh was locking the door, and for the first time ever, I had this super weird impulsive desire to hold his hand. Which duh, I didn't do, but in case you were wondering about the first time I ever wanted to hold his hand - it was then, standing in the sun shower staring up at this rainbow that we both felt was put there for us. It felt like the gentle voice of Jesus telling us that we were doing the right thing, that He was pleased with us, and that He wasn't going to leave or forsake us. His promises still stood.

our rainbow.

This is the story of Josh and Liza. Not the story of the 2014-15 tour, and tour staff. Hence the lack of other characters and events. Please remember that this is not every single thing that happened. Are we on the same page? *smile* Just checking.

On our drive back east to record the album, we stopped in Kansas, and I don't exactly remember why, but Josh had to call me about something (team drama related from our time on campus) and we had to work through a few things and when we hung up, we both were in tears - in a good way. I don't even have words for the level of faith and truth we always pushed each other to.

Also in June, we went to Tennessee to record our CD. Our whole team stayed together in one house to record, and it was actually a bit stressful. Everytime I felt like I was just starting to be confident and find my place on the team, something would happen and I'd be trampled emotionally and I was so so tired. Worn out. I loved my team, loved the kids, loved what our ministry was doing, but I was starting to question that there was any way to be in ministry and still see and love people as individuals and allow for differences and learn to work together with each person, whether or not they are your "ideal" teammate or staff member. Praise Jesus for the ways He's proven me wrong in the past couple years since then! He is a Healer and Restorer of all things.

It was this week, during recording, that Josh realized he was in love with me. And his default reaction was to fight it and freak out, but instead he turned it over to the Lord, and even though the rest of tour was a struggle now that he was so acutely aware of how he felt about me, there was something free and liberating about acknowledging to himself and to the Lord. Y'all, it doesn't matter whether or not you're "supposed" to be feeling a certain way, emotions are God-given and God-created, and He is sovereign over them, and there is nothing wrong about telling your Jesus about what's going on in your heart, and letting Him carry the burden. He is sovereign in every area of life, and He WANTS us to come to Him. It's His joy.

July was lots of long long drives, all through Texas and Oklahoma and California. We had missed Disneyland in January due to the measles outbreak and our kiddos weren't fully vaccinated, so back we went for a whirlwind trip to fit it in before the children had to go home.

We spent the 4th of July in Oklahoma, and Josh was leading out that week, and the pastor of the church there is the guy who ended up officiating our wedding! Also, during that week, I was doubled in a host home with Katie, and we were there for a whole week, and that stay was a sweet highlight during that frustrating month. We had the four younger girls on our team, and our host home was a foster parent with a wonderful heart and a beautiful home, and they're still a family I keep in touch with today. It was also during that week that our host mom played Katie and I the song "Even So Come" - first time I had ever heard it. It became an anthem for my heart, as I started to pull away from the fear and lies I'd been cracking under, and I clung to the truth as God's love song to me, Liza, and I even though my physical life felt out of control, He never failed to show me that He loved me and that I was valuable to Him.

When we were in Texas, we saw a member of Josh's first team, who is a dear friend to both of us, who pulled me aside Sunday morning and pretty much asked me point blank if Josh and I were dating. "Um NO. Hello, we are ON TOUR. Not allowed." and she revealed she'd been PRAYING THAT WE WOULD BE. Needless to say, I was speechless. But in all seriousness, it was such a huge faith booster to know that Jesus was leading this, and He was prompting others to pray for us, and that He hadn't completely forgotten His daughter Liza who so desperately needed encouragement and words of life.

In California, because we were at a repeat church, we switched back to our host home groups from our very first few months of tour, and I got to spend an entire week with my baby girls that I loved so much, and since we didn't have concerts that week, it was a precious time of refreshment with my little family. I don't even have words for how much these children meant to me. I loved each of our fifteen kiddos (really eighteen, if you count our directors sweet little ones), and each of their beautiful personalities. That week in Lodi with Miriam and Fel was beyond wonderful - even now in my heart they are my daughter and my sister, and I loved them so completely.

On the way home to Colorado, lots of team stuff went down, and a lot of the emotional hold I was under was broken, halleluyah, and I could see a lot clearer. It left me in a vulnerable position as a person, and I felt so guilty for letting things get so messy without asking for help, but at the same time, making decisions in the moment is hard and I honestly couldn't figure out if I would've done anything differently. But I also realized there would be repercussions, even if I hadn't done anything wrong, and I started asking Jesus to prepare my heart to go home and stay home, if that's what His plan was. I still hadn't heard if I was coming back for another year, and while I really really wanted another chance to do it, I realized there were other things in life than tour, and now that this emotional hold was broken, I could see my worth in Christ even more, and even though my life was crazy, I had so much peace that the Holy Spirit was still leading me, and had been leading me THE WHOLE TIME. Armed with this truth, I still grieved what had happened throughout tour and the lies I had believed about myself, but I wasn't so burdened and suppressed.

