Sunday, March 5, 2017

telling our story // 02. the first year - identity crisis


for real.

there are literally a thousand words I could write.

I have the daunting task of putting three and a half very eventful years into a cohesive story that firstly, tells the truth, secondly, doesn't hurt anyone, thirdly, proclaims Jesus faithfully, and fourthly, doesn't give me carpal tunnel. all of which may be hard to do.

You're probably wondering why EVERY SINGLE TIME I mention our relationship, hardship comes up.

That's because it was hard. And this is a story that is full of things you don't want to hear about (but let's face it, you actually do...right? we love a good story), and we don't want to talk about (but we actually do, 'cause that's how people are). It was tough. We cried A LOT. We ached a lot. We barely made it. And part of me writing this story is proof of the healing that Jesus has brought, and His faithfulness to show us how many good and beautiful things happened during that season. This is a long story, and it was truly the best years of my life so far, and yet they were also the crummiest years of my life. How does that work? I have no clue. Let's try to find out. *face palm*

I've debated how to share this. Do I do a 10+ post series on every little detail? Cause that feels exhausting, and there are SO MANY WORDS. Y'all. So many words. So this will truly be a bit of a nutshell version, because I feel like the emotions we walked through are just as important as the physical experiences, and I want to be able to share both.

SO. Are you ready? Let the story begin.

to start, this story began in Colorado. Thankfully, I DID write about that, and lots of other things actually, so i'm going to be linking to old blog posts throughout this series, and then you'll finally see how all this fits together, and realize I actually WAS sharing a whole lot more than you realized. so I encourage you, if I link back to an old post, go read it, or skim it, cause there are details there that I'm purposefully fast-forwarding over that you might want to remember.

This season of life is actually for real fading from memory, probably not for the worse. So here's the first year in a nutshell.

It all started in June of 2013.

This was the summer that the Lord led me to a discipleship training school in pursuit of truth. I was tired of trying, tired of falling back into the same old fears over and over again. My heart's desire was to put Jesus first in everything. I thought this bible school would have the answers, and even though it didn't, I found out that what I really needed was a confidence I'd never had before - confidence that I was indeed a daughter of God, and that He loved me. I was in pursuit of freedom, and so was Josh. He was battling fear in his life, needed an anchor, a stable place in his heart. He needed the perfect love and identity of a Father to cast out the fear, the unknown, the shame he felt of not being good enough.

So we both needed to see the Father's heart. We both needed to know we were loved. We both needed identity. (hence the title of this post) And so we met.

We met for the first time about a week into the semester playing ultimate frisbee. I thought he was one of the year-round students, and Josh doesn't actually remember the meeting at all. But all that changed, when we ended up at the same dinner table every night for six of the nine weeks of the same semester. The conversations that happened over supper during those evenings were the beginning of a friendship that grew steadily stronger over the summer. We kept ending up in the same places, even after I started asking (PLEADING) Jesus specifically that we wouldn't, because I was holding tight to a desire to keep Him the center of my semester. Did not want the distraction, did not want a relationship, didn't want ANYTHING. From randomly numbered off prayer groups in the mornings, random group assignments, and Josh randomly switching up his chapel seating, Jesus was showing me that I was NOT actually in control, and to trust Him completely - not just with my spiritual life, but my personal life as well. Also, I was becoming best friends with Josh's sister, and was pretty determined not to let anything get in the way of that. Colorado was going to be my new start, when everything in my life would fall together, and I'd become one of those people everyone would look up to and I wouldn't mess anything up.


Josh, in the meantime saw that our paths kept crossing and that something was happening, but was completely clueless, so he really tried to block it out of his mind. That fear we talked about, that fear in his life, kept him from seeing God's hand in it all. So he did what all fearful people do, he awkwardly avoided me, and anything that was uncomfortable. Because his heart's desire was to build God's Kingdom in whatever way he could, and he didn't know how this fit in that picture.

Josh and Liza FAQ #1: "Did Liza like Josh first?"
Answer: Yes. That's probably accurate.