"you and me, hair is SAME!" - millie

Well. This is the end of our year! Our crazy emotional wonderful year. August was just packing and getting the kids ready to go and it went by in a blur. We were in Colorado most of that time as well. During those weeks, the Lord allowed for many deep conversations to happen amongst our team, and I think I can speak for all eight of tour staff when I say we all had things we would've done differently during our tour when it came to unity amongst us, but that Jesus brought us a peace in those final days before the internationals left, and campus was finally a place of joy for all of us.

rainbow on campus our final week of tour

Our final week with the children included baptizing all of them (such an incredible afternoon), as well as our final concert and team tour celebration. We were surrounded by SO MANY wonderful people, and our party to celebrate what Jesus had done during our year was rocking and so much fun. It was all the good things about our tour, highlighted, and such a testimony to the faithfulness of God. Host homes traveled to come and see the kids again, so many former staff were able to be there, and Freddy and David singing and playing "The Last Goodbye" to end the evening had me in tears.

A full week after the children went home, and two days before I was due to fly out, I had a meeting and found out I would not be returning for another year. I was correct in assuming that my lack of sharing and the misinterpretations of my behavior with one specific staff member (not Josh) were the cause, but it wasn't discouraging. I wish I could've been able to share the truth in depth, but I didn't feel like I was in a place to argue or "defend" myself. At that point, I was so at peace and so confident that JESUS had a plan for me, and my worth didn't depend on my job or what people thought of me, that I didn't even cry when I found out. I actually felt free, and excited, because I had a feeling that God was doing something with me and Josh, and I knew that it could not co-exist with my current situation, and if He was releasing me from this place, He had a better place ahead.

i actually took this photo, on our final team hike. Josh vaguely said that the "next year is like that road, you can see where it's headed, but not how you're going to get there." subtle, man. subtle.

That afternoon, when I got home to the dorm, I told Courtney what had happened and we both were actually pretty excited. Then we heard Josh come home, sort of banging around in the storage room and on the stairs, and Courtney looked at me and said, "See, he wants to talk to you - go tell him!" Ha! I love that girl. I went out and found him and told him I was going home and not coming back, and I think we both collectively sighed with relief, in a funny way, although we both felt the gut punch that after tomorrow, we wouldn't be in the same place anymore for who knows how long. (He had just agreed to a third year of tour)

The next evening, Josh and I met in the common area to talk before I left the next morning, and I thought it was just to decide whether or not we'd be in touch now that tour was over. But no. Jesus had another plan. And as we sat on opposite ends of that couch, Josh told me that he believed God was doing something between the two of us, that could lead to a relationship.

I was a bit in shock.

Even after all we'd been through, part of me still was in complete denial that Josh could ever like me, much less love me, and even though I felt like the Lord had been preparing me, preparing us, for this, I didn't believe it until I heard it from Josh's mouth. And he was serious. But he immediately followed it with...

"....but not yet."

And I actually agreed. We needed time to unwind. We were both going home - him for a few weeks, me forever (ha), so we decided to just say goodbye and not text or anything like that. Emails maybe. But we needed some quiet time, time with Jesus, time to process, time to figure out who we really were before we committed to each other. Once again y'all, these conversations with Josh always left me rejoicing, free, longing for more of Jesus, thrilled to have a best friend (because that's what he truly had become) who always put Kingdom first, but still loved people fiercely.

and that's how we left it. an indefinite season of silence. completely in love (although we definitely hadn't said that yet) completely committed to choosing Jesus first, completely torn at the thought of saying goodbye.

and that goodbye at the airport was one of the hardest days of my life. Josh gave me a hug that I wished could go on forever, and all I could say was "thank you" into his shoulder. I wept most of that first flight - the whole year playing back as I left Colorado behind. So much I loved, so many beautiful moments, and yet so many hurts. I knew I needed some time to rest, and I was genuinely excited for my next chapter of life although I had no idea what it would be. I felt lost, yet free.

So there you go.


There's a lot more that happened, obviously. There are more details, more stories. Y'all, I wrestled over this post for literally weeks, and Josh can testify that many tears have been shed as I tried to find the right way to articulate what was truly a beautiful life-changing year, but also so challenging. And I really wanted to just tell Josh and my story, not the story of the entire year, but also represent the truth in a good way. Thank you for your grace with me as I've tried to lay this out cohesively.


A word to my team.

I love you all. Every single one of you. I wish I could see each of your faces again at the same time, but even though we are literally all over the globe right now, you still have my heart with you, and you always will. We went through the experience of a life time together, and I'm grateful for each of your souls, and the things I learned from each of your hearts and lives. We were real, we were a bit messy, but Jesus loves to use raw material to showcase His Kingdom, and He DID THAT with our tour. He truly did.

stayed tuned the next installment - the third year! and this time you get all the romantic details that you didn't get to hear while they were actually going on, hehe. the mystery is being unveiled...