Our semester ended in August of 2013, after which Josh started his first tour with the international children's choir, and I went home to Virginia. Over the next six months, the choir came through twice and my church hosted the children and staff both times. The first visit, in October 2013, was rather strange, as Josh spent most of the four days studiously avoiding me and basically pretending I didn't exist (at least it felt like it to ME). He had no clue what was going on, dear boy, and fear caused him to close off emotionally and be somewhat unsocial and awkward. I was a little thrown off by this, since even thought it had been months since the end of our semester and we hadn't been in touch at all, I felt we had ended the summer on a good note.

In the winter, I was home mostly, our family moved houses (which was a big deal to me), I did some theatre shows, helped homeschool my siblings, just lived. Turned nineteen. (still a teenager, my friends, still a teenager.) Went to Africa. You know, normal stuff. Also went to visit my very dear friend in South Carolina and her family for like three days. (who happen to be Josh's family as well.) That visit was short and sweet, and I got to meet my prayer baby, Windsor, who is now my nephew. And that in itself makes me cry. My world was normal, and while my spiritual life was growing and changing, and my heart was stretching, my life did *not* revolve around Josh. Not even close. I had so many other things pulling on me. Even though I liked the "idea" of Josh, I didn't know him very well, we weren't in touch, and I didn't love him. So life went on.

ethiopia - march 2014

The second visit, in March 2014, was even more interesting. Once again, the two of us had not been in touch, not even one word, but something was different. Josh had began to find identity, confidence in His Father's heart for him, and that confidence changed everything. I had just come back from a trip Ethiopia the day before, (literally the DAY before) and was also just a few weeks away from going back for my advanced semester at the same bible school. Over the few days the choir was there, we talked to each other, hung out when the team and my family were together, and everything finally felt normal. Josh actually talked to me A LOT, and even asked what I saw myself doing in the future. We connected over my visit to his hometown, and growing relationship with his family. Our friendship was still sort of undefined and didn't have much of a foundation, but the Lord had started what would become a great work of freedom, and we both felt it. I was getting a little nervous around him, but in a different way than I ever imagined it would be. I was sort of drawn to a team. I wanted to be doing what he was doing. I wouldn't say I was in love, not even close. That came MUCH later. But there was something that I couldn't shake, a stirring in my spirit, that knew that Josh was someone I could stand behind, work with, be a partner with. Strange emotions, y'all, for the little conservative girl trying to figure out how to be outgoing and emotional and still be a "set apart girl."

For those wondering, this visit was also the dawn of the era of the idol mug. The not so inside inside joke about Jacob the Priest and Josh and the mug I loved and how I idolized it. Which the Priest was going to smash, because, you know, scripture. In case you were someone observing Josh, Jake and I over tour, and wondered what the heck was going on. This is the mug. And that's the history. "And if you don't you know."

But back to the story.

It was after this visit in March that Jesus taught me something that changed my life. It started with this idea that if we give ourselves over to the Spirit of God, our heart conforms to His heart, His desires become ours, and we are completely consumed by Him. During that spring, Jesus used scripture and a few hymns to highlight to my soul that my next step of faith was to admit to Him that my heart's desire was to be in relationship with Josh, and to not be ashamed of that. My job was then was to live faithfully in line with Jesus and trust that my desires were in line with His, and if this was His will, He would bring it to completion. At first, I was afraid. I'd always imagined my story would start with me being clueless and this guy coming out of nowhere and liking me first, but Jesus had other plans, and I wouldn't trade the lessons I learned for any other story but ours. I began keeping a journal of quotes and songs and scripture, writing with confidence that the Lord had shown me that there was a story unfolding, and I didn't want to miss it. I started re-reading Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot, and pursuing an active surrender of my life as I keep moving forward with the calling, the dream pressing on my heart. What dream? It's not what you think - keep reading.

And that brings me to a point I'd like to throw out to y'all:

maybe.....just because you want something, doesn't mean it's sinful.

Please. Let that sink in.

I think in our conservative Christian culture we buy the lie that if we want it, it must be sinful. Ummm. Yes, if it's a carnal fleshly desire with no root in scripture then YES, but if we have truly surrendered our hearts to the Holy Spirit, and we have a desire, why wouldn't it be from Him? There's wisdom yes, but there's also a boldness to come before God and be honest about our hearts and let Him show that He gives good gifts. Maybe a different way than we originally thought, but maybe we aren't so sinful and horrid after all once we've accepted His Life inside of us. Maybe?

I wrote this post as I reflected on the past months at home, before I headed off again.

Shortly after that memorable visit, I began my advanced semester at the bible school. It was during those two months in Colorado that I finally applied to work for the choir as well. That was my dream.


Josh and Liza FAQ #2: "Did Liza tour with the choir because of Josh?"
Answer: NO. BIG FAT NO. Firstly, if you've ever applied for this choir, you know it's impossible to just decide to work there and be on staff. *laugh out loud* Secondly...just keep reading.

"Finally applied" because being tour staff with the choir was something I had been longing to be since I had first heard of the choir on my very first visit to Colorado in November of 2012, almost eight months before I had even started my first semester at the bible school. And every since then, I had been driven by the desire to be on staff, and it was always on my mind.

So yes. My friendship with Josh complicated this. Should I have let go of my dream? Maybe. Can God use situations like this for the kingdom? YES. Does God ever make mistakes when He opens doors for us? NO. I knew that it was something the Lord was calling me to do, and if it was His plan for us to be on tour together, then so be it. My roommates during advanced know the wrestling I went though just to apply - the process was grueling, not to mention the homework that came with our beta program, and the crazy pressure you go under to be considered for the job. there's this funny aura around the choir when you're a student at this bible school - everyone thinks that this job is the end all, and only the best people get to do it, and there's so much keeping quiet so no one gets offended...that it can be very very isolating. So that was my semester. Wrestling over Josh (who I hadn't seen in forever and had no communication with) and wrestling over my dream job that I had no idea whether I should even be doing or not. To all of you who knew in advanced - God bless you. And to my bosom friends who stuck it through with me - you are GEMS.

BUT. Also, another important note. I actually applied before I even knew Josh was planning on returning for another year, so once again, everything was in the Lord's hands. Even though it felt a little scary to truly have no idea what that year might hold, or what people might think, just the act of stepping forward and applying was huge in breaking the hold of fear in my life and bringing freedom.

Also, I was nineteen. Which might be "mature" in some circles, but I had a lot of growing up to do. I just wish I had known exactly how much. Once again, funny thing about our little bible school, there's a lot of pressure from everyone around you to be very mature, kinda overnight. like by just enrolling and showing up on campus we had arrived to a level of spiritual maturity that made us capable of taking on jobs that people with ten years of ministry experience are still learning and growing in.

but I digress.

Summer of 2014 was an incredibly intense summer. It had now been a year, a full year, since Josh and I met. I flew home from Colorado with his brother and sister actually, who were by then two of my absolute best friends, and spent two weeks at their home. Two weeks is a long time to stay with anyone, but still, you can usually make the most of it. This trip was sweet, and I enjoyed the summer days, but there was a troubling storm brewing, and I could feel it. The second to last day I was there, I also got a phone call telling me that young man in our theatre troupe had been killed in a car accident - after that I was an absolute puddle and desperate to get home. The reason my trip had extended to two full weeks was because my dad was unable to come and pick me up like we had originally planned, so finally I got a train ticket and went home on the Amtrak - definitely an adventure.

During this little season (April to June), Josh confirmed he was staying a second year with the choir, and actually ended up being able to travel to India with the children and meet the children coming for the next tours. While he was in India, is when I was in South Carolina. And while I was in South Carolina, I *finally* got the email saying I was probably going to be on staff with the choir. Probably isn't a final answer, but they did say to buy a ticket and pack to come, and if enough kids came, I'd be going on the road. At this point, I didn't even know what to say...I was excited, but a little hesitant.

It was a couple weeks after I got home, and started prepping for what I hoped would be touring for real, when the storm broke. And this little dream world I lived in crashed down. Up until that point, I was just happily going along through the open doors God had in front of me. I was trusting that He was going to show me what to do, that if He wanted me on tour, I'd be there, and if He wanted me with Josh, it would happen, and if there was a way to do this tour and not let Josh get in the way of me doing what I was supposed to do, He'd show me how. Life was simple. Trust and obey.

But I found it's when those two things get shaken to their core that they really matter. To what extent do we trust and obey? Turns out, life isn't simple, or nice, or easy. It's messy and complicated, and my little bubble was about to burst. But that's when this story gets good, and this is when you REALLY get to see Jesus in action.




  2. Well this was fun to read :))